21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Does the Prime
Minister intend tolay on the table of the House the papers that relate to the double dissolution of 1951, together with what he was pleased to call a white paper? If so, will he give the House an opportunity to discuss those interesting documents before the session concludes, particularly in view of the fact that the documents are now four years old?
– I do intend to produce a paper on this subject, including the communications. I am not without occupation. Therefore, I do not undertake that it will be produced within a week or two weeks. I regret that I referred to a white paper, but I borrowed the phraser-
– I thought the right honorable gentleman might have called it a red paper.
– Oh, no! I leave that to other people. The expression “ white paper “ is not unknown. I think it was used by the honorable member for Melbourne himself. Therefore, if I have to apologize, I shall apologize in good company. It will be a white paper with black print. Is that clear ? I shall table the paper as soon as I have it ready.
– Will the Minister for Territories say whether it is possible to lease properties from the Administration of Papua and New Guinea for the purposes of grazing and farming? If that is so, are many opportunities available, and are successful applicants assisted in any way? Finally, to whom should applications be addressed?
– From time to time the Department of Lands in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea advertises land as open for settlement. Land so advertised can be applied for by land seekers, and is made available, in accordance with the land laws of the Territory, on lease. Our recent experience of the response to advertisements has shown that the supply has been in excess of the demand. There is at present no scheme operating in the Territory by which a land seeker can be assisted financially by the Administration, the official attitude being that aid is available through the ordinary financial institutions. If it should turn out that the ordinary financial institutions are unable or unwilling to finance settlement to the degree necessary, the question of looking at some other scheme would arise. Applications for land should be made to the Department of Lands, Port Moresby.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether any farming lands are at present available in 5few Guinea in areas suitable for white settlers and their families and, in particular, is there any land available at Goroka?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. I am not sure about the present position at Goroka, but I doubt whether much land has been made available for settlement at that place in recent months. There is a dense native population in that area and it was necessary to call a halt there to make sure that we did not introduce more European settlement than was desirable, having regard to the prospective needs of the native population.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. What action has been taken by the Commonwealth health authorities to keep themselves up to date with the development in the United States of America of the atomic material, the new cobalt 60 nuclear radiation, to fight cancer? As cancer is one of the great killers which afflict mankind to-day, and as it causes the most horrible deaths to young and old, what action is the Commonwealth taking to secure immediately the benefits available to mankind from United State3 investigation? Does the Minister not agree that the health of all Australians is a matter for the Commonwealth, and that inquiries on the subject should not be fobbed off with the usual reply from Commonwealth officials - “ This is a State matter “ ?
– Order ! The question is in order up to the point of asking the Minister for an expression of opinion.
– I repudiate the dastardly suggestion in the last sentence of the honorable member’s question, that inquiries are fobbed off by Commonwealth officials. Regarding the treatment of cancer by radium and radio isotopes, Australia has led the world for the last 30 years. During that time Australia has had a radium bank, and it was the first country in the world to have a radium bank. The money for that bank waa found when I was Treasurer. If the honorable member could do something other than defame his country-
Honorable members interjecting,
– That is what the honorable member was doing jus now. Radio isotopes are being sent out for use every day from the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory in Melbourne. In regard to the contacts of the Australian health authorities and especially Australian doctors, there are Australian students and research men in every one of the places in Great Britain and America and Canada at which this work is being carried on.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the recent disclosure of the Yalta agreement by the United States Government, will the Minister agree to the release of the papers concerning Manus Island and the request by the United States Government to use Manus Island as a base?
– I shall certainly take into account the request of the honorable gentleman, although I do not believe it is a good practice to revive old controversies, particularly those which concern countries other than our own. I believe that what I might describe - without being unduly controversial - as the melancholy story of Manus Island is fairly well known to members of this Parliament and to the Australian public. I shall consider the suggestion of the honorable member and advise him. of: the decision) later.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any knowledge of an application submitted by East-West Air.lines to operate an air passenger service from Williamtown airport near Newcastle, at which airport there is a Royal Australian Air Force station? If the Minister has no knowledge of the matter, will he ascertain the facts and give me a reply as early as possible?
– I have no knowledge of an application by this company to operate a service into Williamtown. I shall find out the facts and inform the honorable member of them.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether, when new aerodromes are built in Australia, the work is carried out by the Department of Works or the Department of Civil Aviation? Are plans and specifications approved or prepared by the Department of Civil Aviation? As the aerodrome at Devonport, which was completed in 1950, is now closed to traffic because of cracking in the runway, will the Minister investigate both the reason for the failure of the runway, and why the repair work was not done during the summer months?
– The actual physical work on aerodromes is done by the Department of Works. The preliminary architectural work is carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation and its plans and specifications go to the Department of Works. The two departments then come to an agreement on the plans-, the load numbers for the runways, and so on. Pardoe aerodrome at Devonport has been in operation, as the honorable member said, for three or four years and the department hopes, one of these days, to get a second runway there. In the meantime, if the present runway is showing signs of deterioration it will be examined by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works will put it in order. television:
– My question- is addressed to the Minister- for External Affairs. I understand that the staff of the United Nations secretariat is drawn from nationals of member nations. In view of the extensive United Nations technical activities in television, and the impending commencement of television in Australia, can the Minister- say whether there is a possibility of having one or more Australian engineers attached to the United Nations television staff for a year in order to gain experience in the new industry?
– I understand that provision has been made in the new United Nations building for a United Nations television unit or section, but that, pending the establishment of such a unit, the television activities of the United Nations organization have been contracted for bv one of the private television companies. I think the Columbia Company is doing that work. The servants of the contracting company are, of course, all American nationals and all members of the relevant trade unions in the United States of America. It is unlikely, therefore, that in the present circumstances there would be opportunity for Australians to be employed in the television service of the United Nations. However, that is probably only a temporary condition. I think that in due course, a United Nations television service will be established, and that there will be proper opportunity for Australians to seek employment with it. If we receive information that indicates a reasonably early creation of a United Nations television service I shall certainly keep in mind what the honorable gentleman has said, and shall advise him personally in relation to the matter. trade un ions.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, since I mentioned-, on an earlier occasion, the fact that the federal president of the right honorable member for Barton’s Labour party had refused to join a trade union, he has noticed that this matter has been considered by the Australian Council of Trades* Unions, which has directed the said -gentleman to join a union. I ask the Minister whether, in the event of any trade union refusing to accept the converted blackleg, there is any legal provision by which the said gentleman can compel the union to accept him as a member. If so, I . ask the Minister -whether, in order to enable the honorable members sitting on my right to avoid the shame of being led by a nonunionist, he will see that the full legal rights available to this gentleman are given to him; so that he can force a trade union to accept him as a member.
– I think the policy of this Government in relation to trade unionism and membership of trade unions is well known to the Parliament and the people of Australia. Trade unionism is an accepted element in the industrial structure of this country, and, as I have pointed out before, Australia has a higher proportion of its people in trade unions than has any other country in the world.
– What about the Greeks in Canberra who refused to join a union?
– Order !
– At the same time the policy of the. Government and of the parties which form it is that membership of a trade union should be a voluntary act of the person concerned. I have stated before that, where a man follows regularly a particular occupation, I think it is proper for him to give the support of his membership to the organization or to that phase of industry to which he belongs, by joining the appropriate trade union. Indeed, our main complaint, if there is a complaint, about trade unionism in this country, is that the members of trade unions do not interest themselves sufficiently actively in the affairs of their unions and in the election of the officials who are to guide those unions. In order to prevent any trade union from refusing to accept, in those circumstances, the membership of a person who applies to join a trade union, the Government took action, by way of an amendment of the legislation that deals with these matters, to incorporate a provision that no trade union may refuse to accept as a member a man who has proper grounds for seeking membership. . As to Mr; Chamberlain, I have no personal knowledge of his circumstances, but it would be surprising if, having regard to the office he holds, he did not conform to what has been accepted as the majority view of the Australian people on this question.
– I direct to the Minister for the Interior a question which refers to the large areas of office space acquired from private interests and still held by the Commonwealth and State Governments in commercial centres in Sydney. If part of the original cause for this move was the expansion of Commonwealth departments during the war years, I ask the Minister what action has been taken to return the properties to the rightful owners and tenants when departments established to handle war requirements have ceased to function. Is it a fact that, as one department finishes its functions, a new department moves into its offices? In 1950, when I referred this matter to the Parliament, I was informed that a committee had been appointed to investigate the amount of office space that had been impressed but was not being gainfully used by the Commonwealth in all capital cities. Did that committee complete its investigations, and if so, what action did the Government take on its recommendations? Will the Minister now investigate the situation in the light of present conditions and take steps to relieve the position?
– The honorable member for Mitchell, and other honorable members, have interviewed me several times regarding this particular subject of office space in the capital cities. The position does not apply only to Sydney. I am aware of the interest of the honorable members in this matter, but the position is rather more difficult than most people realize. In the first place, the Commonwealth has a large number of buildings in which there are private tenants. If we could obtain more space in our own buildings it would be easier to release to private tenants space that we occupy in private buildings. We cannot just move them out into the cold any more than could any one else, and while they remain there, the position will continue to be difficult. Speaking from memory, we have released about 70,000 square feet, of space. We are endeavouring to continue that policy of giving back as much space as possible in private buildings to private tenants. The committee did report, and most of its recommendations have been implemented. If the honorable member would like to see a copy of the report, I will certainly make it available to him. At present, the Public Works Committee, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is making further investigations into the construction of new Commonwealth offices. It is not easy to build offices, let alone Commonwealth offices. while building materials and labour are in very short supply, but I assure the honorable member that every effort is being made to return space to private tenants. Sometimes the New South Wales Government claims the space when we leave. We had an example of that recently, but we felt that, as the space had been acquired under National Security Regulations, it ought to be returned to the original owner. I assure the honorable member that the Government will make every effort to ameliorate the present position. Not only private firms, but also many Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Social Services, have been working in cramped conditions for the same reasons. I hope that we will be able to alleviate the matter before very long.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Commonwealth Government has failed to pay the Sydney City Council an amount of £67,000 per annum by way of rates on Government properties? If this i3 a fact, will he say when the Government intends to pay its just debts so that the Sydney City Council may provide amenities such as parks, playgrounds and recreation areas, which are so badly needed by the people in congested areas within my electorate of West Sydney?
– The Australian Government has no intention of providing funds in the direction that the honorable member has indicated. The responsibility rests entirely with the State Government of New South Wales.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the vine fruit-growers of Australia receive assistance from the Government in the form of an advance payment on their crops, but the stone fruit-growers do not? If this is so, is it not unfair discrimination and can it not be rectified ?
– No, it is not so.
– I ask the Minister for the Army, in view of his complete evasion and refusal to answer intelligently the question-
– Order ! That is completely out of order. The honorable member cannot charge Ministers with evasion and lack of intelligence.
– I ask the Minister, in connexion with the question that he did not fully answer, regarding the payment of compensation for accidents and loss of life to national service trainees or their dependants - particularly those who lost their lives in the Stockton Bight disaster last year - whether he is aware that the magnificent sum of £400 was received by the mother of the corporal who died on that occasion ? If so, does he say that the amount received represented just and adequate compensation for the supreme sacrifice paid by this serviceman? Does he still adhere to his recent statement that the next of kin of those servicemen were fully satisfied with the compensation received? If the Minister does not agree that the amounts paid represented just and adequate compensation, will he ascertain why such a paltry amount was handed out and have it substantially increased, thereby removing an insult to the memory of an exserviceman, whose mother would, had he been killed on active service, have been entitled to a pension for life?
-Order! The honorable member must realize, as all. honorable members should realize, that ho may not ask a Minister for an expression of opinion. Honorable members should ask Ministers for information on the administration of their departments. Whether a Minister agrees or does not agree with propositions which they may put forward, and which do not constitute questions, is a matter which honorable members are prevented by the Standing Orders from asking.
– I desire to make it quite clear that the payment of the compensation referred to by the honorable member for Shortland was made in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The amount of compensation payable under that act is assessed by the compensation section on the rate or extent of dependence of the mother on her son.
– The Minister should be ashamed to say that.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is out of order.
– The amount of compensation payable in the case mentioned by the honorable member for Shortland has been decided by the Commonwealth employees compensation section which is administered by the Treasury. Moreover, that organization was established by a government of which the honorable member was a supporter.
– Will the Minister for Air give the House any facts, figures, or other information that he may possess regarding the United States Air Force goodwill record-breaking mission to A.ustralia?
– The United States Air Force is at the present time carrying out a rather dramatic refuelling exercise from Tokio to Australia nonstop. It is the longest non-stop flight ever attempted over water. The aircraft concerned are four Republic F.84 jet fighters which are being refuelled from aerial tankers on the route that they are taking, and they are due to land at Williamtown aerodrome at about 5 o’clock this afternoon. I am sure that all honorable members will wish them, every success in their ambitious project. Four fighter aircraft and four transport aircraft of the group will arrive at Canberra next Monday at about noon, and I have made arrangements for honorable members who are interested to inspect them between 9 and 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. The aircraft will also be open for public inspection between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on that day.
– I have just received a report that the four aircraft are well on their way. They passed over Port Moresby at 1.11 p.m. and are at thi* moment refuelling at Townsville.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. In view of the fact that the Government is proceeding with the standardization of the north-south railway as far north as Marree, in South Australia, and that the plant and equipment now in use will be allowed to disperse after the job is completed and will be costly to reassemble, and also in view of the importance of the whole standardization project, will the Minister use his undoubted influence with the Government to Iia ve the remaining portion of the railway line between Marree and Alice Springs converted to standard gauge?
– I believe that the honorable member knows that approval has already been given for the standardization of the railway gauge as far as Marree, and that the work is proceeding. Any matters relating to the further extension of the programme would come primarily under the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, whose responsibility it would be to bring them before Cabinet.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs give honorable members the benefit of any knowledge that he may have regarding the significance of the recent appointment of the British High. Commissioner for Smith-East Asia to a position at New Delhi?
– I do not know whether I should be in order in referring to the name of the gentleman concerned, although his name is very well known to all of us - Mr. Malcolm MacDonald. He has served seven or eight years in his present high position in Singapore, in respect of duties in SouthEast Asia as a whole. Many of us here, including the Prime Minister, other Ministers and myself, have had intimate personal contact with Mr. MacDonald, particularly during the last five years. We have had the benefit of his signal and peculiarly wide knowledge of all the countries of the East, and I believe that I am right in saying that no other individual knows anything like as much as he does about the SouthEast Asian area as a whole.
– What about the Minister himself?
– Order !
– We cannot be other than sorry that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald is leaving his post which is an area so close and so important to us. I think that the tribute which was paid to him by the Chief Minister of Singapore a few days ago, when the announcement of his translation to New Delhi was made, is something of which any of us would be proud to receive in similar circumstances. He is going to New Delhi as United Kingdom High Commissioner, a position also of the highest importance, where, I am sure, his knowledge of the Asian scene generally and his high integrity and intelligence will be very greatly appreciated, not only by the head of the State, but by all Indians who value their situation in Asia and who look forward to a peaceful solution of Asian problems.
– Will the Post-. master-General give immediate consideration to a. review of post and telegraph charges? Is the honorable gentleman aware of the very serious falling off in the number of telegraphic messages due to the high cost of this service? Will he review telephone charges in country districts so as to reduce costs to country subscribers whose calls are classified as trunk-line calls, even though a person may be speaking to his nearest neighbour
– Postal rates and charges are matters of policy, and, therefore, I cannot answer the question.
– Will the Minister for
Social Services consider amending the present application form for aged and invalid pensioners? Does he not think that in the case where a husband and wife make application together, a composite form would adequately meet the case? I point out to the Minister that the present form has dual columns of questions in respect of husband and wife, and that the information in respect of each is answered twice. I suggest to. the Minister that a composite form would simplify the method of application and. at the same time, would make it easier for the examiners, and lead to a saving of money and time spent on the preparation of the forms.
– In the past honorable members have made valuable suggestions for alterations to social services forms. Many of those suggestions have in factbeen incorporated in the forms and I shall examine the suggestion made by the honorable member. It appears to be a wise one, and if it can be implemented, I shall let him know as soonas practicable.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether arrangements have been completed for the handing over of the new light fleet aircraft carrier. H.M.A.S. Melbourne, to the Royal Australian Wavy? Will the present aircraft carrier, H.M.A.S. Vengeance, which has been used for training purposes, revert to the Royal Navy on its: return to the United Kingdom, and will H.M.A.S. Melbourne carry out the normal functions of an aircraft carrier in. the Australian fleet?
– A small ceremony will take place on the 20th October next on the occasion of the renaming of H.M.A.S. Melbourne and its official taking over. H.M.A.S’. Vengeance will be used to take officers and ratings from Australia to man H.M.A.S. Melbourne, and to bring it back to Sydney. When it has finished that task, it will be returned to the Royal Navy, from which it was loaned to Australia. When H.M.A.S. Melbourne comes to Australia, it will take over the duties at present carried out by H.M.A.S. Sydney, which is the chief aircraft carrier.
Air. HAYLEN. - Has the Minister for Social Services done anything about a suggestion made to him by the Opposition concerning the application of medical benefits to the wives of ex-servicemen who are in receipt of a total and permanent incapacity pension?
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the fact that, as from August next, large overseas ships will no longer call at Brisbane, due to the slow turn-round of ships at the waterfront, with serious consequences for Queensland in various ways, including immigration, I ask the Minister whether inquiries into the waterfront position generally in Australia are being pursued with all possible speed.
– This is the first time that any such suggestion has reached me concerning the reason for alteration of arrangements by overseas shipping companies in relation to the port of Brisbane. The report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for the period ended the 30th June last year, which was recently released to honorable members, indicated that the port of Brisbane had, I think, the highest percentage of favorable reports from employers of waterfront labour of any port in the Commonwealth. From memory, the favorable reports in respect of loading rates at that port were as high as 99 per cent. The explanation, which I read in the press, of the reason for overseas ships not visiting Brisbane was an alleged shortage of labour there. However, I shall make some inquiries now that the honorable member has raised the matter with me, and see if I can get a more adequate explanation for him.
– I ask the Treasurer what action, if any, is contemplated by the Government in order to conserve our extremely low overseas balances. Will the Treasurer further say whether an immediate cut of 15 per cent, in imports is proposed, or is it intended, as reported, to increase the exchange rate to 33$ per cent. ?
– The last part of the question asked by the honorable member demonstrates his audacity. The Government’s policy with regard to imports, as announced from time to time, is based on the fullest consideration of all the factors in existence at the time.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister without notice whether the beatific smile on the face of the Minister for the Army indicates his imminent translation to higher realms? If so, will the Prime Minister, in order to put ambitious back-benchers out of their misery, make an early announcement regarding the rumoured reconstruction of the Cabinet?
– All I can remember about the beatitudes at the moment is one that, I am sure, might be practised in this place, “ Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth “.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether, in view of the hostility to the White Australia policy expressed by the University of Melbourne
Liberal Union, and the advocacy by certain clergymen in Australia of restricted Asiatic immigration, he will inform the House whether or not the Government is determined to uphold the existing immigration policy which has the endorsement of almost every Australian?
– On a major item of policy of this kind no doubt many people in the Commonwealth have views which they desire to express from time to time. The views of this Government have been made clear by the Prime Minister and myself, and by other Ministers whose administration touches upon this question. I shall happily make a copy of that statement available to the honorable member for Griffith, if he wishes it, or for that matter to any other honorable member of the Parliament. We have made it clear at all times that our Administration supports the policy which has received the parliamentary support of all sections of politics in this House ever since, virtually, the beginning of federation.
– Has the Minister for Supply given any consideration to equipping portion of the fleet of Commonwealth cars in each capital city with radio control, particularly the vehicles used extensively for city and metropolitan area trips, so that waste mileage and travelling time can be reduced to a minimum ? If not, will he have the suggestion investigated to ascertain whether it is practicable?
– Some time ago I resisted a proposal to install conventional radios in all Commonwealth cars because of the expense and because I thought it was unnecessary. I should certainly have to think hard before agreeing to a proposition about radio control. I understand from the question that what the honorable member has in mind is an intercommunication system between cars operated by the Department of Supply and a control centre. I should think, Mr. Speaker, that the circumstances would not justify the expense. I will have thu matter looked at, however, and let the honorable member know the result of my inquiries.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether there has been any change in the practice of inviting members of this Parliament to naturalization ceremonies when they are held in honorable members’ electorates? As it is impossible for the Minister himself to attend all those ceremonies, is it not advisable for a member of the Commonwealth Parliament to attend, where possible, to congratulate the new Australians who are naturalized? Will the Minister have inquiries made into this matter and, in cases where the local government authorities do not advise members of the Parliament that the ceremonies are to be held, request officers of the Department of Immigration in the various States to convey such information to honorable members?
– Probably all honorable members know that the naturalization ceremonies are now being conducted by the civic authorities in the areas concerned at the request of the Australian Government. The Government is not in a position to dictate precisely the form that the ceremonies should take, nor does it desire to do so, but we have indicated to the civic authorities the kind of procedure which, we feel, should be adopted. I have had a booklet prepared in detail which indicates to the civic authorities how the ceremony should proceed, and the various elements of it. I have also requested the civic authorities to invite the member of the Commonwealth Parliament for the electorate in which the ceremony is to be held, to be present at it. Furthermore, in order to convey to those about to be naturalized that their welcome into the Australian community is not the affair of any one section in this Parliament, I have suggested that an honorable senator representing the other side of politics should be invited to attend and lend his support, in addition to that of the honorable member concerned. That is the attitude of the Government on this matter, and I should be astonished to learn that the practice was not being followed by the civic authorities, if honorable members can bring to my notice cases in which that has not occurred, I shall take up with the local authorities concerned the desirability of having all-party parliamentary representation at the naturalization ceremonies along the lines I have indicated.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: As the development of Canberra as the National Capital and the welfare of its citizens are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, will he place before the Parliament, by way of a statement to this House, his proposals for increases of rentals of older government homes in Canberra and rental adjustments on those that have been built in the past ten years, bo that those proposals, which will increase rentals by up to 75 per cent., may be fully debated, and the House given an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this very serious matter? As the rental proposals are to take effect in July, will the Minister make a statement to the House during the present sittings ?
– The announcement of the general principles underlying the alteration of rentals was made by me almost two months ago. All the details are obtainable by anybody who desires to obtain them. Certain minor details are still to be worked out. I shall give the honorable member’s suggestion consideration, but I should not like to make a definite promise at the moment.
– About twelve months ago, the Minister for Supply promised that a DC3 aircraft fitted with a scintillometer would be made available for use in the mining fields of Queensland. As this aircraft has not yet been made available, I ask the Minister to inform me when it is proposed to make available a DC3 aircraft fitted with a scintillometer to assist in the search for radio-active ores in the mining fields of Queensland ?
– I did not make a promise in the terms stated by the honorable member for Kennedy. The fact is that the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which is administered by the Minister for National Development, makes an enormous contribution to aerial scintillometer survey work which is helping in the search for uranium throughout Australia. The resources of the Department of National Development are not unlimited. Heavy demands are made upon it, but the officers of the Department and the Bureau of Mineral Resources do the best they can. They will continue to do their best in the case that the honorable member has mentioned.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
That the Commonwealth has failed to provide sufficient funds to enable the States to establish and maintain adequate roads, and that, as a consequence, roads throughout Australia are so deteriorating that they are not adequate to ordinary civilian needs, nor to the urgent needs of defence and development.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
– If any honorable member has any doubt as to the urgency of this proposal, let him go out and travel the roads even surrounding this National Capital. Let him drive only a few miles along the “ horror stretch “ of road between this National Capital and Cooma, so much of which is the direct responsibility of the Australian Government. Or let him traverse a few of the miles from Bungendore on the road connecting Canberra with Jervis Bay, both being part of the Australian Capital Territory - another road which is a direct Commonwealth responsibility. Any honorable member who has traversed either of those two roads could not come back to this House other than utterly convinced that the Government is completely failing in its task of providing funds necessary for road construction and maintenance in Australia.
– The road to Cooma through the Australian Capital Territory is now in the process of being remade.
– That is true. The task is being carried out over a period of years. The Minister has a five or seven year plan to put in order 16 miles of road. If the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) is satisfied with that progress, the public of Australia are completely dissatisfied with such dilatory methods of tackling the urgent matter of roads. If the roads surrounding Canberra are in such a shocking condition, what must be the state of roads in the outback portions of Australia far removed from the front door of the National Capital?
This is a matter that particularly should concern members of the Australian Country party. When I hear the name “ Australian Country party “ applied to honorable members in the corner benches, I am inclined to laugh. I am restrained only by the tragic fact that these honorable members, who have the power, by their numbers, to compel this Government to tackle the problem of road construction and maintenance in Australia, are such a useless appendage of this Government that I venture to predict that, within a brief space of time, they will be meekly voting at the behest of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to suppress any further discussion on this matter.
– That would show their good sense.
– The right honorable gentleman says patronizingly that members of the Country party will show their good sense by voting to suppress discussion in this Parliament on road construction and maintenance. Even after that remark, they will still meekly obey his behest. This Government puts forward continually two excuses for its failure to take appropriate action in this matter. Its first excuse is that it is a matter for the States.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says that that is right, and nods his head approvingly. So far as he is concerned, it is not a matter for the Australian Government at all.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Gippsland does not consider that the construction and maintenance of developmental and defence roads is a national matter.
– What about the Constitution ?
– He cannot shelter behind the Constitution because it does not prevent this Government from providing the States with the money necessary to put the roads system of this country in good order. The honorable member should not make that excuse; it is completely false. The Government’s second excuse in this matter is that it has provided far more money for roads than has been provided for this purpose by any other government since federation. No one can shelter behind that excuse because every one who examines the position knows it is correct only in inflationary terms. The only reason that could justify the argument that far more money is now being provided than ever before is that far more money is now needed to do a road job than was required to do the same job a few years ago. In 1950, the first year of this Government’s term of office, the amount of Commonwealth money that was provided for road construction and maintenance was £14,S00,000. This year, under the amending legislation that was passed by the Parliament in October last, the amount is £24,000,000.
– That is the total amount. I do not think any honorable member would say that, in 1955, £24,000,000 will carry out as much road work as £15,000,000 would have done in 1950. But these figures in themselves are beside the point. The real fact is that the road system of this country is deteriorating seriously. Roads are essential to development and. defence. We have introduced about 1,000,000 newcomers to this country. We know perfectly well that we will never succeed in holding Australia unless we populate and develop, it. We cannot develop it without an adequate road system. But we have not an adequate road system, and this Government is clearly apathetic to its duty in that respect. One will search in vain, the speech that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered in October last, when the amending aid roads legislation was introduced, for one word of recognition of the importance of this task. Yet, we are encompassed by a cloud of witnesses as to the proof of the deterioration of the Australian road system.
We were visited recently by a British expert, Sir Donald Gainer, who was reported in the Canberra Times of the 22nd February, 1955, to have stated that only half of Australia’s roads could even be maintained with the funds at present available, not to mention the building of new roads or the maintenance of other than main roads. That is the opinion expressed by a visiting British road expert after he had carefully surveyed the road system in this country. The newspaper article stated -
Sir Donald said Australia had only 130,000 miles of improved roads in a total system of about- 250,000 miles. At the present rate of 10,000 miles a year of new road-building, it would take 37 years to hurd -surface the present limited road system.
That estimate did not take into consideration even 1 mile of new construction. The same expert stated that he had no doubt that inadequate Australian roads are contributing very substantially to the country’s high accident rate. He said that he believed that in many cases the layout of roads (was much more responsible for accidents than were the drivers of vehicles. Here are some of his further comments-
Some roads marked on maps as highways would not be marked as highways in any other progressive country in the world. When two cars pass on an important country road it is nearly always necessary for one to go to the side of the bitumen which causes rutting, requiring constant and expensive repairs.
I now quote from a statement by the chief executive of the Australian Road Federation Limited, Mr. P. J. Scales. I suggest that no honorable member will say that he is a supporter of the Labour party. He says -
The imminent acceleration of the depreciation! of the1 roads’ and, their inadequacy to carry the potential increase in traffic can no longer be ignored.
One would not think that it could be ignored, but the Government succeeds in ignoring it.
– Did not the honorable member oppose the international dollar loan for road-making equipment which was before the House last week ?
– I opposed it. I had every justification for my action in opposing the proposed dollar loan. That does not enter into it. Australian men, material, labour and machinery are perfectly capable of coping with road construction in this country. If the honorable member has not sufficient faith in his fellow Australians, if he feels that we must rely on America or some other nation for everything, he is entitled to his opinion. I am putting forward a proposal for improvement in the construction of Australian roads; and Australians who have faith in their country are well able to carry out that task.
– With wheelbarrows and shovels. That is the honorable member’s idea.
– Not so. The law passed by this Parliament last October represents the Government’s views on the matter. Provision was then made for the expenditure by the Australian Government of £800,000 a year on strategic roads, roads of access to its properties, and other roads that serve its purposes - less than £1,000,000, to be expended by the National Government on the whole system of strategic roads in this country! In addition, that amount of £800,000 has to cover roads of access to Commonwealth properties and all other roads serving Commonwealth purposes. Does any honorable member fail to recognize that 76 per cent, of our freight to-day is carried on our roads system, and that the failure of the Government to provide the States with., sufficient money to maintain and construct a, decent roads system in this country is contributing immensely to our defence danger and to our inability to develop the rural portions of this continent?
– What about State moneys ?
– The honorable member for Gippsland interjects again. The States to-day are expending all the money that they can raise. I can quote the facts and the figures.
– I can quote other facts.
– It is all very well for the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to sneer or laugh. This is not a laughing matter. The Australian people, the constituents of the honorable member for Gippsland and of the Treasurer do not regard it as a laughing matter. They are not satisfied with what is being done by the honorable member for Gippsland, the Treasurer, or the Government. If Government supporters are satisfied, they are the only people who are. It is completely useless to attempt to sidetrack this matter by saying that the Government is expending more on roads than was expended in previous years, or that this is a matter for the States. The Government knows perfectly well that the States have no separate source of revenue adequate for this task. ,The Cahill Labour Government in New South Wales has done an immensely valuable task with the amount of money available to it for road construction and maintenance. The Cain Labour Government in Victoria has done a particularly splendid job with the limited funds available to it. The responsibility is with the Commonwealth, which controls the purse-strings. Roads cannot be constructed without money.
– What did Mr. Chifley say?
– It is completely useless for the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to attempt to shelter behind what Mr. Chifley or anybody else said a few years ago. What he has got to face up to, as he will find out very shortly, is what he is saying now and the way in which he will cast his vote on this matter this afternoon. It is completely useless to compare what this Government is doing in 1955 with what the Chifley Government was able to do in the war years and in the years immediately after the war, when immense tasks of post-war reconstruction had to be carried out. I ask the honorable member for Mallee whether he agrees that this is the proper attitude to adopt. What is the total amount of money required to put the existing roads system of Australia in order, and what is the amount of further money required to build a proper system of defence and developmental roads?
– Let me answer the question. Labour said that the Commonwealth was not responsible for that.
– The honorable member for Mallee will not disagree with my contention. I do not think one honorable member will deny that our proper attitude is to ask how much money would be necessary to put the roads system of this country in proper order, and how much more money would then be required to establish the new system of defence and developmental roads required in this Commonwealth. The first thing that this Government should do, if it u concerned with the defence and development of Australia, is to establish a planning authority to find the answers to those questions. The next thing the Government should do is to provide, as a first priority, the money necessary to implement the findings of that authority.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in his statement of the matter submitted to the House for discussion, said that the Commonwealth had failed to provide sufficient funds to enable the States to provide and maintain adequate roads, and he opened his remarks by referring to what the Commonwealth had failed to do with regard to roads within its own territories. Why the Opposition should have chosen this topic, of all topics, on which to attack the Government is inconceivable. This is one of the activities in respect of which the Government has reason for pride in its achievements. In no other sphere of activity has the Labour party more reason for keeping its record in the background. The only reasonable assumption is that, by a process of persistently submitting matters to the House for discussion, the Opposition hopes to delay discussion of the
Government’s constructive legislative programme, divert attention from its own difficulties and disabilities and throw a veil over the Victorian elections.
The history of federal aid for roads commenced in 1923, when the Bruce-Page Government, without constitutional obligations, first made direct grants to the States for main roads. A sum of £1,750,000 was allocated in the next three years, after which the Commonwealth offered the States, on the basis of a joint agreement covering terms and conditions, an allocation of £20,000,000 over ten years. The States, with the exception of New South Wales, then under a Labour government, enthusiastically accepted the proposal, but it was not for some years that the road users of New South Wales obtained the benefit of it. Since then, the scheme has continued to operate in various forms, and a sum in the vicinity of £164,000,000 has been voted by the Commonwealth to the States for road purposes.
When the second Federal Aid Roads Agreement expired in 1947, the Chifley Government secured the enactment of the Commonwealth Roads and Works Act for a term of three years, to expire in L950. Under that legislation, the Chifley Government paid to the States £6,158,000 in 1947-48 and £6,908,000 in 1948-49, and £8,852,000 was allocated in 1949-50, the year in which this Government was elected to office. When the second tenyear period expired in 1947, the Labour Government re-enacted the scheme in a new form under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947- 1949, for a period of three years only. Two grants were made to the States under that measure by that Government. One was for general road purposes. It was financed from the petrol tax, and was a sum equivalent to 3d. a gallon of the customs duty and 2d. a gallon of the excise duty on petrol. The act also made provision for a special annual grant for developing roads, other than main roads, in sparsely settled areas. The latter grant amounted to £1,000,000 in 1947-48, £2,000,000 in 1948-40 and £3,000,000 in 1949-50. Under the act, a sum of £500,000 per annum was allocated for con structing Commonwealth strategic roads, and a sum of £100,000 for road safety campaigns.
– -Chicken feed!
– Payments under the 1947 act, which expired in 1950, amounted to approximately £22,000,000, and were distributed amongst the States on the basis of the formula which has been in existence since 1937.
The Chifley Government, however, placed a brake on the development of road transport in the post-war years. It put a very serious obstacle in the way of the development of road transportation. Our friends opposite surely remember what that obstacle was. The Chifley Government continued into the peace-time era the petrol rationing scheme brought into existence in war-time. Thereby, it prevented the expansion of road traffic to assist’ in carrying the produce which at that time the railways were unable to cope with. I shall not dilate on the circumstances which led to the abolition of petrol rationing. They must still be fresh in the minds of members of the Opposition. The slogan of the present Government parties, “ Empty out the socialists and fill the bowsers “, doubtless was a strong contributory cause to the defeat of the government which had so stubbornly persisted in retaining petrol rationing.
When the present Government assumed office, it adopted a progressive policy of federal aid roads payments, and in 1950 it secured the passage of a new act for a term of five years. Payments, which were financed wholly from the petrol tax, were on the basis of 6d. a gallon of the customs duty and 3£d. a gallon of the excise duty. The grants were divided into two parts, one for general roads, including construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repairs as well as the purchase of road-making equipment, and the second, which was to be not less than 35 per cent, of the total, for all roads in rural areas, other than highways, trunk roads and gazetted roads. The States were given implicit permission in the act to allocate any portion of the grants to local authorities, as the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority to make direct grants for that purpose. The grant for strategic roads and road safety was continued. In the first three years of the operation of that act, the Government allocated to the States approximately £43,000,000, compared with approximately £22,000,000 allocated by the Labour Government in the previous three years. In other words, the roads grant was practically doubled. Surely there is no cause to criticize us for that generous attitude.
But this Government was not content with that glowing record. It had a full appreciation of the importance of road transportation. When the development of local petrol refining threatened the allocation of moneys from the petrol tax in accordance with the terms of previous legislation, the Government established last year a trust fund of £5,000,000 to ensure that the full sums anticipated would be paid. Later in the year, the 1950 legislation was redrawn, a year before the expiry of its five-year term, not only to overcome the threat of local refining to the roads funds, but also to liberalize the scheme on a basis unprecedented in the long history of the federal aid roads programme; Under the current act, operative for five years from the 1st July, 1954, a sum equivalent to 7d. a gallon on all petrol consumed, other than aviation spirit, was allocated for the purpose of road finance. Honorable members should remember that this was after the lifting of petrol rationing by this Government. As a consequence the amount available for roads is expected to increase by nearly 50 per cent, in this, the first year of the operation of the act, bringing the total allocation for this year to approximately £24,000,000, compared with £9,000,000 when this Government inherited the treasury bench. The act also continued the provision inserted in the 1950 act whereby allocations increased in proportion to any increase in petrol consumption. The current measure also increased the allocation for rural roads from 35 per cent, to 40 per cent.
Since this Government assumed office, and under its own legislation, a sum in excess of £86,000,000 has been allocated for the roads of Australia. Thus, in five years, this Government has been respon se Arthur Fadden. sible for allocating more than the total amount allocated by all previous governments in the preceding 25 years. Surely the Government cannot be legitimately attacked for this record. This year, Commonwealth allocations will be approximately £24,000,000, compared with £6,700,000 in the first year of operation of the 1947 legislation of the Chifley Government, and £9,360,000 in the last year of operation of that legislation.
The formula for the distribution of this grant is, of course, arrived at and agreed upon by the States concerned. The allocation and the formula are the subject of agreement which was ratified by the parliaments of the States concerned. The formula was amended in 1937 as a result of a basic agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. In recent years the Commonwealth has always consulted the States on the matter of the formula, and, with only Victoria dissenting, the Premiers have agreed that the present formula is the most suitable and desirable from a national point of view. Indeed, at every stage since the formal agreement with the States expired in 1947, this Government has consistently consulted the States in advance as to the terms and conditions on which the allocations were to be made, so that this also cannot be regarded as a legitimate reason for an ‘ attack on the Government. Indeed, the honorable member did not attack the allocation or the distribution under the formula.
Nor can it be argued that at the present time the States themselves are short of money for roads. Let us ‘consider the complaints by the States that this dreadful Government has starved them of money for indispensable and inescapable purposes, including money for roads. The only authentic figures, available to me at the moment indicate that, at the beginning of the current financial year, the unspent balances in the States’ roads funds amounted to £4,516,000. I ignore completely the States’ other funds. The States could do a lot of work, mend a lot of roads, and alleviate a lot of the disgust of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro by the proper use of a hoarded fund of £4,516,000.
– Rubbish! The Treasurer knows that that money is earmarked for jobs in course of construction.
– Such information as is available since June 1954, indicates that in at least some States these unspent balances had increased by December, 1954.
It should not be overlooked that, quite apart from the assistance which the Commonwealth has given specifically for roads, to which I have referred, this Government has arranged over the last three years special assistance of an unpredicted nature to the States of no less than £359,000,000 towards the Australian Loan Council’s borrowing programmes and, consequently, the works programmes of the States. This action has produced the result that the States, in the period in question, have had available for spending on public works, which must necessarily include the repair of these disastrous roads to which the honorable member referred, a total of £617,000,000. That includes amounts to supplement roads expenditures from the States’ own resources. Consequently, well over half the public works funds of the States have been found by this dreadful Australian Government. This Government has provided £359,000,000 of the amount of £617,000,000 for loan expenditure.
Finally, let me, say that since this Government came into office, and the restrictive policy of petrol rationing introduced and stubbornly continued by the Chifley Government has been removed, there has been a tremendous expansion, not only in roads expenditure but also in every avenue of roads and motoring development. The oil refining companies have embarked on an extensive programme involving the expenditure of £80,000,000. That programme is providing additional employment and reducing the strains on our overseas capital reserves.
– Order! The Treasurer’s time has expired.
.- Before I commence the speech which I had prepared, I should like to point out to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that his impassioned speech this afternoon will not provide much consolation to the thousands of farmers, travellers, merchants, truck drivers and school bus proprietors who are using every day the secondary roads of the Commonwealth, many of which are in a shocking state of repair. The history which the TreE surer outlined is very interesting, and 1 am not questioning the accuracy of ite presentation, but the proposal before the House states that insufficient revenue u being made available to maintain our roads in a safe condition. We do not want to go into past history, and we did not intend to do so. This House should consider the present situation and present needs. A discussion of what a government did or did not do seven years ago will not help to build a better road in some outback part of New South Wales. That itthe logical way to approach the problem.
The Treasurer has boasted about the amounts which this Government has given to the States for various purposes- Who taxes the people of this country? The taxing authority is the Treasurer of thu self-same Government. He is the sole taxing authority, and to-day he asks for a pat on the back because he has given so much money back to the States. Of course he has given it back to the States; he gets it from the States and he should give it back to them, and more of it should be given back to them for expenditure on roads.
It is being impressed more and more upon all road users, upon road transport organizations, upon municipal authorities and even upon State governments, that arterial roads should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The tremendous increase of road traffic, in relation to both the weight of loads and the speed of vehicles, is subjecting our sealed and gravel roads to a punishment that they were not intended originally to take, because their foundations were laid in the horse-and-buggy era. Apart from highway construction, the road problem in Australia is being dealt with on a piecemeal and hit-or-miss basis, with more hit-and-miss than piecemeal.
Shires and municipalities are, generally speaking, urgently in need of more revenue for road works. The road rates that they are allowed to levy are insufficient for their needs. Asking shires and municipalities to meet the demands on them for road works from the revenue that they derive from local rates is like asking the engineers of R.M.S. Queen Mary to propel that huge vessel with an outboard motor. Increases of costs of labour, materials and machinery mean that ever more revenue is required for the maintenance of existing roads alone, apart from the building of new roads, and the cost of putting down more bitumen surfaces, which are the answer to our road problem. Obviously, what is necessary is a co-ordinated national transport programme under which road, rail, air and sea communications would be brought under single management and direction. Chat is to say, the Government, if it is really impressed with the needs of Australia, should draw up a national master plan for communications throughout this country. The execution of that plan should be in the hands of the States, acting as agents under the general control of this Government. The plan should have an’ element of decentralization in that shires and municipalities should have responsibility, and be assisted to meet that responsibility, for roads in remote areas. Road machinery should be the property of the States and should be hired out to authorities which require it. All necessary finance should come from Federal and State sources. Only in this way will the piecemeal and hopelessly inadequate efforts of municipalities in respect of road works be brought to an end and be replaced by some kind of coordinated and planned attack on the national road problem. Shires and municipalities all over Australia are unable to see any light ahead of them in the present set-up. They have an uphill task to maintain their roads, and the job of laying down new roads is completely beyond their resources.
It is interesting to know that Australia to-day has 70,000 miles of State highways, traffic roads and ordinary main roads, plus 20,000 miles of what are called secondary roads. There is therefore, a total of 90,000 miles of classified or declared roads, but - and I should like the House to note this point - there are also 192,000 miles of unclassified roads, principally rural roads, which serve as arteries and lifelines for primary producers in isolated areas. This mileage of 192,000 is almost entirely the responsibility of shires and municipalities, which are therefore, responsible for the greatest mileage of roads in the Commonwealth. What finances have they in order to enable them to meet this responsibility? They have the revenue from their own poverty-stricken road rates which, by law, must not exceed a certain rate in the £1. In addition, they have such sums as the State governments choose to make available to them from their share of the proceeds of petrol tax. That is a tremendous responsibility to be borne by shires and municipalities. Last October, the Government allocated £24,000,000 to the States from petrol tax revenues. Legally, the States must expend at least 40 per cent, of their allocations on rural roads, and they have the right to expend more than that percentage if necessary. Rut that is still not sufficient for the needs of the situation. The rate of petrol tax is 7d. a gallon. I shall not argue about that, but I suggest that the Government should allocate the entire proceeds of that tax for road purposes. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not tell us to-day that the revenue from petrol tax at present is at the rate of £30,000,000 a year. The Government, last October, handed back £24,000,000 from petrol tax revenues to the States. The remaining £6,000,000 went into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Why does not the Government make provision that all the revenue derived from petrol tax shall be allocated to the States and expended on roads? That revenue can certainly be expended on roads. The excuse that it cannot be so expended, because of lack of labour and materials, does not hold water in 80 per cent, of cases.
In the present circumstances of this country, roads, with their co-partners, the railways, have a- threefold importance. First, they are important to our defence; secondly, they are important to our food production; and thirdly, they are important to rural development. In spite of modern methods of transportation we shall always need roads. They will always be the major lines of communication within this vast continent. Great roads like the Adelaide to Darwin road, the road from Queensland to the Northern Territory, and the road from Geraldton to Wyndham, the last of .which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) spoke about last year, should be a national responsibility. So also should the road from Port Augusta in South Australia to Albany in Western Australia. Those roads have a strategic and defence importance, and this country should be ashamed of their present condition, because, in the event of hostilities, they would be of vital importance to Australia. Why does not the Government allocate a proportion of the defence vote to finance the necessary work on those roads? An amount of, say, ?10,000,000 a year from an annual defence vote of ?200,000,000 could surely be devoted to the maintenance and building of roads that are vitally linked to our defence needs, and also to the need to increase the production of food. The value of good roads to farmers who send their products to market is obvious.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill last year he pointed out that, under the 1947 act, the average payment to the States was ?7,300,000. He also told us, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has since confirmed his statement, that payments under the new scheme will amount to between ?24,000,000 and ?25,000,000. That means that the States are receiving for road purposes from the Australian Government three and a half times as much money as they received in 1947 from a government that was supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser).
– Not when it is considered in relation to the fall in the value of money since 1947.
– A study of the relevant authorities will show that between 1947 and the present time the C series index rates increased by about double. That is to say, the money now allocated for roads has about half the value that the same amount of money had in 1947. Since the Government is allocating, for road purposes, three and a half times as much money as its predecessor allocated in 1947, even working on the basis of value mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, it is allocating to the States for road purposes money that has twice the value of the allocations made by the Chifley Government in 1947.
– But is enough money being provided?
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is in the position that he has raised a matter in which he is in a situation of weakness. I understand that it is good practice in debate to tackle an opponent on a line of weakness. In order to divert attention from other matters, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has raised the subject of roads, in relation to which the Government stands in a very strong position. It has done more in relation to finance for roads than any other government in our history has done, and it has done twice as much as was done by the Government that was supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
As to whether the Government is doing enough, we have to take into account whether, in fact, we might be doing too much. I shall take the electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro as a case in point. I am sure he will not mind if I do so, because he brought into the debate the subject of the Cooma road. He said that, in order to realize the dreadful state of that road, it is only necessary to travel along it. This Government inherited the bad state of the Cooma road from the Government that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro supported, and since it came into office that road has had to bear the tremendous weight of speedy motor transport to and from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. If the honorable member travels from Canberra to Cooma he will see big gangs of men working on the Cooma road near the Queanbeyan turn-off. Travelling from
Cooma he will see a very fine road up to a place called Bunyan. Very big road gangs with enormous .equipment costing tens of thousands of pounds are working on the Cooma-Canberra road. At last, this Government is beginning to overtake the lag that it inherited from Labour governments. That is not the only road in the honorable member’s electorate that is being repaired. Workmen are at present engaged in straightening the road on Brown Mountain. I know that he will not mind my mentioning that on the south coast road work is being done on the sections from Bodalla to Narooma and Narooma to Tilba Tilba. A new alinement will cost millions to complete. The Bateman’s Bay bridge will soon be completed and the whole of the roads in the honorable member’s electorate between Nowra and Bega will be treated at enormous expense.
– I accept the honorable member’s tribute to the Cahill Government and my own energetic representations.
– The honorable member is aware that he is at the table and can answer me with the advantage that he is seated in close proximity to microphones which are now in use. He knows that what he says will go over the air, and I ask him not to take unfair advantage of you, Mr. Speaker, in that regard. The honorable member said that the Cahill Government had done a magnificent job. The debate last year brought out serious doubts as to whether either the Cahill Labour Government or the Queensland Labour Government was passing this money on to the people who should get it. The last legislation on the subject tightened up on this spending and made certain that the money which went to the States would be used as was intended. From investigations that I have made, the shires in the Eden-Monaro electorate have not received the money that they should have received. The honorable member will know that that is true, because he has had some experience in this matter. He at one time represented the shire of Shoalhaven, which is an amalgamation of several local government areas. When the amalgamation took place, the Premier of New South Wales promised that they would not suffer as a result. They were getting about £6,000 per annum under the Commonwealth Aid Roads grants when this Government began its work five years ago. The amount that they received had increased from £6,000 to £8,000 - only about 20 per. cent, or 30 per cent. - but the amounts given to the States for roads from loan funds and other sources had doubled and trebled. Although the New South Wales Labour Government had received twice as much under one fund and three times as much under another, the unfortunate shires - some of which were in the electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro - got only about 20 per cent. Somehow or other the State retained money that could have been passed on. Therefore, it is very unwise for the honorable member for EdenMonaro to bring this matter up. His own party is shown to be guilty in thematter.
The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) told us what the Queensland Labour Government had done. The last legislation on the subject, which was brought down by the Prime Minister and passed by the Parliament, tightened up the situation so that no other Labour government could neglect to pass on the money to the local authorities. % Immediately, money started to flow to them. The amount paid to the Shoalhaven shire increased from £8,000 to £16,000. The Wingecarribee shire also received more money. I have before me the headlines in the local newspaper setting out the additional amounts received in these areas. That was largely the result of this Government’s legislation, which has increased the amount of £7,000,000, which was paid in 1947-49, to £24,000,000. Most important of all, it tightened up the Treasury procedure under which the money was paid out. That is the answer to the statements of the honorable member for EdenMonaro, who says that the Cahill Government has done a magnificent job. It has done a good Treasury job in keeping the money in its coffers, and in preventing it from going out to the local authorities.
– You will not let me answer.
– Order ! The honorable member has spoken, and he has no right to attempt to answer.
– I shall have to let these false statements go.
– The honorable member is on the Broadcasting Committee and knows of the opportunity that he has, sitting at the table, to answer, in a low voice, the things that I am saying. If he were courteous and fair he would keep silent, as my colleagues and I did while he was speaking. On the question, of whether there is enough money for roads it has become known not only to economists but also to the public generally that these days the Government can give too much. It is especially difficult for the local authorities in the electorate of Eden-Monaro to get enough men and equipment to do the work. They have to meet competition from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. It is very difficult, indeed, to keep men on the roads there. Therefore, it is possible that too much money is being made available for roads. In any case, I am certain that enough money is being provided by this Government. One should, perhaps, congratulate the honorable member for EdenMonaro upon his cleverness in bringing this matter forward. He might have succeeded in pulling the wool over people’s eyes and diverting attention from tho real issue. On this occasion we have caught him in the act.
This Government has a magnificent record so far as roads are concerned. The effects of its policy can be seen in every electorate and especially in that of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. It is very proper that attention should be paid to the maintenance of our roads. Transport using the roads has increased enormously in both size and speed, and places a tremendous burden on road surfaces. We must remember that the Australian Labour party protected the people who threw an extra burden on the roads by ruining interstate shipping which is still declining whilst, in the electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, coastal shipping has almost disappeared. That is putting a tremendous strain on the roads. When a government provides money for expenditure on roads, it should remember that it can provide too much, and that to do so would merely spoil its efforts in other directions. I want now to reply to another statement by a socialist member sitting opposite. He spoke of a master plan for roads.
– Order 1 The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bo made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to provide for increases in certainsalaries, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill will serve two purposes. The one is to give effect to the decision of the Government to increase the salaries of the holders of certain statutory offices, the salaries of which are provided by special appropriation, and the other is to give legal sanction to the methods adopted for the payment on and from the 23rd December last of salary increases granted to public servants and employees of three statutory authorities, whose methods of reclassification of offices are similar to those employed in the Public Service.
The salaries of the holders of statutory offices were last reviewed in 1950. Since that date certain cost of living increases have been made, but the Government considers that the remuneration of these officers is not adequate, having regard to the responsibility and complexities of the positions they occupy. It is not altogether, or always, true, that salaries paid to responsible civil service heads and others, should be calculated by reference to what may be paid outside, because there are certain advantages possessed by civil servants. But it is true, as every government has had cause to realize, that unless the salaries paid to such people are adequate, then there will be a constant disposition for outside industry to take away leading civil servants into outside employment.
It is one of the rather whimsical reflections that one arrives at after a long period in politics, that although it is fashionable to say bad words about civil servants, it is almost equally fashionable to get hold of them, if they are outstanding, and offer them posts outside the Public Service. That is a process which no government can look at with equanimity. The work of the Public Service is a work of growing importance. Whatever government may be in office, there will still remain many matters of firstclass public importance, the, administration of which will depend, ina very material degree, on the quality and ability and character of those civil servants who sit in posts where their advice is received, and where the objective character of their advice is of supreme importance.
Therefore, the Government has already announced certain increases of the salaries of persons who come into those groups, and the first purpose of this bill is to validate those increases. Secondly, we have a problem which concerns the Public Service as a whole. Claims were made before the Public Service Arbitrator on behalf of a great number of Public Service organizations. Those claims were originally made, I think, before the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but they came to consideration before the Arbitrator after the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had made its celebrated decision in the Metal Trades case.
The Public Service Board, which is responsible for classifications in the Public Service, was before the Arbitrator on the 18th December of last year, when he resumed the hearing of claims by a number of Public Service organizations for adjustments of salaries. On the 21st December, 1954, the Public Service Board, through its representative appearing before the Public Service Arbitrator, informed the Arbitrator of adjustments to salaries which it considered then to bo appropriate. The details were worked out and I think they were finally announced on about the 20th January of this year.
It is quite true that what was then said by the Public Service Board has not proved satisfactory to the Public Service organizations, but it was thought - and I believe quite rightly - that to defer any adjustment of salaries until the proceedings before the Arbitrator, and perhaps the proceedings before the court, had been terminated, would be unjust, and therefore salaries under the new arrangements indicated by the Public Service Board have in fact been paid. The purpose of this bill is to validate that payment. The validation has no bearing on the future proceedings before the Arbitrator or before the court; all the validation does is to make sure that the persons concerned validly receive the payments indicated by the Public Service Board. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or the Public Service Arbitrator in some future proceedings decide that what is being paid is not enough, it will be a matter for them. I do not know and I do not make any prophecy.
I am sure that the House will agree that, in the meantime - and this is purely an interim measure - the payments that have been indicated, first by the Government in the case of certain officers, and, secondly, by the board in proceedings before the Public Service Arbitrator, should be made lawful. In point of fact it is desirable that they should be included in the Suplementary Estimates so that they shall be included in the accounts for the current financial year. The main point I make is that the validation of these payments will prejudice nobody; all it does is to ensure that what has been and is being paid, has been and is being validly paid according to law. That, Mr. Speaker, is the purpose of the bill, and I recommend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell.) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to - That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to increase the remuneration of the judges of the High Court and of certain courts created by the Parliament.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime
Minister) [4.26]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill, putting it quite shortly to increase the salaries of Her Majesty’s judges who are federal judges of the High Court of Australia and other federal courts created by this Parliament under the Constitution. These provisions are included in a separate bill. I know that it has not been uncommon at some stages in the past to include the salaries of the judges with salaries paid to certain public servants, but on this occasion the bill is a separate one, and for the very good reason which I state, although I should not need to do so, that Commonwealth judges are not public servants. The High Court of Australia was created by the Constitution itself and it has exactly the same origin of authority as has this Parliament. It is quite true that the Executive nominates appointees to the High Court, but that does not dispose of the fact that the High Court is the creature of the Constitution,, just as much as are this Parliament and the Executive. Therefore, this matter should always be considered quite apart from the consideration of those public servants who come into existence under the executive powers of the Commonwealth.
The second thing I want to make clear is that adjustments of the judges’ salaries have nothing whatever to do with some of the other arguments that have been going on in Australia about the basic wage or margins.
– Why not? Why have they not?
– They have nothing whatever to do with those arguments.
– They have a great deal to do with them, and the Australian people think so.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may think so, but he has never been a great believer in the judiciary. I am a believer in it. I desire to say, if I am permitted to do so, that the salaries of judges are not to be considered on the basis of the basic wage, plus a margin. Indeed, if they had been so considered, they would be immeasurably higher than they are to-day. Tho salaries of the judges are to be considered from one point of view: Are we paying to the judges salaries which will enable them to discharge their singular responsibilities with independence and without financial embarrassment? When I have said that, I merely want to go back to one simple piece of history.
The High Court of Australia was created by the Constitution, but it was in fact, constituted under the Judiciary Act in 1903, and in 1903 the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court was £3,500 a year, and the salary of the puisne justices was £3,000. The best proof that nobody ever thought of these salaries as if this were an Arbitration Court problem, is that those salaries remained unaltered until 1947. In 44 years, the salaries of the judiciary, which is the sheet anchor of the Constitution, remained untouched. In 1947, certain improvements were made. The Chief Justice of the High
Court was to receive £4,500 a year-, instead of £3,500, and the other judges of the High Court were to receive £4,000 h year, instead of £3,00.0. Nobody, not even the most violent opponent of the judiciary, would suggest for one moment that those adjustments of salary had any relation to the kind of thing that had been going on in the industrial world. To-day, as a result of further changes made in 1950, the salaries are £5,000 for the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the holder of one of the greatest and most responsible offices in thi3 country, and for the other judges, £4,500.
I do not speak about this matter with any pride, because I think that I myself must accept some responsibility. This matter has been seriously overlooked. In the State of New South Wales - and having regard to the raucous laughter from some honorable members opposite, I might point out that that is not a State controlled by a Liberal administration - the present position of the judiciary of the Supreme Court, whose responsibilities are not comparable with those of the High Court, is this: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in that State - and I understand that there is every prospect of these figures being altered upwards - is paid £4,750.
– Too much!
– Of course, the salaries of all judges are too much from the point of view of a man who hates judges and hates the law. I am not talking about that sort of gutter stuff. I am talking about the problem of the judiciary, in a country which values the judiciary in a country which knows, as 99 per cent, of the members of this House know, that the impeccable rule of law is the sheet anchor of democracy, and that there must be courts which are of the highest possible order and authority. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales receives £4,750 a year., plus a tax-free allowance of £350. If tax is deducted from each salary, the present position is that, net, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, who is probably the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world-
– He is not as good as the right honorable gentleman himself, is he?
– He is miles superior to me, and infinitely superior to the honorable, member for Watson (Mr.. Curtin)-.
– The honorable member for Watson is not a lawyer at all.
– I am glad to have the assurance of the honorable gentleman on that point. If we deduct taxes from these figures, the net remuneration of the Chief Justice of the High Court is £2,912 a year, and that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, £3,171. If we take the judges of the Supreme Court and compare them with the judges of the High Court, the position still obtains that, after taxation, the payments made to the judges of the High Court are lower than those made to the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Now, I am not to be understood to say that the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales are being paid more than they should be paid. I have little doubt that they are being paid less than they should; but that the judges of the High Court are being inadequately paid is clear to demonstration. It would be a very odd thing for any of us, speaking in this Parliament, having regard to what has happened over the course of federation, to say that the judges of the High Court are not entitled to one relatively minor adjustment in salary in 50 years.
– Is £60 a week a minor adjustment?
– I know there aTe certain types of people who always say, “So much a week”. No doubt there are certain types of people - and they are well illustrated by the member for East Sydney-
– The honorable member for East Sydney.
– The member for East Sydney.
– He is an honorable member, is he not?
– The member for East Sydney.
– I rise to order. I asb you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker,, whether it is not true that Mr. Speaker has ruled that honorable members of this House, when referring in debate to other honorable members, must refer to them as “ honorable members “ ?
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - My answer to that .is that I am not governed by what Mr, Speaker has ruled.
– I am very familiar with this particular argument. I have heard it in this House for the last 21 years - “ He gets so much a week. Cannot he live on that ? “ We shall be told, next, that £3 or £4 above the basic wage ought to be quite adequate for the Chief Justice of Australia.
– The honorable gentleman said that it was a minor increase.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), whom I am delighted to greet in that sense, will be the last man to say that the Chief Justice of this country ought to be paid on some footing of so much for the basic wage and so many pounds a week on top of it. Of course, nobody believes such nonsense. The fact is that the salaries of the judiciary in Australia have, for many years, been quite disgraceful to Australia. I know that there are some people who would be willing to apply for a post under any conditions,, so long as it seemed to be paid more than the basic wage, but let me remind the House that the High Court bench - I take that as the perfect example - has judicial and constitutional responsibilities of the loftiest possible character, and this country cannot afford to have anybody except men of the greatest possible ability, the greatest possible learning, the greatest possible experience, and the greatest possible character sitting on the High Court. I am happy to say that we have in Australia a good record in that respect. I am happy to say, also, that the High Court of Australia at this moment has a judicial reputation around the world that I venture to describe as unsurpassed by any other court, anywhere.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) contributed to that.
– One of the beneficent gifts of Providence is that we do not have to put on the High Court bench people like the gentleman from East Sydney. What we have to do is to put on the bench of the High Court of Australia people who are eminent in their profession.
– The Prime Minister must be an advocate for himself.
– Really ! I thought this was a serious debate, not a gutter topic.
– The Prime Minister will have to pardon him. It is the nature of the man.
– Of course it is. The position of the High Court must be such that we, or any other government, will be able to go to the most eminent men at the bar and ask them to take a seat on that bench. I remember that during my own time at the bar, when I had a great deal of work to do, earnings at the bar were not so violently at variance with the salaries of judges as to make it impossible to get the right kind of people to go on the bench, but I tell honorable members that in this year of grace and in modern circumstances it is ludicrous to ask a man to become Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia v- a justice of the High Court for a remuneration that a junior counsel in decent practice at the bar would scoff at. Therefore, the’ Government looked at this matter and said that it had nothing to do with any other considerations. This is a separate problem that has been too long neglected. I thought I made it clear that I was not being “ party “ on this matter. The neglect has been by people on my side just as well as by others. Therefore, the Government came -to the conclusion that a major change ought to be made. That is why this bill provides that the salary of the Chief Justice shall be £8,000 a year, and that the salary of the other justices of the High Court shall be £6,500 a year. It provides also that the salaries of other federal judges on the schedule that honorable members will see attached to the bill should be correspondingly adjusted down the line. I have no doubt that somebody will say that these salaries are too high. I want to say perfectly plainly that I do not think they are too high. I think they are extremely moderate.
There is another very important aspect of the position of the judiciary, and that is what happens when a judge retires from the bench. What pension is he to get? The present position in the High Court of Australia is that a judge draws a pension based upon the number of years of his service on the bench, and the maximum is 40 per cent, of his salary. Again, I draw a comparison between that position, which gives a High Court judge a maximum pension of £1,800 a year, and the position in the Supreme Court of New South Wales - a position which I believe and hope is to be improved. In the Supreme Court of New South Wales, a judge’s pension is £2,400 a year. I remind honorable members that the maximum pension payable to a High Court judge is £1,800 a year. I am sure that this Parliament will not find that comparison tolerable. The High Court is the highest court in Australia. It is the ultimate court of appeal for Australia, not only in constitutional cases, but also in a vast variety of cases deriving from an immeasurable number of branches of the law. I am sure that honorable members will agree that it would be an absurdity to have in regard to both salaries and pensions a position such as I have described in respect to High Court judges in comparison with the position of the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I think every lawyer would agree with me that the High Court of Australia is not to be compared with any judicial body in the United Kingdom lower than the Court of Appeal. In the Court of Appeal of Great Britain, and indeed in the court from which it sits on appeal - the court that is known as the High Court of Judicature - the pension, not of the Chief Justice but of the ordinary justices is £3.500 a year. The salaries are, of course, immeasurably greater.
– Do they have a retiring age?
– Judges in the United Kingdom are appointed for life. There is no retiring age for the High Court here because, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows, the Constitution itself provides for life tenure. Therefore, with out a constitutional alteration, there could be no retiring age imposed upon the justices of the High Court. I do not wish to labour this matter. I have indicated the simple facts both by comparison with the Supreme Court of the mother State of the Commonwealth, and by reference to the enormous responsibility of the High Court bench and the vital importance of being able to attract to the service of this country in the High Court of Australia legal men of the highest possible quality, qualifications and experience. This bill has nothing to do with anything else and I make no apology for the size of the salaries. My only doubt is whether I may not be called upon some day to apologize for their smallness.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell.) adjourned.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
Motions (by Sir A.arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £163,077,000 for or towards the services of the year 1955-56.
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £32,687,000 for or towards the services of the year 1955-56, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain an appropriation of £163,077,000 required to carry on the necessary normal services of government, other than capital works and services, for the first four months of the financial year 1955-56. The provision sought may be summarized under the following heads: -
The bill provides for the carrying on of essential services approved by the Parliament in the Appropriation Acts 1954-55. The several amounts provided for ordinary services represent, with minor exceptions, approximately onethird of the 1954-55 appropriations. The amount of £64,636,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the current defence programme and the amount of £8,711,000 for War and Repatriation Services covers expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation and other post-war charges. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services.
However, an amount of £16.000,000 is sought for”Advance to the Treasurer” to enable the payment of the special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to be continued pending the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, to make advances which will be recovered during the financial year, and also to meet unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be included in a parliamentary appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
The. purpose of this bill is to obtain an appropriation of £32,687,000 which is required to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first four months of the financial year 1955-56. There will be Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1955, expenditure on which must be continued during the interval until the 1955-56 budget is passed by the Parliament. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the Postmaster-General’s Department, War Service Homes Division and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will also provide funds to ensure continuous employment and to enable purchases of materials in advance for the carrying out of those programmes of works. The bill provides for four months expenditure at the annual level at which expenditure was approved for the purposes of capital works and services in the Capital Works Estimates 1954-55.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting (a) Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1955; and (b) an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the service of the year ending the 30th June, 1955, for the purposes of the Trust Account established under section 62 (a) of the Audit Act 1901-1954 and known as the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account, of such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines; and also a further message transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving capital expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1955, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to bereferred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir ArthurFadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £25,804,000 for the services of the year 1954-55, viz.: -
That, in addition, there be granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1054-55, for the purposes of the Trust Account established under section sixty-two a of the Audit Act 1901-1954 and known as the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account, such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines. additional estimates for works and Services 1954-55.
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £2,801,000 for the services of the year 1954-55, for additions, new works and other services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions ofWays and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and of the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for certain expenditures for which provision was not made in the 1954-55 Estimates. The various items contained in the Additional Estimates will, where necessary, be explained in detail in Committee. There are a few major items, however, to which I should like to refer at this stage. The largest single item for which an appropriation is being sought is. an amount of £8,000,000, which it is proposed to transfer to the Defence Equipment and Supplies Trust Account. It now seems clear that in 1954-55 defence expenditure will fall short of the budget estimate of £200,000,000. This lag in defence expenditureis a product of conditions both in Australia and overseas. “With the Australian economy fully employed, difficulties have been encountered in building up the strengths of the defence forces whilst shortages of man-power and materials have also limited the local production of the material requirements of the services and the execution of defence works. Delays continue to be experienced also in securing equipment and supplies from overseas sources and large orders are still outstanding. In these circumstances the Government has decided to transfer £8,000,000 this year to the Defence Equipment and Supplies Trust Account, thus bringing the balance in that account to £20,000,000. This amount of £20,000,000 will be held available in the Treasury to assist in financing outstanding defence commitments.
In the Additional Estimates, an amount of approximately £5,100,000 is included under departmental votes to cover the cost of the reclassification of the Public Service which was made by the Public Service Board. Provision is also made for salary increases approved by the Government for permanent heads of departments and other officers of the First Division. An amount of £4,000,000 is provided in the Additional Estimates for the redemption of savings certificates from Consolidated Revenue Fund. This procedure, which has also been followed in each of the past two years will make easier the financing of loan fund commitments. Honorable members will also note a provision of £875.000 for expenditure in connexion with flood relief in New South Wales. This expenditure has been occasioned by the disastrous and widespread floods experienced in that State earlier this year.
The total of the additional appropriations covering items set out in the schedules to these two bills is £28,600,000. It does not follow however, that the total expenditure for the year will exceed the budget estimate by that amount because savings will be effected on a number of other items of expenditure. After taking these savings into account, expenditure for the year is not likely to exceed the budget estimate. The actual figure for the year will depend to a large extent on deliveries of defence supplies and equipment between now and the end of June.
On the revenue side of the budget, a number of items seem likely to reach or slightly exceed the budget estimate. ‘ As a result of buoyant economic conditions, sales tax collections may exceed the estimate by as much as £7,000,000. On the other hand, the recent floods have had some effect on income tax collections and it i3 not yet clear whether those collections will reach the budget estimate.
Although the final budget result for the year is still uncertain, it may be possible to transfer some further moneys this year to the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account. During the next four or five years the Commonwealth will face the problem of converting or redeeming an enormous amount of debt, arising in large part from war expenditure. Depending on financial conditions at the time, considerable amounts of this debt may have to be redeemed at maturity. It therefore seems wise, as opportunity occurs, to set Sir Arthur Fadden. aside financial reserves which would be available to meet such redemptions.
Until such time as this reserve is required for debt redemption purposes, the moneys in the reserve can be invested. Last year, most of the balance in the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account was invested in a special loan to assist the Loan Council borrowing programme. If it should again become necessary this year to supplement the Loan Council programmes to any extent an investment from the Debt Redemption Reserve could be made in the same way as last year. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. CALWELL adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir ARTHUR Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2), I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation for capital works and services. This bill will effect that appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a further sum not exceeding £3,439,434 for the services of the year 1953-54, viz.: -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a further sum not exceeding £721,914for the services of the year 1953-54 for Additions,
New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz. -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Supplementary Estimates of expenditure totalling £3,439,434 relate to the financial year 1953-54. The amounts set out were expended out of a general appropriation of £16,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of excess expenditure.
Full details of the expenditure for 1953- 54 which includes these items are set out in the Estimates and budget papers for 1954-55. The Estimates papers show the amount voted for 1954- 55, together with the amount voted and the actual expenditure for the previous year, which is included for information purposes. Details are also included in the Treasurer’s finance statement for 1953-54, which was tabled during the budget session for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. The chief items in round figures are -
Any further details of the . various items of expenditure will be available at a later date. The Supplementary Estimates 1953-54 have been examined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and I understand that its report thereon will be available for the information of honorable members prior to the commencement of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir ARTHUR Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Appropriations for capital works and services for the financial year 1953-54 amounted to £97,006,000. ‘ The actual expenditure was £88,833,000; that is, £8,173,000 less than the appropriation. However, due to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, the expenditure on certain items exceeded the individual amounts appropriated, and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval of these increases. The excess expenditure on the particular items totals £721,914, which is spread over the various items of the departments, as set out in the schedule to the bill. Any details which may be required will be furnished at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th May (vide page 818), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Haylen had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “ the bill be withdrawn, to enable the Amending Agreement to be revised with a view to providing that the minimum deposit on sales on terms shall be 5 per cent, of the purchase consideration, and that interest on purchase money outstanding shall be at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum computed on the monthly balance, and that the maximum advance bc £3,500.”.
– In speaking to this bill, I am speaking on a subject in which I am, ano have always been, interested. The measure provides for the ratifying of an agreement between the various States and the Commonwealth for the sale of house* that have been erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Before the adjournment last night, we heard a speech by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). Instead of attempting to discuss the merits of the bill and the action being taken in connexion with this matter, he took the opportunity, as he does on almost every occasion when the subject of housing is before the House, to make a political football of it. In doing so, he made statements which, I consider, should be replied to by any one who happens to know tb>> position.
The honorable member for Bennelong referred to the New South Wales Housing Commission, and complained about the way it had built houses and the quality of those houses. He referred to what had been done in 1945, when the Parliament passed the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which, he said, was going to make the State a huge landlord. He said that the Labour party was entirely opposed to home ownership. We heard some of the honorable members around him interjecting that the Labour party did not want little capitalists. Then he went on to tell honorable members here, and the world in general, that the South Australian Liberal Government had set the right example. He contended that this Parliament bad set up a huge governmentowned renting organization, and he condemned it very severely. He criticized the kind nf buildings erected by the New South Wales Housing Commission, and he referred to the wonderful work which had been done by a Liberal government, through the South Australian Housing Trust.
I think that honorable members are aware that I was ‘a member of the State parliament of South Australia when that legislation was enacted by a Liberal government, not the Government of which Mr. Playford is Premier, but that of his predecessor, the present Sir Richard Butler, who was Premier at that time. That Government then, for the first time in South Australia, brought in legislation in. order to erect houses under a government authority for rental purposes only. The honorable member makes out that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was inspired by those members of the Labour party who did not want home ownership. The Labour Government of 1924-1927 in South Australia brought into operation a scheme commonly known as “ The Thousand Homes Scheme “. That scheme was introduced under conditions designed to give a person the right to purchase and own his own home. Wo provision was made for renting the houses, hut provision was made to make them available for sale. We are twitted by the honorable member for Bennelong about what we did as a Labour government when we had those thousand homes built by the Government and alloted to the people. The price of a home to the purchaser was approximately 700. The deposit on £700 was about £25, or 3i per cent. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been ridiculed for moving an amendment stipulating a deposit of 5 per cent, on houses purchased under the present scheme. In South Australia, on a house worth £725, a purchaser paid £25 deposit, and received a loan of £700. That was enacted by a Labour government in the parliament of 1924-1927 ; yet a Liberal government in that State in 1937 enacted legislation providing for houses to be built for rental only. In South Australia, at that period, and prior to it, the authority to make advances to buy State houses was the State Bank of South Australia under the Advances for Homes Act. In 1935, when the South Australian Housing Trust was set up by the Liberal Government, provision was not made for money to be made available. I remember appealing from my seat in the House to the Premier to make funds available to the State Bank so that it could make advances to people to build their own homes. In a period of three years, not one home was built under the Advances for Homes Act. The South Australian Government provided only enough money to pay for repairs to houses built with advances made under the act. When I pleaded with the Premier to make money available to people who wished to build or buy their own homes, he said there was no need for the Government to do that, because they could borrow money from outside authorities. He said also that if a man who wished to buy his own home could not get the necessary money through ordinary commercial channels, he could rent a home from the Housing Trust.
The honorable member for Bennelong suggested that the Liberal Government in South Australia did nothing to make that State, so to speak, a huge rent collecting agency. I have before me the report of the South Australian Housing Trust for the year 1953-54. The report shows that in that year the trust collected in rents no less than £942,246. It was easily the largest rent collector in the State. Wo other agency was collecting rents for houses to that degree. In the previous year, the trust collected £504,000 in rents, but during the next year the figure rose to £942,000.
The honorable member for Bennelong tried to put on the shoulders of the Labour Government in power in the Commonwealth in 1945 the blame for the existence of a system which led to the mass production of what he referred to as houses of a very inferior type. Let me remind the honorable member of legislation enacted in South Australia in 1936, which shows the standard of the houses provided by the South Australian Government. At that time, an ordinary threebedroom house in South Australia cost about £900. Section 25 of the South Australian Housing Trust Act 1936 states-
The cost of any house built under this Act (including the cost of the site of the house. th,, fences and the sewerage) shall not exceed £450.
That indicates the standard of houses that the South Australian Government had in mind. Let us see to whom the houses were to be let. Section 27 (l)(a) of that act states -
The Trust shall not let any house of group A-
Those are the houses to which I have referred - to any person whose weekly income at the time when the lease is applied for exceeds £4 1Os
Section 27 (2) provides -
In computing the income of any person for the purposes of this section, the income of the spouse of that person (if living with him or her) and any of the children of that person living with him or her, shall be reckoned as part of that person’s income.
So we see what was being done in Australia at that time. Let me say that I admire the good work that is being done by the South Australian Housing Trust. The purpose of erecting houses of that type was to give some of the people on the lower rungs of the ladder, the bask wage-earners, as it were, an opportunity to rent houses, because another section of the South Australian Housing Trust Act provided that the rent charged should not exceed 12s. 6d. a week. I am bringing these facts to the notice of honorable members to show them that the honorable member for Bennelong, in playing politics with this matter, was not being fair.
The honorable member condemned the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was brought into operation in 1945, on the ground that it was responsible for poor housing standards and that it prevented people from owning their own houses. He said that a tenant of a house owned by the South Australian Housing Trust could buy his house from the trust. That is so to-day, but in 1945, the year when the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement began to operate, the position in South Australia, notwithstanding that South Australia did not come into the agreement until a couple of years later, was practically the same as the position in the States that were operating under the agreement. The South Australian legislation provided that the South Australian Housing Trust could sell a house to a tenant on such terms as it thought desirable. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provided -
A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling.
There was a good reason for that provision. If in any year a State makes a loss on its transactions under the agreement, three-fifths of the loss has to be borne by the Commonwealth and twofifths by the State. Therefore, it was provided that if a State wanted to sell a house for less than the cost price, it had to obtain the consent of the Commonwealth Treasurer to the sale. But if the State wanted to sell a house at the cost price, it could do so at any time. The honorable member for Bennelong was not fair to the originators of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Let me deal with his remarks about tenants buying their houses from the South Australian Housing Trust. The report of the trust for the year 1953-54 shows that, in the year 1944-45, the trust built only double unit houses. Up to that time, no single unit houses had been built. The report reveals that the policy of the trust is not to sell double unit houses. The only houses it sells are single unit dwellings. In 1945-46, the year in which the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States was signed, the South Australian Housing Trust erected twelve single unit houses. They were the first single unit houses erected under the South Australian scheme, which had been in operation since 1937. The position has improved since then. Last year, the trust built 642 single unit houses in the metropolitan area, 231 single unit houses in country areas, 562 double unit houses in the metropolitan area, and 431 double unit houses in country areas. Those figures show that the Liberal Government in South Australia recognizes the necessity to build houses for rental purposes in order to meet the needs of the people of that State.
I do not want in any way to belittle the South Australian Housing Trust, because I know that it has done valuable work. When the South Australian legislation was passed, an endeavour was made to build houses at a cost of £450 each and to let them at a rent of 12s. 6d. a week to the people who needed them so much. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) was very interested in the scheme. Pie inspected the first house to be built, which was in my electorate. He was interested in putting furniture into the house so that we could get an idea of what these houses would look like when they were furnished. I do not mean that he was interested in doing that for the purposes of personal profit. He wanted the furniture to be put into the house so that people could see just what could be put into the rooms, the size of which had been criticized a great deal. What concerns me mostly in this bill is the term of 45 years for repayments. I do not believe that the term should be so long, although I know that many members on this side of the House are in agreement with that provision. I was a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission which made a report to this Parliament prior to the introduction of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The only difference between members of the commission was in regard to the 45-year term for repayments. I made a minority report recommending that the government of the day should make money available to people for the purpose of home-building at an interest rate no greater than 3 per cent., including the cost of administration. I made that report to the Chifley Government. Honorable members may ask why that Government did not adopt my recommendation. It was not adopted because the then Treasurer was of the opinion that he could not differentiate between homepurchasers and other people, particularly people in agricultural pursuits, who were obtaining advances from the Government. My contention was that tho period for repayment should be no longer than 25 years, and that the interest rate should be reduced. I am still of that opinion. If those provisions were included in this legislation a person would be given a chance of obtaining his own home.
I was one of the people who obtained a State Bank home when the 1,000 homes were built in South Australia in 1925. I obtained a loan of £687 10s., and I was required to repay a little more than £4 a month. That amount of repayment was slightly reduced later with the reduction of the interest rates. After five, years, I had not missed one monthly payment, but I found then that I had paid off the capital the magnificent sum of just under £20. Included in the £4 was 5s. 9d. for the principal and, I think, £3 8s. 8d. for interest. The remainder was made up of insurance.
Under the provisions of this bill, a tenant who has been renting a home built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement may purchase the home, and if he does so he will be credited with the amount included in the rental payment as amortization of the capital. I think that, under that agreement, the amortization period is as long as 50 or 55 years, but let us consider it as 45 years. The maximum loan available is £2,750, which is just four times what I borrowed. If we multiply my capital repayment of £20 by four, we find that under the credit foncier system under which these loans will be arranged, in five years a person will have paid only £80 off the capital. Of course, instead of paying £4 a month, as I did, he will be paying something like £3 a week.
When those things are considered, it will be seen that it will not be easy for a person to buy his home. If the Government is really eager to help people who require homes, it should be prepared to subsidize the purchase of homes in some way. I believe that the best way to do that would be to fix an interest rate of 3 per cent., and reduce the repayment period, in which case a purchaser would pay monthly a sum similar to that which he would pay with the interest rate at
H per cent. I have not worked out tha details, but if a person were to make the same repayments with the interest rate at 3 per cent., instead of 4 per cent., the period could probably be reduced to something like the 25 years that I have suggested.
I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that there may be periods when it will be necessary to write off some of the indebtedness of home purchasers. In South Australia, under’ the Repatriation Act after World War I., men were established on the land on what were known as the Murray Blocks. Those men were there for years, and they argued for years that something should be written off their indebtedness. They claimed that they were unable to meet their commitments. Ultimately, the government of the day agreed to write down some of the arrears of payments of those people. And they were not all people who were on the rocks. I remember that the Minister for Repatriation told, me that when he went up to one of the Murray River towns, many of the people who came in to argue for a writing-down of their indebtedness were driving the latest model motor cars. Some of the settlers may have been in difficulties, but certainly they were not all on the rocks. If it was right and just to agree to write off the indebtedness of some of those people, then it is reasonable to ask that this Govern?ment should consider writing something off a debt for the purchase of a home. I know that some honorable members may argue that if it were done for one section of the community, it would have to be done for all sections. I appreciate that argument, but it has been done before for certain people, as I have just illustrated. There was another instance when certain amounts were written off the indebtedness of farmers in the period between 1930 and 1935 under the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act.
If the Government wishes to instal people in expensive homes and burden them with heavy charges, the time will come when they will not be able to meet their payments. I have referred, when speaking in this House on another matter, to the fact that, in order to meet high housing costs at present, women as well as men have to go out and work. That has been found necessary in many families because of the need to increase the family income in order to meet housing payments.
I know that my time has almost expired, and I want to say that although I agree with the principle of this bill, I do not agree that it is desirable to have this very long period for repayments. I would prefer to see the bill amended to
Ifr. Thompson. provide for a shorter repayment period and a lower rate of interest which would enable people to make monthly payments sufficient to give them an equity in the property at an earlier date. I realize that the provisions of the agreement require a larger deposit, but I would not like to see a repetition of what happened in South Australia in the period about 1930. At that time, many men were out of work, some for a few months,, and others for twelve months or two years. After a few months, a tenant would find that the amount owing on his home, plus amounts due for rates and taxes, was far more than the small amount he had paid off the capital. In many cases, such a person dropped his bundle and walked off the property. Under the provisions of this bill, the same thing could occur again, with purchasers bearing too heavy a burden. A man with a family must have a three-bedroom home, and such a home cannot be obtained for £3,000. I happened to hear a quotation of building costs in Canberra on the air the other day. They amounted to nearly £400 a square. A home of ten squares would not be big enough for three bedrooms, but it would cost £4,000, and for a very poor standard of house. A family must have sufficient room to enable it to live in some degree of comfort. The present measure will apply mostly to people who already have homes which they obtained under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In South Australia, however, it will not be of any great assistance to people who have such homes, because South Australia subscribed to the agreement only two years ago. The measure will also not apply to people in South Australia who obtained houses under State schemes prior to South Australia becoming a partner in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The people will have to do the best they can. If they are renting a housing trust home built under the old scheme this measure will not apply to them.
Any difficulty that people have previously found in purchasing homes built under the scheme will be eased by the provision that I have read to the House, that a home may be sold by the occupant to a person at any time. However, under the old agreement the total amount owing on a home had to he repaid to the Commonwealth, and the State would have to carry the amount of money needed. I think that that is the real complaint about that scheme. If a tenant-purchaser could get money to pay to the State the amount still owing on his home he could purchase it outright. But often in the past a person who was purchasing a home under the scheme was unable to buy it outright because he could not raise the lump sum required. Under this bill the Commonwealth, and not the State, will carry the capital responsibility, which will bear an interest rate of 44 per cent. Incidentally, I consider that that interest rate is too high. I believe that “we, as a Commonwealth are asking for too much in interest. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has moved an amendment that the interest rate be reduced to. 3 per cent. Probably the Government will not accept that amendment, but it should certainly give it serious consideration.
As I have already told the House, in my minority report in 1944 I urged that the interest rate be 3 per cent. One of the reasons I gave was that the repayment period could thereby be kept down to 25 years. I still say that that is the right way in which to approach this matter. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) said that Labour State Premiers had signed the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. They had no option. They had to agree to the rate of interest in order to get the agreement brought into being. If the Commonwealth had set the rate at 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, and said that it would carry the burden, the States would have agreed.
I support the bill and I trust that my remarks about the interest rate, and the shortening of the repayment period that would result from a lower interest rate, will be considered seriously by the Government.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.^8 to 8 p.m. . Mr. HULME (Petrie) [8.0].- Before the suspension of the sitting the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr.
Thompson), speaking for the Opposition, expressed regret that last night the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) had made a political football of the debate on this bill. I suggest that it was not the honorable member for Bennelong, but the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in opening the debate for the Opposition, who began to make a political football of it. One of the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes was to the effect that the Commonwealth had fallen down on the general problem of housing. !Nb comment could be more productive of a political debate. I should like to give the honorable member for Parkes and the House an indication of what this Government has done in comparison with what the Chifley Government did when it was in office. I propose to take Queensland as my first illustration. In the last four years of the Chifley Government’s term of office £2,875,000 was made available to the Queensland Government for housing purposes. In the last four years, including thu current year of this Government’s term of office, the sum has been no less than £14,719,000.
– And it would still not buy as many houses !
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), being a financial genius, suggests that one could not buy as many houses for £14,000,000 now as one could buy for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 during the last four years of the Chifley Government’s term !
– That is right.
– I do not think that it is necessary for me to answer the comment because any honorable member with a higher standard of intelligence than the honorable member will appreciate that £14,000,000 would buy a lot more houses. The remark of the honorable member will be answered completely a little later when I make reference to a statement by one of the Queensland Ministers.
I shall now give certain figures for Australia. In the last four years of the Chifley Administration £45,000,000 was made available for the whole of Australia. In the last four years of this Government’s administration £126,000,000 has been made available.
That disposes completely of the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes that this Government has fallen down on the problem of housing in this country.
I should like now to come to the actual agreement and to refresh the minds of honorable members on its main provisions. If we go back to the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement we find that it included a provision for the sale of houses built thereunder. Subclause (2.) of clause 14 of the agreement reveals what I believe was the basic problem in relation to the right, at that stage, to sell these homes to tenants. It reads - (2.) The States shall pay to the Commonwealth the full purchase price of the dwelling payable by the purchaser.
The whole amount of the cost was immediately payable by the State Government to the Australian Government, whether the house was sold on terms or for cash. That was one of the unfortunate clauses in the 1945 agreement. Appreciating the socialistic desires of the late Mr. Chifley, one can understand that the clause could have been put there with the knowledge that the typo of person who goes into a rented home is not the type who has sufficient money to pay cash if he purchases it. Therefore, there could have been an intention to do just as the honorable member for Bennelong said last night - create within the Australian community governments which would be the largest landlords, so that the vast majority of the people would be tenants of either the Australian Government, or, as is the case with this agreement, the State governments.
– This Government has had five years in which to do something about it.
– I appreciate that we have been in office for five years, and that the agreement has not been altered; but that is not entirely our fault. Most honorable members will realize that at Loan Council meetings there are some very acrimonious debates. Because of the attitude adopted by many State Labour Premiers, it is not easy for the States and the Commonwealth to reach agreement.
– The States have been asking for this for years.
– Sub-clause (2.) of proposed new clause 14 of the principal agreement states that the purchase price of a dwelling sold under that clause shall be fixed by the State. I am not conversant with what has happened, or with what is likely to happen, in the States that have not passed complementary legislation; but I know that the Queensland Government has passed legislation under which the homes will be sold at a current valuation. That means that a substantial profit will be made by the State on the vast majority of these homes.
– Is that a Labour government ?
– Of course. Queensland is notorious for the fact that it has had a Labour government for the last 30 years. Let me point out that the valuation includes the improvements to the grounds. When a tenant takes over these properties the grounds are almost in their natural state and usually a good deal of debris is left by the builder. Therefore the tenant has to provide lawns, gardens and paths. These are subsequently taken into account when the premises are valued. Now the Queensland Government will say, “ You have done the work but you must also pay for it “. The valuation also includes the increase in the unimproved capital value of the land. In the last few years there has been a substantial increase in the unimproved capital value of land in the metropolitan areas of our capital cities. The allotment of land which cost a bousing commission perhaps £50 or £60 may to-day be worth anything up to £500. In this way, further profit will be made by the State Government.
The valuation also includes a capital accretion in relation to the building. That there has been a substantial capital accretion cannot be doubted by honorable members on either side of the House because a comparison of costs and values of freehold properties nine or ten years ago, when the agreement began to operate, with those of to-day, will show quite clearly that this is so. If the tenant purchases the home from the State Government he must pay for this. The Queensland Government will make a substantial profit on all the homes it sells, but especially on those built five or ten years ago.
Proposed new clause 14 (3.) of the schedule sets out the terms of sale. The provision requires that there shall be a minimum deposit of 5 per cent, to the first £2,000 of the purchase price, and 10 per cent, on the excess price over £2,000. In proposed new paragraph (c) of clause 14 (3.) it is indicated that the rate of interest to be charged to a purchaser in respect of any purchase money owing to a State shall be 4£ per cent, per annum, or such other rate as may be agreed upon between the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of the State. In paragraph (d) of that proposed new clause it is indicated that the balance of purchase money remaining after the payment of the cash deposit and the crediting of the purchaser with repayments of principal shall not exceed £2,750. In paragraph (e) it is indicated that the period of repayment of the balance of purchase money shall not exceed 45 years.
The honorable member for Parkes has proposed an amendment in relation to those particular matters, which is designed to provide that a deposit shall be 5 per cent, of the total cost of the house, that interest on the remaining sum shall be at the rate of 3 per cent., and that the maximum advance to any home purchaser shall be £3,500. Let us consider, first, the proposed maximum advance of £3,500. It seems hard to understand why the honorable member, presumably with the support of the Opposition, should require that the limit of the loan to any home purchaser should exceed the limit which applies to war service homes. I have not the relevant figures before me, but I am sure that every honorable member will appreciate that as the War Service Homes Division expends about £27,000,000 to £30,000,000 a year on providing homes for ex-servicemen, a large number of such houses have been built. Each one of those houses has been built on a maximum advance of £2,750, and that maximum was determined only within the last year or so. Prior to the determination of that amount the maximum advance was about £2,000. I do not believe, therefore, that the slightest justification exists for a maximum advance of £3,500, nor would the community expect that the Govern ment would stipulate a maximum advance of that amount. Such a maximum loan would indicate that the value of the property upon which the loan was made would be in the vicinity of £4,000. I do not believe that the majority of workers in the community desire to saddle themselves for many years with a debt of £3,500 on their homes.
The amendment of the honorable member for Parkes suggests that the interest rate should be 3 per cent, as against the proposed 4^ per cent. In my opinion the interest rate is a matter for the States. The States themselves receive the money from the Commonwealth to provide these houses, at an interest rate of 3 per cent. But because the States are so financially hungry, they are not prepared to administer this scheme at their own expense, and they want to charge 4£ per cent, to the borrowers so that the additional l£ per cent, will cover their costs and will, perhaps, give them something in the nature of a small profit. Therefore, if there is any sincerity behind the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes, a similar proposal should be made by all the State Labour governments in their own parliaments when complementary legislation is brought into those chambers. They should move to the effect that the rate of interest to be charged to borrowers should not be 4£ per cent, but 3 per cent. If that is not done, the people will find out how unrealistic are the actions of the Labour party in this House in relation to this type of problem.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide said he believed that the period of 45 years to be allowed to borrowers in which to repay their loans was too long, because such a period would create a substantial interest problem for them. I agree that there is an interest problem to a home purchaser under this scheme, particularly in the first few years when a purchaser is endeavouring to pay off a loan of £2,7-)0 at 4^ per cent, interest. In the early years, while he is trying to pay off both interest and principal, he will be paying a large sum for interest and a very small sum for principal. But there again, I believe the State governments have a responsibility. If they were to charge 3 per cent, interest they would reduce the. interest bill of the home purchaser by one-third, and the amount of principal which would then be paid by the purchaser would be considerably more than it will be under the present scheme.
I wish to point out to honorable members that all the homes mentioned in this measure are owned by the States. Honorable members opposite have criticized this Government on various matters, but in fact the Government has only provided the money for these homes, and therefore most of the criticisms should be directed against the State governments, which are the owners of the homes, and not against the Australian Government, which has done nothing more than advance money to the States. I believe that I have covered the points which have been made by the honorable member for Parkes, and I think that most people will agree that his propositions are most unrealistic, and that if there is any blame attaching to any authorities under this scheme, it lies with the State governments and not with the Australian Government.
– Why does not this Government carry its own responsibilities?
– If the honorable member would direct’ his questions to Mr. Gair and his friends in the Queensland Ministry, he might get’ a more ready response. This bill, perhaps, does not go far enough, and I therefore hope that my remarks to this effect will bear fruit. I am concerned not only about the people who are tenants in houses which come within the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, but also about people who want to buy their own homes but do not want to buy houses that are already built. Some people wish to buy land and employ their own architects, or draw up their own plans, in order to provide homes for themselves with rooms of the size they wish to use, built on plans that suit them. Many such people also desire to employ their own builders. The prime necessity of those people is to get finance. Under the amending provisions of the bill, houses can be sold only to tenants.. Therefore the people who want to own their own homes first have to become tenants of government-owned houses.
That will be their only opportunity to benefit under the legislation. It is time that we, as a Liberal party, and that w*> as members of the community, did something to provide the finance for people in the category I have just mentioned. Honorable members opposite tell us that there is a. substantial problem of housing
– It is more houses thai we want.
– To enlighten the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and also, perhaps, the House, I shall read a statement that was recently made b.> a Minister of the Queensland Labour Government. This so-called problem of housing-
– It is not a “ so-called problem “.
– I shall read’ the words of the Minister of the Queensland Labour Government on this problem as it exist* in Queensland. He said -
According to figures released by the Common wealth Statistician following the recent census, there is not a housing shortage in this State, as there are 21,473 unoccupied dwellings- in Queensland. In addition, statistics compiled by the State Government Statistician indicate that the lag in housing due to the war has been overcome in this. State, and that the present rate of construction fills the normal requirements of the community.
That statement was made on the 30th March last.
– Who made the statement?
– Mr. James, the Minister for Labour and Industry of the Labour Government of Queensland. I point out to honorable members that there is no playing with words in that statement Mr. James did not say that the Commonwealth Statistician had said something, thereby giving members of the Opposition in. State parliaments an opportunity to say that he was wrong. He said that the Queensland Statistician agreed with the statement the Commonwealth Statistician had made. He further stated that there is no problem, of housing in Queensland and that all that is required now in that State is the normal development of home building. If that is so, I believe, we should return to the pre-war situation, when people were able to buy the land, prepare their own plans, and engage their own builders to erect their own homes. Money should be made available to such people on no less generous terms than are provided under this legislation. Perhaps we should endeavour to establish a national fund for this purpose. I realize the limitations of the Constitution in relation to this problem. The Australian Government cannot undertake a housing project, but it may make money available through the banking system, if it so desires, to finance the purchase of homes. I do not suggest that the Government should set up another department to administer a fund of this nature; T believe it could be administered by those institutions which normally make money available for this purpose.
– Co-operative housing societies
– Co-operative housing societies, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and other organizations which, in pre-war days, provided money for housing at reasonable rates of interest. I cannot submit to the House any definite proposal as to how such a fund should be established, but I do believe that the Government could make this money available out of moneys which at present are made available to State governments. One problem which we must face when we consider this matter is that we cannot create an additional demand in relation to employment within the building industry, or to building materials, but I feel that my suggestion must be a substitution for the Commonwealth and State housing arrangement that we have in Australia at the present time.
E support the bill, as it seems to go some distance in the right direction, but I feel it should go further. Therefore, in accepting the bill, I ask the Government to consider seriously the establishment of a national fund so that people who desire to build their homes may obtain the necessary finance, as they could a number of years ago.
– The debate on this bill has proceeded for some time, and it indicates the pathetic state of the Evatt section of the Opposition, which is corroded and corrupted and split by Evattism. It is rather interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), instead of being here to-day carrying out his duties and attending to the tasks for which he has been elected, is absent from his place. He is absenting himself from his duties in this House, and is running around Victoria trying to mislead and delude the people of that State, just as he misled and deluded the federal executive of the Labour party when he induced that body to lead the party along the Communis! line. Although, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that 75 per cent, of the men who sit behind the Leader of the Opposition are decent, good Australians, there is also no doubt that they are being led by the nose along the path of communism by the right honorable gentleman. The Opposition is so bankrupt of ideas, and it is so completely ashamed of itself because of this anti-Australian, unAustralian foreign policy which has been pushed-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject under discussion.
– I rise to order. Is not the House considering housing?
– Order ! The honorable member for Fawkner may proceed.
– I am just leading up to the matter before the Chair. As I said, the Opposition is so bankrupt of ideas and is so ashamed of itself that a really ridiculous amendment has been proposed on its behalf. If the Opposition had any real ideas, and was really representing the people, it would have some constructive ideas, one would think, on this vital subject of housing. Instead of that, so confused and so pathetic is the Opposition, that an amendment has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the purpose of which is to have the bill withdrawn in order to enable the amending agreement to be revised. That amendment, which is sponsored by the Opposition, amounts, in fact, to an attack upon the State Labour Premiers.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Of course, it is ! This bill provides that an agreement, which is set out in the schedule to the bill, shall be approved, and when this bill is passed, that agreement will be approved. The agreement has already been signed. It is already an agreement. When we examine it, we find that it has been signed, sealed and delivered by the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and signed, sealed and delivered by the Honorable John Joseph Cahill on behalf of the State of New South Wales, by the Honorable John Cain on behalf of the State of Victoria, by the Honorable Vincent Clair Gair on behalf of the State of Queensland, by the Honorable Thomas Playford on behalf of the State of South Australia, and by the Honorable Albert Redvers George Hawke on behalf of the State of Western Australia. All the Premiers, except the Premier of Tasmania, are parties to this agreement. The Premier of Tasmania apparently would not sign the agreement because his Government did not like the socialistic approach towards housing that was indicated by the agreement.
– That is not true.
– You would not expect him to tell the truth.
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will withdraw that remark.
– What remark!
– Order! I heard the honorable member say, “You would not expect him to tell the truth “.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order! No explanation is needed. The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– All right, I withdraw.
– The honorable member for Eawkner may proceed.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also thank the honorable member for his withdrawal. I was making the point that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes is, in effect, an attack upon the State Labour Premiers. Mr. Cahill, Mr. Cain, Mr. Gair, Mr. Hawke and Mr. Playford have signed this agreement.
An Opposition member interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will cease interjecting.
– I did not open my mouth.
– The State Labour Premiers have signed this agreement. They have accepted it. The agreement is dated the 16th April, 1955, and sets out in detail the terms upon which housing commission homes shall be sold to tenants. In attacking the basis of the agreement, the Opposition is not merely showing that it does not agree with the approach to this problem of the Premiers of the States which are controlled by Labour, with the exception of Tasmania, but is also showing a completely unrealistic approach to the problem. How can any resolution of this House affect an agreement which has been entered into by the Commonwealth and the States? Even if this amendment were adopted by the House, it would not achieve anything, because the agreement is already signed, and all that this bill seeks to do is to give effect to the agreement.
I draw the attention of the House to that matter merely to show that the Opposition is playing politics in submitting this amendment. The Opposition has not put forward any constructive or real suggestions, on behalf of the people of Australia, but by moving such an amendment, is trying to distract attention from its own sorry state of affairs, brought about, as I said before, by the blight of Evattism, which the Opposition, whether it likes it or not, has to put up with now.
– The honorable member was in that position, too, until he was expelled.
– I was not expelled. The honorable members who sit in this corner of the House represent the legitimate Labour party.
Opposition supporters interjecting,
– Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat. I read to the House Standing Order 54, as follows : -
When a Member ia speaking, no Member shall converse aloud or make any noise or disturbance to interrupt him.
That standing order has been agreed to unanimously by the House. I hope it will be enforced unanimously.
Mr. Gullett interjecting,
-Order! The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is the first offender.
– I can understand the discomfiture of some honorable members when the facts about the Labour dispute in Victoria are put before them. When the people of Victoria give their verdict in this matter next Saturday week, I think that the discomfiture of some honorable members will be considerably greater than it is now.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to discuss the bill.
– The agreement which is incorporated in this bill represents an amendment of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act, which was passed in 1945. As I have said, the agreement has been signed by all the State Premiers, and those Premiers include Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales.
-“ Jellyfish “ Cahill.
– “ Jellyfish Joe” Cahill may well be a true description of the Premier of New South Wales, who, in perhaps the most disgraceful sellout
– Order! I warn the honorable gentleman that he must deal with the subject of housing. The Premier of New South Wales is a signatory to the agreement before us, but it is not necessary, under the title of this bill, to describe him.
– The agreement, Mr. Speaker, is an amendment of the original Commonwealth-
– I rise to order. We on this side of the House have tried to be patient, but I do suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is tedious repetition. The honorable member for Fawkner has tried to read the agreement three times, and has repeated himself on no fewer than a dozen occasions. There is a standing order which covers that position.
– Order! I think the House will find me quite able to deal with that situation when I think it arises.
– I regret very much that I have offended the delicate susceptibilities of the honorable member for Parkes. Under the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was made in 1945, money was advanced to the States by the Commonwealth. As I understand the position, a total of approximately £200,000,000 has been advanced by the Commonwealth to the States during the last ten years, and as a result of that money being advanced to the various States, approximately 82,000 houses and flats have been built, out of a total of about 550,000 houses built throughout Australia during that period, so that, between one-sixth and one-seventh of the total number of dwellings completed during that period of ten years were built as a result of this money being provided by the Commonwealth to the States.
This agreement, under which £200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money has been spent to provide housing in the States, was, in my opinion, a national calamity. It has resulted in the erection of 82,000 houses and fiats, of which the Government is the landlord. That is just a step forward in what I regard as the Marxian concept of society - to treat the people of this country on the basis that they must not be allowed to become little capitalists by owning their homes, but must be put in the position where they have to rent homes. Their economic position has to be kept down in order to provide that state of society upon which marxism and communism thrive. I think it is a great tragedy that, during the past ten years, all that money which has been provided by the Commonwealth for the States, has been spent in making available houses for rent. Incidentally, the rentals of these houses have gone up and up, until they are now near the £4 a week mark. A considerable proportion of that money should have been used to enable people to buy homes.
As one who is not a Marxist or a Socialist, and as one who believes in the private ownership of property-
Mr. Edmonds interjecting,
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) says that I am a “ Nat “ because I believe in the private ownership of property. He can put on me whatever brand he likes. As one who believes in the private ownership of property - I take it that he does not believe in that principle-
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is not even in the House. He will retire from it. Leave the chamber !
Mr. Curtin thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I take the interjection of the honorable member for Herbert to mean that he does not believe in the private ownership of property. I am one who does, and I also believe that perhaps the real solution of the social problems of this country is widespread distribution of ownership among all the people of the community, which means opposition to monopolies on the one hand and opposition to communism on the other, both of which prevent the widespread distribution of ownership among the great masses of the people. As one who believes in widespread distribution of ownership among the people, I consider that this principle of home ownership, and the Government providing the means whereby every young man in the community can be given encouragement and assistance to own a home, should be fundamental in the community. As I have said, I think it is a great tragedy that, during the last ten years, all this money, amounting to £200,000,000, which has come from the Commonwealth, has gone into the one channel of providing rental homes, and none of it towards assisting home ownership.
The result of that position is that in the various States - and I can speak from personal knowledge only about Victoria - housing commissions have been appointed and a vast bureaucratic, machine’ has been’ established. In Victoria,, the Housing
Commission has not carried out the function for which it was originally set up, which was to abolish slums. As a matter of fact, in Victoria at the present time we have one of the most shocking slums in existence. I refer to Camp Pell, a slum which has existed for years, and which has become worse and worse. It is only now being got rid of as the result of a campaign by the Melbourne Herald and the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial. In my opinion, those newspapers have adopted a responsible, public-spirited attitude, for which they deserve credit. They also deserve credit for the responsible attitude that they have adopted in the course of the Victorian elections. They have given everybody a fair go, in strong contrast to some of the other newspapers, such as the Melbourne Argus, which is a biased newspaper, the bias being brought about by the fact that it is dominated by a man. named Peter Russo.
– I can understand the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) getting a bit annoyed when the name of Peter Russo is brought up because he wrote the speech that the honorable member delivered here a fortnight ago, on foreign policy. Peter Russo did not just provide the honorable member with the facts - he wrote the whole speech.
– Who wrote the honorable member’s speech - Santamaria ?
– I write my own.
– Get back to your cheese.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is trying to laugh it off, but Peter Russo, the man who wrote his speech for the foreign affairs debate, is one of the most subtle and cleverest Communist propagandists in this country and I can well understand the tie-up between him and the honorable member.
-Order ! I must ask the honorable member for Fawkner to come down to the question of the housing agreement. Foreign policy is not under discussion at present, nor is the honorable member entitled to refer to debates of the current session.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Fawkner made reference to Peter Russo, a person for whom I have no sympathy, but at the same time I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if it is in order or desirable for honorable members in the course of their speeches to refer in such violent terms to persons outside this House. I deem it to be wrong and not in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide protection only for members of this House. It is a matter for honorable members’ individual tastes as to how they refer to people who are outside the House.
– I was referring, Mr. Speaker, to the work of the Housing Commission in Victoria and to the fact that it has not carried out its original task of abolishing slums. Indeed it has made no progress whatever in that direction. It has built up in that State a huge bureaucratic machine that treats decent people in a most shameful way and seems to discriminate against those who have families. All honorable members who have had experience of electors coming to them with their problems on housing and asking what assistance can be given to them, have harsh tales to tell of the inhuman way in which those people are treated by the Victorian Housing Commission. The 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should be regarded on all sides as a tragic mistake. There is a place in the community for State houses and there is a place for rented houses to provide for the needs of some people in the community; but there is no doubt that when the housing problem is viewed from the proper angle one must conclude inevitably that home ownership should be the basis of the approach to its solution. All our thoughts in considering housing legislation should be turned to making easier the task of young people who want to buy a home.
I place before this House a plea on behalf of the co-operative housing societies, which provide the means that are the basis on which home ownership can be brought within the reach of the average person in a manner that is feasible and economic, without a vast bureaucratic machine and great overhead expenses. In Victoria, there is an anomalous position in that whereas it is easy to procure finance for consumer goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, radios, and so on, any man who wants to buy a home finds it not merely difficult but practically impossible to obtain finance. In the Melbourne suburb of Prahran, which is in my electorate, there is a busy shopping centre in Chapel-street. This busy part of the metropolis has become a thriving business community and within a hundred yards’ walk one can see about half a dozen shops in which a purchaser can buy on credit, without any trouble at all and with virtually no deposit, goods to the value of about £500 - a radio, a washing machine and a refrigerator, for example.
– Where is this?
– The honorable . member would not understand. If that same person who can obtain credit readily to buy those goods - and it is, of course, desirable that these things should be in every home although they are not so essential and basic as the home itself - wished to buy a home his position would be altogether different. I put it to the House that this National Parliament should give serious consideration to solving the problem presented by the grave insufficiency of finance available to co-operative housing societies, which are the main basis for the provision of funds to enable young people to build their own homes. This is one of the most serious problems to which this House could give its attention. Population is increasing rapidly and the need for homebuilding is ever pressing. At the same time, the finance that is available for homes is becoming less. Time does not permit me to quote the figures for the last few years, but an examination of them will disclose that the sums of money available to co-operative housing societies are decreasing every year. I put it to the House that we should consider means by which more money will be made available to those very worthy bodies so that young men wanting to buy their own homes can get the necessary loans.
Several means of achieving that desirable end are worthy of consideration. The existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement comes to an end next year, and I hope that when its renewal u considered this Government and the States will ensure that not all of the loan money that this Government obtains and passes to the States for housing purposes shall be devoted to the provision of rental homes through the State housing commissions. I hope that, instead, a considerable proportion of that money will be ear-marked for the purposes of the co-operative housing societies, so that it will be made available through them to people who want to buy their Own homes. Thus, the money available will not be confined to the erection of more rental homes by housing commissions. In that respect I point out that Mr. Barry, who is leading the AntiCommunist Labour party in the current State election campaign in Victoria, has placed before the people practical proposals to which, when he is returned to office, he will no doubt give effect. His proposals in this direction seem to be the first line of approach to solution of the problem. A considerable proportion of the money that the Australian Government makes available to the States for housing should be devoted to the needs of the co-operative housing societies.
The second line of approach seems to be to interest private lenders once again in coming back into the lending field so that their money will be available to people who want to build their own homes. Honorable members must be realistic about this problem and recognize also the need to bring the great insurance companies back into this field of lending money for home ownership. I suppose that most of us are shareholders in some way or another in co-operative insurance societies through holding policies in them. They did lend considerable sums of money for housing purposes but they are tightening up in that respect because they can invest their money in other spheres where it is not tied up for so long and where they get a greater return on it. It is necessary that we should attract pri- vate financial sources back into this field to provide essential finance for homebuilding. Honorable members know that tax concessions are provided for persons who operate gold-mines. Personally, I have never been entirely in favour of those concessions but they are given and they are supported by honorable members on both sides of the House. Income derived from gold-mining is free of taxation because the policy of the National Parliament is to encourage that industry. That concession is rather difficult to understand, in my opinion, but there it is. A similar concession has been extended in recent times to persons who derive income from uranium and other precious metals. Persons who risk their money in the industries concerned do not have to pay income tax on the money they earn from them. That national policy iB supported by honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
I believe that the same principle should be extended to persons who put their capital into the provision of loans for home finance purposes, even if the concession were given in a modified way. If the National Parliament believes that the winning of gold, uranium and other precious metals is important from a national point of view and warrants tax concessions, it should extend similar concessions to those who help to bring homeownership within the reach of the average person. In my opinion that is much more important than the winning of gold or uranium. If we do not encourage the big lending institutions, such as the insurance companies, to return to that field and lend their money, sufficient finance will not be available to provide for the needs of the people. Another matter associated with this problem of housing is worthy of attention.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to offer my personal congratulations to the Government for its sincerity of purpose in introducing the bill that is before the House. But for the fact that there was a change of government in 1949, a bill of this description would not have been introduced in this Parliament.
The hill is designed to assist private persons to become possessed of their own homes. Honorable members and private persons in the community will remember that the previous Labour Government was diametrically opposed, politically, to people owning anything, and particularly to people owning their own homes. That policy was carried out persistently by the Labour Government, not only in relation to domestic properties but also with regard to properties of every description. Indeed, in New South Wales, to draw an analogy, it is expressly forbidden for any returned serviceman ever to stand possessed of a war service land settlement farm; but that is by the way. I mention that fact to demonstrate that, but for a change of government in 1949, a bill of this description would have been an impossibility.
It is an excellent bill, because it will give to the people an opportunity to buy the homes that they occupy as tenants. The measure is deserving of the highest commendation of honorable members on this side of the House and of those halfway across to the Opposition. The proposed agreement applies only to tenants of homes that have been actually built by the seven housing commissions throughout Australia. It is likely to apply also only to the tenants of homes that are likely to be built so, in spite of the agreement, we may expect that countless thousands of people, particularly young men and women, will remain homeless even after the scheme enunciated in this bill has been put into effective operation. I hope that whatever I have to say in speaking to the bill will be constructive. I propose to indicate what steps the Government should take, in my opinion, to increase the number of houses.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that there was a time when there were no housing difficulties in Australia. There were no building difficulties. Any person who wanted to build a home, or ten homes, could walk out into what might be described as the market place and get builders to tender for the construction of houses which were built forthwith. There was a time when, if we wanted a public edifice built, even on the grandest scale, it was a simple matter to call for tenders, and the building was erected. That can be described as the result of the ascending scale in the housing and building programmes of the nation.
I remind honorable members that our history in connexion with housing has been much more difficult than that of most other countries. We began badly because there was no known good way to begin. In the first place, there were no houses in Australia, and the people who came to this country were forced, of necessity, to indulge in improvisations of every description. First, they had to be content with tents. Then they had to be content with huts. Later, in accordance with the ascending scale of housing, they had homes made first of rough hewn timber and then of sawn timber. Subsequently, they aspired to brick and, ultimately, to stone. It was the great ambition of every person during the period of the ascending scale that fortune would favour them and that, sooner or later, they would live in a brick house if not in a stone house. In a public sense, the same scale applied. Our public buildings began as huts and subsequently they were built in stone. In that way our ambitions were realized. Countless thousands of houses were built of brick, and countless hundreds of public buildings were erected in stone. They are standing to this day. We had no difficulty at all in building St. Andrew’s Cathedral, or St. Mary’s Basilica, in Sydney. We had no difficulty in constructing the buildings of the Department of Agriculture in Sydney, that magnificent pile which also includes the Department of Education and the Department of Lands. Those solid structures will last forever.
All this happened during the period of the ascending scale. Sooner or later, however, the socialists took charge of the industrial processes of our country. They destroyed the ascending scale, and started us on what can only be described as the descending scale so far as houses are concerned. It became no longer possible to erect public buildings, to build a cathedral comparable with St. Andrew’s or St. Mary’s Basilica. It was no longer possible to erect stone buildings of any description anywhere, largely because of the impact that socialism had upon the community. We had to abandon stone, bricks and timber in the better forms and resort, in this descending scale, to the improvisations that were made at the very beginning of our history. We went back to huts; we used fibro-cement sheets, and finally some of our people had to live in tents - as they still have to do. That is the story of housing under socialist governments, both State and federal, in Australia. If the socialists still controlled the destinies of the National Parliament, by to-day, in my humble opinion, some people would be living in gunyahs. When the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was addressing himself to this bill so eloquently, he stated, in part, what is needed to solve the housing problem in Australia. I go further :han the honorable member, and say that in order to meet the immediate urgency and the future needs more houses, better houses, cheaper houses and houses that can be built speedily are required. It would be impossible, in the view of some people, to get more, better or cheaper houses or to build them as rapidly as required, but I propose to show that that can be done, and that Australia is in a most favoured position for the accomplishment of that great task.
The descending scale of house-building is due entirely to improvised constructions that can only postpone the evil day. It is futile to believe, as was stated by one honorable member from the other side of the House, what a Labour Minister in Queensland said - that building was overtaking the housing needs in that State. Admittedly, that may be the position for the moment but only because of improvisation. Tents or fibro-cement sheets or timber must, of necessity, deteriorate and disappear in a few years and that State will be faced with an aggravation of precisely the same problem, so that the defending scale of building construction does not solve the housing problem. I repeat that the need is for more new, better and cheaper houses, and I propose to show this House how it can be done, [f honorable members will have the patience. T shall show them actual photographs of the kind of house that I refer to.
It is necessary first of all to gel away from the use of conventional materials. We have pushed stone away because we can no longer dress it, and brick construction is almost impossible because of prevailing industrial conditions. Substitutes are needed for those enduring materials and I suggest, with some knowledge of the facts of the case, that they are available in this country in un limited quantities. Only a few months ago, I inspected one of the finest bungalows that I have ever 3een anywhere. It was a new construction, and, with the forbearance of the House, I shall give sOme details of it. It was built of a material that is a completely satisfactory substitute for the more enduring material* of brick in. its better form, and stone in its worst form. The house I inspected covered an area of 1,335 square feet. Builders would say that it consisted of thirteen squares. It was built of waterproofed gypsum. The external walls were 5£ inches thick, and, according to the report of the National Physical Laboratory, their insulation value is equal to 3 feet of solid brickwork or two 11^-in. cavity brick walls of standard construction. The internal walls and partition* were made of the same material, 4 inches thick, and according to the same report, and the tests of the Building Research Station, they will carry a load of 4^ tons to the running lineal foot. The entire building is damp-proof, fire-proof and vermin-proof. This all-gypsum house is not a prefabricated structure. It was actually built on the site where I saw it, and was completed and ready for occupation in exactly one week.
That is only half the story. I have here a photograph of that building, which honorable members may see. That construction was the beginning of a series of building sensations which were televised and included in the British Broadcasting Corporation programme. But I ask honorable members to restrain their feelings of consternation or disbelief for a moment or two longer. I saw also a multi-storied building which had just been completed. It was a gigantic structure, nine stories high with pent-houses on the roof, and it contained 32 selfcontained homes.
– Not enough 1
– It contained 32 homes, more homes than the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) would ever have imagined could be built of this material. The entire building was of water-proofed gypsum and no concrete or steel framework was necessary, and no concrete shuttering of any kind was used in its building. Approximately lb. of steel reinforcement rod was all that was needed for every square foot of floor area. No plant or machinery other than two simple building hoists were used, throughout the whole of the construction, and it was built from the foundations to the plinth course in eight weeks by ten men. Would honorable members allow me to repeat those figures again?
– This gigantic building, which can be seen by any intelli-
Kent person - that would probably exclude e honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) - consists of nine stories and contains 32 self-contained homes. It was erected from the foundations to the plinth course in eight weeks by ten men.
Performances like this reduce the building problem to one of simple mathematics - or at least to those who understand simple mathematics. The question is no longer how long will it take to erect a building, but how many such buildings can be put up in a week, a month or a year. I confidently assert that this kind of structure is the answer to Australia’s housing problem. It is not a matter of the availability of materials, because the material known as gypsum that I have mentioned is readily available in unlimited quantities, not only in the division of Riverina. but all over Australia. It needs only the application of those who are trained in building construction of this kind to make that material available to us for building construction. According to the National Physical Laboratory, gypsum is better than brick. [ emphasize that that is not my opinion, but the opinion of a qualified body. Furthermore, it is immeasurably cheaper than brick, as well as being stronger and more durable. Indeed, it is much more beautiful than brick. Perhaps one of its greatest qualities is that of insulation. It reduces the effect of the fierce blast of the sun by the same degree as a three- feet thick sold brick construction. Surely, therefore, we must agree that its manufacture has been a very great achieve ment. I believe that the housing problem, both in Australia and in a great many other countries, could be solved by the greater utilization of this ever-lasting material. That opinion has been expressed by well-informed persons who have studied the subject.
A few weeks ago, I attended a housing conference at Griffith, in my electorate, which was convened by the Shire of Wade, under the auspices of research officers of the Agricultural Extension Service. The conference considered housing problems from the point of view of purchasers, having regard to suitability and economic considerations. Amongst other things, the conference sought agreement on designs of houses suitable to our climatic conditions. It was attended bv engineers, architects, scientists, administrators, farmers of both sexes, and people interested in housing from the clients’ point of view. The conference devoted all its energies to a discussion in relation to conventional materials, such as weatherboard and fibro-cement, which, at the best, can be described only as improvisations. I may say that I live in a weatherboard house, which is constructed partly of fibro-cement. My family and ] were obliged, by economic circumstances, to build of these materials. Therefore, I speak with some authority when I say that a person who builds or purchases a house of such construction is faced with the necessity, in twenty or 30 years’ time, of providing a new construction in order to house hi, family adequately. Yet that representative conference devoted a great deal of its attention to the use of weatherboard and f-in. fibro-cement sheets in connexion with the housing of the people of this country, although adequate supplies of gypsum are available only a few miles away.
The house built of gypsum, which 1 have described, is the most magnificent home that I have ever seen. As I mentioned, it has a total floor area of 1,335 square feet, and it was ready for occupation within a week of its erection being commenced. If more extensive use were made of gypsum, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement would enable many homes to be provided within a short period of time for people who need them. In common with my colleagues on this side of the House, I look forward to the day when every man and woman who is worthy of the great responsibility of home-ownership will, in fact, own homes, and thus possess a substantial stake in this country. When that day arrives, not only will our housing problem be overcome, but also a great many of our stupid political problems will be solved. When a man owns his home, no matter how humble it may be, all the spurious nostrums that have been poured into the credulous and the uninformed will have no effect on him. Therein lies the great importance of this measure. It is of transcendent importance, particularly to the young, because in spite of all the rubbish that is expressed to the contrary, the finest thing that can happen in this world is for men and women to come together, in their youth, and establish families in the traditional conception of father, mother and children living in terms of amity with their neighbours. For these reasons, as well as others, T and every other member of the Australian Country party wholeheartedly support the bill.
Mr. COSTA (Banks) r9.161.- 14 appears to me that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is trying to put a new housing stunt on the market. If the proprietors were to make him their chief sales manager, it would not be long before the business went broke. The honorable, member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) repeated the ideas in a speech that was delivered by a Liberal member of this House last night. Obviously, a Liberal masquerading under a nom-dp-plume could not make other than a Liberal speech. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) referred to the number of empty houses that was revealed by the census last year. Aa we all know, if there was no one in a house nt midnight on the 30th June last year, the census officials regarded that house as being empty, despite the fact that an occupant may have been absent only temporarily. That old chestnut was trotted out to serve the purpose.
The bill before the House authorizes a variation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that was entered into in 1945. It re-enacts all of the provisions of the agreement that members of this Government criticized adversely for a long time. Apparently, therefore, the Government is convinced that the agreement is a good one. It provides for limited financial assistance. I emphasize the term “ limited “, because I consider that the maximum amount of loan for which the agreement provides is inadequate. This bill authorizes a maximum loan of £3,750, on the following terms: Deposit, 5 per cent, of the first £2,000, and 10 per cent, of the remainder of £750, bearing interest at the rate of 4£ per cent., and repayable over 45 years. The bill also provides that the amount of capital repayment included in rent paid may be regarded as deposit money. I understand that the amortization value of the rent paid by a tenant is equal to 15 per cent. Therefore, a tenant who is paying rent of £2 10s. a week would be credited with £19 10s. a year off the capital amount. A tenant who commenced to live in the house when the agreement was signed ten years ago would therefore now have an accumulated credit of £195.
The provision whereby tenants occupying Housing Commission homes are permitted to purchase them has always been in the agreement; it is not new. The obstacle to home purchase by tenants has been the lack of finance. Although there has always been provision to enable the purchase of a home by a tenant, as the Housing Commissioner has pointed out, many tenants have been precluded from taking advantage of the provision through lack of money. The lack of finance has been a constant worry to all the State governments. They have been the driving force, and I feel sure that it is due to their efforts, their perseverance and agitation, that, this measure is before the House now. There should be no need for me to remind honorable members of the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this subject on various occasions. In his policy speeches of 1949, 1951 and 1954, he promised that he would amend the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to permit “ little capitalists “ to own their homes. There has been constant negotiation between the Australian and State governments on the subject. As I stated, the pressure came mainly from the State Housing Ministers. The history of the negotiations, as I know it, clearly indicates that the Australian Government and the Prime Minister were wayward factors in lending financial aid. At a conference of State Housing Ministers in December, 1951, a resolution was carried that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement be amended to provide for the sale of homes erected by the States under that agreement on a minimum deposit of not less than 5 per cent., with repayments over a period not exceeding 45 years. On the 18th July, 1952, the Premier of New South Wales raised the subject of the amendment of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to facilitate the sale of homes along the - lines of the resolution of the conference of Housing Ministers. In September, 1952, advice was received from the Australian Government that it was not considered a suitable time to vary the agreement. The matter was discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra on the 10th August, 1953, after the Commonwealth had been asked to convene such a conference. The Prime Minister indicated, however, that he would not agree until such time as the Government had completed its consideration of the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, when it would then place its proposals before the States, and a conference would be arranged. Immediately prior to the last general elections, the Prime Minister announced an amended policy in respect of the sale of homes erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, whereby a dwelling might be sold at a deposit of 10 per cent., with repayments over a period up to 45 years.
That is the history of the subject, and it indicates clearly that the States were the driving force ; but the Prime Minister and Government supporters presumptuously claim credit for any virtues in the agreement. I believe that to be nonsense, and sheer audacity on their part. Full praise is due to the State Housing Ministers for the able manner in which they have handled a very important national problem. Their achievements have been limited by curtailment of finance, a policy for which this Government is responsible. When a family is evicted, or when a young married couple seek a home in which to rear a family, or when a new Australian family needs a home, they make their appeal to the State and not to the Commonwealth. The State governments, being the immediate contacts, are faced with this important national problem. In many instances, tragic circumstances have to be dealt with by the State housing authorities. The Australian Government comes into the picture only on the financial side; but that is only a matter of agreement. After all, the finance originally comes from the States, being derived from taxation or loans. The agreement provides that this money is only loaned to the States and must be repaid. The States must repay it over a period of 53 years at 3^ per cent, interest. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is the dominating and regulating influence on home finance, notwithstanding clause 6 of the agreement which clearly states the position as follows : -
The Commonwealth will advance to each State the moneys heretofore expended in the carrying out of a housing project or projects and the moneys that 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 pursuant to Clause 7.
Notwithstanding that the agreement provides that the Treasurer shall supply the money to the States, he has reduced each year the amount for which the States have requisitioned. For the financial year 1954-55, the New South Wales Government asked for £18,150,000, but received only £12,000,000, £6,000,000 less than it required for housing. The Victorian Government asked for £11,500,000, and it received £10.500,000, faring better than New South Wales. The Queensland Government asked for £2,115,000, and received £2,000,000. which was less than the amount for which they requisitioned. The South Austral ‘an Government asked for £5.000.000. and received £4.500,000. The Western Australian Government asked for over £5,500,000 and received £3,500,000.
– Who made that decision ?
– The Treasurer.
– No, the State Premiers.
– The aggregate amounts requisitioned and granted to New South W ales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, during the five years from 1950-1955, was £196,900,250, and they received only £138,786,500.
– Could they have expended it? Queensland did not expend its allocation.
– They could have expended it. These figures show that these four States received £58,000,000 less than they requested. In effect, they planned to build 71,000 houses but, because of the credit restriction policy of this Government, 15,000 fewer houses were made available for the people of those States. That kind of action makes it difficult for the States, and distressing for the thousands of families waiting for homes in which they can live happily together. The Commissioner for Housing in New South Wales, and also the Director of the Building Industry Congress in New South Wales, discussed this matter. The commissioner, in his annual report, referred to this paring down by the Commonwealth Government -
The allocation of only £12,000,000 for Housing Agreement activities for 1954-55 as recently announced, will not permit of operations proceeding on the scale envisaged. With firm commitments for nearly 4,700 dwellings at 1st July, 1954, and with the prospects of contracting for approximately 0,000 additional units during 1954-55, it had been confidently anticipated that it would be possible in the coming year to improve substantially on the previous year’s completion figures. The commission had, in fact, tentatively planned and framed its Loan Programme accordingly. The restriction of Housing Agreement funds to £12,000,000 will mean the virtual abandonment of these plans and the acceptance of a much restricted and modified programme.
By far the greater part of the £12,000,000 allocated will be required to finance commitments existing as at 1st July, 1954, in respect of 4,684 dwellings, and only a relatively small balance will be available for expenditure on new works, which will have to be limited accordingly. As this allocation is less than the cash available for last year’s programme, and very much below what was necessary to permit of effect being given to the larger home construction programme tentatively planned, there is no basis for confidence that last year’s figures can be bettered.
These unpredictable fluctuations in and restrictions upon the Commission’s activities which militate against the continuity ‘so desirable have been a feature of the Department’s operations during the past few yearn. The Commission has no control over these factors which necessarily bring serious disadvantages since a construction organization such as the Commission must plan and programme its works at least two years in advance if the most efficient results in completed works and in management and administration generally are to be achieved.
Official statistics show that there are 13,000 applicants in New South Wales for emergency accommodation for families. Some people, like the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), try to minimize the seriousness of the housing problem. Real estate agents contend that planning is unnecessary and that a cancellation of landlord and tenant regulations and rent control is desirable. I contend that that is a fallacy. If such action were taken, evictions would increase, rents would skyrocket and inflation would gallop ahead faster than previously.
I base my opinion that a loan of £2,750 for the purchase of a house is inadequate on a recent estimate by the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which has its own housing scheme. That bank has estimated that a timber house which would have cost £700 at the outbreak of World War II., and which would have cost £1,330 when the Chifley Government left office, would now cost £2,400; and that a brick house which would have cost £1,000 at the outbreak of World War II., and £1,750 at the change of Government, would now cost £3,150. Those figures do not include land and other incidentals. At least, £500 must be added in order to provide for those costs which would bring the cost of a wood or fibro house to nearly £3,000 and the cost of a brick house to £3,650. Consequently, the proposed loan of £2,750 is inadequate. For that reason, I support the proposed amendment which is designed to provide for loans of £3,500.
I oppose the Government’s proposal to charge an interest rate of 4½ per cent. Such a rate would make the repayments too much of a drain on the average wageearner and would add too much to the final cost of a house. Figures which have been supplied to me by the Treasury show that, under the Government’s proposal, a> loan of £2,750 at an interest rate of 4£ per cent., repayable over 45 years, would necessitate weekly repayments of £2 14s. lOd. The total cost of the house at the end of 45 years would be £6,415. That is colossal extortion. Interest would amount to £3,665 - an amount greater than the cost of the house. The evil that discourages home-ownership is the charging of high interest rates. As a matter of fact, high interest rates make homeownership almost an impossibility for a wage-earner. The cost structure in the building industry needs serious attention. Costs have risen out of all proportion to general income. Certainly, they have risen beyond the income level of the average Australian wage-earner. The following newspaper report provides a comparison of the cost of houses in America with housing costs in Australia : -
PARADISE IN U.S.. FOR HOME OWNERS.
The United States waa “ a paradise “ for the intending home owner, the general manager of Jj. J. Hooker Ltd., Mr. G. S. Newell, said yesterday. Mr. Newell recently returned to Sydney after a world tour, during which he studied real estate and building activity. He said that any one who wanted to buy a home in the United States was given every encouragement. Bank officials even made suggestions to clients that they buy a home or a bigger and better one than that in which the client lived. Insurance companies actually canvassed young married couples to sell them the idea oi buying a home - the insurance company providing the mortgage money. Interest rates for home purchase were generally about 4i to S per cent.
An ex-Serviceman could buy a home without paying any deposit, the transaction being guaranteed by a Government bureau, and veterans association. In most instances weekly repayments of the amount borrowed did not represent much more than rent for a similar type home. The financial houses in the U.S. seemed to take the view that a young married couple were the best of financial risks. Conversely young married people worked hard to pay off the mortgage. He said that relatively a home buyer in the U.S. was better off than in Sydney. The average wage of a qualified carpenter there was about 7,000 dollars a year. The type of home he lived in, and it was fully equipped with washing machine refrigeration, and other modern fitments, cost about 14.000 dollars or two years’ wages. A carpenter in Sydney would earn a little over £10 a week and the cost of a home comparable to that in which his fellow-workmen lived in the- U.S., would cost between £5,000 and £0;000.
There are glaring discrepancies between American and Australian building costs. In Australia, a worker requires the wages of five and a half years to pay off a home which an American worker could pay off with the wages of two years. Unscrupulous exploitation is occurring in Australia. Advantage is being taken of a serious national problem. I agree with the American view that young married couples are our best asset. They should be assisted. We need population. A home for every family would be the basis of a happy and contented nation. The prime objective of the average family has been to own its own home. Homeownership has been regarded as a passport to independence in old age. For most people, it has been the chief social incentive in life. It has produced more healthy, robust effort in industry than any other factor. The bread-winner, who is in the process of buying a house, has always been regarded as a solid citizen and a good worker. Home-ownership has made for happy, contented home lives. I appeal to the Government to achieve these worthy objectives by accepting the Opposition’s motion which reads as follows: -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof : - “ the Bill be withdrawn to enable the Amending Agreement to be revised with a view to providing that the minimum deposit on sales’ or terms shall be 5 per cent, of the purchase consideration, and that interest on purchase money outstanding shall be at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum computed on the monthly balance and that the maximum advance be £3,500 “.
It is of little use to make an advance of £2,750 to a person who wants to buy a three-bedroom house that costs over £4,000. I commend the proposed amendment to the House. The acceptance of it would be a realistic approach towards a solution of the housing problem.
.- The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has just entertained the House by reading a speech that was obviously prepared by somebody who had an earnest desire to be of assistance to him, but who, unfortunately for the honorable member, had no great knowledge of the housing problem. The honorable member has referred to the States, and to the parlous plight in which they found themselves in relation to the obtaining of sufficient finance for their housing schemes. A little research by the honorable member would have revealed to him the fact that last year the States, were unable to expend the full amount of money that they had received from the Australian Government. That remark applies particularly to Queensland which, at the beginning of the financial year 1953-54, had in hand the sum of £5,000,000 that it had received from the Commonwealth for its various housing projects. At the end of that financial year, it had not expended more than 60 per cent, of the funds that it had in hand at the beginning of the year. In other words, it finished the year with a very handsome surplus. The argument that was advanced by the honorable member was based cm entirely false premises.
The bill is of particular significance because, if it is approved by the House tonight, every single promise that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech before the last general election will have been fulfilled. The Government’s promise in relation to housing was the only outstanding promise when the House resumed its present sittings. The Government should be congratulated for having fulfilled, in a period of only twelve months, every promise that was made by the Prime Minister during his policy speech.
It is necessary, when considering the bill, to appreciate its background. It has been introduced in an effort to ameliorate the effects of the socialistic policy that was adopted by an earlier Labour government. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was ratified in 1945 by a bill that was introduced by the then Labour Government to implement a policy the nature of which can be summed up in the words that were used bv the Minister who introduced the bill when he stated that he was not interested in little capitalists and that as soon as a person owned his own home he became a little capitalist. The legislation that was passed then has done more to cause confusion in the housing industry than anything else that could possibly be brought to mind.
The people of Australia prefer to own their own homes, a fact which has been demonstrated by the results of Gallup Ifr. Wight. polls over a great number of years. Further evidence of the attitude of the people is provided by an analysis of the following answer to a question supplied by the Queensland Minister for Labour and Industry in the Queensland Parliament on. the 30th March last :-
According to figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician following the recent Census, there is not a housing shortage in this State as there are 21,473 unoccupied dwellings in Queensland. In addition, statistics compiled by the State Government Statistician indicate that the lag in housing due to the war hae been overcome in this State and that the present rate of construction is the normal requirements of the community.
Despite the fact that there are 21,473 empty houses in Queensland, the War Service Homes Division in that State is unable to cope with the great demand for homes by ex-servicemen, who represent only a small section of the community. Although there might be a large number of empty houses in Australia, there is a very great demand for houses by people who wish to own their own homes in which they may take some pride, and in which they may rear their children in an environment in which they deserve to be reared rather than in the slum areas that have been formed as a result of the socialistic legislation introduced by a Labour government.
The proposed amendment of the existing legislation is only a step in the right direction; it represents just one step away from socialism. I am not satisfied that it will make any great contribution towards a solution of the housing problem. I am referring mainly to Queensland when I state that the proposed legislation might very reasonably give a false impression to the various governments in relation to the housing requirements of the people. When the bill is passed, persons who are tenants of State Housing Commission homes may, if they so desire, purchase the homes on very reasonable terms; but I believe that the response by the people will not be as spontaneous as is hoped. If there is not an enthusiastic response, the Australian Government and the State governments might be led to believe that the people have no real desire to own their own homes. Such a belief would not be in accordance with the facts. Many very fine houses have been built in Queensland under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) knows that a particular Queensland act provided for the construction of fine types of houses, known as workers’ dwellings, which could be purchased on reasonable terms. Not all of the homes built in Queensland under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are good homes. In 1950, when this Government realized the Australian building industry could not possibly meet the demand for houses, it introduced a bill which provided for the payment to the States of a subsidy of £300 on each prefabricated house that they imported. That was a genuine attempt to solve, in particular, the housing problem of young people who intended to marry and servicemen returned from war service. Many of those imported houses were completely unsatisfactory and therefore as I have already stated, I believe that the response of the people for those houses will not he as enthusiastic as is expected. Furthermore, those people who have an earnest desire to buy really good quality homes built under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement might find themselves completely frustrated by the avarice of the State governments. The schedule to the bill provides for the insertion, in the principal agreement, of a new clause 14, sub-clause (2.) of which reads as follows: -
The purchase price of a dwelling sold under this clause shall be fixed by the State.
The full responsibility for determining the price at which these houses will be sold is vested in the State governments. The Commonwealth in no way endeavours to lead the States or to force them to charge any specified price for the homes. The Queensland Parliament has already passed legislation to validate the agreement, and the Queensland Government has. decided that the price at which it will sell the houses shall not be based on the valuation of an independent valuer, or on the current market price, but that it shall be fixed by officers of the State Government. The tenants will bo committed to huy those homes at the price so fixed. Houses that were built with money advanced by the Commonwealth from loan funds, perhaps for £1,400, will be sold to the tenants for about £2,100 or £2,300, and the profit will go into the revenues of the State. The State Labour governments, which claim to represent the working people, excuse the adoption of this policy of profiteering at the expense of the workers by stating that they will have to make a profit on some of these houses to make up for the losses that they will incur on the poor-quality imported prefabricated and precut houses. That is not correct, because those imported prefabricated and precut dwellings, which are of no great value, will not be sold. Not only are those houses of inferior quality, but also the Queensland Government paid for them a price far in excess of their true value. The people are so well aware of their low value that they are not likely to buy them. An executive of the firm of Messieurs Le Corche Freres et Schroth, which supplied and erected the houses at Zillmere to which I have referred, has stated -
I have to add that the French Minister for Public Works has fixed these dwellings to last tcn years maximum before being replaced by definite brick or concrete constructions.
Yet, the Queensland Government imported and erected those dwellings with the intention that they should last for 53 years, which is the amortization period of the loan made by the Commonwealth. If the French Minister for Public Works considered that the maximum life of those houses would be ten years, what chance has the Queensland Government of convincing the tenants that they could safely buy them at any price? The cost of maintenance would be so great that no working man could possibly afford it, even if he were not committed to make repayments on the purchase price. For each of those houses the Queensland Government paid an average price of about £2,600. The executive of the firm that supplied them stated also -
I have to add further that in France the bare TI I type of house ready for habitation is sold for £1,025 Australian.
Although the homes are sold in France complete and ready for occupation for £1,025 Australian, the Queensland Government paid to the French suppliers out of Australian loan funds an average of £2,600 for each dwelling.
I make no apology for declaring in this Parliament that the sooner the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is terminated the sooner will this Government and the State governments have a chance to solve Australia’s housing problems. It is true that many thousands of young people throughout Australia wish to own homes, and that they have no hope of obtaining the necessary finance to enable them to buy them. They have the money to pay deposits, but they cannot find any lending authority to finance the purchase. If the Australian Government is to continue advancing to the States sums of between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 a year under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it will be impossible for the Commonwealth to advance, either through the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia or by any other means, funds to the young people who wish to build or buy their own homes, because the building industry would not be able to absorb the additional funds without experiencing a great inflationary pressure that would send the prices of all houses spiralling upwards. It is true, as representatives of the building industry frankly admit, that the industry is at present working at its maximum capacity. It cannot build more houses than it is building to-day, owing to the limited availability of labour and materials.
If we were to adopt the foolish policy - and I say advisedly that it would be a foolish policy - of attempting to increase the capacity of the building industry by increasing the number of building tradesmen and the supply of materials in order to have more houses built, even more confusion would be caused. Homes are being constructed at the rate of between 75,000 and 80,000 a year. The greatest increase in population that Australia has experienced in one year was 200,000 people. The average number of persons to a home is four - a man, his wife and two children. It will be seen, therefore, that 80,000 additional homes a year are more than enough to accommodate the increase in population. Indeed, at this rate of construction, between 25,000 and 30,000 houses every year would go towards the overtaking of the backlag in housing. When the backlag was completely absorbed, the excess capacity of the building industry to provide houses would cause a glut of homes. No one would want to buy the excess dwellings and the industry would collapse. So wide are its ramifications that many other industries would be adverse, affected and ultimately a depression might occur, and thereby complete a vicious circle.
The real problems involved in housing the people stem from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945, which was introduced by a socialist government in its desire to ram socialism down the throats of the people against their will and to force them to live in rented homes instead of in homes that they own, as they wish. If we are to make any real progress in solving Australia’s housing problems, we must ensure that when the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States expire - and the agreement with Queensland expires in December this year - all the money that has been going into these socialist housing schemes shall be freed from socialist ties and shall be advanced either to co-operative building societies or direct to individual home-builders and buyers, so that they may be able to borrow approximately 90 per cent, of the cost of a home and build homes for themselves to their own design and in the locality where they want them, and so that they can rear their children in the environment in which they wish to rear them, as they are entitled to do. If we can free the money to that extent and make it available, not only for the building of new homes, but also for the purchase of existing properties, we shall find that there will be a general change of the distribution of housing in this country. A man who, to-day, is living in a rented house, but wants to live in a house of his own, will take advantage of this opportunity to borrow money and build his own house. When that house has been completed, he will occupy it and vacate his rented house. When he vacates his rented house, it will become available to a man who has no desire to own his own home and wants to live in a rented home. To-day there are too many rented homes. Even the socialistic State governments admit that. They know there are too many rented homes, and not enough privately owned homes. That is why all the State governments support this legislation. That is why every State Premier is in favour of it. The State governments realize that the housing problem is getting out of control. They realize that every young man who gets married now is fully aware that there is absolutely no prospect in Australia of being able to obtain money to build his own home, unless he happens to be a returned serviceman.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– The banks have made a contribution to the maximum of their capacity to preserve the prosperity of the building industry. I said previously, but obviously the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was not listening to me, that if more money were made available for building than is being made available at the present time, that would not contribute in any way to a solution of the housing problem. Eather the problem would become exacerbated, because the effect would be that the demand on the available resources of the building industry would become so great that the cost of houses would rise, and would continue to rise so long as that extra money was being pumped in.
I am pleased to see that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is in the Souse now, because I want to conclude my remarks by making the comment that a great number of the tenants of housing commission homes are ex-servicemen who, in the past, made agreements to purchase their homes. I believe that 5 per cent.of the total number of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have been sold. A number of ex-servicemen who normally were eligible to purchase their homes under the War Service Homes Act were prevented, by various circumstances, which are known to the Minister, from taking advantage of the facilities provided by the War Service Homes Division, and made agreements to purchase their housing commission homes, obtaining financial accommodation from sources other than the division. Even when this measure is implemented, those men will be required to continue to repay to those other sources the money they borrowed to purchase their homes, because, under the present system, transfers of mortgages are not accepted by the War Service Homes Division, except in special cases. I suggest that any ex-serviceman who bought a housing commission home and obtained financial accommodation from any source other than the War Service Homes Division should be enabled to transfer his mortgage to the division, so that in future his indebtedness will be to the division. I make that suggestion because other ex-servicemen who have not as yet taken the step of buying their housing commission homes will now have an opportunity to approach the War Service Homes Division for financial assistance to enable them to do so. Those ex-servicemen will enjoy all the privileges that are accorded to ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes Act. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to my suggestion. I do not think that an ex-serviceman who has already bought a housing commission home should be at a disadvantage compared with another ex-serviceman who has not yet taken that step but will soon buy his home through the War Service Homes Division.
I commend the bill to the House, particularly because it represents a step away from socialism. It is a minute contribution to the solution of the housing problem. I am very pleased to know that there is nothing in the bill that will commit the Government in any way to extend the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I trust that the Government will not even entertain the idea of extending that agreement when it expires through the effluxion of time.
Mr. D. j. CURTIN. M.P.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that some time after 8 p.m. the honorable member for Watson inadvertently interjected from outside the confines of the House, and that you asked him’ to retire and he did so. May I suggest to you now that he be re-admitted to the House?
– If the honorable member for Watson is prepared to tender a suitable apology, I agree.
– I guarantee that he will offer an apology. MayI ask him to enter the House?
The honorable member for Watson having re-entered the chamber,
– I apologize.
– I think that is a very perfunctory way in which to make the apology.
– I apologize.
– For what?
– I was asked to retire, but I really did not know what for. I inadvertently interjected from the sidelines. You asked me to retire, Mr. Speaker, which I did in an orderly manner. I do not think there is anything to apologize for, but I offer my apologies to you.
– I want to point out to the honorable gentleman that he has reason to apologize. Standing Order 57 states that every member of the House, when he comes into the chamber, shall take his seat and shall not at any time stand in any of the passages or gangways. The honorable gentleman was not in his seat when he interjected. He was in a part of the House which is reserved specially for the officers assisting the Leader of the Opposition. He had no right to make any remark from that part of the House.
I must call the attention of the House to the fact that there is a growing tendency for honorable gentlemen to come into the chamber and to stand in the gangways and talk. That is completely out of order. If it goes on, I shall have to enforce the Standing Orders. If the honorable member for Watson was not aware previously of his error, I hope he is aware of it now, and that he will avoid such transgressions in future.
– The Australian Capital Territory is not directly a party to the Commonwealth and State Housing
Agreement, but the agreement does have a direct bearing on housing within the Territory. It has a direct bearing on the sale of government homes in the National Capital to the tenants of those homes, because the basis on which the homes are sold is intimately associated with the basis on which homes are sold to tenants under the agreement. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said in the House in September, 1953, the housing problem in Canberra cannot be divorced from the agreement. The agreement has another bearing on the housing position in the Australian Capital Territory in that rental rebates are allowed, on the same basis as is provided for under the agreement, in respect of some houses within the National Capital which are not above the standard envisaged in the agreement.
The record and the sincerity of the Government in regard to housing have been imported into the debate, notably, I think, by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who spoke yesterday evening. It is proper, therefore, to examine the record of the Government and its sincerity in approaching the housing problem in its own jurisdiction. In this capital city of the Commonwealth, the Government has complete and untrammelled power, and here it has no need to seek any arrangement or agreement with any State government. What is the record of the present Government after five and a half years in office? I suggest that it is one of sorry and shameful failure in the housing field in this national capital. In this city at present we have a population of 29,000 people. There are now more than 2,600 people waiting for homes in Canberra. The waiting time for the allocation of a government home, which had been reduced to as little as eighteen months, has now extended to something like two years and three months. That is the time that a person must wait after he places his name on the list for a government home in Canberra. In addition to that, the building rate has slackened, and is continuing to slacken, under the administration of the present Government. When this Government took office in 1949, it inherited in the Australian Capital Territory a vigorous housing programme. planned well ahead to meet the needs of this expanding city. A work force had been assembled and was increasing. The supply of materials was being built up, and everything was set for a continued expansion of home-building in the capital city. But, under the tragic control of the present Minister for’ the Interior and Minister for Works - the two portfolios completely responsible for the development of this city - the building programme has not only been allowed to slow down, but has been deliberately curtailed. The Minister, several years ago, made a decision that no new home construction would be commenced until the homes then under construction had been completed.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) says, “ Hear, hear ! “ ; but I wonder whether any one will suggest that a continued building programme is possible unless new construction is continually being commenced. If it is suggested, as the Minister did several years ago, and as the honorable member for Riverina apparently does now, that all the houses under construction must be completed before any new ones are started, then I suggest that what has happened in Canberra is the inevitable result; the building force is dispersed,. and the building programme completely dislocated. That was the decision made by the Minister, and it had a tragic effect on building in this capital city. It destroyed the continuity of the programme, and it destroyed the continuity of employment in the building trade. As a result, the men engaged in the building trade at first drifted away, and finally left here in droves, seeking continuous employment elsewhere and at higher rates of pay than were available in the Australian Capital Territory. Three hostels in this city, each capable of holding 300 men, and each of which was filled to capacity, are now empty. That indicates a drift away from this capital city of at least 900 men, and possibly the total is greater than that. When new contracts were let it was found that the building force in Canberra was inadequate.
Th- t was one positive step taken by the Minister to interrupt the building pro gramme in this city, to delay the development of the national capital as it should be developed, and to delay the possibility of people being in a position to secure their own homes on the terms envisaged in the measure now before the House. But the Minister took another step. He deliberately killed the day-labour system of construction in the capital city. The history of that is, I think, fresh in the minds of most people in Canberra at least. Day-labour construction had proceeded side by side with the construction of homes in this city either by direct contract or by cost-plus fixed-fee contract. In the words of the Director of Works, speaking at a meeting of the Advisory Council in this city, day-labour houses were cheaper, better, and more quickly built and needed less maintenance than homes constructed under contract. Then the Minister himself, in a letter to me dated the 4th April, 1952, gave a specific comparison between homes built, under cost-plus fixed-fee contract, and homes built by day labour. He referred to homes built side by side, on similar sites, and in the same period of the year. The figures given by the Minister showed that on those comparable sites, homes of similar design and construction built by day labour were £50 a square, or £550 a house, cheaper than those built under contract. In further confirmation of that statement, there is a letter written by the Minister on the 18th September, 1953, to the State president of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. In that letter the Minister had this to say -
The construction costs of houses built under day-labour conditions by the Department of Works compare favorably with the costs of houses built under contract.
Yet, despite those statements by the Minister and the clear evidence that day-labour construction was cheaper, quicker and better, the Minister killed the day-labour system in the Australian Capital Territory. That also, I suggest, had a very serious effect on the building programme here. There are other actions, or inactions, of the Minister that have contributed to the failure of the housing programme in the Australian Capital Territory. One was the failure of the Minister to continue the development of the brickworks here, and his decision to discontinue the erection of a tunnel kiln, which would have provided the quantity of bricks needed for home construction here. After several years of dithering on that particular programme by the Minister, first as Minister for Works, and now as Minister for the Interior controlling those brickworks, the works are still completely inadequate to supply the needs of the building trade in the capital city.
All those things were factors which contributed to a falling off in the homebuilding programme in Canberra. But perhaps the most graphic way to illustrate the falling off in that programme is to quote figures of houses constructed and handed over to the Department of the Interior for letting. In 1952, when the building programme initiated by the Chifley Labour Government, and planned to cover that period, was reaching its peak, we achieved the highest figure of home construction ever reached in the capital city. In that year, 574 homes were built and handed over to the Department of the Interior for letting to the people of Canberra. In 1953, the total dropped to 491 homes. In 1954, the number of homes constructed and handed over to the department for letting dropped to 323. So- far this year, with nearly five months of the year gone, the total number of homes constructed and handed over to the department is S3. When that is contrasted with the numbers of people who are waiting for homes, and who will become entitled to homes, in the Australian Capital Territory, the seriousness of the position is made clear. I repeat that the present position is that more than 2,600 people in this national capital are on the list of people who are waiting for the tenancy of government homes. The waiting period is now something like two years and three months, and, on present indications, with only S3 houses handed over so far this year, that waiting time will be extended. In addition to that, however, we are shortly to have transferred to this city 2,000 public servants, many of whom have wives and families. They will come here when departments are transferred from elsewhere to occupy the new administrative block that lies in an easterly direction from this building. I suggest that their transfer here will aggravate the position still further.
– The Government cannot blame the States for the position here.
– It certainly cannot blame the States for anything that happens here, because, in this Territory, as I said in my opening remarks, the Commonwealth has complete and untrammelled power. It can do what it wishes here. It does not have to seek agreement with any State, whether ruled by a Liberal or a Labour government. Its record after five and a half years in office is that it has built fewer homes in each succeeding year of its regime. The position has become so bad that the Canberra Times felt constrained to point out in a recent editorial that every time that the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works made an announcement that the home-building programme was to be stepped up, the announcement was followed, unfortunately, by a slackening in the rate of building.
Whilst the maximum number of homes that we have ever built in this Territory in one year was 574, and whilst the number built last year was only 323, applications for the tenancy of government homes are increasing at the rate of 800 a year. So not only are we not holding our own, but we are slipping back further and further under the present Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works and his Under-Secretary, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). The failure of the Government is illustrated even more clearly by the figures that the honorable member for Bennelong cited last night. I suggest that they are a direct indictment of the Government. The honorable member pointed out in his speech on this measure that in Victoria there is one house for every 3.65 persons, and that in Queensland there is one house for every 3.65 persons. Comparable figures in the other States are: South Australia 3.56, Western Australia 3.77, and Tasmania 3.67. The figure for the Australian Capital Territory is the worst of all. In this Territory, where the Government has complete, unfettered control over home-building, there is only one home for every 4.07 persons.
– They ,cannot get away from that.
– Tie ‘.Government certainly cannot get away from those figures, and I do not think that any attempt to do so would be successful. The honorable member .for Bennelong - and I have to .refer again to his speech, because it was the only speech made on the other side of the House that had any direct bearing on the problem - said that the people would benefit under this agreement only - and I am quoting the honorable member’s own words, of which 1 took a careful note at the time - at the hands of a sincere government like the present Government, which was prepared to do the right thing by them. If the Government is prepared to do the right thing by the people, it is standing prepared a long time before it steps forward to do it. 1 submit that the figures I have put before the House demonstrate clearly the Government’s lack of sincerity in relation to housing.
The honorable member for Bennelong also spoke with some flourish and some vehemence of blocks of flats in Sydney. He spoke of foundation-stones bearing the name of a former New -South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr. Olive Evatt. I would say to the honorable member for Bennelong if he were here - and I say it to his colleagues in his absence - that the people of Canberra who are waiting for homes would not care if every brick in a home was inscribed with the initials “ W.S.K.H.” so long as they could get a home to live in.
I must correct one other statement that the honorable member for Bennelong made. He accused the Chifley Labour Government of refusing to sell houses to tenants, and he declared - and I again refer to an exact note of his words - that the original agreement introduced by She Labour Government made no provision for persons to become home-owners.
– That is correct.
– That statement is, of course, not correct. That wrongful assertion has been corrected and contradicted by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech in which ‘he said -
The -provision for. outright purchase for cash is also retained, -and in these cases the States will pay to the Commonwealth in one amount the outstanding ‘balance on dwellings -sold.
So there was previously a provision for the’ purchase -of homes. What is being done now is to provide for the purchase of homes on .terms, and those terms are not very advantageous to .the purchasers. The Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works himself, on the 11th May, also made .some reference to the sale of homes when, in a newspaper announcement, he said - - It is true that sonic credit is allowed in the sale of u house by the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This ‘practice was in accordance with the principle contained in the Agreement since its inception in 1945.
The honorable member for Bennelong, and some other speakers on the Government side, have spoken of the kind of homes being constructed by the New South Wales Housing Commission. He described some of the homes as being of a poor type. He said they were poorly constructed, and were homes in which the tenants could never feel pride. I suggest that the honorable member reserve some of his criticism for this Government in relation to houses built in this national capital during its regime. I suggest that he, or any other honorable member on the Government side who is interested in the truth about the housing position in Canberra, take a walk around some of the suburbs of this city and look at homes that have been constructed in recent years under the direction of the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works. Let them have a look at some of the prefabricated homes that have been constructed. Let them look at streets in which there are row after row of houses, each entirely the same as its neighbour.
– They should go out to Narrabundah and see some of the places there.
– Narrabundah has .a history of its own as a settlement that was designed to provide urgent accommodation for building tradesmen who came here to build houses for the general population. I am talking of houses built for ordinary letting, and I think that this Government is as culpable as is any government for providing homes that -are not up to standard, in ‘the beautiful setting of this capital city. The honorable member for Bennelong - and I repeat that his speech was the only one that I heard from the Government side that has any real bearing on this question - spoke of the need for homes to be built, not necessarily in spacious grounds, but at least in roomy grounds. I suggest that he might tour through some Canberra suburbs and see for himself the size of the allotments that have been made available for home construction there. The smallness of those allotments has drawn the comment from the principal architect of the Department of Works that when the Government’s architects are charged with the task of placing homes on those sites, they have to poke the homes in endways in order to accommodate them on the narrow sites provided. That is a figure of speech that was used by the principal architect to illustrate the narrowness of these blocks.
While this measure is helpful it does not give great encouragement to tenants to become home-owners. Speakers on the Government side have claimed that the Government seeks to encourage homeownership. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made that claim in this House on the 23rd September, 1953. I say that, whilst the measure is helpful in enabling tenants, who are able to find the necessary deposit, to purchase their homes, it does not give a great deal of encouragement to the class of people we should be seeking to encourage to acquire their own homes. They include the young married couple setting out upon a career and intending to bring up a family in our developing community. I should like to make it quite clear that the conditions under which homes may now be purchased through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are to be applied in the national capital to tenants who desire to purchase their homes from the Government. A system of home purchase has been in operation here for some years. It existed before the war, but was discontinued in 1943 because of staffing difficulties. A long time elapsed before this Government could be persuaded to reintroduce it. When it did, a couple of years ago, . a tenant could purchase a home on payment of 10 per cent, deposit, or the difference between the valuation of the home and £2,000, which was the maximum advance. In the case of timber homes repayments could be made over 25 years and, in the case of brick homes, over 35 years, at an interest rate of 5 per cent.
The Minister for the Interior has now varied that by applying the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to Canberra tenants who desire to purchase the homes in which they live. They may obtain a maximum advance of £2,750 and repay it over 45 years at an interest rate of 4£ per cent, per annum. The deposit is to be 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 and 10 per cent of the amount above that. The Minister has decided to make no allowance in respect of rent that has gone to the amortization of the capital cost of the home. The reason that he gives is that the basis of valuation is much better than that which operates in the States, and that the calculation of rent on the cost basis here is also more favorable. I believe that the Minister could, even now, take a further look at that position. Many people have occupied homes in- the capital city for 25 or 30 years. During the whole of that period they have paid rent, of which ls. 8d. in each £1, or one twelfth, has gone to sinking fund to pay off the capital cost. Since the homes are amortized on the basis of 53 years for timber and 70 years for brick, it can be seen that many of these people have now paid off one-third or half of the capital cost of their homes. The Minister should give some consideration to allowing this proportion of the rent to be deducted from the deposit or the purchase price of the home.
A maximum advance of £2,750 for the purchase of a home does not give any great encouragement to young married couples, especially those in the lower income bracket. Under the administration of this Government the cost of building has risen to such an extent that an advance of £2,750 is completely inadequate for such people. Building costs in this city have risen in recent years, and to-day the cost of a brick home is about £400 a square. The cost of the average home of 11 squares is about £4,400. I think the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) spoke of simple mathematics. Those who are adept at simple mathematics can easily assess the difference between £2,750 and £4,400 or £4,500. The amendment, which seeks to raise the maximum advance to £3,500, should commend itself to the House, as it commends itself to me. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) accused the States of great greed, and said that although money was made available to the States for housing purposes at 3 per cent, interest, they charged the tenant 4£ per cent. By a decision of the Minister for the Interior, people in the national capital, where there is no necessity for an agreement with the States, and where the Commonwealth is in complete control, have hitherto paid 6 per cent. They are now being required to pay 4ti per cent., which is exactly what is charged by the State governments. Therefore, there is no virtue in the argument of the honorable member for Petrie that the States are avaricious in charging 4£ per cent, interest. The interest rate charged by this Government could well be reduced to 3 per cent., and it should be.
I support the amendment, and believe that the Government has demonstrated that it does not wish to encourage homeownership. Indeed,, it does not even seek to solve the housing problem in its own national capital where it is in complete control. I have always held the rathe: simple belief that the best way to overcome a housing shortage is to build houses. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) seemed to think that if building were speeded up houses would be provided for every one who needed them and the building industry would collapse. I do not think that I shall ever see that in my lifetime in this country, with its developing economy. This Government has not gone ahead .and supplied houses for its own servants in the national capital where it has complete control and where land is available. This Government offers leasehold land on a 99 years’ basis, and the blocks are sold by competitive auction. That has established a completely false sense of land values. People who want a desirable block of land must pay a premium. The leases are made available at auction, and go to the highest bidder. It is not uncommon for ordinary blocks to bring a premium of £300, £400, or £500. That is another obstacle in the way of a young person who is seeking a home.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hamilton ) adjourned.
LIQUOR at Russian Embassy - Roads - Trade Unions.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am very pleased that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is in the House because he was in charge of it when I first raised this matter some months ago. I refer to information that was placed in my hands, and which I asked the Government to investigate, concerning an alleged breach of diplomatic privilege by a former member of the Soviet legation in trafficking in spirituous liquors that had been brought into this country duty-free under customs item 373. If I recollect correctly, the Minister then said that if information in my possession were placed before the responsible Minister, the Minister of Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), it would be thoroughly investigated. I have waited for some action to be taken, and have sent a number of letters to the Minister for Trade and Customs. He has indicated that he does not consider that anything improper has occurred and that, in any case, it is merely a matter involving diplomatic privilege. I repeat my request to the Government that a thorough investigation be made into this matter. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) admitted, when I raised the matter on the adjournment, after failing to get a satisfactory reply from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that this was a very serious charge. I have asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to give me his personal assurance that he himself is satisfied that nothing improper has been occurring. He has repeatedly avoided giving a straight-out reply to that question, and I am now able to tell the House that shortly after I raised the matter in the Parliament somebody began te interest himself in it, because either security officers or. officers, of- the Common-wealth. Investigation. Service, rounded: up people who, they believed,, might b& engaged in the disposal, of this; liquor:. Such persons, they evidently bela.ey.ed, might have been engaged in this traffic: with the people whom L mentioned, the- former member of the Soviet legation, Petrov, and the medical gentleman in Sydney with whom he was associated,. Dr. Bialoguski..
The. men whom the officers thought might be interested, in the matter - people such as night club, restaurant and cafe proprietors,, managers and: employees - were rounded- up but, strangely enough, when they were interrogated, the questioning was on the basis of whether they had had any contact’ with: me. Apparently; all that the officers were trying to find out was the source of my information. I am able to tell’ them now that among the. great number interviewed was one of the persons who was giving me the information, and he informed me of the nature of his interrogation.
I come- now- to the surprising’ part of this matter,, and I. ask the- Minister for the Army, who is now- present, te have it investigated.. I. do not propose to deal with, any matters that were before the Royal Commission, on Espionage, because that is not permissible here,;: but I wish to say that a solicitor cross-examined a witness before the commission, in regard to this matter, and following the crossexamination that- solicitor was- interrogated by an officer of the ‘Commonwealth crown law department in Sydney. That officer asked the’ solicitor for the source of” the information upon which he had based his cross-examination. The solicitor was advised by that officer that the Department of Trade and Customs was actually carrying out an investigation info this matter. The strange thing about it all was that, although I had raised the matter in the- Parliament By way of question-, and1 speeches on the: adjournment, I have not been interviewed regarding it. I am now wondering what the Government proposes to do about the matter,, because it is most serious: I have every reason to- believe that the information that’ has* been placed, before- me is based on fact’.
The.- fact, is that there were large- quantities,, or, as it was: described: to< me; huge quantities- of spirituous; liquors imported under customs item; 373 free of duty,, and then disposed, of on the Australian market through certain channels. I certainly believe-, that that is a. matter serious enough for. the Government to investigate. Bint evidently the Government was< not interested in- it, perhaps because, it did. not want to destroy the. credibility of this particular gentleman in whom, at. that, time, tha Government had a. very great, interest However,, the* matter goes beyond, any considerations of that kind, and the- Government certainly should, have it investigated.
According to the officer of the crown law department to whom I referred earlier, some investigations ha*e been proceeding, and- 1 ask- the Minister to ascertain the nature of- those investigations, and’ when we are likely to receive some information in regard to, this most serious and important matter.
Mr. hulme (Petrie) [10.45].- 1 desire to mention, a matter which has developed in my electorate, and. which, is related to the building of a new airstrip at the Eagle Farm aerodrome in. Brisbane. I am sorry that the Minister, for “Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) is not. at present in the House, but perhaps the Minister for the Army (Mr.. Francis), who. is present; will, bring the facts- that I. shall detail to his. notice.
A contract that has been let by the Commonwealth in connexion with, tha building.; of the aerodrome- provides that substantial quantities of gravel, which is obtained from the,- Pine River within my electorate, shall be brought, to, the site. The trucks: bringing that gravel, are travelling: on. roads that were built to carry only 4-ton. loads,, but most: of the trucks; are- carrying 10>ton. loads.. Sixty trucks are operating from the! gravel deposits, to the airstrip^, and each day 360 full-load trips- and 360 unloaded- trigs are made over the roads between Pike River and” the. airstrip. The state: of those roads- is*, becoming’ absolutely deplorable.- The trucks travel along Albany- Cr-eek-road. over Gympie-road and then use the Hamilton-road^ After the Hamilton-road- was severely damaged, the trucks used, Rode-road, and. that road also is now in a deplorable condition. The trucks continue through an area in. the electorate of the honorable . member for tilley (Mr. Wight), to the aerodrome, and right along the route that they use there Has been severe damage.
After having caused damage in; the Albany Creek-road, the trucks then switched to Graham-road, which is rapidly reaching the same condition as the other roads. The only road that has been repaired is the main Gympie-road, which is no doubt; a responsibility of the Main Roads Commission of Queensland. My. concern is in relation to the other roads. I understand that, in the past, it has not been unusual for the Commonwealth to have a provision in contracts, such, as the one that I have mentioned, to the effect that the contractor should make good’ the damage that he may cause to any roads. I do not know whether such a clause is in this particular contract, but r should like the Minister to investigate the matter and advise me whether, if1 there is such, a provision in the contract, he will, notify the contractor that the roads must be put in a proper state of repair.
If the- contract does not contain such a clause, perhaps the; care, of the roads is a. responsibility of the Queensland Government, or the: Brisbane. City Council. Perhaps the Brisbane City Council, has the’ power to. limit, the loads which may be carried on the roads under its jurisdiction, but I do not know where the responsibility for the- care of the roads lies-.. However, it, is. unfortunate that roads;, which are being used, by residents for’ access to. their homes- are being damaged by reason of work, that is being done, under a Commonwealth contract. [ ask the Minister to. have some action taken to. remedy this state of affairs if the Commonwealth is responsible. If it is a responsibility of the Queensland Government’ or the Brisbane City CounCil, I shall’ take such action, as is available to me to, bring this matter under the notice of the proper authority. However, F ask the Minister to inform me where the responsibility lies, so that I shall be in a position to take such action as may be. necessary,, and to. inform the residents, of. the. area of the action that can. be taken..
.- For some- weeks I’ have, been endeavouring to help the members- of the1 Australian Labour party, which is led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), to clear up what is undoubtedly something, of which they are ashamed. I’ refer, to the fact that, the federal president of the Australian Labour party is not a member of. a trade union, and refuses to join one. I. had anticipated that, irrespective of their feelings towards me personally, and. towards other members of my, party, I. should have had. the support of the members- of the Australian Labour, party on this, matter of Labour principles.
– We do not support “ scabs “.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George: Lawson) is supporting, one. His federal president is one. It is most interesting, to hear the honorable, member- advocate non-unionism, because I thought that Queensland was the one State in- the Commonwealth in which a worker, if he did’ not belong to a trade union, was considered to be outside the pale. The honorable member for Brisbane, and apparently the other Queensland members, are prepared not only to sit under the presidency of a person who refuses to join the appropriate trade union, although he is eligible to do SO, but? also to support the principle that- a person need not belong to a< trade union, although he is eligible to become a member. ‘That; is a unique: situation. Foi- the first time in the; history of: the Australian Labour party,, the federal president of that: party- iia at non-unionist, and. refuses to join the appropriate union, although he is eligible to- do. so.
– That is untrue. He has not refused to join, and the honorable member knows it.
– I’ suppose the honorable member for. Brisbane. expects the. secretary of. the union to go along and plead, with him to. join the< organization..
Mr.. Edmonds interjecting,
– Order !
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) is supposed to be a strong unionist. If he were on the cane-fields in Queensland, he would demand that any non-unionist be thrown off the job.
– He has done so on many occasions.
– I am reminded that he has done so on many occasions during his career as an organizer for a union, but now he is quite prepared to sit under the supreme official of the party to which he belongs, who is not a trade unionist. “When I make that statement, I am not referring in any hostile manner to the honorable member for Herbert or the honorable member for Brisbane.
– The honorable member had better not, either.
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert has not been in his seat for a long time.
– I am moving to it now.
– I suggest to those honorable members that if they hope to convince the Australian people, and particularly the supporters of trade unionism, that they are bona fide supporters of Labour principles, they should devote their time and energy to the task of persuading their federal president to join a trade union, instead of heckling me, and easting aspersions on honorable members who sit in this part of the House.
– What evidence has the honorable member that the federal president is not a member of a trade union ?
– The evidence is that the Australian Council of Trades Unions at its congress, as a result of matters I raised in this House, and also because of complaints from Mr. Golding, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Western Australia, as well as complaints from the Clerks Union in Western Australia, wanted to know whether Mr. Chamberlain was a member of a tradeunion. If some honorable members wish to continue to sit under the presidency of a gentleman who is not a member of a trade union, that is their affair. But if they wish to convince the Australian people that they believe in principles - and in this controversy Labour principles are involved - then they know what they ought to do.
Mr. Chamberlain has the unique distinction of being the first non-union president of a movement which claims to have its origin in, and to be the voice of the trade union movement. He also has the unique distinction of being the first federal president of the section of the Australian Labour party led by the right honorable member for Barton, which claims to be the Australian Labour party, to receive commendatory mention in the official organ of the Cominform. I have here the official organ of the Cominform published in Bucharest. Our friends in the party on my right, who are so sensitive about this matter, can obtain a copy of it if they so desire. The name of the paper is For a Lasting Peace and for a People’s Democracy. It is the official organ of the international Communist conspiracy, and I have it in my hand at this moment. In this official organ of the Cominform appears a nice little paragraph referring to various members of the Australian public who have approved of the peace appeal sponsored by the Cominform. Among the signatures to this appeal is that of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who is described as the general secretary- of the Western Australian Labour party. Therefore, we have the unique spectacle of persons who claim to be members of the Australian Labour party being led by a person who is not a trade unionist, in defiance of every principle on which that party has been built, and who warrants official commendation in this organ of the Cominform. After all, the federal president is an even greater figure than the parliamentary leader of that party in this Parliament, the right honorable member for Barton.
At a conference of the Australian Labour party held at the Hotel Kingston, Canberra, on Monday, the 9th November. 1953, a strongly worded resolution was agreed to, declaring quite openly that the peace appeal, which proudly displays the signature of the federal president of the Australian Labour party, was a Communist front in Australia. That is how it is described in the report of the committee appointed to investigate the matter under item 13 on. the agenda of that conference held at the Hotel Kingston.
Therefore, I remind members of the Labour party that they are in a unique position when they are serving under a federal president who not only has torn up the rules of the party in relation to the Victorian branch at a State conference held in Melbourne, but also acts in defiance the elementary foundations on which that party has been built. I should like to ask the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is sitting at the table, whether that is so.
– I have already spoken on this motion, and I should be out of order if I attempted to reply to the honorable member.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will have an opportunity to say, at a later date, whether he believes that such a state of affairs is right. He should realize that the federal president of the party to which he belongs has achieved an even more unusual distinction than either he or the right honorable member for Barton has achieved - something which is in the same category as the award of the Banner of Lenin.
– I have got. into the News Weekly once or twice.
– I am quite certain that the honorable member has not yet achieved the unique distinction that his federal president has achieved.
– The honorable member is upsetting the honorable member for East Sydney when he says that.
– I can see the honorable member for East Sydney is becoming jealous. He has not achieved the unique distinction of getting a commendatory reference in For Lasting Peace and the People’s Democracy.
– What is the date of that publication?
– Friday, the eth May, 1953, number 18. . The honorable member for East Sydney may be looking forward to serving as a private member for a long period, ls that his ambition 1
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
[11.0 J. - in reply - The points raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member, for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) will bc brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers. The matter raised by the honorable member for Petrie requires urgent attention, and I assure him that the Minister’ for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) will give it his earliest attention- and communicate direct with the honorable gentleman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Landa Acquisition Act - Return of land disposed of under Section 83.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1HB5 - No. 4 - 1’laut Diseases.
Services Trust Funds Act - Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund - Annual Report for year 19S3-S4.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550518_reps_21_hor6/>.