21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers. ,
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. I hare received an urgent request from a number of citizens who were formerly British immigrants, who were housed in Commonwealth hostels and subjected to certain charges which were declared by the High Court to be contrary to the price fixing law. Later the Government introduced legislation to exempt Commonwealth Hostels Limited from the price fixing Jaw. I ask the Minister whether he will use hia prerogative to cancel what is now assumed to be a debt, namely, the amount that waa withheld by the immigrants as a protest against the overcharge that they felt was made by Commonwealth Hostels Limited.
Furthermore, “will ite seek ‘to -have discontinued .the pursuit of these ‘people into their ordinary civil life ‘in the community for an assumed debt incurred in circumstances -that occurred over two years ago?
– I think ‘the honorable member was absent from the country when ‘these developments occurred. I assure him that the -charges which were made for the services .provided by Commonwealth Hostels Limited not only were regarded as reasonable but also were so declared by an independent committee of inquiry ‘-which was formed to examine these matters. The members of that committee included Mr. Broadby, of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the general secretary of :the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia ‘and other -persons who would, I believe, have the confidence of all members of. the Parliament. The legal decision to which the honorable member has referred turned on a sheer-technicality. The prices fixed for the services provided by Commonwealth Hostels Limited had been submitted to the price fixing authorities, who informed the Government that as an instrument of the Crown was concerned, .their approval of the charges was not required. The High Court held that the structure of Commonwealth Hostels Limited was such that for these purposes it was not regarded. as an instrument of the Crown. Therefore, the .rate that had been prescribed required some formal approval. The Government took a course in relation to the charges -incurred that seemed to be reasonable under all the circumstances. I am not .aware that any group has made protests :along the lines that the ‘honorable member ‘mentioned, but he will appreciate that the Government has an obligation to the taxpayers of this country and to the Australian community generally in this matter. If debts have been incurred for charges that are regarded by all reasonable people as having been fairly made, those debts should be discharged. We have not wished to harass people :in an unwarranted way, and if the honorable member can bring -to my notice any particular case Where this is alleged to have been done, I shall certainly examine.it. However, I .am sure the honorable member will appreciate “that it is the Government’s responsibility sta ma -‘that debts among *> it and, through it, ito 3he people of Australia, are met saa they .-should be met.
– Has the Minister for Supply read a ‘statement that was made -by ‘.the president of a nuclear foundation to the effect that the Government was attempting ‘to monopolize nuclear training and .research? ls that true and, if not, what is -.the present position ?
– I ‘ have, seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. It .has been made more .than once, and it is quite untrue. We are not, in any way, attempting to monopolize nuclear training and research, or to :prevent the universities from conducting anything of the sort for themselves. Indeed, we shall lean heavily upon them, and we are subsidizing them by scholarships, fellowships and in other ways. As honorable members know, -because the fact .has been .mentioned in the House, the Government Is building an advanced reactor outside Sydney, as has “been done in England at the great atomic research establishment at Harwell, outside London, and also in Canada. As at Harwell and in ‘Canada, facilities will be provided to the maximum practicable extent for university -staffs and senior -students to pursue -research -studies and ito -acquire knowledge of the .operation -of the reactors. An opportunity to acquire .;such knowledge will also be available to selected people .from industry. Recently, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission wrote to each of the Australian universities inviting -co-operation and offering assistance. The text of the letter was contained in a statement that I made to the House recently. The general line that -we aTe following in this matter -is a well tried and satisfactory one which ‘hai? operated as between .Harwell and the
British universities, -where -a .great deal is known .about these matters, .and also in Canada, where conditions are very similar to those in Australia.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House ‘when Tie will be in a position to make a statement about a matter that I raised more than twelve months ago with regard to alleged fraudulent .activities of a firm of Sydney builders in respect to work which was undertaken by the Australian Government, and which the Minister undertook to have fully investigated ?
– Actually, the investigation to which the honorable member has referred concerns the Department of Works, and not the Department of the Interior. I know that the honorable member for East Sydney has been inquiring about this matter over the past sis months, and I have promised that I will give him the latest information that becomes available to me on when the inquiry will be completed. The inquiry is in the hands of the Attorney-General’s Department. It has been a very complicated and lengthy inquiry, but I was in touch with the Attorney-General as late as last Monday, and was informed that the official investigations would be completed not later than next week. I was informed also that the Crown law authorities would then consider the matter immediately, and give me their opinion on it. I shall inform the honorable member as soon ss f receive that opinion.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, be prepared to call the Standing Orders Committee together to consider whether it should recommend to this House an amendment of Standing Order 1.06a to prevent abuses that have been occurring recently.- As you know, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 106a relates to discussions of matters of urgency. Would you put to the Standing Orders Committee the possibility of an amendment in two directions? The first is to provide that if those who have sponsored a discussion of this kind are no longer in the chamber when the discussion is proceeding, the question, “ That the business of the day be called on” shall immediately be put. That is designed to remedy the abuse that has been occurring when members of the Opposition who have sponsored discussions of matters of urgency, and have interrupted the business of the House, have absented themselves during the debate, and have shown that they had no real interest in the matter they sponsored as a matter of urgent importance. My second suggestion is that there should be an amendment of the standing order so that the discussion of matters of urgency should not be permitted during the time allocated to private members. This has been done on numerous occasions, and it is an invasion of private members’ rights by a procedure which is designed to give extra rights to private members. The practice is, therefore, an abuse of the real purpose of the Standing Orders in this House in other respects. I ask you, Mr. Speaker whether you will lay before the Standing Orders Committee the two suggestions I have made for the amendment of Standing Order 106a.
– I am prepared to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee when it will be convenient for certain highly responsible members of the House to attend. I shall place before the Committee the two points raised by the honorable member. I have no firm views on the first of them, but as to the second, it is my opinion that private members’ business should be set aside only by the unanimous decision of the House.
– I ask the Prone Minister whether. at an early date, lie will consider tabling the report of the Standing Orders Committee containing recommendations for certain amendments to the Standing Orders, so that the House might have an opportunity to debate that report.
– I will.
– The question which I address to the right honorable Minister for Health refers to the practice which has developed on the part of certain organizations, not registered under the Commonwealth Medical and Hospital Benefits Scheme, of deluding, the public into becoming members in the belief that full benefits are available from the organizations. Will the Minister inform me of the action that has been taken to deal with these im posters, and with what results ?
– As I stated in the House some time ago, the principal means of deception of the public employed by these organizations was to use in their names the word “Commonwealth” or “ Federal “ thereby implying that the concern was part and parcel of some Australian government organization, despite the fact that it had to carry in its advertisement a statement that had been approved by the Health Department. I am pleased to be able to state that as a result of a prolonged enquiry and action by the Attorney-General’s Department the name “ Commonwealth Health Benefits of Australia Ltd. “ has now been changed to “ Contributors Health Benefits Proprietary Ltd. It is not nearly so good a name, but the alteration has been made. Also, the “ Commonwealth Hospital and Medical Benefits Ltd. “ title has been changed to “ Commercial Hospital and Medical Benefits Ltd. “. There is still one organization that is worrying us. It calls itself the “Federal Health Benefits of Australia Limited “, but we are hoping to have its name changed. Of course, all these organizations, even though they may change their names, are entitled, a” is any company which complies with the laws of company registration, to carry on their activities; but everything possible is being done to prevent the public from being deluded by them.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that for six months a committee set up under the Stevedoring Industry act has been conducting an inquiry, that it has heard only one witness and so far the report of its proceedings consists of 4,000 pages of transcript. In view of the urgent necessity for an independent inquiry into claims for increased rates, will the right honorable gentleman, as he is empowered to do, divert that committee from pursuing the shipowners’ vendetta against the stevedoring industry to an investigation into the claims for increased freights ?
– Included in the terms of reference of the committee to which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has referred are the questions of stevedoring and freight rate charges and the profits of the shipping companies concerned. In a statement that was issued by the committee on Tuesday last, the committee made it clear that no delay is occurring in the examination of those particular questions. The committee, having mentioned that it intended to give priority to certain major matters, relating particularly to the provision of labour, went on to point out that an examination was already proceeding into the question of freight charges and the like. I know that three departmental officers have been preparing material, after consultation with departments, such as the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of Shipping and Transport, as well as with members of the Australian Shipping Board. In addition, arrangements have been made for the well-known Sydney firm of E. S. Wolfenden and Company to conduct an accountancy investigation into these matters. The committee, in its statement last Tuesday, added that although it would be dealing with tha subject of waterfront labour as a matter of priority, its decision on priorities would not affect its investigation into stevedoring costs and profits, increases in freight rates, and the causes of such increases. As to these matters, the committee said its investigation is proceeding and that evidence on them is being prepared for presentation to it.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received a request from the Australian Wool Bureau asking that a strong protest be made to the British Government against the abolition of the United Kingdom purchase tax on non-woollen goods? If he has received such a request, does he intend to act on it; and will he inform the New Zealand Government to that effect, so that a joint protest may be made? Has consideration been given to an alternative request being made to the British Government to relax its tax on -woollen textiles ?
– I understand that certain suggestions along those lines have been submitted from the source that the honorable member mentioned. At present, they are under study. I shall advise the honorable member shortly of the outcome.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to the decision of the New Zealand Labour party’s annual conference to support the sending of armed forces to Malaya? Does this mean that the New Zealand Labour party is better informed, or more aware of t:ie danger to its country, than is the Labour party in Australia?
– I rise to order. Will yon, Mr. Speaker, inform me whether a question based on a newspaper report is in order ?
– If the question is based on a newspaper report, it is out of order; but 1 have no means of knowing whether it is.
– I rise to order. You have frequently ruled, Mr. Speaker, that it is not permissible for an honorable member in addressing a question to a Minister to ask him to express an opinion.
– Order! The relevant Standing Order states clearly that an honorable member shall not, by means of a question, ask a Minister for an expression of opinion. Does the Prime Minister wish to say anything?
– 1 rise to order. On a number of occasions, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that questions directed to Ministers must relate to the administration of departments under their control. I submit that the question asked by the honorable member for Darwin does nol relate to the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department.
-The point is well taken. I could apply it quite often in relation to other questions asked in this
House. Does the Prime Minister wish to say anything at all ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ Yea “.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to advise when the Tariff Board’s report dealing with the production of asbestos at Wittenoom Gorge, in the north of Western Australia, will be tabled in this chamber ?
– That matter does not come within my jurisdiction. I will bring the question under tha notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), and endeavour to get a reply.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Under the heading, “ Calwell demand on Spy Probe “, the following report appears: -
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said to-night he had asked the Commonwealth to re-open the Royal Commission on Espionage. He said he had taken this action at the request of Mr. J. J. Dedman, a, former minister for post-war reconstruction.
Then the story continues, and I have been gravely misrepresented in this paragraph -
Mr. Calwell discussed the move today with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who advised him to approach Professor Bailey.
I did not discuss the matter with the VicePresident of the Executive Council. lie has been misrepresented as much as I have been. I did not tell the press or any one pressman that I had consulted Sir Eric Harrison. His name was not mentioned by me at any stage, and this is just a complete fabrication. I desire, in justice to the Vice-President, and to myself, to put the matter right.
– I accept the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received a letter from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) advising that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
The great hardship suffered, and the serious anomalies caused, by the continued failure to make provision for automatic wage adjustments to cover the rising cost of living, and the Federal Government’s inaction in this matter, whilst making extensive marginal increases in restricted cases.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
- I take this action in an endeavour to secure the .removal of an act which, *I believe, imposes hardship on workers by the pegging of their wages. At the outset, I think it is necessary to remind honorable members of the rather peculiar circumstances in which the decision was made in September, 1953. Honorable members will recollect that the evidence took approximately one year to place before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Strangely enough, with this great mass of evidence, within 24 hours the judgment was released. No reasons were advanced at the same time as to why the court had reached its decision to freeze the basic wage, but .it was announced that these reasons would be given later and they were. Some six weeks later, on Saturday, the 12th September, 1953, the reasons were given, and that in itself is rather a peculiar circumstance in regard to this matter, because here was a mass of evidence gathered over a period of approximately twelve months, and five judges of the Arbitration Court could announce their unanimous decision within 24 hours. They could not possibly have considered and sifted the evidence in that period of time. Six weeks later, after they had had time to consider the evidence, they released a document of 62 foolscap pages giving reasons why this action was taken.
Because a lot of people, including workers, knew what was happening in relation to inflation, they thought that this might be a good move. It wa? argued that they were not benefiting largely as a result of adjustments of the basic wage because, with each adjustment, prices rose automatically and they received very ‘little, if any, benefit from the adjustment. But there could be no justification for the freezing of the basic wage unless such action was accompanied by a rigid system of price and profit control. Such a system was not introduced. Because the cost of living did not stop rising after the freezing of the basic wage, prices and profits were not limited. The workers had a lower living standard forced upon them. The quarterly adjustments of the basic wage had not represented increases of the standard of living, but had merely compensated workers for increases of price? which had occurred since the previous adjustment of the basic wage.
Strangely enough, on this occasion th? Court decided that, for some time, a new basis had existed for the determination of the basic wage. The Court declared that no longer was the basic wage based on the needs of the average Australian .family, hut on the ability of industry to pay. By some strange .process, it reasoned that if the basic wage at that time had been determined on the basis of needs, it would have been reduced by ?2 10s. a week. The Court argued that workers were 25 per cent, better off than they had been in 1934. That was a most ridiculous statement. The workers who have the practical experience of providing for the every day needs of their families know that what has been termed the “basic wage” has .always been merely an existence wage. There could be no justification for freezing the income of the workers while people in manufacturing and commercial undertakings were permitted, in the absence of price control, to exploit the Australian community.
Since the basic wage was frozen, profits have mounted enormously. I shall cite a few cases to illustrate that commercial concerns have actually benefited by th, freezing of the basic wage and harp noi ceased to exploit the community. In the year ended the 30th June, 1954, - the latest year for -which I have been able to obtain figures - Glyde Industries Limited, made a nett profit of £337,000, an increase over the previous year’s profit of 53 per cent. That profit was made after the company had put aside £196,000 for taxation, £137,000 for depreciation, and £110,000 for additional reserves. The company’s stocks .had increased lay £284,000 .and its cash credits had increased by £100,000. The company disclosed a return of 18.4 per cent, on its capital after having paid preference dividends. Bitumen and Oil Henneries (Australia) Limited increased its profits by 51 per cent., having made extravagant provision for taxation, depreciation and reserves. That company’s profit represented 37.9 per cent, on its capital. Felt and Textiles of Australia Limited increased its profit by 38 per cent, after having made extensive provision for taxation, depreciation, moneys carried forward, and the reduction of its overdraft by £326,000. Taking all these figures into account, the actual profit nf the company was over £2,000,000, representing a return of 16.8 per cent, on its ordinary capital, after paying preference dividends. The ordinary dividend rate was raised from 8 per cent, to 10 .per cent. The payment of those dividends .required a distribution of only 63.3 per cent of .the actual profit. Myer’s Emporium-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is dealing with certain companies. He has asked permission to discuss the great hardship and the serious anomolies caused by the continued failure to make .provision for automatic wage adjustments to cover the rising costs of .living.
– “With due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that this is one of the anomalies, because the income of t-he -workers who produce this wealth is limited. Their basic wage has been “frozen, while those people who employ them are continuing to make enormously increased profits. That is one of the anomalies .involved in the freezing of the basic wage. In any case, .in deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I shall merely mention one other instance. The Myer Emporium in its year’s operations improved its profits by just on 25 per centafter making extensive provision for taxation, depreciation, &c.
As far back as 1950, the Prime Minister himself declared that these undertakings were making extravagant profits. If they have since substantially increase.d their profit-earning capacity, I should hate to hear the words the Prime Minister would have to use to describe their profit position at the .moment. In 1950, the Prime Minister made two broadcasts. He will probably .remember them. He made them on the 5th October and the 6th October, 1950. The first one was entitled “Rising Prices - Why?”.; and the second was called, “Rising Prices - The Answer”. The Prime Minister then promised the Australian community that, in order to deal with these extravagant profits, the ‘Government of which he was the head would introduce an excess profits tax. That tax has never been introduced. One of the supporters of the Government said in this House “last night that the Government had honoured all its election promises. “This is one promise that the Government has not honoured and, ] suggest, has no intention of honouring. When we have repeatedy questioned honorable members opposite on this subject, we have been told that the Government would make its proposal retrospective to the 30th June, 1950. I well recollect that the Prime Minister himself in this chamber on one occasion, when the Government was questioned on this matter of an excess profits tax, said, in effect, “There is no need to worry, it does not matter whether the legislation is introduced next week, next month or next year, because it will be made retrospective to the 30th June, 1950”. As we are still awaiting that measure, those profits continue to soar, while the wages of workers of this country are still frozen, lt is an act of complete. injustice to freeze the wages of workers while other people are allowed to go on exploiting the community to the extent to which they are doing.
It might be argued that there are insurmountable difficulties to the imposition of an excess profits tax, but the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not think so in 1939 when he was in Opposition and waa speaking on the Supply and Development Bill. He said on that occasion -
There is nothing to prevent the government from operating a definite scheme for profit limitation.
As the Treasurer is an accountant aud has been in business in that capacity for many years in this country, he should know something about accountancy; and that is what he said in 1939.
Let us consider what has happened in regard to the wages of workers who have been forced on to a lower living standard. The Acting Commonwealth Statistician declares that there lias been an increase in the cost of living since the introduction of the wage-freezing provisions in September, 1953. From that time until tho March quarter of this year, he says that there has been an increase in the cost of living of 1.4 per cent. I think that the increase has been greater than that. I am of the opinion that the Statistician’s figures do not take into account sufficient of the costs and charges that workers have to meet in providing for the everyday needs of themselves and their families. Consequently, those figures do not give a correct picture of the cost of living. With regard to the items which the Statistician does not take into account, there have been enormous increases in prices. As a result, the cost of living of the workers of this nountry has increased by a much higher percentage than the Commonwealth Statistician has stated. If we accept his figures as giving a correct assessment of the position - and I have already demonstrated that they really minimize the difficulties of the workers in this regard - we find that the freezing of the basic wage since September, 1953, has caused substantial losses to the workers. As a result, the worker in Sydney has lost £12 7s. ; the worker in Melbourne, £5 17s. ; the worker in Brisbane, £24 14s.; the worker in Adelaide, £16 18s.; the worker in Perth, £64 7s.; and the worker in Hobart, £35 2s. Those are the losses that individual workers in all the capital cities have been compelled to suffer since the basic wage was frozen.
However, the Government has not hesitated to give to other groups of people enormous increases in salaries. Let us consider the increases that are to be paid to members of the judiciary.
– Order! A bill dealing with judicial salaries is at present before the House.
– Increases to members of the judiciary were announced by the Government and are at present being paid, and they have received publicity in the press. I refer, not to any measure now before the Parliament, but specifically to the announcement made some time ago by the Government, which did not find any legal difficulty in increasing judges’ salaries. The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, announced that these payments would later be validated; and that is exactly what the Government now proposes to do.
– Is the honorable member talking about judges’ salaries?
– The Prime Minister anticipated the approval of the Parliament.
– Is the honorable member talking about judges’ salaries?
– I repeat that the right honorable gentleman anticipated the approval of the Parliament.
– As usual, the honorable member’s statements are untrue.
– The Prime Minister anticipated the Parliament’s approval of these enormous increases. You, Mr. Speaker, may recall that when I reduced the increases to a weekly basis the right honorable gentleman objected. I state unequivocally that I consider that judges occupy very high and responsible positions.
– Order! The honorable member may not now discuss judges’ salaries. A bill that deals with those salaries is at present before the House, and in the debate upon it the honorable gentleman will have the opportunity to say what he likes about the salaries of members of the judiciary.
– I am dealing, not with a bill that is before the House, but with public statements made by the Prime
Minister when he announced a decision of the Government.
– -Order ! A bill that deals specifically with the salaries of judges is at present before the House, and, unless I misunderstand the position, this matter relates to that measure.
– The bill validates action that the Government has already taken.
– That statement is untrue.
– It is not untrue. It is correct. The Prime Minister announced in his speech yesterday that the bill referred to seeks to validate action that has been taken.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat. We are getting into very deep water. It is a rule of this House that an honorable member shall not refer to matters that are already before the House. Anything that the honorable member for East Sydney wishes to say about the salaries of members of the judiciary might more properly be said when the relevant bill is under discussion.
– .Very well, Mr. Speaker. I take it, then, that there will be no objection to my referring to the increased salaries granted to State judges, of which the Prime Minister has expressed approval.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– -The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has dished up to us a speech the bulk of which we all have heard about 25 times. The subject-matter to which the honorable member addressed himself happens to be within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The honorable member’s arguments, if they are arguments - they consist chiefly of abuse - might well be addressed to tins court. I wish simply to remind the House and the people that just as the quarterly adjustments were the creation of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and could not have been created by this Parliament, because it has no power to deal with them, so the suspension of the quarterly adjustments was the work of the court and had nothing to do with this Parliament. It is well known that the Australian Council of Trades Unions, as I have read, contemplates approaching the court to re-open this matter. If the council does so, the court is perfectly competent to hear all sensible argument, to examine all the relevant evidence, and to arrive at a sensible conclusion. The court, and not this Parliament, which has no authority in this matter, is the place for arguments of the sort advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney. In order to avoid a painful waste of public time in this Parliament I move -
That the Business of the Day be called on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28th October, 1954 (vide page 2482, Vol. 5), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House on the 20th October, be printed : - Royal Commission on Espionage - Interim Report, dated 21st October, 1954.
– The interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage was last before this House on the 28th October, 1954. That was a very significant and busy day for the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and an important day in the political history of this country, because on it occurred two events that were closely connected. First, the Leader of the Opposition attempted in this House to justify his unjustifiable conduct before the Royal Commission, and at the same time, the federal executive of the Australian Labour party met at the Hotel Kingston in Canberra and set in train the series of events that led to the “ Moscow “ trial of the Victorian branch of the Labour party. It set in motion events which culminated in a “ people’s trial “ and the wrecking of the Labour party of Victoria. Involved in that trial were certain men such as Mr. Chamberlain, who has recently achieved notoriety because he has been promoted to the presidency of the Labour party as a reward for his work in wrecking the
Victorian branch ; because he will not join a union despite the fact that he sits on the Australian Council of Trades Unions; and because of the honorable mention that he has received in the official publication of the Cominform for his work on behalf of an avowed and wellknown Communist front organization in this’ country.
– Order ! Will the honorable member get on with the question of the Royal Commission?
– I was saying that, on a certain day, two closely connected events took place. We have to look at one to see the connexion with the other. The first was the smashing of the Victorian Labour party as a result of the unjust, dishonest and undemocratic procedures of the federal executive. The other was the astonishing conduct of the Leader of the Opposition before the Petrov Royal Commission. The connexion between those two events is obvious because it is an undoubted fact that the Leader of the Opposition, by appearing before the Petrov Royal Commission, ostensibly on behalf of members of his staff, but in reality - and there is no doubt about this - for and on behalf of Rupert Lockwood and the Communist party, and by prostituting his position as Leader of the Australian Labour party by acting on behalf of the Communist party in that manner, put himself into a completely impossible position. The long-suffering backbench members of the Australian Labour party, who included members who now sit in this corner, at that stage had had enough. They could no longer tolerate the impossible, anti-Australian conduct and activities of the Leader of the Opposition. It was quite clear that, at that stage, the Leader of the Opposition had cooked his goose; that he was. finished; and that his term had run to an end.
If the people who aspired to his position had acted with a little bit of resolution, with a little bit of decision, and with a little bit of courage, at that critical time, they would have upset him and would have got rid of him. They would have conferred upon the Australian Labour party and the people of
Australia the great boon of putting him in a position where he would not have been able to continue his damaging activities. But because those gentlemen who aspired to- his position fumbled and hesitated, they missed their opportunity. While they were fumbling and hesitating, and while they were planning to bring about their coup, he, the master tactician, got in before them. Everybody must take off their hats to the right honorable gentleman, and give him full credit for his mastery of tactics. As the master tactician, he beat them and got in first, and launched his famous diversionary tactic to divert attention from his own misdeeds, and from his shocking and inexcusable conduct before the royal commission. He launched, through the. columns of the press, this unheard of and unparalleled attack upon members of the Australian Labour party purely and simply as a diversionary tactic. It is interesting to recall that the members of the Labour party in Victoria, including the members of the executive of the party in that State-
– Order ! The honorable member is not dealing with the paper that is before the House. The Victorian Labour party is not covered by the interim report.
– I am dealing with the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, and I am submitting to the House that the conduct of the Leader of the Opposition before the royal commission, which is dealt with in detail in the interim report, was responsible for his attack upon the Labour party in Victoria, which resulted in the wrecking of the party in that State. T submit that it is quite relevant to refer to such matters. There is no question about the fact that the right honorable gentleman, as a master tactician, had to divert attention from the sorry plight into which he had got himself before the royal commission, and he succeeded in doing so by making an unfounded attack upon the members of the Labour party. It is from that event that all of the troubles within the Labour party-
– Order ! The troubles of the Australian Labour party were not investigated by the royal commission.
– Why does the honorable member not grow up?
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson must cease interjecting.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I quite understand the discomfiture of some honorable members when the conduct of the Leader of the Opposition before the royal commission is brought before their minds. Where is the right honorable gentleman to-day? Why is he not in his place? Why has he been absent all last week and almost all this week? He is absenting himself from the House, and from his responsibilities in the National Parliament, because he is running around Victoria and making false charges and base allegations against honorable members who sit in this corner of the chamber. He is doing so in a manner that is quite familiar to us.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat for a moment. I ask him, for the last time, to deal with the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage. Events in Victoria to which he has referred are not covered by that report.
– My word, they are.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, I shall merely say that the Leader of the Opposition is in Victoria now and is making all sorts of unfounded charges and base allegations directed-
– Order ! The honorable member may not proceed along that line.
– Mr. Speaker—
– Order ! The honorable member must resume his seat. I warn him for the last time that he must deal with the Petrov commission. The Leader of the Opposition is referred to m the Interim Report of that commission, but his activities in Victoria at the present time are subsequent to the issuing of that report, and are not covered by it.
– I shall make no further reference to the activities of the right honorable gentleman in Victoria, beyond saying that what he is doing there has a familiar ring. I have the Interim Report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, and I find that the general course of conduct of the right honorable gentleman, not in Victoria on this occasion, but in Sydney before the Petrov royal commission, followed a line. However, in Sydney, there were three eminent gentlemen who were able to examine and give judgment on what he was doing, namely, Mr. Justice Owen. Mr. Justice Philp, and Mr. Justice Ligertwood.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member will cease interjecting. His voice is not so musical as it usually is.
– Bearing in mind the background I have mentioned, T find it interesting to read an extract from the Interim Report of the royal commission, in which the learned judges make the following statement: -
Dr. Evatt conceived the theory that he and the political party which he leads had been made the victims of a political conspiracy.
– That is true.
– I am surprised that any honorable member would agree that it is true. The report, referring to Dr. Evatt, continues -
He proceeded to cross-examine the witnesses before us with that in mind.
This is the familiar note -
Charge after charge followed with bewilder ing variations. Suggestions were made of blackmail, forgery, uttering, fabrication, fraud and conspiracy.
Those are the words of the three independent, impartial and learned judges who sat on this commission. I think they gave those charges a much more patient hearing than was warranted by the conduct of the right honorable gentleman before them. They made a full and patient investigation into this series of bewildering and amazing charges which he placed before them, and they sura up, in paragraph 42 of their report, as follows : -
All the charges turned, out to be fantastic and wholly unsupported by any credible evidence.
On that occasion, the right honorable gentleman, when he appeared before the Petrov royal commission, lashed out in all directions, and attached everybody within his purview; that is, everybody except Rupert Lockwood and the Communist party. Nobody else escaped the vigour of his attack. He lashed out at all and sundry, and made these wild and irresponsible charges which, as the judges said, were fantastic and wholly unsupported by any credible evidence.
Taking my mind back to the events of those days, I must say that I was shocked and horrified to find that a man who had been a member of the High Court - a member of the judiciary - should make bitter attacks upon other members of the judiciary. I admit he did not. make these attacks in public, but he made them in a caucus meeting of this party. I shall not repeat them here, as I do not wish to give them any publicity. Then he made wild, unsubstantiated and irresponsible attacks against the security service of this country.
It is worth recalling that the security service was set up by the Chifley Government for the very necessary purpose of protecting the Australian people against espionage, and against the activities of the Communists in this country. Whoso cause did the Leader of the Opposition serve when he smeared and attacked the security service, and made all those irresponsible and unsubstantiated attacks, charging blackmail, forgery, and dereliction of duty against the security service? Those matters were dealt with in the report of the judges, who showed just how completely irresponsible the right honorable member was when he made the charges at that time, just as he is completely irresponsible in the charges that he is makins; now in another part of the country. The royal commissioners stated as follows : -
The evidence entirely disposes of all suggestions of improper or negligent conduct on (he part of Richards or any officer of the security service. Indeed, we think that those officers acted with high intelligence and complete propriety in difficult and delicate circumstances.
On whose behalf was the right honorable gentleman trying to undermine the faith and confidence of the people of this country in the security service, which, honorable members should not forget, waa set up by the Chifley Government? Who are the people who profited by that action of the right honorable gentleman? Who are the people who profited by the fact that, in the course of his conduct, he unmasked a secret undercover agent of the security service who was obtaining valuable information about the operations and activities of the Communist party? Who benefited by that work? I put it to the House that the Communist party, and the Communist party alone, benefited from the work of the Leader of the Opposition through the pernicious, dangerous and anti-Australian conduct in which he indulged before the Royal Commission on Espionage, and the attacks that he made on all and sundry.
When we look at the work that he has been doing in the public life of this country we find that there is a pattern, a consistent thread running through the whole of it. Honorable members will remember the actions that he took in the Department of External Affairs that lie administered under the last Labour Government, when he improperly, and contrary to all the traditions of the Public Service, picked out a junior man and made him the secretary of that department. That man was Dr. John Burton. Honorable members also remember the appointments that followed in that department, and his conduct since that time, and not only before the Royal Commission on Espionage. Let us consider his work at the Hobart conference of the Australian Labour party, and his work in Victoria. A consistent thread runs through the whole of his work that benefits the Communist party. It does not benefit the Australian people, and it certainly does not benefit the Labour party. If the members of the Labour party who are sitting here were honest–
-Order ! The honorable member may not use that expression. All members of this House are honorable and honest.
– If the honorable members of the Opposition would examine their consciences, they would admit that the work of the Leader of the Opposition certainly has not been in the interests of the Australian Labour party.
What a tragedy it is when we consider the implications of this report, when we consider its scathing denouncement and scathing condemnation of the work of the right honorable member for Barton, and we recall that this man almost became the Prime Minister of Australia ! Moreover, he still, quite conceivably - theoretically at any rate -could become Prime Minister, because of the position that he occupies. I put it to the members of the Australian Labour party that they have a clear duty to this country to rid Australia of the right honorable gentleman by depriving him of the position which he holds as leader of the Labour party. If they do so, they will be doing something that the people want them to do, and something which will be in the interests of this country.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is rather interesting that the group who sit in the corner after having been expelled from the Labour party should select as their advocate on this occasion a former member of the Australian Country party. This gentleman’s one theme is an attack upon the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He asks, “ Where is the Leader of the Opposition ?”. I am quite certain that had the right honorable gentleman known that by collusion between that group and the Government this matter was to be brought before the House to-day, he would have been here in his place; but the fact is, and I have the evidence to prove it, that the group in the corner waited until the Leader of the Opposition had gone to Victoria on party business to make an attack upon him. They manoeuvred this situation just as the Government manoeuvred on the first occasion and had this matter raised in the House at a time when the Leader of the Opposition had been called to Sydney on business. The reason why the House is having this discussion to-day is that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Bourke) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) had an’ agreement with the Government to bring the discussion on now. That action was taken particularly and specifically for the sake of the Victorian State elections.
– I rise to order. As Leader of the House I deny the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in its entirety.
– That is not a point of order.
– I rise to order. My first knowledge that this debate was to come on was when I was informed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that he had made arrangements with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in regard to the matter.
– Order I That is not a point of order, either.
– Let us deal with the point raised by the honorable gentleman from Yarra and the Vice-President of the Executive Council in order to see whether there has been collusion. Is it not a fact that the Government never intended to bring this interim report back to the Parliament for further discussion!
– I refer the VicePresident of the Executive Council to a reply that the Prime Minister gave to a question by me in this House on the 2nd November, 1954. Honorable members will recollect that when this matter was first debated in the House the Prime Minister took all but a minute of the time available to him, and asked leave to continue his remarks at a later date. That meant the adjournment of the debate. On the 2nd November, my question to the Prime Minister was -
Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to make arrangements for the resumption of the debate on the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage during the present sittings of the Parliament? If not, will the right honorable gentleman state whether it. is a fact that this is the only occasion in the history of the Australian Parliament on which a debate of such importance has been gagged after such a short discussion? Will he state specifically his reason for curtailing such an important discussion, in which the Australian public has evidenced great interest?
The Prime Minister’s reply, to which I refer the Vice-President of the Executive Council, was in these words -
I do not propose to have tha debate listed for continuation. . . .
The Prime Minister regarded the debate as closed, and I ask the Vice-President of “the Executive Council why it has been brought on again to-day?
– Ask your deputy leader.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is given the opportunity f am quite certain that he will deny the allegation that is made against him. It was the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Fawkner who entered into collusion with the Government to bring this discussion on here, particularly at a time when the Leader of the Opposition was not present. Let me have something to say about the interim report of the .royal commission. The honorable .member for Fawkner spoke about the security service and how Labour .established it and built it up. He should know a great deal about the security service because the members of the group with which he is associated are and have been the agents of the security service, as can be shown. The honorable member for Yarra is co-editor, I understand, of a paper known as the News Weekly, even if his name is not mentioned in the journal. I understand that he assists Mr. Santamaria in the editing of it.
– A scab journalist.
– Order ! The .honorable member for Parkes will withdraw that remark.
– What remark? If 1 said he was a scab journalist I withdraw it.
– Order ! The term “ scab “ is unparliamentary, and no honorable member may apply it to any member of this House. The honorable member has withdrawn it?
– Yes, with pleasure.
– I say that the honorable member for Yarra is the co-editor of the News Weekly.
– What a scabby lot they are.
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the honorable member for Yarra has referred to members on the Opposition side as a scabby lot. I take exception to -that, and if the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had to withdraw the term “ scab “., so too should the honorable member for Yarra have to withdraw it as it is offensive m me.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Yarra used that term he shall certainly withdraw it.
– They are led by a nonunionist, and I see no reason why it is noi a proper term to apply to the members behind the honorable member for Barton. “Mr. SPEAKER-Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party will withdraw that remark.
– Mr. Speaker, in deferens to the Chair, I withdraw it.
– I can understand tinanxiety of the honorable member fo» Yarra to interrupt my remarks. Over twelve months ago, before thi* matter was revealed in the House, the News Weekly was able ‘to declare that there was at the Soviet Legation an agent who was prepared to give information to the Commonwealth and intended to seek refuge in this country. Did the newspaper not boast about it? It said, “ Over twelve months ago we told yon -what was happening”, and I will tell the House why it was able to tell these things. I am not able to say whether those associated with the member for Yarra are the paid agents of the security service, but they are agents. They have a contact with the security service because they knew what information the security service was getting. There was a -leak between them and the security service. Did .not the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Gellibrand (.Mr. Mullens) go about the corridors of this House before the documents were produced at the royal commission, telling all and sundry what documents were in the possession of the security service ? Of course they did ! They had this tie-up with the security service.
It is rather interesting that this alleged Labour group did not have one word to say about the discrepancy between the evidence of Mr. Richards, the deputy chief of the security service, and Colonel
Spry, the chief of the security service, and a statement of the Prime Minister in this House. They concentrated all their attack on their pet-hate, the Leader of the Opposition. Why did they concentrate their attack on him? They did so simply because the Leader of the Opposition exposed their treachery before the federal executive of the Australian Labour party - the treachery that led to their expulsion. Let us examine the conflict between the Prime Minister’s speech and the evidence given before the royal commission. When the Prime Minister made a statement in this chamber on the 12th August, 1954, he conflicted with the sworn evidence given at the royal commission by Mr. Richards and Colonel Spry. Members who are interested can turn to page 284 of - Hansard and they will find that the Prime Minister said this - . . the name of Petrov became known to me for the first time on Sunday night, the 11th April, I think, or the preceding Saturday night.
The Prime Minister was quite certain as between those two dates. It was either Saturday night, the tenth, or Sunday night, the 11th April. When Mr. Richards, the deputy chief of the security service, gave his evidence before the royal commission he declared that the documents handed over by Petrov were delivered on the 3rd April, 1954, and then lie swore that he and Colonel Spry had an appointment with the Prime Minister at Canberra at 5 p.m. on the 4th April - the next evening. Honorable members can see the discrepancy in the dates. According to the Prime Minister, he first heard Petrov’s name on the 10th or ‘the 11th April. Does anybody suggest that these gentlemen could have had a conference with the Prime Minister that lasted for some considerable time without once mentioning Petrov’s name? What did they discuss if they did not mention Petrov’s name? The Prime Minister was not called before the royal commission to give evidence on thi3 important discrepancy. He said he was advised of what was transpiring for the first time on the 11th April. The matter after consultations went before Cabinet on the 13th April, and the bill establishing the royal commission was introduced into this chamber on the 14th of that month. Amazingly, he also declared that he had not heard anything about the payment of £5,000 to Petrov until the 9th May. That was over a month later. The disclosures made by the deputy chief of the security service -were that he and Colonel Spry had had a long interview with the Prime Minister on the 4th April, yet the Prime Minister said that he knew nothing df the payment of -£5,000 to Petrov until the 9th May, when he was half way through an election campaign. Who in Australia will believe the Prime Minister? Is it not quite illogical to argue that the gentlemen concerned would be discussing the whole matter, including the documents that were handed over, and not mention one word about the £5,000? The matter was not mentioned in thi* Parliament on the 13th April, because the Prime Minister said that he did not know about it. He says he did not know about it until the 9 th May. Does anybody believe the statement of the right honorable gentleman that he heard Petrov’s name for the first time on the 11th April? “What are the facts? Has it not been disclosed in evidence that the £5,000 was shown to Petrov on the 20th March? That is the sworn evidence of the deputy chief of the security service. It has been said that Petrov was not induced to hand over the documents by offering a financial consideration. The £5,000, so it is said, had nothing to do with it. It was not the purchase price. Is it not a fact that, in evidence, Mr. Richards said that he took the £5;000 in notes in a bag to a flat in Kings Cross, Sydney, and laid the money before Petrov so that he could see it as a sort of bait to entice him? Mr. Richards did not give the money to Petrov then. He took it back. Petrov was ‘not to get the £5,000 until he handed the documents over. According to the Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman was not, at that time, told about tue £5,000. Does anybody suggest that tub payment of £5,000 by a public servant, no matter how high his position, would be done without the authority of a responsible member of the Government ? Does anybody suggest that £5j000 is such a trivial sum of money that it can be handed over at the will of some member of the Public Service? That is what honorable members are asked to believe. Let me repeat what the Prime Minister said on the 13th April. The right honorable gentleman said then -
Petrov had written, “I ask for protection for myself and assistance to establish myself comfortably in this country “.
Did not the Prime Minister ask any member of the security service, when Petrov made that statement, what kind of assistance Petrov wanted? Did not the right honorable gentleman ask what Petrov regarded as being comfortably established in this country, or was the Prime Minister so simple and naive that he believed that the matter should be left entirely to the security service? Apparently the Prime Minister would have us believe that he did not ask for any details. I say quite definitely that the prime Minister had been kept fully informed at all times of what was going on. In evidence, members of the security service said that they had had approx]mately 200 meetings with Dr. Bialaguski or Dr. “ Bottle-o’ Whisky “ or a person with some such name, and Dr. Beckett. Yet the Prime Minister would have us believe that he had not been told one word of what was transpiring in respect of such an important and serious matter. On the 12th August, 1954, the Prime Minister replied to a question that had been directed to him by the Leader of the Opposition in a radio broadcast. The Prime Minister repeated the question in this House, and he said -
The Leader of the Opposition asked me, “ Did the Commonwealth Government or the Security Service employ on intermediary or intermediaries to bargain with Petrov during 1053, and lias any sum of money been paid or promised to this intermediary or intermediaries “ ? The answer is, “ I do not know “.
I am one of those in this chamber, and there are others, who did not believe the Prime Minister when he said he did not know about that matter. I might be pardoned for mentioning that, despite all the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition, there was nothing stated against him in the famous Document J, but other honorable members of this Parliament were mentioned. It is rather strange that the Royal Commission on Espionage in
Australia did not call all the persons mentioned in Document J to give evidence. Why were they not called? Why was there any discrimination? Why were some only selected? Who was selected and by what process? When all is said and done, the whole thing looks like a political stunt. The judges were carefully selected, as has already been stated in this chamber-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the inference to be drawn from the statement by the honorable member for East Sydney that judges were carefully selected is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Standing Orders of this House
– Order ! Personally, I should hope that the Government would always carefully select judges for a royal commission.
– I was objecting to the inference.
– I shall not waste time on this matter because the facts are known. Various States were invited to submit the names of judges for appointment to the commission. Certain names were submitted to the Australian Government and certain judges were rejected. I am not saying anything about the present occupants of the position. I merely say that they were carefully selected, and that the judges first nominated by some of the States approached were not accepted by the Government.
What was the conduct of some of those associated with the royal commission itself? Before the royal commission began to sit, the Petrovs were entertained by Mr. Windeyer Q.C., who was supposed to be assisting the commission and not representing the Petrovs. Yet photographs were published in the newspapers of Mr. Windeyer entertaining the Petrovs at afternoon tea. I believe that action was most extraordinary. Mr. Windeyer should have regarded the Petrovs as witnesses before the royal commission and nothing more, people who would be subject to crossexamination by him. The same criticism can he directed to the Christmas party that was arranged in Sydney for certain participants in the royal commission proceedings.
Not all were invited. Dr. Evatt was not invited, nor were others. Those who went to the Christmas party were carefully selected. The judges and some counsel were there, and the Petrovs and other witnesses took part in the Christmas festivities, while the sittings of the royal commission were still in progress. I say without hesitation - and I have discussed this matter with a number of legal men - that some of the witnesses who appeared before the royal commission, including the Petrovs, were not subjected to proper cross-examination. That was one of the reasons why Dr. Evatt had to be excluded from the royal commission. Honorable members may have forgotten the circumstances in which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was excluded - it was because in his public capacity he made a statement in defence of Madame Oilier against whom false charges had been made. We know now that they were false because Madame Ollier’s name has since been completely cleared. Madame Oilier was whisked out of the country with the connivance of the Government, acting in collusion with the French authorities in Australia, so that she would not have an opportunity of refuting the allegations made against her and of confronting the person who was making the charges against her. Madame Oilier has now been completely cleared of those charges.
I direct my attention now to Document J. I do not think it is important who wrote it because Lockwood, a member of the Communist party, has admitted that he gave certain written submissions to the Soviet legation, and it is quite possible that a great deal of the material might have originated with Lockwood. I- do not believe that that is important, but I believe that is it most likely that something happened to that document between the time it went into the possession of the security service and the time when it was produced to the royal commission, because I understand that when it went to the commission it was in in fact a collection of documents. I ask sensible persons to examine one point in connexion with this matter. Doe3 anybody imagine that if Lockwood sat down to write such a voluminous report on the position in Australia, he would not have mentioned the name of the Prime Minister, whom the Communists regard as their arch enemy? I suggest - and honorable members have heard this statement previously - that before that document went before the commission, it had been edited, and that any reference to the Prime Minister, and to members of the Government, had been deleted. The document that went to the commission was not complete. Unfortunately, time will not allow me to prove that fact.
– Order I The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 5 th May, (vide page 451), on motion by Mr. Wentworth -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition has a number of views to offer upon this measure. I have been a member of thi3 Parliament for fifteen years and, so far as I can recall, this is the first occasion on which a private member’s bill has reached the stage of debate. Other private member’s bills may have been introduced, but they were not proceeded with.
This bill sets out to establish a council of civil defence, and empowers that body, if it is set up, to do many things for the defence of the nation, in cooperation with State governments. The bill presumes that the defence powers of the Commonwealth are not adequate to cover measures necessary to protect the country against attacks before they begin. It even presumes that the defence power will not be strong enough to enable the Commonwealth to assume powers such as were contained in the National Security Act, which was in operation during World War II. The Labour party disagrees with that contention. The Opposition believes that the Australian Government has power, under the Constitution, to do everything in peace and in war to protect all the citizens of this nation and all the property of the nation, against enemy attack. If the defence power of the Commonwealth cannot accomplish those things it is not a defence power at all.
I am not now referring to the Defence Preparations Act which this Government passed some years ago and later repealed. I am dealing with the possibility of an enemy attack. I is likely that in future wars, armies may not meet because missiles will be propelled from bases hundreds of miles from, the targets at which they are aimed, and the victims of the explosion following the landing of those missiles will suffer as much damage as if the enemy were actually invading our shores and was firing, not thermo-nuclear missiles, but what are so delightfully called. “ conventional weapons “. Even the atomic bomb is now entering the “ conventional “ class. The hydrogen bomb is regarded as the extraordinary weapon.
Members of the Opposition, in. common with all honorable members in this House - and, I imagine, every citizen of this country - are anxious that Australia should be protected from attack by an enemy in war, and from any landings that he might try to make, and from attacks from distant bases. I believe that the world want3 peace. It may be a vain hope, because the Scriptures say that there shall be wars and rumours of wars. I am confident that peoples on both sides of the iron curtain want peace. I do not think that the Russian people are any more war-mongering, or desirous of engaging in war, than are the populations of the Western democracies. If the unfortunate German people had been left to themselves, they would not have entered World War II.; but they were under the control of an iron dictatorship and were forced into it by their leaders. I consider that if a free vote of the peoples of the world were taken, they all would vote for peace. But if war cannot be outlawed, the peoples of the world certainly desire a plan for the inspection and control of atomic weapons under the- authority of the United Nations. It may well be that at meetings to be held in the near future between the representatives of the great Powers,, something might be done to ban thermonuclear weapons. This-, also, may be a vain hope, but the responsibility of this Parliament is to deal with the- situation as it exists in Australia.
Although the Opposition does not like the plan set forth in the bill, it commends the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for bringing the- matter to the attention of the House, and also for the thought that he has given to the whole matter. If the honorable member would continue- along the lines of reasoning- such as he has demonstrated in his writings about atomic weapons, and forsook other lines of thought which he has expressed on other subjects, both in this House and elsewhere, members of this side of the House would be inclined to agree even more wholeheartedly with his view9 on this question. However, the Opposition offers no criticism of his warning that the world is facing a very doubtful future. We do not object to his telling this House, and placing on record, what was contained in the British White Paper presented in the House of Commons last February. Great Britain., of course, is more vulnerable than Australia. It is a tight little island of 2,000 square miles area, and has a population of 50,000,000. The territory of Australia is 3,000,000 square miles, but its population numbers only 9,000,000. The entire population of this Commonwealth is approximately only equal to that of the City of London - a metropolis that is a first-rate target for an atomic bomb, as also are Sydney, Melbourne and every Australian capital city. Unfortunately, over the years,, governments in Australia have seen fit to help, and have certainly not hindered, the aggregations of people in large numbers in small areas. Sydney has an area of about 20 miles by 20 miles, and Melbourne is of similar size. In those 800 square miles of Australia’s total area of 3,000,000 square miles, live more than 3,000,000 of its 9,000,000 people. If such concentrated communities could be dispersed and industries decentralized into wider areas, the population would have a better chance of survival in the event of war. It may well be that, in the event of a third world war, time will favour Australia and its people. En the scheme of things, we are not so important as other countries and their vast populations. Of course, populations themselves provide targets, but the industries which they operate and maintain, and which are indispensible to a complete war effort, would naturally be the objects that an enemy would wish to destroy as quickly as possible. “We are grateful to thehonorable memfer for Mackellar for drawing attention to the fact that, although a grave danger faces Australia and other nations realize their responsibilities, this country is not grappling with the problem. The honorable member has pointed out that only £90,000 has been appropriated for expenditure on civil defence in the current financial year. The honorable member with mathematical certainty, deduced that this Government is spending only 2½d. a head of population this year on preparations for civil defence. He very readily points out also the vital fact that in Great Britain, on a population basis, at least 160 times as much isbeing spent. He was not able to give figures for the United States of America, but from my regular reading of leading American newspapers, I have learned that the rate of expenditure in that country on civil defence has reached astronomical proportions. The people of the United States are becoming conscious of the dangers confronting them. They engage in exercises to disperse the populations of cities so as to ascertain how rapidly people could reach safety, and also what danger and damage would be caused if they could not be evacuated quickly. Honorable members are aware that within recent days, an experiment was conducted in Nevada at a city specially built to test the effects of atomic blast. After an atomic explosion, trained personnel of the American armed forces moved into the area to observe how many persons would have survived the effect of that blast. The result, as published in the press, was startling and terrible.
Having made those observations about the general question of atomic warfare as it affects Australia, I should like to deal specifically with the plan for civil defence, as outlined by the honorable member for
Mackellar. He proposes the establishment of a council of . 26 persons. By an extraordinary process of reasoning, he wishes to have eight representatives of the Australian Parliament on that council. The other eighteen persons would be appointed by the Governors of the States. Each Governor would appoint no more than three members. Any number so appointed in excess of one are to be members of the Parliament of the State. The Opposition considers that there is no need for this co-ordination of effort between this Parliament and the State parliaments. It is necessary to have a Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which housing may be provided for the Australian people, because the Commonwealth has not complete constitutional powers to deal with housing. In matters of defence, however, the Commonwealth has complete powers. Whenever war breaks out, the Australian Parliamentquickly enacts legislation which is validated, on appeal, by the High Court of Australia. That happened in “World War I. in the case of the War Precautions Act, and similarly in World War II., when the National Security Act was passed.
I think that if I could read the minds of the learned judges now on the High Court bench, they would so rule again. If the Australian Parliament passed an act to protect Australia against enemy attack, that legislation would be validated, even though war were only a remote possibility. The Opposition agrees that some civil defence organization is necessary, but its view is that a council of civil defence of 26 members would be merely a committee of meddling busybodies. It is difficult to appreciate how such a council could be made to work, because at some stage, it would start to interfere with the proper discharge of the functions of government, both by the Commonwealth Minister who would be the chairman, and by Commonwealth officials who might be summoned beforethecounciltogiveevidence.Itis true that the bill provides that if a person such as the First Naval Member, the Chief of the General Staff, or the Chief of the Air Staff is summoned to give evidence, the witness may plead privilege. What a farce it would be to have a council of this sort summoning the very people who would have all the information, and then having them say that, in accordance with a ministerial direction, they would not be allowed to give evidence before the council. To make a provision of that sort, with a knowledge of the consequences of what would happen, would be to render the whole thing completely foolish.
The functions of the proposed council are extraordinarily wide. If they were validated, on appeal, by the High Court of Australia, it seems to me that the Australian Government itself could introduce legislation covering all these matters, with the equal certainty that it would not lose its case before the High Court either on general principles or in regard to details. On this aspect, clause 14 of the honorable member’s bill provides - (1. ) The functions of the Council are -
That, obviously, is a responsibility of the Australian Government. If it is not a responsibility of the Australian Government, why have an Australian Government at all ?Why not just leave all these matters to the six separate States? The next sub-clause reads -
In war, our armed forces function for the purpose of maintaining organized government and organized society in Australia. The honorable member wants to bring in a certain form of shared government responsibility, or a certain form of authority, to deal with the protection of society and the maintenance of organized government only in the event of an attack by an enemy using atomic or hydrogen weapons. Subclause (1. )(a.) gives the council power to protect the country against attack, and sub-clause (1.)(b) provides for machinery to help society to survive after an attack. I believe that the High Court of Australia would rule that those duties are inherent in any Australian government and, indeed, thai it would be the duty of the Australian Government to do those very things. Coming to the end of subclause (l.)(c), we find these words -
How can a council consider the distribution of powers? The council is not to be an authority with complete and extraordinary powers that override appeals to the High Court and all the rest of it. This council would have most arbitrary powers - powers that have never been used anywhere in this Commonwealth. No attempt has ever been made to use them in time of war, and they were not used in the last war when we had a scheme under the former Minister for Home Security, Mr. Lazzarini, in association with the States, to help the community in the event of enemy attack anywhere in Australia. We had a system of wardens, and other officers, who patrolled our streets and were trained for certain duties should emergencies arise. Returning to the question of the privileges of members for the protection of witnesses, they are such that I doubt that similar provisions will be found in any other legislation. It almost seems to me that the honorable gentleman is setting up a committee system similar to those which function in the United States of America, where any person in a high position can be brought before a committee and be asked then to give his evidence, without the public being admitted or the press being permitted to report the proceedings.
– It usually leaks out.
– After a while, as the Minister says, the information is either revealed to the public or some version is given out because somebody on the committee tells the story. If there were a council of 26 members such as the honorable gentleman suggests, and some of them were members of State parliaments, and others were university professors in charge of faculties of physics, chemistry, &c, there would not be the slightest hope of the evidence not being divulged to the public. That could be most improper.
A system of very strict censorship would have to be operating all the time to ensure that nothing of that sort was allowed to happen. Three persons would be appointed by the Minister to this committee. They would not be members of this Parliament. They could be three trade union leaders, three businessmen, three scientists, or any three persons at all. Their competence to carry the responsibility that would be cast upon them is not stated; no standards are stated, at any rate. I believe that the bill has been rather hastily drafted and that its premises are wrong. I did the honorable member the honour of reading his speech again to-day, and I find that his bill is really based on some advice given by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, a man of great distinction, whose views should be listened to with attention and respect. The honorable member quoted Viscount Montgomery’s statement as follows: -
Since nuclear attack is now a possibility, a nation must be able to absorb a surprise attack, and survive to continue the struggle. Therefore the whole framework of the civil defence organization must exist in peace, with a chief of civil defence and the essential means to implement the plan.
My understanding of that statement is that the chief of civil defence would be a high-ranking army officer or a highranking member of the defence forces, and not somebody who was concerned with civil defence merely because he was a member of a State parliament or of this Parliament, or somebody who proclaimed himself as an authority competent to decide just how to evacuate cities and so on. Great engineers and other persons with professional or technical knowledge . may be able to advise, but I think they ought to advise a properly elected government, and no one else.
I notice that the New South “Wales Government has set up a body to advise on civil defence, and other States may havedonethesame,butIdonotthink that in any case they have acted along the lines provided in the honorable member’s bill. Viscount Montgomery did not suggest the details of his plan. The honorable member, I think very properly, has tried to interpret what was in the
Field-Marshal’s mind, but his interpretation was quite wrong. The concluding words of Viscount Montgomery’s statement are -
Unless the framework of some sound civil defence organization is set up in peace, a nation will face disaster in a world war, since the home front will collapse.
There cannot be any question of the truth of that statement and the honorable member’s actions are praiseworthy, to the extent that he wishes to help, but he should not ask the House to accept this measure in its present form. When the bill passes the second reading, if it goes to a vote on the second reading, some indication should be given that in the committee stages the whole scheme will be subject, at the will of the House, to complete overhaul. If necessary, the idea of a council should be dispensed with, and authority vested in some Minister to start planning now for civil defence. It will be necessary to seek the co-operation of the State governments in respect of certain measures which they can properly take in a master plan to be administered under the authority of the Australian Government. I think that the honorable member, to use a colloquialism, is “ off the rails “ on certain of his proposals. I hope that the Government, whilst giving due consideration and thought to this matter, will seek the advice of its service officers. I am sure that they, who, by reason of their gallantry and their service and long experience, will have to bear the main burden of responsibility of advising the Government in this matter, will have the opportunity to tender their advice.
I have no doubt that since the bill was first explained on the 5th May, the Government has taken some advice on the matter. If so, I think the House ought to be told just what its responsible chiefs of staff think of the plan proposed by the honorable member, and he should be guided by their advice even though - if he will not mind my saying it - he had some slight difference with a distinguished fieldmarshal in World War II. as to the proper methods of protecting Sydney against a possible attack from the sea. At any rate, I commend the honorable member for much that he has done since he has been in this House. I think he might even yet become a statesman, like some others of his name, if he gives as much attention and thought to some of the other matters he mentions as he has given to the bill which he has explained to this House.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has spent a great deal of time and energy in research and, recently, money during his private trip overseas to. investigate the subject of civil defence. In my capacity as Minister I was only too pleased to do everything I could to assist him, because I felt that although we were in constant contact, as a government, with overseas experts, at the same time personal contact through a man of his capacity would be of very great value. It undoubtedly has been, as have certain papers he sent back to me about various conferences. Nevertheless, the Government cannot accept this bill. I agree with much that has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) with regard to the difficulties associated with the functioning of a council such as that proposed, in the bill. It would cut across all the arrangements and agreements under which the various State governments and federal authorities have been operating in perfect harmony.
The problem of civil defence is one of the most difficult, complex, and baffling problems that any government has to face in the present era of world tension. That tension expands and contracts according to the erratic temperature chart of the cold war, and the occasional bouts of fever of the hot war. The irresistible onward march of scientific knowledge as applied to nuclear physics in this atomic age continues its inexorable and persistent progress, and the requirements of civil defence tend constantly, not only to increase, but also to vary in emphasis. Therefore, on the one. hand there is a tendency to do nothing because what may be done to-day may prove to have been a waste of money to-morrow. On the other hand, there is a tendency in other quarters to over.-estimate. the. probable form and scale, of attack) and to become so disturbed that the economy of the country is unnecessarily dislocated and the normal, ebb and flow of life and liberty, is interrupted. This is. a very difficult, and complex problem.. When the barometer is pointing to “ storm “ and the winds are blowing, at gale force it is essential to have steady, hands at the helm, but one also needs, minds that, are alert to the dangers, and clear, strong words of command. That is not an. easy state of affairs to attain when the problem is as complex as this one.
The red radios have been turning on typhoons of persistent and powerful propaganda, not only in South-East Asia but wherever their radio waves have been able to penetrate, to the calm and quietness of the home fireside. The objective of the reds has been to create a bombhappy atmosphere in as wide a sphere a* possible in the free world. One of their most powerful weapons has been the creation of an atmosphere of despair alternating with a desire for panic action, resulting in economic dislocation. Others may say that their objective has been to cause nothing to be done by accentuating the cost of what some people consider should be done. Amid such a whirling welter of conflicting ideas and emotions it is not easy to choose the wisest course. It is very easy to be critical.
I mention these facts, not because I want to praise the action of the Government or condemn the advocacy of its critics, but merely to emphasize the difficulty of making- correct decisions which will meet with the approval of” the vast majority and have relation to the altering course of events. Last month, one of the best informed sources in the world gave the. following advice: -
The problem of radio-active fall-out ia a new and major element in the assumption for the. fiscal year 195G.
In other words, this is a hitherto unknown problem the danger and importance of which has only just been realized. The statement continued -
The planning assumptions in the following pages are based on £he most recent known or estimated capabilities of X. to attack Y. These planning assumptions are not to be regarded as predictions of what X. would do if they d« attack. For obvious reasons, there can be no precision in predicting the type of attack that might be visited on this- country, the pattern ofl that attack, or the- weapons that might be used.
That is an. example of the extent to which conditions are altering. New knowledge is being gained from day to day, and the pattern of civil defence must be varied. I acknowledge that I. obtained that information from one of the documents that the honorable member for Mackellar sent to me when he was abroad, but I could quote from many other sources of. a similar nature.
Recently, public interest in civil defence measures has increased in Australia. The Government has not been idle. It has had all possible civil defence measures constantly under review and, at all times, has acted largely in accordance with the advice that has been given by its defence committee, which consists of the best experts in Australia that the Government can get to advise it on this matter. On the advice of its defence committee, the Government takes action both with regard to ordinary defence measures and civil defence measures. Individuals and certain groups may agree or disagree with such action or with what some people consider to be inaction. But the fact that the Government has bad the benefit of the best expert advice at home and abroad, and has acted on it, does not mean that it seeks to avoid the final responsibility for its action. In the final analysis, the responsibility for what has been done and for what has not been done rests with the Government, and, particularly, with the responsible Minister.
What has been done ? I think that the civil defence committee was originally proposed in 1948 and that the Director of Civil Defence was appointed in. 1949. In 1950, six officers were sent abroad in order to take training courses at the British Civil Defence School. On their return, in the light of world events, it was not considered necessary to start a civil defence school in Australia, and a school was not then started. As a result of advice which the Government received in May, 1954, the State Premiers or their representative Ministers were asked to attend a conference on civil defence in July of last year. I had the honour, as responsible Minister, of being chairman of that conference; The status that was accorded to the. conference by the
Premiers was such that it was attended by four State Premiers, one Deputy Premier and one Minister for Justice. It was. held immediately after the Premiers Conference last year, and another such conference will be held immediately after the next Premiers Conference, which will begin on the 20th June. One of the chiefs of staff, representatives of the Defence Committee, and several Federal and State secretaries and under-secretaries of various departments, such as the Department of Defence and the Department of Supply, were present at that conference. Acting on the latest advice that was available, the conference adopted the following agenda for discussion : -
The need for civil defence -
Naturally, I cannot disclose the topsecret paper of the Defence Committee, although it was, of course, disclosed to that conference.
Without disclosing: the confidential discussions which took place at that conference, I can inform, the House that all of those present considered that it would be unwise to introduce legislation at that stage, partly because they wanted to avoid anything in the nature of national security regulations in time of peace - even if it is an uneasy peace - and partly because it was. the consensus of opinion, and unanimously agreed, that they did not want the public to become unnecessarily alarmed. In the light of subsequent events it may be said that the latter stage has long since passed,but that is why I did not attempt at that time to give great publicity to what took place at the conference; But at the same time a statement was issued to the effect that it had been decided to form a civil defence school, and the conference considered that while it was desirable to establish a trained nucleus in each State, and to plan a civil defence organization on general lines, the situation at that stage did not warrant any further action. That statement was published at the time, and no one came along and asked for further information. No one outside those directly concerned seemed particularly interested, although the State Premiers realized the importance of planning up to a certain stage.
There was, however, something which was not announced, and of which I think I should inform the House at this stage. Among the resolutions passed were the following : -
The conference decided not to publish the wording of those resolutions at the time, but I feel that I have been forced to do so because of the political context of criticism recently voiced in New South Wales State circles. There is nothing particularly secret about the resolutions.
It was also resolved at the same conference that the committee should consist of the Director of Civil Defence as chairman, and one technical representative from each State. The technical representative could be the State Director of Civil Defence or any one else whom the States liked to appoint. In other words there would be six representatives, plus the Commonwealth Director of Civil Defence. Previously there had been a committee of fifteen, as compared with the 26 members of the committee proposed by this bill. Nearly all of the State Premiers considered that even the committee of fifteen was unwieldy, and they decided that this working committee would be much more effective, because it would have power to co-opt any other persons whose assistance it might consider desirable. That new committee replaced the old one, but the top-level policyforming committee or conference remained the conference of State Ministers or State Premiers, such as the one that was held in July last. The conference between the Commonwealth and States remains the top-level body for policy matters. We have already in existence, therefore, the necessary machinery, and I feel that it would be entirely wrong to replace that machinery by that proposed in this bill.
In accordance with the decision to form this smaller committee, the Director of Civil Defence has been in close touch with the authorized State officers concerned, and he has visited all the States in connexion with this work. The organization recently announced by the Premier of New South Wales was developed in this manner. Such matters as the planning of zones have been influenced to a large extent, if not wholly, by the advice given by the Commonwealth Director from information available to him, which he has obtained in this country and abroad. The whole thing has been organized on the principle of consultation between Commonwealth and State authorities. The fact that New South Wales has decided to go further than was thought necessary may be justified by recent developments in nuclear research, and the matter will be discussed again at the conference next month.
The divisions of other civil defence responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States has not yet been agreed upon. It was considered at the planning stage that it would not then be necessary to go further into those matters, and that they could be further discussed in order to ascertain whether agreement could be reached on them. The subject was discussed at the conference with the State Ministers in July last, and it was agreed that it should be deferred until it had been fully considered by the Civil Defence Committee, the small committee which I have just mentioned. I am informed that this issue was affected by details in the planning to which I have referred, and that the Civil Defence Committee will again meet to discuss this subject next week, particularly in view of the fact that it has become a more urgent matter. As New South Wales has decided, in the light of subsequent events, to go further than the conference considered to be necessary twelve months ago, it was considered that the matter of division of responsibility between State and Commonwealth authorities should receive immediate consideration. That is now being done. The Director of Civil Defence will report to me, and the conference next month will be asked to consider the matter again.
The conference which I have already mentioned also agreed on the establishment of a civil defence school for training key personnel as the nucleus of a civil defence organization. This was announced at the time. It was decided, owing to the fact that there is no unemployment in the building industry, that it would be much better to procure an existing property rather than construct new buildings. A. suitable property was obtained at Macedon in Victoria early this year, and negotiations for purchase were finalized. The Department of Works now has in hand the construction of the rescue range and certain necessary alterations. A commandant is expected to be appointed before the end of this month, and he will then be sent to attend the Civil Defence Staff College course at Sunningdale. He will spend whatever time is necessary in Britain, and will return through the United States of America and Canada, where he will consult with the experts in those places. The whole tour would probably take about three months.
Applications will be called for two senior and four junior instructors, who will be sent to the ordinary civil defence school in Britain. The matter of calling for those applications is in hand at the present time. The course at the United Kingdom civil defence school is being revised. We received a letter from the High Commissioner’s office the other day which said that, owing to the effects of radio-active fall-out, the courses which were being given at these schools have been revised. We were asked whether we would like to fill any vacancies. We have replied that we would like these six instructors to attend the course which is commencing in autumn, and that we expect to have our own school in operation, with 30 officers at each school, somewhere about next November. In other words, we are getting the commandant and the instructors, we are having the necessary construction work done, and everything should be in full operation before the end of the year.
The radio-active fall-out mentioned earlier has very considerably expanded the sphere of civil defence. The distribution of pamphlets telling individual householders what they themselves can do to avoid, or at least to minimize, the effects of radio-active dust, and the consideration of related problems, particularly that of dispersion, which has both short-term and long-terms aspects, have become important. The Government has not by any means been inactive. It has at all times continued to take action after it has considered the expert advice that it has been given. At the present time, its officers are considering the problem of the degree to which the civil defence organization, if it is developed further - and at the moment it appears that it obviously will be further developed - can be of assistance in other emergencies such as floods and bushfires. It is considered not only possible, but also probable, that the organization can be of assistance in those emergencies, especially in the maintenance of communications and the provision of immediate relief. I might add that the next appreciation from the Defence Committee is due this month. It will, of course, receive due consideration.
I agree with most of the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne about the difficulties involved in the operation of the bill, and I should like to mention the dangers that would be involved in placing the onus of proof on a person who is to appear before the proposed Civil Defence Council to give evidence, and in empowering the council to determine whether the reasons given for failure to appear, or to produce documents demanded by the council, are sufficient. The bill, as it has been drafted, might mean that it would be left to the council to decide whether top-secret documents should be made available to it. I doubt whether the honorable member for Mackellar intends that to happen, and I am sure that there is no need for me to mention this matter further.
– The Minister has made a mistake of fact.
– The legal opinion that I have obtained since the bill was introduced is to the effect that I have stated. In any circumstances, that matter would require careful reconaideration.
As I stated at the outset, the hill cuts right across the decisions of the civil defence conference to which I have referred, and also across the wishes of the Premiers and the other State representatives who attended the conference. The working committee has done a very fine job in civil defence matters.Some people claim that it has not been active enough and that this Government has done too little, but there are probably others who claim that the working committee and the Government have done too much. The discussion initiated by the introduction of this measure by the honorable member for Mackellar has been of great benefit, and to a degree it has awakened the public mind to the importance of civil defence, in which further action such as has recently been taken in New South Wales might be necessary. I have pointed out that the Director of Civil Defence has not been idle. He has visited all of the States to seek their co-operation. The Government cannot agree to the bill, for the reasons that I have stated. That is not to say that it considers that the publicity that has been given to the dangers of atomic attack and to the need for the consideration of civil defence problems is not a good thing.
I ask for leave to continue myremarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBbide) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-54.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Consequent upon the marginal increases in pay of members of the Armed Services, decision was taken by ‘Cabinet to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act to enable members to take up additional units commensurate with the increases in their rates of pay and to provide for corresponding adjustments in the rates of pensions payable on death or retirement.
As honorable members are aware, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act provides for a contributory scheme by members whereby pensions or, alternatively, benefits by way of a lump sum, become payable on completion of service in the Permanent Forces. The scheme is analogous to that provided for public servants under the Superannuation Act.
As a result of increased salaries following the recent marginal increases, members of the Commonwealth Public Service automatically qualify for additional units with consequentially greater retirement benefits. It is therefore equitable that members of the Permanent Defence Forces should also be permitted to increase their unit entitlement by such number of units as are appropriate to the increased margins which became payable as from December, 1954.
The number of units for which various ranks will be eligible to contribute - entitlements were previously set out in the Regulations - are now shown in the First Schedule to the act. The rate of pension payable to the member under the amendments in this bill has application to those members whose retirement became effective subsequent to the 9th December, 1954. Members who retired prior to that date did not participate in the marginal increases and consequently the rates of pension then existing are not affected by these amendments.
Provision is also made in this bill to permit a member, who previously elected under section SO of the act not to become a contributor, to withdraw such election and to contribute as from the date of entering the Permanent Defence Forces or, alternatively, the date of completing the first six years of service under engagement. The bill also provides that where a member, for a continuous period of more than 21 days, either absents himself without leave or, for a number of other reasons such as leave without pay, does not render effective service, the period involved will be excluded from the period Under engagement in respect of which the member receives a gratuity under the act. This provision reduces the gratuity payable proportionately to the extent of periods of non-effective service which exceed 21 days.
It is further provided that absences without leave exceeding 21 days shall not count as part of a member’s service for the purpose of assessing his pension entitlement under the act. Provision is also made in the bill for the elimination from the act of several minor anomalies which up to the present have prevented certain classes of members from receiving the full extent of the benefit to which they are morally entitled on retirement. The provisions of the bill will generally benefit the Permanent Defence Forces by substantially increasing the pension entitlement of the career member and by qualifying the short-term member for a greater lump sum payment on retirement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 883), 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 omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ 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 be £ 3,;100 “.
.- I heartily support the measure because it provides further evidence of this Government’s intention and desire to encourage home ownership in this country. This Government has always demonstrated that that is its purpose and final objective. It realizes that a nation grows in strength only as its individuals gain strength.
The citizen who can own his home will doubtless be a better citizen than one who must always remain a tenant.
Before making some observations on the measure under discussion, I feel constrained to make one or two comments on the remarks made last night by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that, he began by describing the story of housing in the Austraiian Capital Territory as a sorry and shameful failure. I propose to deal with that aspect in a few moments. Enlarging upon that statement, he criticized not only the Government but also trenchantly criticized the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes). He began by saying that the Minister had, in 1952, made certain suggestions that were deliberately planned to curtail the construction of houses in the Australian Capital Territory. He said, further, that the Minister had deliberately curtailed the day-labour system of construction. He said that the Director of Works - I take it that he referred to the Director who was recently transferred to Darwin - had stated at meetings of the Advisory Council of the Australian Capital Territory that day-labour houses were cheaper and better, could be more quickly built, and involved less maintenance than houses constructed under contract. I wish to take him to task for those remarks. This morning I indulged in a fair amount of research into the minutes of the Advisory Council.
– That is a change for you.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), says that that is a change for me; but he will not hear me talking about “chicken feed “. At no stage did I find a direct reference to the remarks used by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory in the minutes of the Advisory Council. Under the date, the 3rd November, 1952, the previous Director of Works is recorded as saying, at a meeting of that body -
From my own experience I would say that our day labour costs would be very similar to our contract costs. Nevertheless, we are closing down on the day labour housing at the request of the Minister and it will all be let by tender in the future.
He went further and said that as no recent housing work on day labour had been put into effect it would be very difficult to assess the daylabour results against those under the contract system. At a later stage, on the 2nd November, 1953, he is recorded as saying at a meeting of the Advisory Council, in answer to a question by another member -
It is not a fact that houses erected under the cost plus system of contracting are in all cases more expensive than those erected by other methods.
I may say that those were the only two references in his remarks that I could find in the minutes of the council during the period since this Government took office. It ill behoves the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to distort the facts and make statements in this House that day labour is cheaper and better. The honorable member further stated that the Minister, in a letter that he wrote to the honorable member on the 4th April, 1952, the contents of which were confirmed by another letter written to the local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia eighteen months later, made a specific comparison between the cost of homes built under the cost-plus fixed fee system and the cost of those built under the day-labour system. The Minister referred in his letter to homes built side by side, on similar sites, and in the same period.
He also stated that the figures provided by the Minister showed that homes of similar design and construction built on comparable sites under the day-labour system cost £50 a square less than those built by contract, or £550 less for each house. But the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory did not tell the House that both his own letter and the Minister’s reply to it releated to two specific cases. Instead, he made a general sweeping statement. I am prepared to say that all honorable members who heard the statement of the honorable member would have drawn the conclusion that the Minister’s letter indicated that houses built under the day-labour system throughout the whole field of home construction in the Australian Capital Territory were cheaper than those built by contract. Investigations that I made this morning revealed that the communications that passed between the Minister and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory referred only to houses built on sections 60, 61 and 62 in the suburb of Turner. The house that was built on section 62 under the daylabour system was quite a good home, but, unfortunately, the nouses that were built on sections 60 and 61 - and, mark you, we are going back to 1952 - under the fixed-fee system were of poor quality. The Minister, having realized what had happened, has not seen fit to let any more contracts to the contractor who erected the houses on sections 60 and 61.
The honorable member would have had the House believe last night that not only did this state of affairs exist in 1952, but also that it has existed up to the present time. It ill behoves the honorable member to continue deliberately to mislead, not only honorable members, but also those people who may be listening in to the debate, and it ill behoves the electors of the Australian Capital Territory to return such a representative to the Parliament. It will be recalled that the honorable member referred also to a similar letter that had been sent to the president, or the secretary, of the local branch of the returned servicemen’s league. I have taken advantage of an opportunity to look at that letter. It stated, as the honorable member has said, that the construction costs of houses built under daylabour conditions by the Department of “Works compared favorably with the costs of houses built under contract.
– That letter was written in September, 1953.
– Exactly, and the position has improved immeasurably since that date, as I hope to demonstrate in a few moments. I am only too sorry that I am obliged to deal with this matter rather than with other matters to which I should like to refer in relation to the agreement that is being considered by the House. As I have already stated, the remarks of the honorable member have made me feel constrained to refer to this matter. I have already referred to the fact that he has stated that the job that was being done by the Minister for Works was a sorry and shameful failure.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Now we have the brother of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory com ing to his assistance.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I should have referred to him as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who was blown right out of this place yesterday in relation to the Commonwealth aid roads agreement.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to yesterday’s debate.
– I shall return to the subject of housing in the Australian Capital Territory, and state, without fear of contradiction, that few cities in the world of a size comparable with that of Canberra can show such spectacular development.
– But only 83 houses have been built so far during this year.
– I further state that no other city in the world will experience greater development than that which is envisaged for Canberra to cope with the movement of officers and staffs from other places. I repeat that it ill behoves the honorable member to charge this Government with having pursued an inadequate home-construction programme, because it was not until it assumed office that a home-building and allied construction programme was really formulated.
– That remark will cause a laugh in Canberra.
– I will demonstrate that fact in a few minutes.
– What about the figures that I cited last night?
– I state quite clearly that the honorable gentleman endeavoured to take an unfair advantage of certain positions. He made a sweeping blanket statement in relation to housing, although he knew quite well that he was dealing with two specificcases. I do not intend to adopt his tactics. I shall not take as an example, even the position that existed in 1946, be cause I believe in being fair. I well recall that in 1946, and in the early pare of 1947, the then Labour government, spoke about what it called the golden era. That period was the hey-day of Labour. It was the period immediately following the cessation of hostilities, and it would be unfair to charge the government of that day with slowness, neglect, or anything of that kind. But if the honorable member wishes to taunt me, I shall noi mind citing the figures for that period. Let me refer rather to the years 1947. 194S and 194’9, which were the last three years during which the Labour Government was in office. In the Australian Capital Territory, in 1947, 234 homes were built; in 1948, 248 homes; and in 1949. 313 homes. All I can s:.y about those figures is that they indicate that there was certainly an increase of the rate of home construction; but when this Government assumed office, and applied itself to the task of rectifying the bad situation that it had inherited, the rate of home construction rose spectacularly.
– Under the Chifley Government’s programme.
– The honorable member says, “ Under the Chifley Government’s programme”; but the programme of the Chifley Government was such that Tasmania was forced to withdraw from the housing agreement in 1950. That State would not have the then Australian Government interfering with its domestic matters. The honorable member ought to learn a little more about the operation of the programme outside the Australian Capital Territory before he starts this sort of business. In 1950, which was the first year after this Government assumed office, 530 homes were completed.
– That was quite a good increase.
– That was quite a good increase for a start; it was an increase of 217 homes in a year.
– Keep going.
– In 1951, 392 homes were erected.
– The rate of construction dropped.
– Admittedly. In 1952, the Government achieved an alltime record in home construction in
Canberra by building 574 homes, which were handed over to the Department of the Interior for letting purposes.
– I said that last night.
– I know that the honorable member did-, I thought he would say that.
– This speech is a rehash of mine.
– Talk about a rehash!
-Order ! The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is interjecting far too much.
– His interjections do not worry me a bit.
– He cannot take it.
– The honorable member said, in effect, that his speech was a hash. I agree; because he is claiming that mine is a rehash. He failed to admit that the Government also built an extra 78 homes in that year for the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army, and the Australian National University, which means that, instead of 574 homes being built in the Territory, 652 homes were built. I admit that in 1953 the total number of houses built dropped to 491, and that in 1954 it dropped to 325, but I shall deal with that aspect of the matter in a few minutes.
– And to 83 homes for this year so far.
– Unfortunately, I have not the figures for this year. Honorable members will be quick to realize that in each year since the present Govern7nent took office there has been an increase over the corresponding year during: which the Labour Government occupied the treasury bench. The golden age of the Chifley Government has frequently been mentioned, as you will remember, Mr. Speaker, because you were here then as the honorable member for Barker. But let me mention some matters that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory did not refer to when he spoke last night - matters that are associated with the housing programme.
Since the present Government took office it has completed 184 flats in Canberra. In addition, a block of 114 twobedroom flats is under construction at Braddon and tenders are being called for a replica block, also of 114 flats, in the same area. Tenders will also be called soon for an eight-story block of 212 onebedroom flats to be built at Braddon, and a duplicate of this eight-story block will also be built. Then again the Government - I realize this is a very ticklish question at the moment - has given approval for the construction of two hotels by private enterprise. When completed they will provide accommodation for a considerable number of people.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory charged this Government with being lackadaisical, but he should realize that the construction of other amenities as well as houses makes a great drain on the available facilities. He did not tell the House what this Government has achieved in the construction of schools - not one word. I take the opportunity of informing the House on this subject. Since this Government took office at the end of 1949, despite the fact that they have constituted a drain on the amount of materials available for housing the following school buildings have been completed: - Turner infants’ school; Griffith infants’ school; Narrabundah infants’ school; nine additional classrooms, canteen, medical and dental block at Telopea Park school; four additional classrooms at Ainslie infants’ school; three classrooms, dining-hall and indoor toilets at Ainslie infants’ school; seven play centres; five mothercraft centres. I am sure the ladies of Canberra will approve of these works. The buildings are already in use, but no mention wac made of them by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. He attacked the Government and took to task the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works. In fact, he made what was almost a personal attack on that honorable gentleman.
Then again the following school buildings are under construction: - Addition! to Canberra high school; primary school at Turner; primary school at Griffith; infants’ school at Yarralumla; and play centre at Ainslie. In. order to demonstrate our good faith in this matter, the Government does not only concentrate on school construction. There is also a large workshop under construction at the Kingston transport depot and an Olympic swimming pool is being provided near Civic Centre. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, in his speech last night, made no mention of these works. Another amenity has been made available for housewives in the form of corner shops, but we did not hear one word about them. During the term of office of the Labour Government not one corner shop was built for the benefit of housewives; they had to travel miles horn one side of the city to the other to do their shopping. Since this Government took over it has built a considerable number of shops in Yarralumla, Griffith, O’Connor, Ainslie and Narrabundah. In all, 25 shops have been built since this Government took office, and ten more are under construction at the present time.
– They are not being constructed by the Government.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory says that they are not being constructed by the Government. That may be true, but it is also true that they are being built as a result of this Government’s policy. They can be built by private enterprise. The attitude to private enterprise of honorable members who follow the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) was clearly demonstrated by the manner in which they twitted the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) when he was speaking on this subject. The honorable member for Fawkner reminded them of the statement by the former Labour Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, that he did not want the workers to become little capitalists. I can prove that he said that because I have with me the Hansard volume in which it was recorded. On every occasion that these honorable members open their mouths they clearly demonstrate that they do not desire the people of Australia to own their own homes or to engage in. any private enterprise what ever. When they were twitted by the honorable member for Fawkner not one of them made a reply. They were afraid to reply because the honorable members who are led by the right honorable member for Barton do not know where they stand. It is a very sad story indeed. We see evidence that they are delving into the bottom of a barrel to find subjects for discussion in this House as matters of urgency in order to divert the attention of the people from their sorry plight.
In addition to these outer suburban developments I have mentioned, for the benefit, I hope, of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, the shopping centres at Civic Centre and Kingston are being enlarged, and are to be still further enlarged. I could go on if I had more time, Mr. Speaker, and speak about leases that have been granted and other matters that have been of benefit to the Australian Capital Territory.
The construction of houses and the carrying out of other projects are fundamentally dependent upon bricks. What has happened at the brickworks? A tunnel kiln was ordered before the present Minister for the Interior took office, but experts have advised the Department of the Interior that it is practically useless. It is so much a failure that the department is now introducing other brickmaking machines in the hope of overtaking the shortage of bricks. In order to step up production the Government has ordered another kiln to be constructed, and I am happy to say it is nearly ready for use. When the additions and changes authorized by the Government have been completed, the output of bricks should be adequate for Canberra’s expanding needs.
I said I would come back to the statement made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that the Minister was curtailing the number of houses that were being built. He said that the Minister had stated that no new houses were to be commenced until those under construction had been completed. I agree that that is what the Minister did say, but he made that decision in an effort to control the inflationary boom in building costs. The Opposition may say that the Minister was running hither and thither and did not know where he was going, hut in fact the decision was designed to control the inflationary boom in building costs. lt was necessary to impose a check because the number of houses under construction was out of all proportion to the rate of completion, and costs were soaring. This state of affairs existed at a time when the whole Australian economy was subject to inflationary strain. This remedy, which was temporarily applied to the Australian economy, resulted in Canberra in a measure of stabilization of a situation which had appeared to be getting out of hand. It ill befits the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to say, as he did last night, that this action was taken in an effort to delay the building of houses when, in fact, he knew that it was taken for a different purpose.
I trust that these few remarks I have made about Canberra will clearly indicate, not only to honorable members of this House, but ako to the people of Canberra that this Government has a great concern for those who live in this city, and that it is doing its utmost to provide houses and the other amenities that must go with them, such as shops and schools. Its record in this regard far outstrips that of any previous government.
I desire now to refer to the amendment that was proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The honorable member for Parkes said that he had proposed his amendment in order to give the workers a better deal in regard to housing. If that is so, it is pertinent to ask what is wrong with the Labour Premiers in this country who have signed the agreement. Those gentlemen have been mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), and they are: - the Labour Premier of New South Wales, the Labour Premier of Victoria, the Labour Premier of Western Australia and the Labour Premier of Queensland. If the contention of the honorable member for Parkes is correct, then there is no doubt that those Labour Premiers have deliberately let down the people of their States by signing the agreement. However, those gentlemen have signed the agreement, and the bill now before the House merely seeks to ratify the agreement.
The honorable member for Parkes, in proposing his amendment, said that we did not know what the homes would cost the people. I say we do know that, or at least we should know it. However, it is really no concern of this Parliament, because it is a task that must be dealt with by the parliaments of the States concerned. It is the duty of the State governments to sell the homes to the people, and then to repay to the Commonwealth, the money that they borrowed from it originally for the erection of the houses. However, if the conditions as mentioned by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) apply in Queensland, and as they apply in my own State of Western Australia, then the people will not be able to purchase the homes as they should. The honorable member for Petrie said that the houses built under the agreement will be sold at valuation, and the value of lawns, paths and other improvements will be added to the original cost. If that is so, the Queensland Government will make a profit, as was indicated by the honorable member.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) can argue that matter with the honorable member for Petrie. In Western Australia if a person is a tenant of a home, he is given a six months’ option of purchase. If he exercises that option within the six months he can buy the home at its cost price, but if he does not, he must pay the market valuation of the property. If any State Labour government charges the tenants of the homes more than the actual cost, and more than the amount that it has to repay to the Commonwealth, then it is not fit to be called a Labour government. As has been rightly stated by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and the honorable member for Fawkner, they do not represent the true spirit of Labour. These State Labour governments put about the story that they are continually trying to ameliorate the conditions of the people. but they are not trying to do that if they charge the purchasers of government houses more than the actual cost of those houses.
It is of no use to say that the cost cannot be determined, because if they have been keeping proper accounts they will be able to tell from month to month the actual cost of the homes. However honorable members know that Labour’s policy is opposed to home-ownership. The Labour party does not want people to own their own homes; it prefers them to remain as tenants because it does not want to make the workers into little capitalists. A former member of the Labour Government, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, made a statement to that effect, although honorable members opposite have tried to deny that he ever said such a thing. In order to prove the matter I refer honorable members to Hansard, volume 185, page 6265, where Mr. Dedman is reported to have said -
The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) suggested that, instead of augmenting the family income by the payment of child endowment, we should provide for the sale of houses at lower prices and that it should be possible to use the money now paid in child endowment to amortize the cost of such an undertaking. He said that in this way we would make the average worker a capitalist. That is too big a problem for me to discuss in detail to-night, but there is one argument which I would put forward: The Commonwealth Government is concerned to provide adequate and good housing for the workers; it is not concerned with making the workers into little capitalists.
Then the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) interjected -
In other words, it is not concerned with making them home-owners?
Mr. Dedman replied ;
If there is any criticism which may be directed against the policies of past 0vernments supported by the present Opposition, it is this: Too much of their legislative programmes was deliberately designed to place the workers in a position in which they would have a vested interest in the continuance of capitalism. This i? a policy which will not have any support, at any rate.
The matter was taken up the next day by you, Mr. Speaker, as the honorable member for Barker - you were not then the Speaker of the House - and it is re ported in the same volume of Hansard, at page 634S. You said -
Yet the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) told us last night that it was not his intention to create “ little capitalists/”’ by allowing people to own their own homes. The icing on this cake is not pink, hut red.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, as I have shown, is now Mr. Speaker, who said -
The icing on this cake is not pink but red.
Then, according to the Hansard report Mr. Dedman said -
I did not say anything of the kind.
But I have read his clear statement on the matter to honorable members. The honorable member for Barker in answer to that statement, said -
Oh, yes, the honorable gentleman did, and we shall watch the Ilansard proofs closely.
As I have indicated to honorable members, the whole of this matter is reported in Hansard in black and white, and there is no doubt that the Labour party still supports that contention of the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945, which was initiated by the Chifley Government, was intended to be an emergency scheme primarily to cope with urgent necessitous cases of homelessness, especially among those in the lower income groups who needed homes in the immediate post-war period. When the legislation was first introduced into the Parliament the Minister in charge of the measure explained that it was not at that time intended to sell the houses that were built under the agreement. The reason given was that it was considered that in the immediate postwar period the cost of building would be extremely high, and it was intended to wait until costs became stabilized before the selling of government houses would be considered. Until that time had arrived it was intended to allot the houses on a tenancy basis with liberal provisions for rent rebates, particularly to pensioners, widows and people who might become unemployed and consequently have their incomes reduced through sickness or some other cause.
The basis of the rental was one-fifth of the family income. The working of that system has proved very effective in the. States, and those who have administered it have done a particularly good job. At present I am speaking mainly of New South Wales, where many thousands of homes have been constructed in my own electorate, and where many families who would otherwise be homeless have been happily settled. However, it must be recorded that this Government, by its restrictive policy in regard to home building, has caused the Housing Commission of New South W ales to curtail its activities. The commitments of the commission have now been substantially reduced by several million pounds below its commitments in recent years. As a result of that, the demand for houses has banked up, and many of the organizations that were engaged in the production of those homes have gone out of the housing business altogether, or have left it for some other activity. An illustration of that is the prefabrication works of Van Dyk in my electorate which, prior to the restrictive policy of the Government; wa3 building 2,500 houses a year and had a tentative contract for £1,000,000 from thu Housing Commission of New South Wales. That contract had to be cancelled because of lack of finance, and the works were closed down and the plant sold and dispersed. The proprietors of the business have now gone into business of a different nature.
I consider that that was a real tragedy, and that the Government might well have utilized the great resources of the Commonwealth Bank to make further provision for State housing instrumentalities. However, we were told at the commencement of government housing schemes, that the houses were not intended for sale although they could be sold. As a matter of fact, provision was made in the legislation to enable the homes to be sold at cost price or less than cost price if the Treasurer consented. However, the policy was that they should not be sold until the building industry became stabilized. Instead of stabilization being reached in the building industry, costs have continued to rise. Until the building industry is stabilized by a sound financial policy, and not by a policy of fits and starts and booms and bursts, the cost of building will continue to increase. These conditions have the effect of depriving the building industry of many good builders and many good workers, who turn to other activities. Whenever restrictions are relaxed and substantial finance becomes available for building, speculators enter the field and infect some workers with their spirit of making hay while the sun shines. Those things have had a considerable influence on building costs in recent years. The conditions have been such that there has been no encouragement to workers to believe that they would have economic security in this industry and to undertake apprenticeships.
I submit it is time that the Government considered establishing a national housing authority that would regulate a steady flow of finance to home-building activities, not only through instrumentalities such as the State housing commissions but also through the War Service Homes Division, co-operative building societies, the Commonwealth Bank, the Rural Bank and other like financial institutions. The War Service Homes Division at present has substantial funds provided foiits operation but it is still unable to cope with the demands made upon it. The co-operative building societies are starved of funds and the people associated with them, are cooling their heels in their offices when they want to be actively assisting others to get their own homes, as they have done in the past. A nation al. housing authority could co-ordinate the work of all these bodies and enable each of them to contribute its full share to the housing of the people.
The housing commissions can sell homes at cost but may not sell them under cost without the consent of the Treasurer; but when the bill embodying the original housing agreement was brought down in this chamber honorable members were given to understand that, re-sale of houses built under the agreement would be at cost or valuation, whichever is the lower. That is a most equitable approach. After all, if the valuation of a house is not so high as the cost, because of some inefficiency or faulty workmanship, it is not fair to the purchaser to make him carry the burden of that inefficiency or faulty workmanship. That cost should be spread over the whole of the community, and the house concerned should be sold at its veal valuation. The scheme under the agreement was not intended to be profitmaking. I agree with the honorable member for Canning in that regard. Provision was made in the agreement itself for a loss on the scheme and that loss was to be subsidized by the Commonwealth and State governments. Clause 14 (3.) of the agreement, which was a schedule to the bill, reads -
Any loss resulting from the sale of a dwelling as provided in sub-clause (1.) of this clause shall he included as a separate item in the annual statement supplied by the Treasurer of the State to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth as provided in paragraph 1 of the Second Schedule to this Agreement and shall he borne as to three-fifths by the Commonwealth and as to two-fifths by the State.
That provision envisages, not a profit, but a loss on this scheme; but we find oven now when this question of re-salt: has arisen that there has been pressure by some housing commissions for the sales to be made at present-day values. For example, this was the proposal of the Kew South Wales Housing Commission. In view of the inflation that has occurred since many of these homes were built, sale at present-day values would result in the housing commissions making considerable profits on their activities in former years. Already, as a result of the curtailment of the activities of the New South Wales Housing Commission, a huge organization of 800 employees which costs £1,000,000 a year in administration is not functioning to its full capacity. It is a natural thing, of course, for any department to try to show that it is working on an economic basis or even showing a profit. It is equally natural for any organization to try to hold its strength and to keep itself in vigorous existence, but when the original bill embodying the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement^ was brought clown it was never intended by this- House that profits should be made. As I said before, the House actually envisaged that there would be a loss on the operation of the agreement and provided that the Federal aud State goernments would, subsidize that loss on a 60-40 basis.
I mentioned before that there has been this pressure by housing commissions, particularly in New South Wales, where the proposal put to the Government was that sales be made on the basis of the present-day valuations. The Parliamentary Labour party of New South Wales, to its credit, resisted that proposition and the members of that party insisted that some other, more equitable basis be laid down. I understand that a compromise has now been reached in that regard. Nevertheless, under this bill the basis of the resale is still left to the States and the housing commissions in the States, and I submit that the Australian Government might well have insisted on some safeguarding clause in the agreement to maintain the original spirit of the scheme. That, spirit was to ensure that houses would be made available for low wage-earners and for those whose need was of an urgent nature, and particularly that the terms of resale would be on an easier basis than is, in fact, laid down in this bill to amend the agreement. That easier basis should have particular regard to the questions of small deposits and low interest rates, along the lines of the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
Some further safeguarding clause should have been inserted to preserve this Government’s right to supervise the expenditure of the moneys that are being provided under the original agreement. After all, this Government is charged with the responsibility of raising those moneys and it should maintain an overriding supervision of their expenditure. The expenditure should not simply be left to the States to attend to, in view of the Austraiian Government’s responsibility to raise the moneys in the first instance. The same principles should apply in relation to the millions that are doled out to the States for public works. Often the consequence of the present system is that everybody’s business becomes nobody’s business. This Government cannot divest itself of responsibility in this regard but must ensure that these moneys, whether expended through housing commissions or otherwise, shall be applied economically. It has been pointed out in this debate that the cost of c ten-square weatherboard or fibro cottage of the type that the average worker needs is over £3,000 and the cost of a similar brick cottage is over £4,000. The stage is being reached where it is beyond the means of the average wage-earner to buy his own home. The limit of the advance provided in this agreement is £2,750, and that will not meet the needs of these people. This agreement does not provide adequate assistance for them. They will still have to find a deposit of £1,000 or more, apart from the weekly instalments that they would have to make out of their limited incomes for their purchase of a property. The agreement means nothing to the section of the community on whose behalf I make these submissions and for whose benefit this agreement was originally intended.
The time has arrived when every penny of expenditure under this agreement must be carefully watched, particularly in regard to road construction, which is an activity of housing commissions apart from building the homes themselves. The commissions take over large estates, subdivide them, make roads and put in other amenities for the blocks of land on which homes are built. On this matter I wish to utter a word of warning to the States and their housing authorities. Houses are built above ground and every stage of construction can be supervised and inspected. Any faulty workmanship, or skimping or anything of that nature reveals itself at once, but all the material in roads is hidden beneath the surface and there are all sorts of opportunities for irregular things to be done. Certain war-time profiteers, exploiters and racketeers are trying to get their sticky fingers into these large road-making contracts that are available through the housing commissions. One in particular is my “ old friend, Mr. Big “ Fitzpatrick. I find that he is getting very substantial contracts in respect of various housing commission estates in and around my electorate. I wonder how he is doing it, particularly in view of the frauds that he perpetrated during war-time. That is on record. It is unfortunate, not only for the people who will buy these homes, but also for housing commissions and authorities, that they do not know all the facts, and that the report of the War Expenditure Committee has not yet been tabled.
It is high time that that report was tabled for the benefit of the authorities which are dealing with individuals of that kind. I refer in particular to the persons who will be buying the houses, including ex-servicemen and others who made sacrifices for the community during war-time. This individual was exploiting them while they were away doing their duty to their country. Now, he is trying to get his sticky fingers into the profits that might ensue from the activities of the housing commission and other authorities. Those authorities might be entirely unaware of the. kind of individual with whom they are dealing. Naturally, when tenders are called, the person who submits the lowest tender usually gets the contract. On the other hand, if the successful tenderer happens to be a short measure merchant, the lowest tender could be the most costly in the long run. I might he unduly suspicious in that regard; but a leopard does not change its spots, and persons who robbed the nation on graving docks and other vital undertakings when the Japanese were knocking at our gate, who purloined government property, and even lifted av aeroplane hangar, are not likely to mend their ways. I know that the attitude of this individual is “ the people, be damned “.
Three factors prompt me to give this warning. The first is the recent experience I had of the case of a dairyman in my electorate. He told me that the individual to whom I have referred entered the dairyman’s property with his bulldozer, knocking over his dairy buildings and fences, and letting his cows out because the housing commission had taken over the property. Instead of giving the dairyman due warning that he was going on to the property, he went in riding rough-shod as he usually does and has done in other places. In the early days of the housing commission, at Mount Lewis, in the Bankstown district, it was found that work for the commission on the construction of kerbing and guttering, for which he had the contract, was 4^ inches short of the specifications. The local councillors, who are mostly his stooges, said that they were not concerned, and added, in effect, “ We are not building these works. We do not have to pay for them, so why should we worry?” So, the cost was passed on to the community in the cost of the commission homes.
– Who was the individual concerned ?
– “ Mr. Big”. I also raise this matter because the local council in the Bankstown district has recently been dismissed over this individual’s activities in road construction in giving short measure. For the second time in a period of about twenty years, the local council has been dismissed because of the activities of this gentleman and his family.
– Order ! The House is not dealing with local councils, but with the housing agreement which is embodied in the bill.
– I submit that the House is dealing with the problem of road construction, and that it is very relevant to the measure before the House. All the costs of housing commission homes including the roads will be passed on to the purchasers in the long run. That is the point I wish to emphasize. The housing commissions and other authorities might be entirely unaware of the matters to which T have referred. That is why I suggest that the report of the War Expenditure Committee, which, for some reason, has remained the most secret document in Australia should be made public. No one seems to want to know anything about it. It appears that somebody regards it as a sacred relic and wants it to be left in the pigeon-holes where it has been resting for years.
I raise this matter now in the hope that housing commissions and authorities will watch these matters carefully to ensure that the cost of their homes shall nOt be unduly inflated, and that every penny shall be saved where possible. I hope that the houses will be constructed on an economic basis to ensure that persons who are in necessitous circumstances and are clamouring for housing commission homes, shall be able to get them at a reasonable price. I hope also that the Government will give consideration to the representations that have been made by members of the Opposition through the amendment that has been, proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and that the Government will re-open discussions on the proposed agreement with a view to reducing the amount of deposit to no more than 5 per cent, of the actual purchase price, and to lowering the interest rate so that the terms of purchase will be commensurate within the means of persons on low incomes.
– I rise to .make some general observations on the measure that is before the House, and to direct attention to the anomalous position in which it will place two classes of people who desire to obtain homes. Listening to the debate, one might well wonder what it is all about. The original legislation was introduced in 1945 after the end of World War II. following the presentation of a very comprehensive report by a housing committee of inquiry that was set up by the Chifley Labour Government. Anybody reading the report and the bill and studying the subsequent administration of the agreement, would come to the obvious conclusion that it was designed to provide low cost housing for those persons who could not afford to pay normal rentals, and (hat it was designed particularly for tenants and not for home ownership. That appears plainly from the recitals to the legislation and from its results. That is to say, although there were some nebulous provisions for home purchase in the legislation, in fact, they were never effective, and up to the present time, to all intents and purposes, practically no homes built under that agreement have been sold.
It would seem foolish now to repeat observations thai are so obvious were it not for the fact that members of the Opposition throughout the debate hae claimed, to my astonishment, that the purpose of the legislation from the start, was to provides homes for purchase and not for tenants.
Indeed, supporters of the Australian Labour party have been attempting to persuade this House, and the public, that it is entirely in favour of home ownership, that the legislation introduced by the previous Labour Government was designed to bring about home ownership, and that they are the great champions of that form of housing. The facts are quite the opposite.
I do not wish to traverse what has been said in the debate, particularly by the honorable member for Canning (Mr., Hamilton), who quoted what was said by Mr. Dedman, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the Labour Government, when he introduced the original legislation into this House. The honorable member for Canning referred to the Hansard report, and I hope it will never be forgotten that Mr. Dedman said, on the occasion to which I have referred, that it was not the purpose of the Labour Government, in connexion with that or any other legislation, to create what he was pleased to call “ little capitalists “.
The Australian Labour party is opposed to the ownership of homes or of anything else. Everything that a person enjoys, whether it is a home or anything else, must be handed to the people with the compliments of the socialist government. That is the conception of the Labour party and its supporters. It would seem to be a waste of time to mention these matters 3ince the purpose of the legislation and results that have flowed from it have been so obvious. One would imagine that it was even beyond the effrontery of members on the Opposition side to claim that they were the champions of home ownership. I do not wish to waste any time on a matter which is quite plain to honorable members and, I hope, to the people of Australia.
What is the purpose of this hill? It is to effect certain amendments in the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to provide for a small deposit and long-term repayments in order that tenants of housing commission homes may make themselves the owners of those homes. A great deal of criticism has been directed, particularly by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), at the length of the term proposed, and other honorable members have complained that the rate of interest is too high and so on. I do not intend to traverse those matters beyond saying that if the terms now offered - which T consider are favorable - should not bring about the result intended because tenants are not induced thereby to take advantage of them and purchase their homes, the whole matter will have to be reconsidered. I am confident that honorable members on this side of the House wish the new policy implicit in these amendments to be carried into effect, and, if the purpose of the amendments is not achieved, I have no doubt that more favorable terms will have to be offered so that tenants will be induced to buy their own homes.
My main purpose in addressing myself to the bill is to direct attention to the anomalous position in which this legislation places two other groups in tho community. These amendments will give to tenants of housing commission homes such advantageous terms that they will be easily able to purchase them. Many other people desire to have a similar opportunity, but they will find themselves placed at a great disadvantage in comparison with occupants of housing commission homes. I refer particularly to a certain group of ex-servicemen. Honorable members will recall that about the year 1951, the Government took certain deflationary action to meet the situation that then existed, and finance was cut off from a number of sources which had formerly accommodated persons who wished to borrow to build their own homes. As a result, a large number of ex-servicemen turned to the War Service Homes Division for help. The number of applicants for loans under that scheme mounted so rapidly that it soon became evident that the waiting period would extend to eighteen months, two years, or even longer. Hitherto, the War Service Homes Division had been prepared to take over mortgages that had been given to other institutions by qualified persons, and it was understood at that time that the division would be prepared to do that again in the future, although temporarily, in the circumstances, it was unwilling to do so. A number of exservicemen did, in fact, borrow at less advantageous terms, including a higher rate of interest and shorter terms of repayment, believing that the time would come in the not-distant future when they could transfer their obligations to the War Service Homes Division. From that time until now, however, the War Service Homes Division has not been willing to ilo that, and that fact has become generally known, consequently any ex-serviceman who to-day attempted to borrow from another institution in the belief that he could ultimately transfer his mortgage to the War Service Homes Division would be acting foolishly. He would know that there was little likelihood of his making that transfer. But those who, in 1951 and 1952, borrowed from other institutions, should now be given the opportunity of coming under the war service homes scheme, particularly because highly advantageous terms are now being made available to tenants of housing commission homes.
Under this bill - and rightly so - an ex-serviceman who occupies a housing commission home and chooses to buy it will be given the advantage of coming under the war service homes scheme. That is even more advantageous to him than the terms offered to tenants of bousing commission homes who are not ex-servicemen. Why should an exserviceman who had the good fortune to go into a housing commission home in 1951 be placed at an advantage, which is underlined by this legislation, over another ex-serviceman who tried to help himself in the reasonable belief that, in a year or two, he would be able to transfer his mortgage to the War Service Homes Division? Had this legislation not been brought down the latter would feel that he had suffered an unjust fate - a fate that is emphasized by this legislation which places some people in a better position, although they have no other claim to the goodwill of the community than that they happen to be occupants of housing commission homes.
The other group of people whose hard lot is underlined by this legislation are those who are not ex-servicemen or tenants of housing commission homes, but ordinary citizens who have no home but want to own them. Where are they to go for finance to enable them to acquire homes ? This question goes to the root of the whole housing scheme embodied in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It appears to me that the Labour party’s scheme is to raise finance for home building by way of loans and bond issues. What that scheme fails to recognize is that one of the greatest inducements to thrift is a person’s capacity or ability to pinch and scrape and save in order to buy his own home. If conditions are conducive to a person buying his home from his own savings, at once there is harnessed the most powerful motive for objective thrift. But if the public is invited to subscribe to a Commonwealth loan, nobody will pinch or save to do so- with anything like the enthusiasm with which he would savo to buy his own home. Therefore, Labour’s scheme, providing as it does for money to be raised by way of loans and disbursed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, fails to harness the motive of personal thrift.
The time has come when the agreement must be revised, but that is not a matter for discussion on this measure. However, in passing, I express the belief that two-thirds of the money hitherto devoted to this scheme should be earmarked for home ownership. I am convinced also that the time has come for a revision of the landlord and tenant laws of the States so that it will become attractive and profitable for people to save to invest in homes for letting or for sale. At present there is no such inducement, nor is there any inducement to people to save to build homes for themselves. The. whole scheme envisaged by the Labour party is defective in fundamental respects and a review of the whole matter is overdue.
I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) will give earnest consideration to the desirability of removing the anomaly affecting exservicemen in the groups that I have mentioned, and that in the near future the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will be fundamentally altered to allow more savings to be invested in the field of home purchase.
.- I shall deal with this matter only briefly because in my opinion no practical solution to the serious shortage of homes in Australia. was offered in the second-reading speeches of either the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) or members on the Government side. As I have said, the purpose of the bill is to approve an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to vary the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. Broadly, its purpose is to provide a basis upon which housing loans may be arranged between the various State instrumentalities on the one hand, and the tenants on the other hand.
In August, 1950, Tasmania withdrew from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, but generally speaking, the conditions covered by the bill would also apply in Tasmania. In some respects, that State, while not endeavouring to anticipate this measure, recognized much earlier that every endeavour should be made to enable the occupants of housing commission homes to purchase them. For that reason, the conditions of sale, and other matters relating to such sales, have been in operation in Tasmania for a considerable period. Last night, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) stated that Tasmania withdrew from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for other reasons. For the purpose of the record, I shall read a statement that Mr. Cosgrove, the Premier of Tasmania, made at a Premiers’ conference of Tasmania’s reasons for withdrawing from the agreement. He said -
Tasmania withdrew from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement because we did not like some of its provisions. However, I should like to see whether it would be worth while tocome back into the scheme. At present, it would not be so. But if a better proposition than the existing one is put forwardI should be in favour of it, particularly if cheap money is made available.
As I understand the position, Tasmania’s mainobjection was that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, homes could not be sold unless the full purchase price was provided by the tenant. That brings me to the reason why Tasmania withdrew from the agreement. Since I have been a member of this House, I have been led to believe by the various speeches that have been made upon this subject by certain Ministers and honorable members on the Go vernment side, that there is no serious shortage of housing in Australia to-day. As a possible exception to that point of view, the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said in earlier years that the housing problem was a challenge to every Australian and that, in character, it was something in the nature of a snowball, which could develop into an avalanche. It is a pity that the Minister’s sensible summary of the position was not treated with the respect that it deserved, because, in my opinion, the snowball has long since developed into an avalanche.
Another speaker from the Government side also made a statement in respect of housing in Australia as far back as 1948, and I invite honorable members to consider it carefully. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), writing for a Liberal party pamphlet, had this to say -
The Liberal party housing programme,which will encourage individual home ownership,contains proposals for positive action. It includes the appointment of a first-class citizens’ executive to break bottlenecks andexpedite the supply of materials and construction of homes, the demolition of slums, and the provision at reasonable cost of money for the purchase of good homes on reasonable terms.
The position to-day is that State instrumentalities have built 81,000 homes since the end of the war. Private enterprise and other sources have erected possibly another 600,000 homes and business premises. According to ministerial opinion, the nation requires about 80,000 new homes each year. Therefore, between the end of the war and the present time, at least800,000 homes should have been built. On its post-war performance, Australia is down by about 350,000 homes on its current requirements. The people are not adequately housed. In many respects, we lag far behind other countries of the world in this connexion. The position in Tasmania is fantastic, and I have no doubt that a similar state of affairs exists in other States. It is true that the Tasmanian Government has done a good deal in the matter of housing through its own housing programme. It has constructed hundreds of homes and so materially assisted to relieve the acute position that developed in the immediate post-war years when thousands of servicemen were being demobilized.
I point out that what has been done has been achieved with the limited loan funds made available for the purpose of constructing homes. I remind honorable members that in this financial year only £32,000,000 was made available for this purpose. As I have already mentioned, there is a shortage of about 350,000 homes. According to the Monthly Review of Building Statistics, an average of approximately 73,000 homes has been built in each of the last three years. Bearing in mind the shortage of 350,000 homes, and the demands that are being made on housing as a result of our immigration programme, it is apparent that the present unsatisfactory position must continue for many years, unless the Government is prepared to accept far greater responsibility for housing in the future than it has done in the past.
I am pleased that this bill has been brought down, primarily as a means of encouraging home ownership, because T believe that when a man is given a stake in this country, his sense of responsibility and citizenship increases. The bil! also suggests that ample encouragement will be given to building by co-operative societies and private individuals. I am sure that this provision will be appreciated by building co-operative societies and private enterprise, which, I have no doubt, will be ready to assist many persons who have been unable, because of severe credit restrictions, to gratify their desire for home ownership.
The Government has a responsibility to ensure that credit facilities shall be made available, through approved societies or the Commonwealth Bank, to people who desire to build homes for themselves. What is the position to-day when a prospective builder approaches the building section of the Commonwealth Bank? lt is a trend of the times that prospective owners must purchase homes at inflated prices. To-day, one has to pay £4,000 for a home which, only a few years ago, he could have purchased for £1,500 or less. A prospective owner who approaches the building section of the Commonwealth Bank is confronted with certain difficulties. Let us consider the case of a man who desires to erect a brick home at a it, on present-day values, of £4,200. The Commonwealth Bank will provide £1,750, which means that the prospective purchaser has to find £2,450. That means, in effect, that he is bound to provide a deposit of at least 58 per cent, before he can hope to secure the home. Therefore, in my opinion, if the Government is sincere in its approach to the housing problem, it must recognize that the ideal solution is to enable as many people as possible to own their own homos. It must revise its credit .restriction in this regard, which are making it practically impossible for any one to erect, or acquire, a home in any State through the Commonwealth Bank. Under this variation of the agreement which this bill ratifies, homes will be made available to tenants on a minimum deposit of 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 and 10 per cent, of the remainder. I suggest that those terms, whilst not supplying a complete answer, so far as the Commonwealth Bank is concerned, will at- least improve the fantastic position that applies to-day. 1 concede that the Opposition is in agreement with this measure so far as the purchase of homes by tenants over a long period of time is concerned. However, we do disagree in principle with other provisions in the agreement. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) suggested that the States were in agreement with this measure because they had signed the agreement. I quote again from the report of the Premiers conference. The Premier of Victoria, speaking of the Government’s proposals on behalf of the other Premiers, said this -
I suggest that in respect of the Commonwealth :ind State Housing Agreement, every effort should be made to enable houses to be sold to their occupants. The Commonwealth has advanced money to the States under the agreement for the erection of houses for a term of 53 years at 3 per cent, per annum. I suggest that claude 14, sub-clause 2, should be removed from the agreement and that the States should be allowed to sell houses to their tenants, and that the Commonwealth accept the States’ guarantee that the capital cost of the houses will be repaid by the States over the same period as is at present required. I suggest also that terms under the agreement involving a 3 per cent, deposit with a maximum term of” 45 years should be instituted. The Commonwealth has already indicated that it proposes to advance money for the purchase of these houses up to a limit of £2,750. I suggest that the limit of the advance be removed. The costs of the houses are known, and I suggest that the tenants should be allowed to mid a 5 per cent, deposit and pay a rent prescribed in order that at the existing rate of interest they shall pay off the homes over a period of 45 years.
That was the opinion of the Premiers at the 1954 conference. The Australian Government then suggested that tenants who purchased hom.es under the agreement should pay a minimum deposit of 10 per cent., that the repayment should be over a period of 45 years, that the rate of interest to be charged on the balance should be 4i per cent., and that the maximum advance should be £2,750. On that occasion, vigorous opposition was expressed by the State Premiers, who sought a lower rate of interest and a lower deposit. According to the terms set out in the first schedule to the bill, a rninimum deposit of 5 per cent, will be required on the first £2,000, and 10 per cent, on the remainder. One example given during, the debate dealt with a home estimated to cost £2,500, on which a deposit of £150 was therefore required. However, I suggest that the example is a poor one, because the estimated cost of the home is far below the ruling cost of homes to-day. In my opinion, the cost is more than £3,000.
The maximum advance is £2,750, which means that the tenant-purchaser will be obliged to find any sum in excess of that amount. Taking £3,200 as the average price of a home to-day, the deposit will be £175 on £2,750, plus the difference between the maximum advance and £3,200, which amounts to £450, making a total deposit of £625. I suggest that few people living in commission homes to-day will be able to find such a deposit. The figure of £2,750 already applies to war service homes, and I know from representations made to me by ex-servicemen who are eligible for homes under the War Service Homes Act that the cost of homes is so high, and the maximum advance so low, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to obtain homes. Therefore, in my opinion, the maximum advance must be increased to £3,500, and the minimum deposit required for sales on terms reduced to 5 per cent.
Let me now say a few words on the infer””* atf». which under the terms of ifr. *Barnard. the bill is to be fixed at 4£ per cent. We on this side of the House contend that that figure should be reduced to 3 per cent. We believe that an interest rate of 4^ per cent, would impose an unnecessary burden on people in the lower income group. In support of my contention that the interest rate should be reduced to 3 per cent., let me cite the example of a tenant who purchases his home over the maximum period of 45 years, using the maximum advance of £2,750. Under the terms of this bill the total payments over 45 years at 4i per cent, would be £6,435. but if the interest rate were 3 per cent, the total payments over the same period would be £5,021, a saving of £1,414. Lel us consider a home valued at £2,500 which is the example selected by the Minister. In that case the saving would be £1,277. It is, therefore, quite obvious that in the ultimate disposal of the total liability the interest rate is a big factor, and for this reason the Opposition has moved an amendment to the bill. I agree that if our proposals are accepted tenants and prospective purchasers of homes under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement would possibly be placed on a similar basis to ex-servicemen who are eligible to purchase homes from the War Service Homes Division, hut in my opinion, and in the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House, this shows that a more liberal policy is needed with regard to war service homes; and that, after all, is in conformity with Labour party policy.
I mentioned at the outset that Tasmania withdrew from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1940-45 in August, 1950, but I should like an assurance from the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division that the conditions which will apply under this bill to the allocation of homes to eligible ex-servicemen will also apply in Tasmania.
Finally, the Opposition differs from the Government on three main issues. They have been covered to a degree by myself, and comprehensively by other members on this side of the House. A careful analysis of the whole position in regard to homes occupied by tenants under the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement will show that they are occupied, in the main, by people in the lower income category. If the opportunity is to be presented to them to acquire their own homes, the interest rate and other conditions must be within their means. I suggest that the amendment moved by the Opposition would, if accepted, relieve the position considerably. [Quorum formed.]
.- As I had not started my speech before the quorum was formed, the House could not have been depleted as a result of any remarks that I made. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who evidently emptied the chamber, said that the Tasmanian Government had withdrawn from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and that the housing position in Tasmania was chaotic. That circumstance is an indication that the palm of credit must be handed to the Australian Government. Those States which accepted assistance under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have largely solved their housing problems. The truth of that statement was demonstrated at the meeting of housing Ministers and housing officials which was held in Western Australia a short time ago. On that occasion, the Minister for Housing in Western Australia showed the Ministers from other States the housing achievements in Western Australia. The present Government of Western Australia has been in office for only about eighteen months, but it has continued to carry out the programme that was prepared and partly executed during the previous six or seven years by the Liberal-Australian Country party Government in that State. As a result of the assistance of the Australian Government, the housing problem in Western Australia has been solved. A similar position exists in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Only in. the State of Tasmania, which failed to take advantage of the housing agreement, is the housing position chaotic. The Australian Government cannot be blamed for that.
The bill before the House has nothing to do with the building of houses. Its purpose is to enable the tenants of Stateowned houses to buy them. The speeches of honorable members of the Opposition have indicated that they have taken a superficial view of the housing position. Have there ever been enough houses to meet the needs of the people? I do not agree that there have. An analysis of population in relation to housing, which was made immediately after the war in respect of a period dating from a number of years prior to the war, revealed that there had never been enough houses to enable every family to have a house to itself. At certain periods during, and prior to the last war, many houses had been occupied by more than one family. At the same time, due to economic circumstances, many houses were empty. The circumstances of many young people did not permit them to rent a house, although they could have rented one for 10s. or 12s. a week. It was a common practice for young couples to live with their in-laws because they could not afford to rent a house. Had every young couple sought to rent a house of their own at that time, as they do now, insufficient houses would have been available to meet all requirements.
In the post-war period, arrangements were made under the post-war reconstruction scheme to meet altered economic circumstances. It was considered that people who had previously been unable to obtain certain things in life should be able to obtain them in the future. Circumstances were changing throughout the world. In Australia, it was postulated that after the war there would be an over-supply of goods and services and serious unemployment. The school of political science which was held in Canberra in 1944 declared that that would be a post-war problem. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and a number of other leaders who spoke at that school, expressed the opinion that, when people came out of the services, they would be unable to find jobs, and that goods would be over-supplied. Those who held that beliefhadnottakenintoaccountthefact that industry had failed to supply many of the necessaries of life during the previous five years. There was a lag in production which had to be made good and, throughout the world, there had been widespread destruction of property which required replacement. It was obvious to the ordinary person that, after the war. the demand for goods and services could not be met, possibly for a decade. But, because the miserable picture to which I have referred had been painted, everybody was afraid.
When the trade unions, and those who had vested interests, werri asked to take special measures with a view to increasing the supply of labour, they refused. They denied people the opportunity to go into those trades and occupations, and they denied to the rest of the community the right to obtain, as quickly as possible, the houses they required. That difficulty, which had to be overcome, added to the lag in the provision of houses which existed in the immediate post-war years, and which had existed for many years previously. Reference has been made to the remarks made by Mr. Dedman when he was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, to the effect that he objected to people owning their own homes because it made them little capitalists; but an analysis made during his term of office showed that it was impossible ever to overcome the housing problem because of the shortage which had existed during previous years. I return to what I said previously, that young couples who in earlier days would never have dreamt of getting houses of their own, are now demanding houses. That is a result of the changing circumstances of these latter years. People now expect that, literally within five minutes, the Government should make up the lag which had developed through economic circumstances over the centuries, and had been accentuated during war years, when construction practically ceased. A great number of people now want to obtain houses at the same time, and these requirements can be met only by exceptional efforts. The Government has made an effort to overcome the problem by implementing the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, but it has been mainly a matter of building as many houses as possible in as short a time as possible. I agree that the question of ownership was originally not considered very important.
Much has been said about the deposit required for home3 under this agreement, and about the rate of interest. I am in a position to speak with some knowledge on this subject - probably more knowledge than has any other member here. I live in a house which was built under conditions similar to those provided for in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. When I married, I built a house in Western Australia under the Workers Homes Act. That is 30 years ago. There were no complaints at that time about the operation of that act. It achieved some of the things that this agreement provides for. There was one provision in that act which is not specifically included in the present agreement, although it is there by implication; the Workers Homes Act in Western Australia provided that a man receiving more than a certain income could not obtain a house with money borrowed from the Government. The income limit was the average tradesman’s wage, which at that time was les.? than £6 a week. If a person received a wage of more than £6 a week, he could not obtain a loan under the Workers Homes Act, and he had to arrange finance elsewhere. The amount of the deposit was 10 per cent. I built my house at a cost of £400, and I had to find £40 for the deposit. The rate of interest was 41 per cent. Honorable members on the other side of the House have been telling us how prices have risen, but if you treble the figures that T have quoted you will find that the conditions under the Workers Homes Act were harsher than the conditions applying in the agreement provided for in the bill before the House at present. Persons who obtain advances under this bill will be asked to pay 4J per cent, interest, which was the rate fixed in the Workers Homes Act of 30 years ago. The amount of the deposit under that act was 10 per i;ent., and I think that the maximum loan which could be obtained was £600. A house in Western Australia which cost £600 then would cost about £2,000 to-day, or three or four times the maximum loan under the Workers’ Homes Act. If we multiply the deposit required then by three or four we get a figure comparable with the deposit required now, because wages have increased move than three or four times in the intervening period.
Let us debate this matter sensibly, Mr. Speaker, and consider the picture as a whole. It is no use picking out oan feature of the legislation and arguing whether it is right or wrong. The complete picture should be considered. In those earlier years, people were glad to receive much less than the Government is now providing. Attempts are being made in this House to deceive the people about this bill. There should be a reorientation of ideas, especially in this Parliament. The provisions in this bill are very generous indeed. They are more generous than those which applied years ago in previous legislation, and which the average person was only too happy to accept. They are more generous than the provisions which exist to-day in State legislation. I could go on to draw parallels between conditions of years ago and those which exist to-day. The cost of a house to-day could be compared with its cost years ago. A comparison could he made of deposits, which to-day are reckoned in hundreds of pounds whereas previously, they were reckoned in tens of pounds. All those things form the basis of the arguments which Opposition members persist in using in order to deceive and mislead the people. That is the sort of thing which creates unjustified discontent in the minds of the people, and the Opposition introduces those arguments purely for party political purposes. It is typical of the practice of members on the other side of the House. Their idea is to find a sore spot, then ram a jagged stick into it, twist the stick and make it as hurtful as possible. They do not suggest remedies. Their object is to cause pain and produce an outcry against authority. That is the practice of those who would create disruption, discord and unhappiness throughout the country ; and only for one purpose, which is to introduce a system of government in which people will have no say, but which will compel people to knuckle down to whatever is dictated to them. I hope that wi?. have heard from the Opposition the end of arguments and criticisms which have no substance. The present housing problem is not the fault of this or any other government. It is due entirely to circumstances which have changed throughout the world, and which, in the democratic countries at least, have changed for the better. I refer to that part of the world in which those who are in opposition to their government are free to exercise their right to speak their own minds. That is a right that is denied to people in the part of the world which members of the Opposition no doubt have in mind. As I have stated, I trust that we have now heard the end of the deceitful utterances about this bill made by members of the Opposition. I trust also that honorable members opposite will forget party bias and acknowledge that this measure is desirable and that it is indicative of the Government’s generosity and good administration. I support the bill.
.- The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has stated that the bill deals only with the tenancy of homes, and that he cannot understand the Opposition’s objection to it. If the honorable member’s claim about the purpose of the bill were correct, of course, there would be no opposition to the measure. Not only does it effect changes in the terms of tenancy and of ownership, but it also prescribes the conditions upon which those changes shall be made. Members of the Opposition find themselves in disagreement with the Government about those conditions. The bill specifies the maximum amount that shall be advanced, the rate of interest that shall be charged for the advance, and a number of other conditions. The Opposition differs strongly and fundamentally from the Government in its approach to those matters, and, in consequence, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), on behalf of the Opposition, has proposed the amendment. Government supporters, particularly the honorable member for Moore, have twitted members of the Opposition about their attitude to this measure. It is noticeable that most Government supporters who have addressed themselves to the bill this afternoon have been able only to read extracts from statements made by other persons and misconstrue the remarks of a former member of this House.
Fundamentally, and notwithstanding the remarks of honorable members opposite to the contrary, housing problems in Australia stem largely from the policy of this Government, which has restricted the funds made available to the States. The number of houses that the State governments can build under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is determined by the available finance. It is idle for Government supporters to claim that this Administration’s financial policy has not restricted home-building. It is impossible to obtain from any bank in Australia adequate financial accommodation for the purchase or construction of a home. This is a direct result of the Government’s financial policy. This policy has restricted not only private home construction, but also the building activities of the State governments, which are dependent upon advances from the Commonwealth. The housing allocations sought by the State Premiers at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council were drastically cut by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). This restriction has prevented the States from undertaking more extensive and vigorous housing programmes.
Honorable members opposite have persistently blamed the State governments because tenants of housing commission homes cannot buy the dwellings that they occupy. Rut we now have a belated admission by the Government that the blame rests with this Administration because it has been unwilling to take action. Honorable members will recall that on many occasions Government supporters have laid the blame at the doors of the State governments. It is most noticeable in all the debates in this chamber that Government supporters take every available opportunity to display what amounts almost to a pathological hatred of Labour governments. Frequently their only contribution to proceedings in this chamber is made in condemnation of the State Labour administrations. In this instance, their charges have been proved to be unfounded. Time after time, Government supporters have attempted to lay on the State governments blame for the inability of tenants of housing commission homes to buy those houses. They now state that the Government has introduced a measure that will enable those tenants to buy the homes that they occupy.
Why has this legislation been delayed for so long?
If, as Government supporters claim when they are pinned down on any particular aspect of housing, the Commonwealth has no responsibility in housing, why did the Government parties makehousing such a cardinal feature of their appeal to the people at the last general elections? One can only conclude that, if the claims made to-day by Government supporters are truthful, their appeal to the electors was deceitful. One cannot claim that one can solve a problem, and then, when it is offered for solution, claim that the responsibility for solving it belongs to some one else. In appealing to the people before the last general elections, members of the Government parties were not hampered or hindered by any inhibitions about their responsibilities. They were bold enough to declare that if they were returned to office the housing difficulties that confronted the Australian people would miraculously disappear. In spite of the Government’s promises, the State administrations still depend upon the Commonwealth for housing funds, and I submit that the limited rate of construction is directly the result of thi? Government’s miserable financial policy. It goes without saying that, if. the States had been able to obtain far more money, they would have achieved far greater results in the field of housing. It is inevitable that, if their allocations of funds are reduced their achievement? must be less.
It ill becomes the Government and ir.n supporters to criticize the housing activities of the States. I remind Government supporters that this Administration has a very unimpressive record in a field of housing in which it has exclusive responsibility, that is, war service homes. The Government is constructing war service homes at the rate of only 13,000 a year for the whole of Australia. and any exserviceman who approaches the War Service Homes Division for a home is informed that he will have to wait two or three years for his application even to be considered. The Government’s record, therefore, is anything but inspiring, and honorable members opposite should bear this fact in mind when they criticize the State governments. Thousands of ex-servicemen throughout Australia are clamouring for homes, but little is being done to satisfy their needs. Why is the Government not attempting to provide homes for them ? It is not hampered by financial restrictions, as are the States, and it does not depend upon any other authority for an allocation of funds for the purpose. Although it has exclusive responsibility in the field of war service homes, the lag in the satisfaction of the undiminishing housing needs of exservicemen remains as great as ever. Before Government supporters criticize State governments and point to their own record in a field where they have no competition, they should remember that the building of only 13,000 homes a year for ex-servicemen is not a very good record. This Government also has exclusive control of housing in the Australian Capital Territory. That matter was dealt with last night by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), andI have no desire to be repetitive.
The amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) touches on three aspects. First, we ask that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the minimum deposit, in the case of sales, be 5 per cent., instead of 4½ per cent., of the purchase consideration. We are asking that the interest rate be 3 per cent and the maximum advance £3,500. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in presenting the bill, merely said that the interest rate would be 4½ per cent. He told honorable members nothing more than that, so we do not know why that rate has been fixed. Honorable members are entitled to know just how and why that figure was arrived at. It is well known that the War Service Homes Division is providing homes at a lower rate of interest than this. It is pertinent to ask why some homes can be built and sold on conditions that include a lower rate of interest than the figure that is presented here.
Why should not interestrates be uniform? The Australian Government, in allotting this money to the States, is charging them 3 per cent. The States must set up an organization to conduct housing operations, and, when one considers the ramifications of their work, the additional charge of1½ per cent does not seem to be exorbitant. Honorable members are entitled to know why the Australian Government has charged the States 3 per cent. It is well known that the Commonwealth Bank advances money to some of its employees at a lower rate of interest than 3 per cent, so that they may buy homes. If the bank finds it possible to do that, why is this Government charging the State governments 3 per cent.? With costs mounting, an interest reduction of even 1 per cent, would mean a considerable saving in housing costs. It would amount to about 15s. a week in rent on a home costing £4,000. and that would be a large contribution towards relieving tenants of the burden of the high rents that arise from the high cost of building. Why cannot this Government make money available to the State governments at a lower rate of interest ? Why has it chosen an arbitrary figure of 3 per cent.? One would have expected that the Treasurer, in presenting the bill, “would have given us some information on that score, but he did not provide an answer to either of those questions. We are entitled to seek further information because high interest rates are a big factor in the high rentals that tenants of Housing Commission homes are called upon to pay.
I support the amendment, and believe that most honorable members regard housing as the major problem confronting Australia. The family that is not suffering as a result of the acute housing shortage is very fortunate. Its effects upon our families are such as to show that something on a major scale must be done about it. We do ask the Government to be more positive in its approach to the problem so as to enable the States to do more than they are doing at the present time. I believe that if a more enlightened attitude were adopted by the Commonwealth, the States, in turn, would beable to make a much greater contribution towards solving the housing problem.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [4.22].- It is not my intention to delay the House, but I want to reply to certain statements made by honorable members on the other side of the chamber. Like the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor), I rise to support the amendment. I do so because, first and foremost, it envisages the payment of a lower deposit and also, ultimately, the payment of a lower rate of interest on the amount outstanding under the mortgage on the property. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), was one of those who postulated that after the war was over there would be a surplus of goods and services, lt is true that those whose job it is to advise governments and big business on economic trends were of the opinion that, after the war, when we switched back to a peacetime economy, there would be such a surplus. However, from 1941 until the end of the war there was in office a Labour government which prosecuted the war to a successful conclusion and threw into the struggle everything that it possibly could. That Government did not lose sight of the fact that the hundreds of thousands of servicemen must not be brought back to conditions similar to those that existed when they joined up. It set about preparing for the day when the war would be over, and formulating what has become known as the full employment policy. Because of economic trends and fluctuations in overseas prices, the conditions that it envisaged did not arise. As its full employment policy was in operation, there was a demand for homes. In prewar days, two or three families might, because of unemployment or low wages, be forced to live in the one home because singly they could not pay the rent. There was no building during the six years of the war. This lag had to be made up and, in addition, the normal annual demands had to be met. The Chifley Labour Government, in association with the State governments, decided to enter into what has now become known as the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement so that the States could co-operate after the war in meeting the housing shortage. [ heard Government supporters say, only last night, that the housing lag in Queensland had been overcome. Figures supplied by the Government Statistician were cited. I have before me the Queensland Hansard of the 24th March, which was only a few weeks ago, in which is recorded the following statement of the Minister for Public Works and Housing, Mr. Hilton: -
We have approximately 1,000 families in temporary accommodation in Brisbane.
He further stated, in relation to the housing shortage - . . I put the figure, on my own calculation, at 2,500.
– What did the Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr. Jones, say on the 30th March?
– They were the figures that were cited by the Minister for Public Works and Housing in Queensland during the debate on the bill that was introduced in the Queensland Parliament to ratify the amending agreement. It is true that the Queensland Government, by virtue of its association with the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, has done a mighty job in building houses. It is only necessary to go to the division that is represented by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who has just interjected, to see evidence of the efforts of the Queensland Housing Commission to house the people of Brisbane. If we were to go into the country districts of Queensland, we would see similar evidence of its efforts. In the years preceding the outbreak of World War If., the Queensland Labour Government, through the State Advances Corporation, pushed ahead with the provision of houses for workers. Last night, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), and, this afternoon, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), referred to the statement of a former member of the Parliament that the Australian Labour party did not believe in home-ownership because, if homes were sold to the workers, the Government would be making them little capitalists. It is not true that that i3 the attitude of the Labour party. The record of the Queensland Labour Government gives the lie to the statement.
Government supporters may refer to the Government Statistician’s figures if they wish to do so, but I direct their attention to the following statement of the Minister in charge of housing in
Queensland during the debate to which I have already referred: -
Approximately 12 months ago a Gallup poll made a thorough survey of home-ownership throughout Australia and found as follows: -
It must be remembered that, with the exception of a period of three years, Labour governments have been in office in Queensland for the past 40 years. The Gallup poll revealed that 73 per cent, of the people of that State owned their own homes. That percentage does not include houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Probably most of the houses covered by that Gallup poll were built through insurance companies and banks. But it must he remembered that, as a result of the policy adopted by the Queensland Labour Government, a great many houses were built through the State Advances Corporation. In South Australia, 69 per cent, of the people own their own homes: in Western Australia, 66 per cent. ; in New South Wales, 64 per cent. ; in Tasmania, 64 per cent.; and in Victoria, 63 per cent. The average for Australia is 66 per cent. When the amending agreement is ratified, the percentage of persons in Queensland who own their own homes must rise, because, although the tenants will not be forced to purchase the dwellings, they will be able to exercise the right of purchasing them at valuation.
I again refer to the Queensland Ilansard, which reveals that, for the year ended December, 1952, 11,486 dwellings were erected in that State, of which 3,017 were government-built. During the financial year ended the 30th June, 1954, 9,169 dwellings were erected, of which 3,102 were government-built. There has been a decline of the rate of construction by private enterprise, but government expenditure on the provision of houses has been increased.
I refer now to the sale of houses built, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, to which reference was made last night by the honorable member for Petrie. I have not a note of the statement of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), but I think he supported the honorable member for Petrie in relation to the basis upon which the houses should he sold. The honorable member for Petrie was of the opinion that they should be sold at actual cost, and not at valuation. Let me quote the following further statement of the Queensland Minister for Public Works and Housing -
Mr. Chifley’s letter, which is dated 5 June. 1048, was written to the Treasurer of this
State. It reads -
The Commonwealth proposes that sales should be made at valuation or capital cost whichever is the higher. If a dwelling is sold very soon after completion, it is likely that its capital cost and its market value will be roughly equal, but when building costs (and market values) have subsequently risen, a sale at capital cost represents a gift to the purchaser which in view of the nature and benefits of the scheme can scarcely be justified. It hai1 been suggested to me that sale at cost with restrictions on the right of resale could be adopted to prevent the purchaser’s reselling at a profit but I do not favour restrictive titles if they can possibly be avoided.
The letter indicates very clearly that, when the Commonwealth and State housing scheme was inaugurated, the then Labour Government had in mind the ultimate sale of the houses to the tenants, and it gives the lie to the statement of the honorable member for Canning in relation to little capitalists. It also covers the question about whether the houses should be sold at actual cost or a! valuation.
When a house already built is purchased through the War Service Homes Division, the price fixed by the division is the valuation at the time of inspection, not the original cost of the building. Apparently, the State governments, in valuing a house and fixing the price that the tenant shall pay, will follow the practice of the Australian Government. The honorable member for Petrie and the honorable member for Lilley apparently do not a.gree with the policy of this Government. Moreover, there is a lot to be said for the attitude of the late Mr. Chifley, as disclosed in the letter he wrote. Objection can be taken to imposing restrictions on titles. In addition to that, if properties are to be sold at actual cost, a person living in a house that was built at the inception of this scheme would pay considerably less than a tenant of, perhaps, a similar house which has been erected recently. In the year 1 946-47, the cost of building a timber house in Queensland was £115 a square, whereas to-day it is £240. The tenant of a house which was built twelve months ago might well say, “ “Why should I have to pay £200 per square for this house while another person is paying only £115 a square?” Dissatisfaction will be created immediately.
Again, some loss may be incurred when a house is sold. The honorable member for Lilley referred last night to a French company that constructed prefabricated houses, and it has been suggested that those dwellings did not conform to the full requirements of the contract. Possibly, the honorable member for Lilley has heard enough about those French-built houses because it is not so very long ago that he found himself in a little strife. I do not propose to refer to it now. The point is that a State government may sell one of these houses; and I shall take, by way of illustration, a case that was cited by the honorable member for Lilley last night. A person living in a. house could purchase it at valuation, and the price might very well be lower than the original cost incurred by the State Government in building it. One cannot have it both ways. If a house is to be sold, not at valuation, but at actual cost, as is suggested by the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Petrie, all sorts of difficulties will arise. In view of all the circumstances, I believe the best policy is that suggested by the late Mr. Chifley. No restrictions that might affect a future sale should be placed on any titles.
I now desire to deal with the subject of interest. Late in 1951, a conference of State Housing Ministers was held at Hobart, and subsequently in March, 1952, a further conference was held in an attempt to get the Australian Government to agree to the proposal that tenants of these homes should be given an option to purchase. I emphasize this happened in 1952 and not in 1955. This Government did nothing, but the Queensland Government did take certain action. The Premier, Mr. Gair, wrote a letter urging this Government to do something. What happened? The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy
Ifr. Riordan. speech before the general election last year, said that the Government would agree to sell these houses on a 10 per cent, deposit. However, we now find that the bill provides for a deposit of 5 per cent, up to £2,000, and 10 per cent, of the balance, with a ceiling of £2,750. In other words, the Prime Minister has compromised. Who can huy, for £2,000, a house which was built under this agreement? The 5 per cent, deposit will apply only to a little more than half the actual cost of most of these houses. The Premiers and State Housing Ministers made strong representations to this Government that the deposit should be 5 per cent., but the Prime Minister took no action until just prior to the election in 1954, when he said that these houses would be sold on a 10 per cent, deposit. Then, apparently, after the election was over, he said, in effect, “Well boys, we will go 50-50”. That is the story behind the bill that we have before us to-day.
Reverting to the matter of interest, it is a fact that until the 30th June, 1955, State governments will pay only 3 per cent, on the money that was loaned to them by the Australian Government under this agreement; but, at the same time, they are compelled to charge the purchasers of these homes 44 per cent. That is because of the stand that has been taken by this Government.
– It is because the State governments insisted.
– I am not able to hear the interjection by the Minister.
– It will be in Hansard.
– The Minister spoke in a mumble. Why has the Government insisted on the rate of 4-^ per cent.? I shall give the reasons. They are quite simple. First, and foremost, the interest rate on war service homes would have to be reduced, and, secondly, the interest rates charged by insurance companies and banks for housing loans would also have to be reduced. The Government is afraid that the interpretation which would be placed upon its action would be that it was following a policy of interest reduction. Of course, this Government has never reduced interest rates, but rather has increased them.
These particular homes are being made available to a very deserving section of the community. Nearly every one of these people have families, and most of them have been living in housing camps. As I mentioned earlier, 1,000 families in Brisbane alone are at present living in temporary accommodation while they are waiting for houses. Forty-five years is allowed in which to pay for these houses, and many people may never live long enough to pay for their houses because of the heavy interest burden. If this Government is really concerned about the housing problem, and believes that it is a social necessity for us to improve the existing situation, then some action should be taken to reduce interest rates on loans made for purchase of home under this agreement, as well as war service homes.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to make it clear that I share the views of my colleagues on this legislation. The bill, as has been indicated, provides that people in the various States may acquire the property for which they are now paying rent. Members of the Opposition think that the provisions of this legislation should be greatly liberalized because only in that way will full justice be done to the large number of people who are eager to purchase their homes. Therefore, we suggest that provision should be made in this agreement to the effect that the minimum deposit required . for the purchase of a government-built house shall be 5 per cent, of the cost, that the interest rate on the remainder shall not exceed 3 per cent., and that the total amount of the loan for the purchase of the house shall be greater than is shown in the agreement.
It is essential that we introduce into the system of buying government-built houses, the reforms contemplated in the amendment of the Opposition. There is no part of our public policy thai is more important than our attitude towards housing, because home life determines the general disposition and character of the people. It is vital to national wellbeing. We should do everything possible to enable those who show a desire for better home life to obtain homes in which they can raise the standards of family life.
I am sorry to say that many features of our housing system are not as desirable as they should be. I am well aware that the measure at present before the House will possibly assist to ameliorate that position. Nevertheless, we should recognize that, by helping to provide home ownership for those who are renting properties, we are assuring them of permanance of domicile in premises that have satisfactory appointments. Many people in the electorate which I have the honour to represent will be affected by this legislation, because they are occupying temporary prefabricated houses, built by the South Australian Housing Trust, which, I am afraid, will become all too permanent. Prefabricated houses are to be found in many of the new housing areas in South Australia, particularly in areas where newcomers to the country live, and where our own younger people have made their homes. I wish that many more of brick structure could have been built.
Quite recently, State Labour governments were chided by a supporter of the Government because, he said, they had not given people the opportunity to select the types of houses that they wished to reside in, or the housing areas in which they wanted to live. In reply to him, perhaps I can point out that there are many areas of South Australia where prefabricated houses have been built by the South Australian Housing Trust. Although that State is controlled by a non-Labour government, the people who want to live in the government-owned houses have been given no opportunity to determine where they shall reside, or what type of home they shall occupy. A large number of the people in my own State have had to accept the government houses that have been allotted to them, and have had no opportunity to make a selection for themselves. Therefore, I suggest it is quite apparent that the people have not been served, to their best advantage, in the matter of housing.
The people who need houses, and who earnestly look forward to a home life of their own, should get houses in surroundings that are congenial to them and reasonably near to their place of employment and shopping and business areas. Anything less than that will not make for their happiness or for successful home life.Unfortunately, much is left to be desired in the regulations of the State housing authorities that control the allotment of houses to the poeple. Another thing is the excessive capital cost and rent charges for many of these homes.
I rose to-day to make only a few brief observations about housing, although the matter is of such importance that it could rightly claim the attention of the House for a considerable time. The Commonwealth is not altogether without responsibility for the general failure to provide proper and adequate houses for the people, and to make it possible for them to purchase homes for themselves. Let us consider even the war service homes legislation. At present, people are required to wait for six months before their applications for finance to enable them to buy or build homes can be considered. Quite often, that time is too long for the person who wants to sell his house to an applicant. Even though the vendor has to wait that considerable time for a decision on the buyer’s application, he is by no means sure that, ultimately, the purchase of the house will be approved. Consequently, ex-servicemen who want houses are forced to go to private lending institutions in order to secure temporary loans while the War Service Homes Division is spending six months or so in determining their applications for Government finance. This imposes greater expense and liability on the purchaser. Surely the war service homes authorities are capable of determining many application for loans in a shorter time than six months !
I now desire to put forward a. proposition which may be regarded as somewhat novel at present, but which, I have no doubt, will receive general acceptance in the future. It is that the time is rapidly coming when every home that has electricity available will be fitted, as standardequipment. with a. hot water system, a refrigerator and the most modern laundry facilities including a washing machine. I earnestly suggest that those facilities should be made available in order to relieve the housewives of the comnmunity of much of the work that they do at present. Housewives fully deserve some relief because of the many and varied domestic duties that they have to undertake. I hope that, in these days of modern scientific developments, all governmental housing authorities will do everything they can to help to relieve Australian housewives of the chores of housework as far as possible. The bill could have been made a good deal more generous. I believe that the young people of this country should be given every possible assistance to enable them to buy their homes. Therefore, I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), which I regard as both timely and essential.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Haylen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma ; progress reported.
Debate resumed from the10th May (vide page 569), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is an interesting bill, and the Opposition will not oppose its general provisions for an appeals court to operate in relation to courts-martial. However, I should like to discuss certain aspects of the bill which other honorable members on this side of the House will also discuss, and also to make some contribution to the general analysis of the bill. The measure adheres very closely to the line of the Lewis report which followed a report by Lord Darling and a later report by another English lawyer in relation to courts-martial. It was felt, even before World War II., that court-martial procedure left too much for final decision by the judge advocate-general and the courts-martial themselves. The opening paragraph of this splendid report by Mr. Justice Lewis gives the keynote to the modern attitude towards the decisions of courts-martial and appeals therefrom. The first conclusion reached by the British inquiry into the question of appeals against the awards of courtsmartial was contained in a submission which, as an opening, deserves to be considered by this House, and indeed by everybody who is baffled by the problem of the serviceman endeavouring to retain his civil rights while he is performing his service. The report says -
The serviceman is still a citizen, and as such is entitled to the protection of the ordinary civil law and all that it conveys.
That was the whole essence of the inquiry, and I take it that the whole purpose of the bill is to find some reconciliation between discipline and justice for men - or indeed women - who are serving with the armed forces of the nation. Since those inquiries were made in Great Britain, and since the findings were brought down, and as the present measure follows the line of those inquiries and their conclusions, it is interesting to note that the trend is towards some modification of the complete and utter finality that attends the awards of courts-martial. True enough, there is some form of appeal in that the judge advocate-general may review a case in the light of the permissibility of certain evidence, but under the general principles of army law a ease is complete after the decision of a court-martial has been so examined. The hill provides, as does the English law, for an appeals court which will, in essence, be a civil court, although it will not be of the same tenor and exactly the same construction as the British law, which not only altered the name, but, in addition,, altered the approach to appeals from the awards of courts-martial. It did that because there were so many unsatisfactory factors existing in Army procedure. When I use the word “ Army “ I use it as the report uses it, and when I use the word “ soldier “ I am referring to a serviceman in whatever capacity he may be serving and in the definition given in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Because, in the nations of the British Commonwealth, there are service call-ups and universal training schemes, the problem of the care of the young man in the services who may fall foul of army regulations, or commit a tort or crime under Army regulations, or even under civil law, enters into the matter. There is a need for wider protection for him. That is to say, there is need for the right of appeal, because of the different circumstances that surround compulsory military service as compared with regular military service as an occupation. The maturity of the average permanent soldier is not called into question in regard to this matter of courts-martial as much as is the immaturity of the young man who is compulsorily serving in a national service unit. Let me say now that I do not imply that the incidence of courts-martial in relation to national service trainees is higher than their incidence in the regular army. However, as the British conclusions pointed out, there seems to be a desire by the public that, because of the youth of trainees who might fall foul of Army law, greater protection than heretofore should be provided in order to ensure that there shall be no miscarriage of justice. The grim story of courts-martial rather fascinates, me. I suppose that nobody who has undergone national service training looks on them with admiration. Some honorable members have acted on such bodies as adjudicators, and others have by good fortune escaped having to perform that duty.
Courts-martial were first instituted, in 1642 during the reign of Charles I. At that time courts-martial could award the death penalty for no fewer than 43 offences. Offences, as absence without leave and leaving the Army while in action, could lead to such punishments as the tearing out of the tongue with hot pincers, crucifixation and floggings and the rubbing of salt into the wounds. AH these were just routine punishments for the tough old armies of the past. It is curious to note that no great change has been made in the general construction of courts-martial from 1642 onward. All that has been changed is the severity of the punishments. As a result of a more merciful approach, and of the standardization of Army law, the harsh punishments previously inflicted are no longer warded by courts-martial. The British procedure relating to courts-martial, after a man had been arraigned, and had been dealt with, was found to be full of strange anomalies. The judge advocate, who, by virtue of his position, presented the case for the prosecution, would leave the tent or other place of hearing, with the other members of the court, and, either by his presence, or in actual fact, by intimidation, might influence the decision of the court. That was obviously a weakness that had to be remedied. The matter was looked at by the British inquiry, with all its keen insight into the humanitarian aspects of the law, and many amendments were made. I think that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) will agree that the Australian army has always had a more temperate view of punishments in the field and on service than has the older and harsher British army, until the laws were amended. Nevertheless, in many cases, there has been a lag between the time when men have been charged and when they have been arraigned before courtsmartial. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that close arrest has, as its concomitant, the cessation of pay in the British army, and I also understand that that is so with the regular services as well. If there is undue delay, as there has been in the past - and I am not suggesting that such delay occurs in the army at the present time - in bringing these people to trial by court-martial, there is a great miscarriage of justice, and an imposition is placed on the persons concerned.
The British report showed that some remarkable things have occurred in the British Army. For instance, one man was held in detention for seven months pending court-martial. Of course, his pay and also the allowances to his people were not made during that period. Another man was held on the simple charge of absence without leave, with some aggravating circumstances, such as assaulting the military police when they came to arrest him. That is not uncommon. But those charges resulted in hi3 being left in close confinement for 300 days, without any attempt being made to hear his case. Three other men were arrested in similar circumstances on charges which, to us, would appear to be somewhat trivial, but they were held in durance vile for a period out of all proportion to what was fair and just in the circumstances.
The recommendations of this inquiry became law in 1952, and have been incorporated in this bill. There was a new spirit, a new approach, to the question of courts-martial. The temper of the people had changed, but the problem had not changed with it. The desire arose to create within a disciplined force the means to do, to the uttermost limit, the right thing, so that a. man’s civil liberties would not he threatened by service in the forces. The result has been a triumph for British thought, British law and British imagination. The result of the inquiry is reflected in this bill, and I hope that the main context of its recommendations, while not necessarily incorporated in a bill of this nature, will be the guiding principle in respect of the attitude towards courts-martial, and particularly to appeals against the findings of courts-martial.
As the Minister has stated in his second-reading speech, there are four main features of this bill. A new body, to be known as the courts-martial appeal tribunal, is to be set up, and is to determine appeals from convictions by courtsmartial. Under the present system, of course, there is no appeal. As I pointed out before, the papers are sent to the judge advocate-general, and one of the main difficulties of that procedure is that if a man has been tried and found guilty by a court-martial, the matter seems to disappear there. The old army _ trick comes into the picture. He is left in the dark. He does not know what happens. If the man makes an appeal, his papers are vetted by his commanding officers, and sent to an authority which is purely anonymous to him - the boys at the top. Of course, he knows if his appeal has been successful, and he also knows if it has not been successful, because action is then taken to see that his punishment is carried out. That kind of thing is against justice.
This legislation will alter that position, because the bill makes provision for appeals. Previously, courts-martial stopped dead with the judge advocate and the court-martial having decided what was a fair verdict. In most cases, the verdicts were fair, although there have been some classic miscarriages of justice, as there have been in other jurisdictions. This appeal tribunal is a good thing, now that we have a national service scheme, as well as being a good thing for our regular army. It is wise to get the legal apparatus associated with service in such a position that there is not, in essence, very much difference between the civil apparatus for the redress of grievances, and the hearing of cases where men are charged with crimes, whether they be military or civil crimes. Immediately a decision was reached in this matter, the Government itself encountered a problem raised by the Constitution. Whereas it was decided, in the wisdom of the British committee on this matter, that this should be a purely civilian tribunal, the Constitution, as the Minister pointed out in his secondreading speech, posed some difficulties regarding the purely civilian legal side of this appeal court. The point is that the Constitution will preclude the setting up of an essentially new tribunal under the terms which the British decided to adopt. The British went into this matter most thoroughly and decided even to change the names. The term . “judge advocategeneral “ appeared to be contradictory. Was he the judge, the advocate or the general? In many cases, people coming before a court-martial may have thought that indeed he was the judge, the advocate and the general, and sometimes his attitude to the personnel involved was wrapped up in that rather portmanteau term “judge advocate-general”. So the British committee re-titled him, and he is now the courts-martial judge. There is another sign of progress in respect of something with which we are not fully acquainted, but this House should watch it carefully, because it is a point of justice which affects servicemen generally. This bill carries elements of justice which earn the support of honorable members on this side of the House.
Appointments to the appeal court, as the Minister has said, will be drawn from the ranks of present and former justices and judges of federal courts and the Supreme Courts of the States and Territories, barristers and solicitors of not les3 than five years’ standing, and other persons who have had legal experience which makes them specially suitable for appointment. The president, and also, the deputy president of the tribunal, must be a present or former justice or judge, or a Queen’s Counsel. So, on the legal side, which is the important side, and in relation to the sifting of evidence on appeal to see that there has been no miscarriage of justice, the calibre of the tribunal cannot be doubted when it is appointed, because the area of selection will be a wide one. Its members will be highly trained legally, and it only remains for the best material to be appointed to this tribunal to make it work, toother matter which is important is that, unless there is a strong reason which prompts the tribunal to decide otherwise, appeals will be heard in public.
It will be mighty interesting to follow the careers of young men in the army who, because they have strayed in some way, have been sentenced by courtsmartial. This tribunal will be a kind of halfway step between their life in the army and their civilian life. It will be a bridge, as it were, between the familiar things of civil life and their present unfamiliar life in the army. It is a curious thing that, when we look at the statistics, we see that the major offences are usually not committed by old soldiers, unless they have gone completely bad, but by the young and inexperienced soldiers who are not able to accommodate themselves to their new way of life. There is a great psychological lesson to be learned, and the army has a great opportunity to study the psychology of the civilian who has become a soldier, either because he volunteered for such service or because he complied with the laws of his country. This tribunal, which will stand at the bridgehead of civilian and military life, will play a most interesting part in working out the problems of civilians who have become soldiers, because it will interpret their civilian rights and regard their actions through the eyes of civilians. “We had better be frank about this and admit that, in some cases, the power of the military machine can and does break down the man who commits an error of judgment or a crime in the army. He begins to think that the whole world is against him. He does not know why things have gone wrong and why he has not become the soldier he dreamed of becoming. His crime is magnified by the fact that he is always running info the same problems and being “ crimed “ by the same people. The appeals he makes are from Caesar to Caesar. The same brass hats - if I may use that term, and 1 do not do so disrespectfully - “ crime “ the soldier, prepare his case and later sit in judgment on him on a general courtmartial, a district court-martial, or whatever other type of court-martial is formed.
Under this bill, an appeal will follow, and the man who has been dealt with by the court-martial will have his case given attention by civilians. The tenor will be completely new. His situation is not given a new drift, because the same evidence must be considered in relation to the charges that have been made, but at least his appeal will be heard by civilian judges of repute. One may credit to a commanding officer great brilliance in the field and high martial qualities as a soldier, but one can recognize also that in the sifting of evidence, he might be a little out of his ground. In many cases, indeed, he is rough in this respect. The general operation of an appeal is a fine thing. It will help in the recruitment of forces and in strengthening the general morale of the Army and the other services. Both Ministers present in the chamber. who have defence portfolios should consider the importance of the English legislation and the inquiries that preceded it. Those inquiries made great play on the factors affecting preparation of a man’s case. The first was, “ Do not keep him too long before he is charged”. The second consideration was, “ See that he is given adequate legal representation early, before he goes to the court-martial “. More importantly even, I suppose it should be ensured that the representation is fair. The final suggestion was that a member of the forces should be provided with an appeal before civilian judges to even up the balance in which his case is weighed. This is specially important for a man who, because of his crime, might be living in two worlds and not getting the best out of either of them. Appropriate provisions were made in the British legislation. They were extremely carefully worked out and, as this measure keeps fairly close to them, it is one upon which the Government should be congratulated.
The possibilities of injustice occurring after this bill becomes law will be remote, because from the time of the incident that results in a man’s being “ crimed “ until the ultimate fixing of his guilt or innocence, his sentence, if any, and his appeal, the eyes of the judicial world will be upon his situation, and the eyes of the Army, under army regulations, will be upon him to see that he gets a fair deal. The manner in which this matter was dealt with by the British authorities is worth reporting to this House. Lord Darling made two inquiries, and finally there was the famous and effective Lewis inquiry. Those inquiries, in considering the procedure of courts-martial, went to the stage of investigating whether a man in the army should have his civilian rights preserved to the uttermost limit by having accorded to him a trial by his peers. It was suggested, and earnestly considered for some days, that a private soldier, a corporal, a bombardier, or one of the other ranks should sit on a court-martial with the judge advocate to ensure that a man of the same rank, who was before the court-martial, would be given that requirement of British justice which has descended to us from the days of Magna Charta - a trial by his peers. This was a most amazing line of inquiry, and it is described in the report of Mr. Justice Lewis, which I commend to honorable members who are interested in this subject. There are some very fine passages in it, and the conclusions reached are notable.
On this aspect of trial by one’s peers, it was decided that, in some cases, it would be very embarrassing for other ranks to be members of a court-martial, and that the extent of this embarrassment might make their presence of little help to their mate, who had been charged. Only reluctantly and after careful consideration did the inquiry conclude that, under army conditions, it was not always possible to arrange that a man should be tried by his peers. But so far as it is possible to go towards that end, and so as to break down the situation in which the officer always sits in judgment on the private soldier, amendments of the nature contained in this bill were made in the English law.
I hope that when the bill is put into operation its workings will be made known to the public. During the war, there were some miraculous escapes from mistakes in connexion with courts-martial. I do not wish to mention names, but there was one notable case that is familiar to most Australians. Two Australian lives were saved by the more mellow and more moderate application of the law in relation to courts-martial by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). His action was supported by the incoming Government at that time.
This bill is the ultimate in legislation in relation to servicemen. It would be nothing else but the ordinary equation of human fallibility that would cause a man to have an injustice done to him when his case has been through the Army courts and the court of appeal. Because the measure has been modelled on English legislation that followed brilliant inquiries by the British judiciary, it is firstrate legislation. It confirms the granting of an appeal to members of the forces, a reform that emanated from the Attlee Government in the United Kingdom, and confirmed by the Churchill Government.
I support the amendments contained in it. I hope that the measure will have the effect sought by the Minister. It will ensure that justice in the services begins at the lowest rank, and is of the ultimate quality, just as it is available to every civilian. In this fashion it will preserve for servicemen the provisions of Magna Charta that no man shall be charged without reason, without the right of judgment by his peers, and without an analysis of his claims by the highest law lords, according to the principle that he is innocent until he is proved guilty.
.- I do not wish to say much on this bill, but I join in the debate because I have been a member of various courts-martial in capacities ranging from junior member to presiding officer. This legislation will be welcomed by everybody in the Army, because unquestionably there should be an appeal from a courtmartial. By that statement, I do not mean that I have given any bad decisions, but I know that unjust decisions have been made, and have been carried into effect. That is my interpretation of military law. One of the things that I cannot understand about the bill is why this appeal tribunal must be comprised wholly of high legal luminaries. Why must there be an interpretation of law only on the physical facts of guilt, rather than on interpretation of the motives that prompted the offence? This is the way in which so much grave injustice has been done.
There are three kinds of courtsmartial - the general court-martial and the field general court-martial. A district court-martial has powers not very greatly exceeding those of a commanding officer. If an offence is committed which, it is believed, warrants a greater punishment than a commanding officer is empowered to give, a district court-martial is formed. Surely it is not proposed to allow appeals from these minor tribunals to a tribunal such as is proposed in this measure?
I agree that an appeal should be allowed to a senior tribunal from field general courts-martial. From my knowledge of the cold legal decisions given by some field general courts-martial I am convinced that, in justice, there must be an appeal body. But why must all its members be persons who are skilled in the law?
Let me put my case in this way. “ It is possible - and this is not casting any reflection whatever on the personnel of the proposed tribunal - that not one of those men would have had any battle experience. I believe that there should be on the tribunal somebody who has undergone the stresses and strains, the turmoil, din and the horror of battle itself, to determine what is justice to a man who is convicted of a serious offence, say, in the face of the enemy. The two major crimes in the Army are desertion in thu face of the enemy and cowardice in the face of the enemy. The penalty for those offences is death, and it is carried out in all Armies excepting possibly the Australian Army, where the proposed sentence has to be submitted to the Government for ratification. I have seen young boys in battle simply paralysed by fear. Their condition was not caused by physical fear but by fear engendered by the turmoil, din, uncertainty and horror of what they had been going through. They were incapable of going forward; they were equally incapable of going back. They stood paralysed !
According to a strict legal interpretation of military law, that man would be guilty of cowardice in the face of the enemy for which the penalty is death. Therefore, I believe that we must have persons on the tribunals who understand the stresses to which young men in such circumstances are subjected, so that they will obtain justice. I am not talking of my own battle experience, but I have had boys of excellent character come to me and tell me frankly that they were afraid. Their nervous systems were not matured enough to stand up to the strain of battle. Because I was a little more mature, I was able to comfort them. I told them to stick by me, or I put them in the hands of a seasoned soldier who would give them encouragement. In the long run, they turned out to be good soldiers, but according to the strict interpretation of military law, my duty in such cases was to put the lads under arrest for cowardice in the face of the enemy. That would be an injustice.
Desertion comes in many guises. There are some men who are not cowards but who are so wrapped up in themselves that they will not take the risks their comrades take, and deliberately clear out. I have no sympathy for such a man because his desertion might cause untold damage to his comrades who depend on him. On the other hand, a boy virtually paralysed by fear might run away and hide. I have known that to happen. Some men have hidden for days, recovered from their fear and soldiered on. The tribunals should have among their members persons who understand these problems, who can consider the motives and the character of the men concerned. In that way, justice will be done.
I emphasize that it is possible to appoint to a tribunal men who can interpret the law and decide that, in accordance with the terms of the law, a man is guilty and must suffer a given penalty. The judge advocate on a court-martial interprets the law. The junior member gives an opinion, and then an opinion is given by the officer who is nest junior in rank, but they can be overridden by the judge advocate and the president of the court-martial. Those are the men who understand what the man who is charged has been through. The soldier under military law could be guilty of an offence which would not be an offence under the civil laws of his country. A military offence is purely military. I am not speaking for a man who dodges or shirks his duty. I speak from my own experience with young lads of nineteen years of age who offend simply because their nervous structure is not capable of standing up to the strain of battle. Consequently, I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to consider the appointment to the tribunals of persons who understand the problems to which I have referred.
I shall cite as an example an actual case which was recorded during World War II. if we can believe the press.
A British soldier was charged with desertion. It transpired that he did not desert from the Army or fail to face the enemy. By some means, he lost touch with his own unit and joined another unit. He soldiered with that unit and was awarded the D.C.M. for bravery in the face of the enemy. He was ultimately discovered by his own unit, charged, and suffered the full penalty, despite hi3 meritorious service which had earned the recognition of his Sovereign while he was serving with another unit. Is that justice? Is it not evident that men who understand these matters should sit on the tribunals? I admit that provision is made for a prisoner’s friend to put his case to a court-martial, but there should be somebody with a voice and influence in the court itself. Otherwise, the protestations on behalf of the prisoner can be overridden by the purely legal approach of an officer when the prisoner needs the human approach. I appeal to the Minister for the Army to consider my suggestions. Instead of having only judges or persons who are qualified to be judges, justices of the High Court of Australia or Queen’s Counsel on the tribunals, the responsible authorities should appoint somebody who understands the stresses and strains of battle, and the influences that work upon the nervous fibre of young boys who are sent into action.
.- I entirely support the bill except that I believe it should go further than it does, and I shall indicate before I sit down the respects in which I am certain its operations should be extended.
But first let me say, by way of comment upon the observations of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), that perhaps he has overlooked the fact that before a case gets to the appeal tribunal to be set up under this bill, it will be dealt with by the very kind of tribunal that he has in mind - that is, by the soldiers. It is only after the soldiers who understand the matters about which he has spoken have, nevertheless, convicted the soldier concerned, that the matter finally and in the last resort will go before the appeal tribunal, lt would be taken there by the soldier himself by way of appeal.
I cannot claim the experience that the honorable member for Gippsland has had in courts-martial, but it is true that I have been prosecuting and defending officer in quite a number of them, and have had a little experience in the office of the deputy judge advocate-general. I believe, from such little experience as I have had, that a rough kind of justice is meted out. On the whole, the system has worked fairly well.
The fact remains that., in time, an institution is liable to become obsolete and to need review. A little passage in the Manual of Military Law that was used in World War II. illustrates my point. Among the precedents, there is to be found the case of a soldier who, flinging away his arms, said, “ I will soldier no more “. I have always felt some degree of dubiety whether those words were actually used. I doubt whether they would be used by an Australian soldier. I mention that example by way of illustration in support of my statement that systems become obsolete.
For such a reason, this bill has been introduced. It brings the system of military law into conformity with what I might call the modern conscience, and I support it. Let us look at the system and have special regard to the legal safeguards in it. I do this to prepare the way for the case I wish to advance for the extension of the operation of this measure. First, there are the finding and the sentence by court-martial. The court might well consist of officers who have no legal training at all. The officers themselves might have no legal knowledge, because men of legal knowledge might not be available. Those of us who have had experience of these matters know of such circumstances. Nevertheless, lawyers are provided, where possible, for the purpose of prosecuting and defending in these cases. Further, a representative of the judge advocategeneral is present whenever possible to see that the court conducts its affairs in accordance with legal requirements, but more often than not, there is no representative of the judge advocategeneral available to carry out that work. All that can be done to keep the court on the legal rails is done at that stage. Then the point is reached where the finding and sentence are confirmed or not confirmed by a higher authority. A legal staff officer is available to go through the papers and report to the military officer who confirms or does not confirm the finding and sentence and he sees that the papers are in order. If there is no evidence upon which to found a conviction, the recommendation will be made that there should be no confirmation. In this second stage the lawyer comes into the picture, and although I know the honorable member for Gippsland has not much time for such individuals, I believe that they fill a useful purpose when justice is to be done. Finally, the stage is reached at which the finding and sentence having been confirmed, the matter is referred for review to the judge advocate-general ; and again the higher legal officers go through the papers and assure themselves that, technically, everything is in order. The soldier may even then, by way of petition, set out his grounds for appeal, and there is an authority with power to quash a conviction if everything is not in order.
However, this bill sets up an appeal court of lawyers, not of soldiers, and, as I mentioned earlier, there are two important reasons to commend that action. First, it is important not only that justice should be done, but that justice should be seen to be done. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) rightly said, although all these steps are in fact taken, the soldier does not know that they are being taken. He may know that a higher officer is dealing with the matter, but he may think that this officer will merely endorse what has been done lower down. He is not always aware that his case is being examined with such meticulous care. I repeat, therefore, that in a court, such as this, which is open to the public, it is important not only that justice should be done, but that it should also be seen to be done.
The second important reason for the establishment of this court is to provide an opportunity for the representative of the soldier who is appearing to do so verbally and to advance his arguments in person. As was stated in the Lewis report, if an appeal is made in writing, the appellant has not the opportunity of knowing the way in which the mind of the official reviewing authority is working. If he knew how that mind was working he could perhaps resolve some difficulty in the mind of the ultimate judge. That is a tremendous advance and is in conformity with the common ideas of justice prevailing in this generation. Practices which have become somewhat obsolete are being brought up to date, and under the new system lawyers will be better able to keep justice on the rails.
The real point of my argument is that there is a need to extend this right of appeal, not only from courts-martial but, in certain circumstances, from the decisions of medical boards as well, and I hope that the Minister will pay special regard to this matter. I express this view because I believe that there is a clamant need for the remedies of this bill to be extended into the field of the decisions of medical boards. These may have as great an effect on an officer or a soldier as those of courts-martial. A court-martial may impose a penalty of death, but the decision of a medical board may be equally serious, if not more so. The effect on the career of a soldier - and in using a soldier as an illustration I am confident that honorable members will appreciate that the same effect would result in any of the armed services - could be that he is deprived of the opportunity to continue in his chosen profession. That would be equivalent to a death sentence as far as his profession is concerned. His career would be finished, and that to the soldier would be more important than a decision by the electors that a member of this House should no longer serve in this place. Secondly, even if a soldier is not boarded right out of the service, but is downgraded physically, that may have the effect of closing many avenues of advancement to him. In the case of a soldier who enlisted voluntarily in war-time, that may not have such a bad effect from the point of view of subsequent civilian employment, but in the case of a professional soldier it makes all the difference in the world. He may be debarred from his profession, or have the avenues within that profession so closed as to make it a matter of paramount importance to him. So let there be no mistake about the matter: a decision of a medical board can be equally as important as a decision of a court-martial.
As far as I can discover, there is at present no supervision whatever of the findings of a medical board. I have mentioned the legal aspects right through in the case of a courtmartial, but, as I have said, I know of no supervision whatever of the decision of a medical board. I can find nothing in the Defence Act or the Australian Military Regulations and Orders that provides for any supervision whatsoever of the findings of a medical board.
I want to cite as an example, a case that actually happened, because I think that nothing can carry home the strength of my argument better than a recital of the facts of that case. The matter I am about to mention is at present being examined at the highest level. I shall not advance an argument in regard to the particular case with a view to convincing the House or the Minister that the circumstances are right or wrong. That is being dealt with in another way. I merely put the example forward here to show what can happen. Even if the facts are not precisely as I shall put them, that will not invalidate my argument because the facts could be as I shall put them. “Whether or not some of them may be disputed, is neither here nor there. I shall merely give an example of what, could have been. I shall suppose that the officer who was boarded may not have been a suitable officer, or as co-operative as an officer should be. Nevertheless, the penalty that was imposed on him is not one that should have been imposed in the circumstances I shall relate. This man, who is now over 50 years of age, joined the Army over 30 years ago. I shall refer to him as Major X. He saw service in India, and subsequently went through the Staff College at Camberley in England which, I suppose, is the military counterpart of Oxford and Cambridge universities, later, he had military service in Australia. At the age of about 40 years, a year or two after the last war broke out, he was boarded out of the Army with the stigma that he was suffering from incurable insanity. That man was highly trained. As the Army had spent over £20,000 on his training, one would think that he would have been of great value to the Army. But he was boarded out with the stigma of incurable insanity. His whole life had been a preparation for t,l.k.’ very service that caine to him ; it bad been a preparation for war, and the war came, but within two years he was boarded out. 1 do not know of any greater penalty that could be imposed on any man of 40 years of age. His whole career fell to the ground in ruins - whether justly or not, is not the question. If possible, the stigma of incurable insanity had an even more detrimental effect on his family than on himself. t want now to go through the legal aspects of this matter. In the first place there was, I believe, biased evidence given against him - biased in the sense that the general who reported on him adversely was heard to say before this thing happened, “I will get the -“. He did not get on with Major X, and he was determined to see that the man went out of the Army. I suggest that that general could hardly look upon this matter with a lack of bias. Then, the medical officer who principally reported that this man was suffering from a particular form of incurable insanity, lived in the same mess with him and, for reasons which, T think, would be quite understandable if I gave them to the House, was always at odds with him. They were two men who did not get on together. So, a biased general reported adversely on him, and a medical officer, who was incompatible with him - irrespective of the reasons - gave evidence against him.
Two medical boards dealt with the matter, and in respect of each of them, 1 believe, three medical men signed the finding, although only two were actually present at the hearing. Nevertheless, the president in each case signed the finding. Those I believe to be the facts. Rut let us be clear about this. There is so much hugger-mugger in the Army that no one knows all that happens. I have no means of ascertaining whether what my informant tells me is the whole story, because of that secrecy. There was no legal staff officer present when the board made its decision, and the principal witness against this man, in fact the doctor who had first deposed to the facts which were supposed to establish that this man was suffering from a delusion, was not present and could not be cross-examined. It will be seen, therefore, that the matter was not kept very much on the legal rails, because there is no provision under the present law for it to be kept on the rails - for a legal officer to be present, or for any cross-examination or anything else.
It happened that the man, at the time of the two medical boards, was suffering very great physical disabilities. He had volunteered for service abroad and war eager to go, and for this reason had not revealed his physical condition. He was passing through a period of incubation for mumps - and honorable members know how . serious that can be. In addition, he had collapsed through having a. duodenal ulcer and had had to have thirteen teeth extracted through pyorrhoea. It was for that reason thai he came before the boards, and there was no opportunity to examine the witnesses.
– There could have been another reason.
– I am pointing out that all these things are wrapped up in hugger-mugger; no one knows what happens.
– Is the honorable member referring to a war-time case?
– Yes, but the same system still exists. I think, Mr. Speaker, that you are not unfamiliar with this case, because you secured some degree of justice in it. As a result of many representations, a judge was called in to advise upon the matter. He advised that it should go before another board, that a legal staff officer should be present, and that the medical officer who had given evidence against this man should be present for cross-examination, on the condition that Major X should not take any further proceedings but should abide by the decision of the board. As I understand the facts, another board was appointed, but no legal staff officer was present, nor was the medical officer present for cross-examination. “When it was determined, again, that the man was suffering from a form of incurable insanity, the full pension that the judge recommended should be given in such circumstances was not, in fact, given by the Army.
I pass on to the position of a civilian whom it is thought is suffering from insanity.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– I ask for leave to con.tinue my remarks later.
Leave granted: debate adjourned. * Quorum formed/]*
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 578), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be 110V read a second time.
.- As has already been pointed out in the course of this debate, this bill is aimed at bringing the law of this country up to date and in line with latest English improvements in the branch of the law to which it relates. The work of the committee which inquired into the subject was done very well indeed. An experienced committee was appointed to examine this matter in order that the bill might be prepared, and any criticism that I might utter later about the absence of certain provisions from the bill must not be taken to indicate any general disapproval of the work of the committee. The committee indeed was very fortunate, particularly in having as its chairman Mr. Justice Dean of the Supreme Court of Victoria, an expert upon this branch of the law and a man who is known to do well and truly whatever he does.
One matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his speech on the bill, related to the subject of the Union Label case, and the fact that that workers’ label had been held, in accordance with the interpretation of the Constitution given by the then High Court, to be a label which did not amount to a trade mark within the meaning of the act The Leader of the Opposition gave his view that certain of the provisions of the bill with regard to certification or standardization marks indicated that the Government was taking the view of the minority of the High Court and acting upon the basis that as the views of the High Court had developed over the years, so also they might develop with regard to this matter, and that marks with regard to the conditions of the trade and how work was carried out by workers would be regarded as marks which could be validly held to be trade marks. On that matter, I think the Leader of the Opposition misconstrued the bill, because it does not refer, in connexion with the standardization marks, to the conditions of manufacture at all. It refers to -
The other subject with which I wish to deal is the matter which the committee determined should not be included in the bill. I refer to price maintenance. A very large body of retailers in this community was of opinion that a price maintenance provision should be included in the bill, so that the owner of a trade mark should have the right, when he sells his goods under that trade mark, to declare that his goods should not be sold at less than the price which he determines. That would have been a .novel provision in the trade marks law in this country, but it is permitted under the patents law, and under the act of this Parliament which was passed not very many years ago. In fact, there is this big distinction between goods sold by patent and goods sold under trade mark : Only the owner of the patent can sell patented goods. He has a monopoly of those goods while his patent lasts, and if he declares’ that his goods cannot be sold at less than a certain price no one else can legally sell those goods at less than that price. In the case of a trade mark, the position is simply that while the trade mark owner sells his goods under his trade mark any of his competitors in the trade can sell like goods of like quality and like nature under their own trade marks, or without there being a trade mark at all. They enter into competition with him, and if he were to choose to sell his trade-marked goods at a higher price than was justified, and a price that was unfair to the community, the result of the laws of competition would be that before very long he would find that his goods were not being purchased and that he was out of the market.
The reason that these retailers put forward the view that price maintenance should become part of the allowed rights appurtenant to a trade mark was that they found that with articles of this type there is a very great danger of undercutting in the retail trade, and they realize that under-cutting of price has very disastrous effects. Not only does it affect the business of those who under-cut and those who are under-cut and result in the eventual bankruptcy of one or the other of them; but it also means that those who are employed in the trade are likely, as a result of the business failing or going down, to lose employment and to lose wages. Incidentally, the public also suffers, because manufacturers have to take the danger of bankruptcy into account in fixing prices, and, having to take that into account and run that additional risk, they are likely to make their prices to the public higher than they otherwise would be. Those views were put before the committee presided over by Mr. Justice Dean. They were rejected in this sense, and in this sense only, that the committee felt that these were matters which were more of an economic nature than of a legal nature, and that they, being mainly composed of lawyers and patent attorneys, were not capable of judging questions of economic effect. They had put forward what would seem to be a rather curious argument that they had heard one side of the matter only but they had heard the side that they wanted to be heard and that there was no opposition to it. A very powerful body of retailers had approached them and expressed its views strongly.
An earlier committee, which was presided over by Sir George Knowles, had, in fact, approved of the price maintenance provision and considered that it would be of very great efficacy in helping the trade of the community. It has been said that the present Government does not approve of price-fixing and that that is one reason why it has not included price maintenance provisions in the bill. But price-fixing by members of a trade within the trade is very different from price-fixing by a government. It is a form of orderly marketing and this House has approved of orderly marketing arrangements on many occasions. However, one may take comfort notwithstanding the omission of this provision from the bill because price maintenance agreements between manufacturers and retailers, and trading agreements among retailers have been approved in the courts and have not been held to be an improper restraint of trade. It may well be that the body of retailers which is interested in having this provision included in the bill could achieve the same result by arranging trade agreements within the trade between manufacturers and retailers and by arranging subsidiary agreements between retailers. That being so, there is no occasion for me to dispute the view that has been taken by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 134 agreed to.
Clause 135 - (1.) Subject to section one hundred and thirty-eight of this Act, a person shall not. for gain -
.- I move-
That, after paragraph (h) of sub-clause (1.), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “; or
a person who -
Clause 135 of the bill relates to the qualifications of persons who are entitled to act in trade mark matters. The list of eligible persons was fixed in clause 135 so as to avoid working hardship in the ease of persons who have, under the existing law, carried on business on their own account as trade marks agents for a reasonable period. Paragraph (h) of sub-clause (1.) was designed to meet these oases. However, after the bill had been passed by the Senate, representations were received that there were some persons with an extensive knowledge of trade marks practice and procedure who had not yet engaged in business on their own account but who might wish to do so at some future time. These persons were employed by patent attorneys but, as clause 135 stands, although perhaps being well equipped already to enter into business on their own account, they would be precluded from doing so. The representations have merit, and it has been decided, therefore, to add a new class of eligible persons to those already listed in this clause. The new class embraces persons who, for a continuous period of two years immediately before the 1st January, 19.55, have been employed by a “ registered patent attorney on work relat ing solely or principally to trade mark matters. A person will have one year from the commencement of the legislation to satisfy the Registrar that he comes within this description. The conditions attaching to the new class are to this extent the same as those specified in paragraph (ft) in relation to persons carrying on business on their own account as trade marks agents. However, in the case of the employees referred to in the amendment it may not in all cases be clear that the employee has had a sufficiently general experience. Provision is made, therefore, for the employee to establish, through the medium of an examination, that he is suitably equipped. However, the Registrar will have power to direct that this requirement be dispensed with, and it is only in a doubtful case that it would be likely to be used.
Two other amendments to clause 137 are consequential upon the amendment I have just proposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 137 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 949).
.- Before resuming my argument, I should like to make it clear that the occasion to which I referred in the earlier part of” my speech arose in 1942. I do not intend to attack the actions of the Labour Government of that time nor the actions of the present Government. I am not concerned with party politics in this matter. I am concerned with the system which has existed for many years and which I believe is a bad system. Opportunity should be taken to rectify it in this
To proceed with my argument,the position of a civilian who is believed to be of unsound mind is totally different from that of a serviceman who finds himself in the circumstances that I have detailed to the House. There is a general impression that once two doctors have certified thata person is insane that is the end of the matter. In fact, this is a matter that has to be determined by a court. A magistrate may make a determination after certification of a person by two medical men, but it is always the responsibility of the court to make the decision. A magistrate has to satisfy himself that the patient has been separately examined by two doctors and that they have distinguished between what they have themselves observed and what they have been told. Further, the court has to consider any other evidence that may be available. The point that should be made abundantly clear is that determination is made not by the doctors, but by the court. The doctors are merely expert witnesses who may be examined and crossexamined. Other export witnesses may also be called. A man who has been committed to an institution in this way can be brought before the court again by means of a writ of habeas corpus and further expert witnesses may be examined. Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume XXII., page 272, explains where the responsibility for the determination of this type of matter rests. Halshury states -
Whena case comes before a court it is the duty ofthecourt to decide the question of mental capacity and expert evidence does not relieve it from the obligation to form an independent opinion.
Halsbury againsays at page 512, volume XXI.-‘
The opinions of medical witnesses who have examined aperson alleged to be of unsound mind are admissible on the question whether the person -is or is not of unsound mind; but the opinion of a medical witness as to the existence of facts which he has not himself perceived is not Admissible. In general, the question of insanityand therefore the question whether the opinions of the medical witnesses have been formed on sufficient grounds is for the jury todecide.
Ineed go no further to make it plain that whereas under the system which at present exists in the services the matter is finally determined by a board of doctors, so far as a civilian is concerned the matter is determined by acourt after hearing doctors merely as experts, and there is opportunity for other experts holding contrary opinions to bo called. A case which will be familiar to all honorable members of the House and to the public is that of a man, charged with having committed a murder, whose defence is one of insanity. Everybody knows from reading the newspapers that the question whether that man is insane is determined by the court after it has heard medical evidence, which is very often completely contradictory. It is the court which decides the matter, not a couple of doctors.
Let us consider the case of a civil air pilot who may he claimed to be medically unfit. That is a matter in volving his whole career, and it is obviously of great consequence to him that the question should be decided in accordance withthe truth. In that case,I understand that the tribunal consists of a judge assisted by two medical assessors. Again, it is recognized that the function is judicial rather than purely medical.
Let me now conclude the story of Major X, to whom I have referred. This man was declared by a medical board, without any legal supervision whatever, to be suffering from an incurable form of insanity. Subsequently, he attended a university in one of the capital cities, attended a college for three years shoulder to shoulder with men younger than himself, lived in friendship and amity with them, passed his examination and graduateda batchelor of laws. Later, he was employed and gave every satisfaction in a legal department of the Commonwealth, until certain difficulties. which had nothing todo with this matter, arose with the Public Service Board. Those facts do not appear to “indicate, on the face of them, that that man suffered from incurable insanity.
This bill comes before the House as a result of a committee of inquiry that was instituted by the House of Commons. That was the Lewis committee, to which reference has been made by the Minister and by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). That committee was set in motion as far back as 1946. I think that by 1949 the committee had reported, and after a further period of maturation a bill was introduced and passed in the House of Commons in 1951, The new system has been in operation in the United Kingdom for the last three years, and now, in 1955, a bill along the same lines is brought down in this House. In other words, it has taken us nine years to adopt this reform, nine years since the Lewis Committee was first 3et in motion.
Let us bc a little original in this matter. I have put a plain case, so plain that f think it could not be mistaken by any one, where a great injustice almost certainly has been done. It is a case that calls for an appeal to a proper court such as will be set up by the provisions of this bill. The bill at present provides for an appeal to that court, a proper court of legal men, only in the case of a court-martial. I urge that in this legislation we should be original, that we should go further than Britain has gone and be pioneers. “We should include appeals to that court from a medical hoard in the sort of case to which I have referred, f would not include every case, but in the sort of case which 1 have mentioned such a tribunal as will be set up under the provisions of this bill is a proper tribunal to hear the matter. It may be said that appeals to be heard by this court under the provisions of the bill will be in respect of criminal offences or offences against military discipline, that the appeals, which I have suggested should be included, are medical matters and ought not to he related so far as appeal is concerned. I would agree, if the tribunal which is to be set up consisted not only of lawyers but of military men as well. But this will not bc such a tribunal. It will be a tribunal purely of legal men, with no military men associated with it at nil. Therefore, it will bc just as competent a tribunal to hear an appeal from a medical board as any other tribunal which consists of judges and legal- men would be. It will be an appropriate tribunal to deal with a serviceman who could not approach a court. The appeal would arise, it is true, from another kind of tribunal, a medical one, rather than a court-martial, but nevertheless it would be a service matter. It could, therefore, well come to this court, which will be a court of lawyers.
I think that I have said enough to indicate the need for some judicial supervision of the kind of matter to which I have referred. I ask the Minister to consider taking this step in connexion with this type of appeal. It may be that in another place consideration could be given to this matter, and the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) may be able to incorporate amendments of a kind that will provide for an appeal to this tribunal from medical boards. But I believe it is the duty of the Minister to override the persistent objection that, I understand, has been made by medical men to having their affairs looked into under the clear light that can be brought to bear upon them by lawyers, It is not enough for a medical man to say, “ This is my opinion “, without having that opinion scrutinized and his being asked hia reason for it, and without other mcn, equally skilled, giving their opinion and their reasons.
These things are of great moment. It has been said that war is too serious a thing to be left to generals; I would say that justice is too serious a thing to bc left to doctors.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [S.2S”. - This bill is of some interest to me because of the experience I gained in eight years of administration a3 Minister for Air, and I am glad to see the bill on the tabic. I am, like the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) not entirely satisfied with it, because I realize, as would any Minister controlling a service department, that all sorts of matters arising from courts-martial come to the Minister eventually, not for decision but because of questions that are asked in Parliament, or because of the matter being raised in Parliament. Representations were made to me from both side of the House that the decision of a court-martial was entirely wrong. There was no . appeal from that decision, unless somebody was daring enough to appeal to the GovernorGeneral. Then, of course, the papers carne first to the Minister, who placed them before the Executive Council where the matter would be. argued out.
The hill has some good provisions. If am speaking as one who had experience of these matters during the period of the war and for three years after it. It may be asked, perhaps with some justice, why the Labour Government did not introduce this bill. I remind honorable members who would ask such a question that the Government at that time was very seriously engaged with the war and in ihe process of re-alinement and rehabilitation of servicemen, so. that they would, get back to employment. At the conclusion of the war the demands for the discharge of servicemen by members of the Government parties, which were then in opposition, were equally ‘as great and as persistent as were those by members of the Australian Labour party; and they were very pressing. As a consequence, there was not much time to deal with matters of this sort. Had I had my way - possibly, the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for the Army at that time held very much the same opinion - a tribunal would have been established to hear appeals from courts-martial. The Government, in this measure, proposes to adopt a procedure that many years of experience in Great Britain have proved to be necessary. This action has not been taken lightly. When I was Minister for Air, many times I questioned in my own mind decisions that were given by courtsmartial. Perhaps, it would he wiser for me not to do so, but I could mention to the House several cases in which extraordinary decisions were given. I recall one case, which would be well known if I were to mention the name of the man involved. He was cautioned by the courtmartini that tried him for doing something for which other men would have been dismissed from the service. In other instances, the reverse happened. It is very hard for any layman, as Minister, to determine these appeals. I am sure that any honorable member who might be called upon to determine an appeal from a court-martial would feel as I did.
– Oh !
Mr. DEAKEFORD. There aTe som* people who do not exercise reasonable judgment in dealing with matters such as this. As one who was required to deal with these cases whether he liked it or not,
I saw many instances of grave injustice. There were others, in which I, as Minister, could not interfere. In many instances, very lenient treatment was given.
– I should like to try the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– I have no opinions on that matter.’ I believe that any man who is qualified to act as a judge would - be .qualified to sit on an appeal from a court-martial. However, I am sure that all honorable members agree with me that it is far better for appeals to be- determined by a tribunal such as that which is proposed in thi bill.
I do not complain about the measure, though I consider that it will probably be returned to this House later with amendments. Some of the amendment; that have been suggested by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) might well be considered. The honorable member for Gippsland emphasized the fact that mere youths who entered the services and were put into the firing line immediately were liable, as he stated, to sentence of death by firing squad, in spite of their very short experience in the services. He mentioned one case, which I recall, in which a man who might have been tried and dealt with in that fashion later received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Many men make mistakes, but if they are given the opportunity to gain experience and if the.v are guided by qualified officers, they make as good soldiers or airmen as it . is possible to find. Australia has many men of that type. I consider that a civilian tribunal would probably be best, but the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in his second-reading speech, raised the objection that judges would have to be appointed for life. Wc already have too many people who have the security of appointments for life. I am aware that I must not criticize them, but I do not consider that any more of them should b« appointed if it can be avoided as it can be in such legislation. Consequently, a military tribunal appeals to me most
The bill has a great deal to recommend it. It is an experimental measure, lt is not often that a piece of legislation receives the approval of both sides of the House. I recall an instance in which a member of Parliament was dealt with by a court-martial. Members on both sides of the House at the time declared that it was not a fair thing that he should be so tried.
– Who was he?
– I shall not name him or his successor in this House. Pressure of the kind that is brought to bear on a Minister in such an instance is very difficult for him to resist. In any event, I considered it to be my duty to uphold the law as it existed, and as a consequence [ .was subjected to a great deal of unwarranted criticism. The Government proposes to establish a tribunal composed of people who will be qualified to judge the nature of the offence, if there is an offence and not merely a charge.
I have recently made representations to the army authorities in relation to a complaint by a national service trainee of very little experience who, unfortunately was severely dealt with by. a superior officer. There is a tendency on the part of some officers to act with_ unnecessary severity towards their juniors. We do not want that sort of thing to happen in any service. We do not wish youths who have just entered on their national service training, or on training for the permanent forces, to have their hearts broken by the severity of a noncommissioned or commissioned officer whose judgment is not sound or whose knowledge of procedure is deficient. It is a fact that men are sometimes badly dealt with in the services. If this measure is administered wisely, the men in the services will greatly appreciate it. It should help to develop fine types of men in the lower ranks, whether they are privates. in the Army or leading aircraftsmen in the Royal Australian Air Force. I might point out that at the end of World War II. there were over 180.000 in the air force. That enormous body of men comprised establishments in many parts of the world.
All cases do not come to the attention of the appropriate service Minister, but where access to a member of Parliament is easy, a case is likely to be raised in the Parliament at any time, and the Minister must be ready with his answer, though it might not be easy for him to get all the necessary information quickly. He must sift the facts carefully. A tribunal such as that which is proposed will do much to avoid that sort of thing, because the Minister will have the ready answer that the man concerned had the opportunity to exercise the right of appeal. I recall one man who was famous for his decorations. He was charged with what might be regarded as a civil offence. So high was his rank that an officer of superior rank had to be specially appointed to hear the charge. The evidence clearly showed that the officer charged had set a bad example to his subordinates. Another officer who served with the officer on trial admitted that the charge was well-founded. The accused officer, of course, denied the charge and brought to bear all the influence at bis disposal in an effort to prevent the charge from proceeding. The matter received publicity in the Australian newspapers, a number of which stated that the officer, concerned had rendered great service to his country and that the -treatment accorded to him was a very poor reward for that service. I took the view that the charge should be heard by qualified men. The evidence appeared to me to be so convincing as to require the courtmartial to hear the evidence and to do exactly as it did.
I am glad that this measure has been introduced. I hope that the Minister for Defence will not regard it as a measure that stands solely to his personal credit. Suggestions such as those made by the honorable member for Bradfield, from whichever side of the House they come, should receive the Government’s earnest consideration. The purpose of the Parliament is to enact the best possible legislation. I do not suggest that this Government has always introduced legislation of the best type. Far from it ! Nor do I suggest that the measures introduced by Labour were always necessarily the best. They were at least indicative of a desire to do the right thing. I hope that this measure will become law, perhaps in an amended form.
– It is gratifying to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and to the other service Ministers to note the general approval that the bill has received. [ do not propose to traverse aH the matters that are dealt with in it. They were explained very adequately ‘by the Minister for Defence. T wish only to clarify a few points about which confusion might have arisen in view of the earlier debate; The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led the Opposition, was afraid that inordinate delay in proceeding with courts-martial might occur, and he stated that such delays at present occur. I want to make it clear that the organization of the Royal Australian Navy and the Army - and I am sure that the same remarks apply to the Royal Australian Air Force - provides all possible safeguards against finlay.
– -The Minister cannot bear it.
– The .honorable member for Watson (Mr. .Curtin;) should -be countinartialled. You, Mr. Speaker, I am sure, would lite to sit on the courtmartial, and so should I. We -would do lull justice to the honorable member. I want to make it quite clear that this legislation has not been brought down because of any anxiety on the .part °of the departments or the ‘Government concerning injustices in courts-martial to-day. Because of the .form of appeal and the process that is followed, that has not happened.
– We have been told of a number of cases.
– The .honorable member had bo chance of .being courtmartialed or he would have been. He has done all that he possibly could to keep out of the Army all hia life. If he had been ] in the Army and had conducted himself as he does in this House he would have been constantly courtmartialed.
If a soldier is believed to have committed some offence, a summary of evidence is taken. The -soldier himself, or his representative, is present when it is taken. The .summary of evidence goes to an officer appointed to conduct courts-martial, or to the Judge Advocate. If he is satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out, the court-martial proceeds. If he is satisfied that the evidence would noi justify the holding of a -court-martial it does -not take place. ‘When a courtmartial has been conducted and a finding made, the finding undergoes *a legal (process, and ultimately Teaches the JudgeAdvocate General. In .the Army, that is Mr. Justice .Simpson of the Supreme Court of .the Australian Capital Territory. He, and officers .associated with him, examine the whole of the evidence. If he is satisfied that the .charge was wrongly .based, and not supported by the evidence, he can annul ‘the whole of the proceedings. If he is satisfied that the court has imposed a penalty .that .is too severe, he may make a recommendation to the Minister that it he reduced. That is the procedure adopted to ensure thai injustice shall not occur. However, despite this elaborate .procedure, .and the care taken to ensure .that there is no injustice, the Government has accepted the recommendations of the various .committees which examined these .matters in the United Kingdom, and has brought down this legislation which, it feels, will put .beyond ;any shadow of doubt .the question whether .an Australian in uniform has the .same privileges as has a civilian in plain clothes.
Very few courts-martial take place ‘in the services to-day. I have had a .check made- in the Navy, in which we have something like 16,000 people, and have found that there have been only five courts-martial in the last twelve months. The honorable member for [Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked whether a soldier charged with an offence loses ‘his pay until the court-martial : is over. There are two aspects of this situation. The soldier does not get ‘his pay because he is in custody, but his wife and family get the allotment that is due to them, so they are not adversely affected. When the courtmartial has concluded the soldier, if the charge is dismissed, receives pay for the whole of the time .during which he has been in custody.
– If it is dismissed he ought to get double pay!
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) raised an important question. He expressed anxiety at the fact that there is no specific provision for the appointment of soldiers to the appeal tribunal. All the procedure that is followed before a soldier makes an appeal, including the taking of the summary of evidence, and the courtmartial itself, is in the hands of soldiers. These people are handling soldiers in peace and war and they can, out of their wealth of experience, show the soldier the sympathy, goodwill and understanding that the honorable gentleman suggested should be found in the members of the appeal tribunal. Moreover, the president or members of the tribunal may very well be ex-servicemen. I am pleased to say that there are in the judiciary and the legal profession many distinguished ex-soldiers. That should allay the anxiety of the honorable member that appeals will be in charge of people who have not been in action and who do not know the problems and difficulties that young soldiers face. There is no reason why ex-soldiers like the honorable member for Gippsland and I should not be appointed to the appeal tribunal.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) referred to national service trainees. Fortunately, we have had splendid conduct from those trainees in all three services, and courtsmartial have not even been considered in regard to them. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) spoke at length about a particular case. That case reached its climax, so far as the service was concerned, in 1942. I have had an opportunity since the honorable member spoke to examine the file carefully. It is a most difficult and distressing case. It is also a very embarrassing case and I think that the previous Government handled it very well.
– Which government was that?
– The Curtin Government. It appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria to examine all the happenings up to that time, and he agreed with everything that had been done. Later, the soldier appealed to the then Governor-General, who examined the case very thoroughly and rejected his appeal.
– I am concerned with the principles, not the particular case.
– The judge concerned - Mr. Justice O’Brien - rendered valuable service during the war in straightening out many difficult problems associated with men in the three services. During the years that I have held the Army portfolio I have had an opportunity to look back over old files, and should like to pay tribute to the splendid service that he rendered the government of the day. In this case also, he did a splendid job. All I can say to the honorable member for Bradfield is that the case is at present receiving the consideration of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer). I believe that this bill will be readily accepted by all three services and I am satisfied that it will improve even the fine spirit that already exists in them.
.- 1 wish to join other honorable members who have supported this legislation and. like some of them, I believe that it is long overdue. Those who listened to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), a former Minister for the Air, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) will have realized that apparently injustices do occur during the course of courts-martial. Later I hope to elaborate this briefly by referring to personal experiences with men who were dealt with by courts-martial and subsequently exonerated by a royal commission. I know that, at present, everything possible is clone under military law to ensure that an individual receives justice. This bill, which has been brought in after nine years, and following the report of a royal commission in Great Britain, will add to the justice received by servicemen in this country. T notice that the new tribunal is to be known as the Courts-Martial Appeal Tribunal. Clause 8 (2.) of the bill sets out that the tribunal must be constituted of experienced lawyers - barristers or solicitors of the High Court, or of the
Supreme Court of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth of not less than five years’ standing. Also, the president or deputy president must be a former justice of a federal court or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, or be one of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in the law. The Government, in its effort to improve the courts-martial procedure, may have gone too far, and its legislation may have the effect of cluttering up the appeal tribunal with legal gentlemen, who may lose sight of salient facts that are more readily discernible by ordinary civilians. I do not say that in any great spirit of criticism, but, although judges and lawyers are, to a degree, essential in the community, I do not think we should clutter up the appeal tribunal by providing that they shall be the only persons eligible for appointment to it.
If I may digress for a moment, honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that our arbitration system has become, to a great degree, a public benefit for the legal fraternity, and I sincerely hope that this genuine effort to improve the courts-martial appeal system will not result in a similar state of affairs. Although the proposed procedure may not be ideal, I hope that the Government will learn, by trial and error, whether provision should be made for the appointment to the tribunal of some person who is not a member of the legal fraternity, but who may be able to contribute to the administration of justice without detracting in any way from the proposals that the Government has in mind. As honorable members know, there is a right of appeal, under the present system, to the Judge-Advocate General, and, subsequently, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong has stated, to the Governor-General. That procedure might seem to be all right, but members of the forces and members of the Parliament know of cases in which it has not resulted in the dispensing of justice to the persons who have come before the courtsmartial.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has referred to an inquiry that wa.3 conducted in Great Britain. He has referred tn defects in the present system of appeal from courts-martial, and has quoted the following paragraph from the Lewis report: -
The drawback of the present system is that the Forces do not see it in operation nor does it necessarily take place at once. All that is known is that somebody in an office in London (whom the soldier probably, though erroneously, regards as a War Office official) is supposed to look through the case after conviction to see that all is according to rule. The Forces also know that a petition against conviction and sentence may be presented, but nobody knows, not even the accused, the reasons which lead to a petition being dismissed if that is its fate.
That point has been very well made by the Minister. It is proposed that appeals shall be heard orally and in public, but, under the present system of appeal, no one knows whether the records of a case have been looked at, whether a senior official has looked at them, or whether they have been looked at by some junior in the office. I know of cases in which men have suffered long terms of imprisonment but who, after an inquiry, have been released. I congratulate the Government for introducing the bill, and add my endorsement to the proposals that are set forth in it. I hope the Government will study the proposed procedure closely to ascertain whether it can be further improved.
Shortly after I was elected to the Parliament, in 1943, my attention was directed to the case of three servicemen, whose names I shall not mention, who were charged with mutiny at the Groveley detention barracks in Brisbane. Following riots that occurred after certain complaints had been made at the detention barracks, a court-martial was convened. The three men in question were selected by certain officers, no doubt with full regard to the circumstances and their knowledge of the events, as being the ringleaders of the mutiny, and they werE charged accordingly. They were convicted. One serviceman was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour, another to four years’ imprisonment, and the third to a term of imprisonment of four or five years. Their appeals were subsequently dismissed. During my investigation of this case, T went to the Goulburn gaol, and interviewed one of the soldiers concerned. As I have already stated, they went through the present system, of appeal and their appeals were dismissed. 1 have on the desk in front of me the report that the officers who investigated the case forwarded to the then Minister for the Army. They stated that these men were the guilty persons, that they were the leaders of the mutiny, and that their sentences should remain unchanged.
A significant feature of the whole incident was that other men were charged with insubordination, and were sentenced to only fourteen days’ detention. There was a tremendous gap between the sentence of fourteen days’ detention and the other sentences of four or five years’ imprisonment. After representations had been made by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and many other interested members of the community, Mr. Justice Reed, of the Supreme Court of South Australia, was appointed by the then Minister for the Army to investigate the case. By that time, these three men had served almost seventeen months in gaol. Mr. Justice Reed expressed the opinion that such sentences should not have been passed for that particular offence. I shall not go to the trouble of quoting from his report, but his finding meant that there was no direct proof that these soldiers were the ringleaders of the offence, and that, more or less, an error of judgment had been committed by certain officers. The sentences were reduced, in each case, to two years’ imprisonment, with full remissions, and the men were released immediately. The fact remains that in spite of the existing courts-marital appeal procedure, certain men spent between twelve and seventeen months in gaol whereas, if the proposed procedure had been in operation, they might have been exonerated in the first place. Mr. Justice Reed, in his findings, referred to the very things that the Minister for Defence has stated are happening to-day. Mr. Justice Reed stated -
It may be remarked none the Jess that in any of the cases the man’s course of action when the summary was taken might have been different if he had the right to be represented there by his own counsel or legal officer.
He further stated -
In each case, the S.U.S. was found guilty, and sentenced to fourteen days close confinement, and fourteen days P.D.I. I cannot escape the conclusion that some at least of those concerned in or about the preparation of the cases for the courts-martial must have had some knowledge of the happening on the 8th October just mentioned. In any event information about them could easily have been obtained.
I suggest that there was a certain amount of neglect in this case because of the present courts-martial procedure.
If the proposed appeals tribunal has the effect of overcoming unnecessary suffering by men in similar cases, it will make a worthwhile contribution to the dispensing of justice. I speak from my own personal knowledge of the circumstances of the case to which I have referred. Until the then Minister for the Army ordered, at tremendous cost to the country, an inquiry to be presided over by Mr. Justice Reed, the men in question were denied justice. I do not know of any other such cases, but possibly honorable members on both sides of the Hou3e have had similar experiences. I was amazed at the fact that, just before that time, a well-known financier, John Woolcott Forbes, had received a sentence of three or four years’ imprisonment for crimes that were much more serious than any that were contemplated by the three soldiers to whom I have referred. Forbes had all the rights of appeal, but these soldiers could only follow the usual army procedure, with the result that they did not receive the measure of justice that is expected in all British countries. I know that the House would like to listen to me for a considerably longer period of time, but, as I am in favour of the bill, I content myself with making those few constructive comments. I feel somewhat self-conscious to-night when I state that, I see some good in the proposed legislation. I hope that it will bring forth the desired results.
.- The report of the committee on which the bill was based was dated the 13th April, 1948, which, as a matter of arithmetic, was not nine years ago but seven years ago. It was presented at a time when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) was Minister for Air. Any criticism that the honorable member directed to the fact that nothing was done for a time is as much, directed to himself as to anybody else. If he had been as interested at that time as he says be is to-day, the honorable member for Maribyrnong could have brought in a bill of this kind. But the fact is that despite his protest to-night he was not sufficiently interested. That observation applies also to .his colleagues, including the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who has just spoken. Members of the Opposition had the opportunity to bring in this legislation when they were in office.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is mistaken. I did not mention a case of this type.
– The honorable member for Grayndler, as is usual with him. deplored the fact that there are lawyers in the community. Of course, we know very well that as soon as any one gets into trouble the first person he runs to is his lawyer.
– They would not go to the ‘ honorable member for Balaclava. That is why the gaols are full.
– There is no person in this House who owes more to lawyers than does the honorable member who has just interjected.
– I would not go to the honorable member for Balaclava, he is a 6s. Sd. lawyer.
– The need for lawyers on this tribunal is seen as soon as one leads the terms of the bill and is aware of the power of the appellant court. The provisions relating to the determination of appeals are contained in clause 23; but before I read that clause, let me point out that this House has on a number of occasions in recent years introduced appeal provisions because it realizes that they are of great value. Persons who sit in judgment, however honest they may be, and however hard they may try to avoid making mistakes, will find that mistakes do occur. So, it is only fair and right, in order to ensure that justice is done, to provide for a right of appeal.
In again providing for a right of appeal in this bill the Parliament is proceeding along a line which has been well trodden in the past, and which, 1 hope, we shall continue to tread in the future. A consideration of clause 23 shows definitely the need to have lawyers on this tribunal. The jurisdiction of tie tribunal depends, first of all, upon whether the finding of the court-martial “ is unreasonable, or cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence”. Whether there is any reasonable evidence upon which a conviction can be based is a matter which lawyers are accustomed to examine. The second consideration is whether a wrong decision on a question of law is involved. That, again, is a matter that can only be determined by lawyers. The next point is whether, on any ground, there has been a miscarriage of justice. That also is a matter that is determinable by lawyers who are accustomed to deal with the real merits of such a consideration.
It may, perhaps, be said that it is unfortunate that the appeal provisions do not provide power to call fresh evidence. If one were to turn to the Lewis Report one would see that the Lewis Committee did recommend that there should be power to call fresh evidence in exceptional cases. The committee used the terms “exceptional cases”. That is a matter that may have been considered by the Government when this measure was being drafted. I do not know whether the Government did so-, but that is a power of very great value. Frequently, courts of appeal discover that a matter has been overlooked in the court below concerning which fresh evidence should be permitted. Generally, courts of appeal have the power to call fresh evidence in circumstances that they consider to be appropriate. In the limited language used by the Lewis committee, it appears to me that there should be no objection to giving power to call fresh evidence in exceptional cases. Such a provision would strengthen this bill. No general power is given to deal with appeals against sentences. Certain provisions in the bill relate to sentences but there is no provision for appeal against sentences. The Lewis report does not agree that a tribunal of this nature should have a general power to deal with sentences, and therefore this bill, in not including that power, is in agreement with that report.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) demonstrated his sympathetic mind and his thorough understanding of men and the conditions of warfare. I see no occasion for any laughter by members of the Opposition. T have no hesitation in reiterating what [ just said, and I believe that every decent man in this House will agree with me. The honorable member for Gippsland suggested that the picture would not be complete unless persons who had experienced war conditions and who understood their effects on a person, particularly upon a person of immature age, were included on tribunals of this sort. L think the House fully appreciates his viewpoint, but it seems to me that it would be very difficult indeed, for reasons f have given, to include non-lawyers on a tribunal of this sort. However. I say to the honorable member for Gippsland and to all honorable members because a man is a lawyer it does not follow that he is not a man of human sympathy, of broad understanding and with a wide knowledge of the world including the conditions of war. I hope that to some extent that statement will reassure him.
The point that he made demonstrates a weakness which is inherent in the courtmartial system. The court-martial system, of course, is based on trial without a jury. The jury system, which has been described as the palladium of English justice, is a system under which matters such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Gippsland are taken into consideration by a jury. A jury considers how a man acts under particular conditions and will not decide a matter so much on the basis of whether a man is guilty, but rather on the basis of whether he should be convicted. In other words, members of a jury use their knowledge of the world and human nature. That fact explains the strength of the jury system in English law and the insistence of English-speaking people upon retaining the jury system as a part of their system of justice. I do not think that it would be possible to include that system as a part of the court-martial system. During the war, a great number of lawyers - despite the suggestion that they earned such huge fees - willingly gave their services week in and week out as prosecutors and defenders at courts-martial entirely without fee. In the course of their experience before courts-martial many of them were shocked - I use that word advisedly - at the methods which those tribunals pursued because they were accustomed to appearing in the common-law courts and were accustomed to the jury system. 1 hasten to point out, however, that the principles of military law which the courts-martial were administering were, I believe, loyally carried out, and members of courts-martial before whom I appeared endeavoured in every case to be fair and to carry out their duties in the way in which they should be carried out.
– in reply - I would like to thank the House for the generous support that it has given to this measure, and I am sure that its confidence will be fully justified by the !(‘.«ults that will flow from the operations of thi’ proposed tribunal. I suggest to ibc honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) that he chose a rather bad case to illustrate his point, because that case was very carefully examined by a judge and other persons, and the examination was quite objective. But, as he said, while the case he gave might not be the best obtainable, he believed that the point that he made should receive some consideration. The Government will consider the suggestion that he made in order to ascertain whether there is any real need for a tribunal to consider the decisions of medical boards. However, I suggest that the tribunal with which we have been dealing is unsuitable for that purpose, and I do not believe that the powers of that tribunal should be extended in any way.
Certain comments have been made about the measure by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). He has said that the tribunal has not the right of reviewing sentences. The tribunal will deal with cases and decide whether the decisions of the courtsmartial were correct and if the man is guilty in the view of the tribunal, it does not attempt to review the sentence. However, if the tribunal considers the man guilty, but not of the specific charge before the court-martial, it may review the sentence. But such circumstances are most unusual.
The other matter mentioned by the honorable member for Balaclava, was that the suggestion of the Lewis report, that itwas advisable that fresh evidence should be allowed by the court in longland or the tribunal here, should be adopted. I havebeen advised that our legislation follows almost precisely the British legislation in that respect. I have also been advised that clause 31. (1.) (c) is sufficiently wide to admit of fresh evidence being taken. However, I do not intend to argue that point, all that I say is that our legislation follows the British legislation and, in the opinion of my advisers, is sufficiently wide to allow fresh evidence to be taken. I again thank honorable members for the support that they have given to this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second rime, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed (vide page 939).
.- In supporting this measure, I desire to say that I agree with it in principle. In 1945, the then Labour Government introduced the Commonwealth and State housing scheme, and the measure now before honorable members lays down a system for the purchase of houses built under that scheme. I hope that through this measure we may now enter upon a new era in housing in this country, and I have no doubt that the results which we may expect will meet with the approval of all sections of the community.
In 1949, the then Labour Government was not anxious to become the nation’s landlord, or to build homes and collect rents from the letting of them. In fact that Government made it clear that the government-built houses should ultimately be sold to the people. In order to understand the actions of the then Government, it is advisable to consider the circumstances within the building industry at that time. The war had just ended, and material and labour were very scarce. Private enterprise was not anxious to build houses, and the record of private enterprise before World War IX, a record of “ happy valleys “ and other similar settlements, in New South Wales at least, did not indicate that private enterprise would be able or anxious adequately to house the people. The then Labour Government therefore introduced its housing scheme, and drew up the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It was the viewthen and still is that the best way of combating communism was to give people an interest in their own homes, and, consequently, an interest in their own country. I say quite definitely that the ownership of their own homes by the people is the greatest barrier that could be erected against communism.
Many people have spoken ad lib. about what the then Labour Government intended to do about housing the people, but I say quite definitely that the Labour Minister who introduced the original measure embodying the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement made the purpose of it quite definite and clear. Within the limited time at my disposal I cannot go into a great deal of detail about the matter, but the then Minister stated that the agreement would not preclude the subsequent sale to a tenant of the house in which,he was living, the sale to be at the discretion of the housing authorities concerned. He also said that the Government realized the necessity of home ownership, and that the Commonwealth Bank Act and the War Service Homes Act were ample proof of the then Government’s attitude towards the matter of housing. The then Minister showed quite clearly throughout his speech the nature of Labour’s policy in regard to housing. I mention this because the Opposition must explain its correct attitude in order to counter the attitude attributed to us by Government supporters. I therefore earnestly suggest that when matters such as the one before the committee are being discussed, honorable members should clearly underhand the policy of the Labour party in 1945.
The Opposition was most anxious that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and subsequently defeated, should have been accepted by the Government. We considered that the deposit required to purchase a government house should be 5 per cent., but the Government has maintained that it should be 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 and 10 per cent, of the balance of the purchase price. The Opposition suggested that the interest rate should be 3 per cent., but the Government adhered to its proposal that the rate should be 4£ per cent. Moreover, the Opposition claimed that the maximum advance to the purchaser of a government house should be £3,500, but the Government has indicated that it must be £2,750. Of course, the Government argues that these decisions were made by the Premiers, in consultation with the Commonwealth representatives, at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. But we know exactly what took place at that conference, as well as at previous and subsequent conferences. “We know that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) presented an ultimatum to the State Premiers, and bludgeoned them into accepting the terms proposed by the Commonwealth. “We remember his famous words, Take it or leave it. You will not get one penny more, except over my dead body”. We know that those words were used by him.
– I rise to a point of order. I say that those words were never uttered by me. I object to the allegation that I did utter them, and I demand that it be withdrawn.
– The words are not unparliamentary. If the right honorable gentleman believes that he has been misrepresented, he may make a personal explanation later.
– At that conference, the Premier of New South Wales put forward certain proposals which, if accepted, would have been of advantage to people who were eager to buy their own homes. The Premier informed the conference of the exact difference between repayments based on an interest rate of 4^ per cent, and repayments based on an interest rate of 3 per cent. Had his advice been taken, many homepurchasers would have been in a better financial position than they are now. The Premier of New South Wales pointed out that if a man borrowed £2,750 at 4^ per cent, interest, he would pay ultimately £6,435, and that if he were required to pay 3 per cent, interest, he would pay only £5,021. On the lower rate of interest, he would save £1,414. We say without hesitation that if the proposals of the Labour party had been accepted, the working-class people of Australia would have received a far better deal than they are receiving now.
I shall say a few words now about the general housing position in Australia. Many families are in a desperate plight. Almost every Saturday morning, people come to my office at Bondi Junction and plead with me to find them accommodation so that they and their families can live together. In many instances, a husband, his wife and his children are living in different parts of the district. It is a tragedy that such conditions should exist in this country, which is now enjoying such great prosperity. I have been advised that in New South Wales alone, 3,000 people require emergency accommodation at the present time. The Housing Commission of New South Wales has 30,000 unsatisfied applications for houses. In those circumstances, we can perhaps understand the hostility with which some people who are desperately in need of houses view the numerous settlers who are coming to Australia. We beg the Government to do something to alleviate this distress.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of the measure, but I think some reply may reasonably be given to certain statements that have been made in the course of the debate. Let me deal first with the remarks of the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald). He said that it was never the intention of the Government which introduced the original measure in 1945 to prevent people from owning their homes. In view of that statement, it will be interesting to consider the original agreement, lt is true that the agreement provided that tenants could buy their homes. To that extent, the statement of the honorable gentleman was justified. But although the agreement provided that tenants could buy their homes, the conditions imposed were so onerous as to make it utterly impossible for the average person to do so. Under the terms of the agreement, if a person wanted to purchase his home, he had to find, not 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 and 10 per cent, of the remaining £750, but the whole £2,750. That was like offering a thirsty man a cup of water and tipping the water on to the ground before he could drink it, or tying him to a post and placing a cup of water just out of his reach.
It is just as well to be quite clear about the reason why this agreement is necessary to speed up the acquisition of homes bv people who are willing and able to pay the relatively small deposit that is asked. There are some people who argue that no deposit should be required. I draw their attention to the fact that authorities in the United States of America are becoming alarmed about what they call the housing boom there. They feel that the system of selling houses on practically no deposit, or on a deposit as low as 10 per cent., has stimulated inflation and caused . extravagance. So I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on this measure.
The honorable member for Phillip said that the States were bulldozed, bludgeoned or butchered - whatever was the choice word he selected - into accepting this agreement. But the fact remains that the Parliament of, I think, every State has passed the necessary complementary legislation. In fact, the States have beaten the Commonwealth to it. One point that I want to emphasize is that if the honorable member for Phillip, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and their friends succeeded in persuading the Parliament that the schedule to the bill should be amended, the result would be a further delay in giving opportunities to people ro buy their own homes. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Phillip is obviously trying to whitewash the socialistic tendencies of the Labour party in regard to housing. Let me quote, not from an Australian publication, but from the work of a very distinguished political scientist overseas. Hp said -
It is a mistake to suppose that “ socialism “, whatever that may mean, is going to he the issue. It is merely a word only useful so long as it cloaks decently the nakedness of Labour policy.
I am prepared to believe that that statement is as true of Labour policy in Australia as it is of Labour policy in Great Britain, to which it referred. The fact is that the Labour party has its own socialistic policy, plus the Communist millstone, round its neck. The 1945 legislation was ostensibly designed to help people to get homes, but the Chifley Labour Government framed it in such a way as to make it impossible for people to succeed in obtaining homes under that measure. It is patent to me, as a result of my experiences in New South Wales, that, in the first years after the Labour regime there took over the building of homes, the act under which it moved was also framed so as to prevent people from being able to purchase homes. I remind the honorable member for Phillip that, in the depression years, the New South Wales Government of which I was a member was responsible for the Homes for the Unemployed Trust, which was an attempt to meet the situation caused by the depression. I also wish to point out that when the New South Wales Government started to implement its housing policy its main purpose was to eliminate existing slums in some areas and replace them with better-class homes. When it commenced the building of homes through its Housing Commission, it made an appalling mess of the business. Later the New South Wales Government endeavoured, more or less successfully, to extricate itself from the shambles of its own making. The fact remains that that policy of home building, apart from the aspects of it that related to certain special classifications, such as slum clearance and homes for certain public servants, was as wrong in New South Wales as it was in Britain. Of the British policy the distinguished political comment whom I have quoted said -
One of the outstanding features of the course <>i house building in the inter-war period was the fact that the total volume of house building was lowest when the most insistent efforts were being made by subsidies and administrative pressure to press forward with public lion sing schemes.
He pointed out that as soon as that policy was abandoned there was an improvement in the results obtained.
I wish now to refer to statements made by honorable members opposite to the effect that there is necessarily something particularly beneficial in low, as distinct from modest, interest rates. Special reference was made, I understand, to the insurance companies which provide the finance for various home-building schemes. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to pause and consider what is involved. Let us take as an example the Australian Mutual Provident Society Limited, which is one of the greatest purely mutual societies in the world. Most people whose funds are invested in that society have taken out insurance in order to benefit those who are dependent upon them. If the interest rate is lowered below a reasonable point, ostensibly to help people who want homes, the provision that these people have sought to make for their future will be largely destroyed. They have made that provision for themselves without calling on the State for assistance. That was the snag the United States ran into. That country found that, by forcing interest rates too low, it destroyed the value of the endowments of hundreds of educational institutions, and provided a first-class problem for the governors of those institutions. This i» a. matter to which all honorable gentlemen who speak lightly about forcing interest rates down below what I consider to be a reasonable rate for a reasonable business proposition, should give serious thought. For my part, I strongly support the measure as a means to relieve the homeowner of being tied to the State as a tenant for the rest of his life, and to give him a chance to extricate himself from the position of a perpetual rentpayer, which will be possible if the governments concerned will allow proper rental laws to operate more freely than in the past.
Mr. MINOGUE (West Sydney) [9.35J. - It must be admitted that the present measure goes some distance along the road that the people expect their National Government to follow at this time of grave housing problems. Several years ago thGovernment would not, in any circumstances, consider the financing of home construction at a rate of 5 per cent, on the first £2.000 of the advance. Now ii has decided that that practice is feasible but its change of heart and mind hacome at a time when the cost of labour and materials is so high that the advance of £2,750 now to be provided for under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is of very little actual use to most people who wish to purchase a home. The intending home-buyer to-day has rr> pay for an ordinary two-bedroom or threebedroom home an amount that is nearer to £4,000 than it is to £2,750. With an interest rate of 4£ per cent., the ordinary person will be completely deprived of the opportunity to own such a home. When I entered this Parliament five years ago. I urged that the Government should ha.vta national housing scheme. I said then that the housing of the people should have priority before anything else, including defence. We are providing £200,000,00” a year for war purposes in peace-time, yet we cannot house people who went overseas to fight in the last war. The Sydney City Council made an agreement with the New South Wales Government, which in turn entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth, to provide for the lending of money to build homes. Acre? of ground were set aside, in and around Surry Hills and Redfern. in Sydney, to permit of the building of such homes. But in 1952, the Commonwealth closed down credit as if it were closing a jack knife, and people could not borrow any money for any purpose. Consequently, people who had money to invest were driven to other means of obtaining interest, and they financed the building of banks, breweries and anything but homes. That is where the available building materials went instead of into homes. Now, however, when labour is short and materials are at a prohibitive price, the Government goes part of the way, and proposes to allow people to borrow up to £2,750 to purchase a home, the rate of interest on the first £2,000 to be 5 per cent. At the present time there are many young people in a deplorable position. Even if they were able to build a home for themselves they would find difficulty in furnishing it. Every person who left Australia’s shores to fight for the protection of the homes of members of Parliament and other people is entitled to a home in this country. People in reserved occupations in factories and elsewhere, who were not allowed to go to the war, are as entitled to a home as are those who went overseas to fight. There are thousands of people in my electorate of “West Sydney whose names have been in ballots for homes for the last five or six years, and have little chance of getting them. The Government stands condemned for its inaction in relation to housing. It is futile for the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) to get up and give us estate agency advertisements. When he says that there should be more homes available for rent, he is trying to further his own interests. I am sure that when we change this Government at the forthcoming general elections, the present parties in government will go out of office condemned by the majority of the people who are looking for homes and who have no earthly chance of getting them under the terms of this agreement. In my opinion, it will be impossible for people to pay off homes on those terms and continue to meet the cost of living. That applies particularly to pensioners who want homes. This Government introduced a bill-
– Order! We cannot have secondreading speeches at the committee stage. I suggest that the honorable gentleman deal with the agreement set out in the bill. He must come back to that.
– Yes, Mr. Chairman, I shall get back to it, but if you were representing the people of West Sydney, as I am, and if those people had no homes-
– Order! That matter should have been discussed at the second-reading stage.
– It is all very well for the members of the Australian
Country party, the squatters, to adopt a satisfied air in considering this bill. They have everything subsidized for them, from the cradle to the grave. All the butter, eggs, and everything else they produce are subsidized.
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to obey the
Chair, or does he wish to sit down? He must do one or the other.
– I suggest that, in the next budget, the Government should make provision to allot money to the State governments on a much greater scale than that on which it has been allotted in the past. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) reminded the committee earlier of the fact that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) at one time told the State Premiers, “ You can take it or leave it “. That is history now.
– I rise to a point of order. I never said anything of the kind.
– That may be a personal explanation ; it is not a point of order.
– If we set aside £100,000,000, instead of £20,000,000, for the purpose of housing the people, I think it would be a very good thing. Other things might have to wait for a year or two, but we should house the people first. It is the people of Australia who will be called upon to defend the country, and they should not be asked to defend a country in which they have no stake. If this Government were sincere, it would not ask any soldier to leave these shores until he had been given a signed document informing him that he would be entitled to a home’ with in twelve months of his return to Australia. Tins Government has not provided homes for the workers and the pensioners, but it has done all sorts of things for its friends. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Bennelong will speak during this debate and advocate a system under which the working people should be called upon to pay rents of £4 or £5 a week. I have no doubt he is quite satisfied that, in regard to housing, this Government has done a good job.
.- I cannot refrain from saying a few words after the remarks of my old friend, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). He is one member of the House whom we all forgive, because we know his heart is in the right place, even though he does not know anything about this subject. I think it would be a pity to allow to pass, without comment, some of the statements that have been made during this debate. They need correction, so that the people will not get the wrong impression of the housing position. When all is said and done, this bill proposes to amend an act which was passed in 1945, in the day3 of a Labour government, to provide rental houses for the people. As was properly pointed out by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) a few moments ago, that legislation provided that a person who bought one of the properties built with money provided under the act had to pay cash for it. When Labour had its opportunity to make available these wonderfully easy terms which the Opposition now advocates, it did not do so. It had no intention of giving the people any sort of reasonable terms on which to purchase houses. Labour did not want the people to become home-owner3 at all, but only to become subservient to the Labour Government by being tenants of the great landlord, the State.
I remind the committee that the amendment that we are discussing has been agreed to by the Premiers of all the States, with the exception of Tasmania. That must be emphasized. All the State Premiers, with the exception of the Premier of Tasmania, have signed the agreement. The Australian Government gets no benefit from the arrangement at all. The sole purpose of the amendment of the legislation is to right a wrong that was done to the people of Australia by a previous Labour government, and to try to mitigate, in some way, the vicious effects of the present legislation upon the economy. The States will receive all the benefit, if any, that will accrue from this legislation, because the States themselves will fix the prices at which the properties are to be sold. That is an exclusive right under the agreement. The Commonwealth takes no part in the matter.
The interest rate of 4$ per cent, has been criticized by honorable members opposite, but I remind them that that rate has been agreed to by the Labour Premiers, who are signatories to the agreement. The interest accrues to the States, not to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has provided that interest, at the low rate of 3 per cent, shall continue to be charged until the 30th June, 1955, that being the rate of interest which was being charged at the 1st July, 1954. Only the State governments will benefit as a result of the interest rate of 4i per cent., which has been so much criticized by the Opposition.
There is nothing to cavil at in these terms. Indeed, they are better, in all respects, than the terms which can be obtained by any other people who wish to buy houses in Australia to-day. 1 know of no other arrangement under which a person may purchase a home and get the benefit of a 45-year repayment period. Even the guaranteed building societies in the States do not advance money to prospective home purchasers on terms of 5 per cent, deposit in respect of the first £2,000 of the advance and 10 per cent, of the balance. Those are particularly good terms. There is no better interest rate in Australia than that which has been provided in this agreement.
In the State of Kew South Wales - and this may interest the honorable member for West Sydney - the Rural Bank has done a magnificent job, over the years, in providing finance for home-buyers. People who have availed themselves of that service have been very satisfied, but the terms which the Government of New South Wales set down for the Rural Bank do not nearly equal the terms that are provided under this amended legislation. I just cannot understand how the supporters of the Labour party in this place honestly can contend that these terms are not good terms. They disparage an agreement that has been already entered into by their colleagues, the Premiers of the Labour-controlled States of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, they are now demanding terms that they themselves did not provide when they had the opportunity to do so. I cannot see the force or logic of the arguments of honorable members on the Opposition side. The only conclusion 1 can reach is that they are talking with their tongues in their cheeks. They are not at all sincere when they express a desire to help the home-hungry people of Australia.
The honorable member for West Sydney claimed that money had been denied to the Sydney City Council. Any une who knows anything about conditions in Sydney, and of the entry of the City Council into the housing field, remembers that many years ago the Sydney City Council built flats and so forth, but what has been the result? Everyone in Sydney is very sorry about what happened then because that action has ended in the creation in Sydney of slum conditions that would be a disgrace to any city.
The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) spoke of the great numbers of people who are homeless. Let us get it quite clear that housing the people is not, under the Constitution, a function of the Australian Government. Although this Government assists in the matter, and ha3 done a great deal, the housing of the people of Australia is entirely the responsibility of the State governments of Australia.
– Nothing of the sort.
– This Government, under the Constitution, has power to deal with housing only in the exercise of the defence power and through the War Service Homes Division, through the Commonwealth Bank and by agreement with the States. This Government has, of course, assisted in every possible way and, indeed, since it has been in office has provided more money than ever before in the history of Australia for the assistance of the States on housing. It has provided in the few years during which it has been in office, since 1949 until now, more money for war service homes than was provided in all the years between World War I. and 1949. Nobody can reasonably cavill at what this Government has done in the way of housing.
It has done a magnificent job, and every honorable member associated with the Government has just cause to be proud of its achievements. State governments, including the Government of New South Wales, can cure their own problems by going about their task in the right way, but they are not willing to do so. They are not prepared to take the means that are at their disposal to overcome the problem of the young people who want homes to-day but cannot get them. The plight of those people, in New South Wales particularly, is brought about by the legislation of the government of that State. Under the guise of trying to help the workers that government has destroyed the possibility of any young married couple getting a home. Any man who owns a property in New South Wales to-day and gets vacant possession of it would be nothing but a madman to re-let that dwelling under the law? that prevail there. As a result, vacant properties go right off the letting market. When any one who wants a home seek? the tenancy, it is just not available.
– Does the honorable member mean that rent control should V abolished?
– I did not say any such thing. I have not time to go into that, as the honorable member knows. It is shocking that honorable members on the other side of this chamber should criticize a piece of legislation that will bring to tens of thousands of people the opportunity to get themselves homes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To-night I have listened with other honorable members on this side of the House to some interesting contributions to this debate from supporters of the Government, but over the years this Government has made little or no contribution towards housing the people of this Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) stated that housing was not a Commonwealth responsibility, but the sole responsibility of the States. What he forgot to say was that the Commonwealth provides the money by which the States, axe able to. provide koines for the people of this country. The major reason why the provision of housing is lagging, and thousands are still waiting for homes, is, that this Government has failed to give the States enough money to carry out the housing schemes that they contemplate. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has revealed in this House the result of the housing activities of the Commonwealth Government here in Canberra. Its record on housing is a deplorable one. Here is the spectacle of a government spending £200.000,000 on defence-
Order ! The honorable member will get on to the bill. He has experience enough to know that he cannot make a second-reading speech at this stage.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I was just dealing broadly with clauses 1 to 4. What I was pointing out was in answer to the criticism of the honorable member for Bennelong and to his statement that housing is not a Commonwealth responsibility. Any houses that are being built in the States to-day represent the fruition of the plans of the Chifley Labour Government. Had that Administration not made the original agreement in 1945, it would not have been possible for many thousands of people, who are now wellhoused under various schemes, to enjoy good homes. Those homes are the product of the agreement embodied in the 194’5 act. People are still clamouring for houses, yet this Government is restricting the flow of finance to the States. It is useless to assert that, in recent years, more money has been given to the States for housing than was given while the Chifley Government was in office. What must be considered is what that money would huy under the Chifley Government and what money will buy under this Government. Even if the funds allocated to housing now were three times those allocated by the Chifley Government before 1945, they would not build a third of the houses that State governments provided then.
Look at the record of this Government. It is significant that the years in which the greatest numbers of homes were built since this Government has been in office were the years shortly after the Chifley Labour Government was defeated. Since 1949, during this Government’s term of office, the number of men employed on housing projects under schemes such as those covered by the Chifley Government’s 1945 legislation, and the number of houses under construction, have progressively declined. The simple reason is that the members of this Government have not a thought in their heads between them on housing. They are continually ditching their responsibilities by saying that housing is a matter for the States, and that there is no obligation on the National Government. In 1950-51, houses and flats commenced in Australia totalled over 84,000 ; yet in 1953-54 that number had declined to just over 57,000. These figures show that this Government ha? not continued the progressive policy of the Chifley Labour Government by which houses could have been provided for the people of this country. In 1950-51, the number of persons employed throughout Australia on housing schemes such as we have been discussing was 126,000. Those were all employed by builders on new building jobs. That figure has nowdeclined to 104,000. The Government i? evading its responsibilities on this important matter.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) joined in thi.’ debate, and with due respect to you, Mr. Acting Chairman, I say that no political party has a more deplorable record in relation to housing than has the Australian Country party, to which the honorable member for New England, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and yourself, Mr. Chairman, belong. The honorable member for New England mentioned the depression years, but what did antiLabour governments do then for housing? Men were employed on menial relief work tasks. They shovelled sand about when there was ample labour and plentiful materials to provide homes for the people of this nation. The record of previous governments, and particularly of Australian Country party governments, was the reason why the Chifley Government, in 3945, brought about this Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to give homes to the people. Only Labour governments in the federal arena and in the States have made major contributions in wards this great national problem. The petition in regard to finance for home building is tragic. Wage-earners under ; his bill will have to find not less than about £2,000 to get possession of a new borne. Any citizen who works for a living is a good type of citizen, and any one who wants a home and has a regular job is a fair risk that any government, whether Australian or State, should be willing to underwrite. This Government should give such a man every assistance to obtain his right in this country, a home for himself and his family. The Commonwealth Bank, the greatest financial instrumentality in Australia, which was established by a Labour government, should be providing money for housing. Private banking institutions and other financial organizations should be making money available for housing instead of restricting credits. The false policy of this Government, which believes that it can force prices of houses down by restricting finance, is condemning thousands of persons throughout Australia to a long and desperate wait for homes. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) said that 4£ per cent, interest on loans was not too high a rate, but 3 per cent, is better, and that is the Australian Labour party’s proposition. In addition, what is wrong with a deposit of 5 per cent, on a home? Why cannot a great instrumentality like the Commonwealth Bank provide the balance? If the Government can inflate the currency and print treasury-bills to the tune of £200,000,000 to finance its defence programme and other propositions, what is wrong with it spending a little of the £200,000,000 on homes for the people? Apparently it prefers to put the money into defence and to waste it generally.
The proposals that are advanced by the Opposition in connexion with this matter include a maximum loan of £3,750. What is wrong with an advance to within £1,200 or £1,000 of the total amount required to buy a home? The people are being exploited by unscrupulous money lenders in financing the purchase of houses. It is common knowledge that the purchaser of a house can obtain a certain amount from a bank and then get as much money as he wants on a second mortgage at 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, interest. That is what many people arc forced to do because of the restrictive policies of this Government.
As the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) said earlier in this debate, even the War Service Homes Division is building only 13,000 homes a year under this Government’s administration. That is only a small proportion of the war service homes that are required. In the meantime, men who have fought for this nation wait in queues for two or three years in an endeavour to get homes. It is of no use for Government supporters to claim that there is no money available. This enlightened community expects the Government to provide houses. If war broke out to-morrow, finance would be available in unlimited amounts so that we could protect this country, and rightly so, but, if the Government is prepared to do that in time of war, what is wrong with protecting the people in time of peace? The Government should be making money available for housing instead of running away from its obligations and proclaiming that the responsibility does not lie with it.
The Government might well follow the example of a New Zealand Labour government of days gone by. Houses were constructed all over New Zealand by the Savage Labour Government. In the Hutt Valley, 60,000 people were housed in homes by the Labour administration. Pensioners in New Zealand live in homes constructed by the New Zealand Labour Government and let to them at a rental of 17s. 6d. a week. The homes are built in settled areas alongside those of other citizens. Thus, the pensioners are given a status that is denied to the pensioners of Australia because this Government will not make available the finance necessary for home building. The Government should do something practical instead of talking and dodging the issue.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) talks a lot of arrant nonsense when housing is mentioned. He uses words to disguise his thoughts. He never uses them to express what is in his mind. When the honorable member criticized the Chifley Government with regard to this agreement, he was trying to hide his real motive which is to attempt to destroy all agreements that the Australian Government might make with the States for the housing of the people. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), when he was a member of the South Australian Parliament, was a member of a committee that was set up by the Chifley Labour Government. That committee was established to inquire into the housing needs of the community. For twenty or 30 years, private enterprise had fallen down on the job. It was because the people had not enough houses that the Chifley Government, as part of its contribution to the establishment of the welfare state, decided to negotiate the agreement after the report of the committee to which I have referred had been presented. The agreement was designed to enable a worker to rent a home at a rental that would not exceed one-fifth of his weekly income. Under the agreement, provision was made for the difference between the economic rent of a property and one-fifth of the worker’s wage, to be subsidized by the Australian Government and the State concerned in the proportions of three-fifths by the Commonwealth and two-fifths by the State.
– That sounds like a socialistic proposition.
– It was socialistic and so also is the Rural Bank of New South Wales. The honorable member for Bennelong waxed quite eloquent in praise of the Rural Bank of New South Wales. He said it had done a. wonderful job. There is nothing wrong with socialism. Monopoly capitalism, not socialism, is the cause of the world’s troubles. The honorable member for Bennelong may use the term “ socialism “ as a cliche when referring to this legislation for the purpose of trying to make the people distrust it. He is one of those hard-shelled tories in this chamber who want to destroy all agreements’ of this sort. He would destroy the whole basis of the welfare state if he could, and he has many friends opposite, but they have to support the Government in a measure of this sort because the agreement is designed to allow persons who are tenants of homes to purchase them. Thai is a very laudable objective, too.
In the first instance, the previous Labour Government had to get an agreement with the States, and I was a member of the Government which brought down that legislation. We had to have homes erected, and we had to rent them for the time being to the tenants, but various State governments, most of them Labour governments, urged from time to time the passage of legislation amending tinagreement so that the people could buy their own homes. It was the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who. for a long time, resisted any proposal for the sale of the houses. The relevant legislation is now before the committee, and the Australian Government and the State governments concerned are in agreement. I see that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) i.= about to interrupt me by rudely interjecting.
– I merely wish to remind the honorable member that it was a Minister in the Labour Government who said that the government of the day did not want to create a number of little capitalists.
– There is the slander. I knew it would come out. Every honorable member in this chamber and every intelligent person in Australia know? very well that if the average person own? his own property, he is less likely to succumb to false ideologies and to dangerous propaganda. All this talk about little capitalists is complete nonsense. This has nothing to do with the bill. Mr. Chairman, but now that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has thrown the hoary old story across the chamber, I want to say that when the matter was tested in a court of law and one of the Ministers of this Government gave evidence, he could not prove that those words were said in this chamber, and the Ilansard record does not show that they were.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) read the extract from Hansard to-day.
– I challenge the VicePresident of the Executive Council and everybody else to produce the document that would justify his statement.
– I could produce h dozen honorable members to prove it.
– The Vice-President f the Executive Council interrupted me with a false statement. As for the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), I did not hear his interjection and I do not care what he said. The responsibility for housing is not entirely a State matter, as has been claimed by the honorable member for Bennelong. The Commonwealth is responsible for housing exservice men and women, of whom 900,000 are eligible. If the Government would use its defence powers, as it can, it could solve the whole housing problem of Australia by providing houses for eligible persons. But what is the Government’s attitude? It says that 80,000 houses a year are all that it can build in Australia and that that is sufficient. I assure the committee that 80,000 houses a year is not an adequate contribution to Australia’s housing problem. Since this agreement wa3 first brought to the Parliament in 1945, 1,000,000 additional people have come to Australia, and the demand for houses is growing all the time. Little or nothing has been done about slum abolition anywhere. It is of no use for the honorable member for Macmillan (Mr. Brown) to emulate Pontius Pilate, wash his hands with invisible soap and suggest that the responsibility lies somewhere else. The responsibility rests squarely on the Commonwealth Parliament, not only to provide money to help the States but also to exercise its unquestioned constitutional powers to provide houses for ex-service personnel who are eligible.
The State governments have had to take the agreement or leave it. They wanted better terms than they were offered but this was the best they could get. I suppose it was a right principle to take half a loaf, because that is better than no bread, but the honorable member for Bennelong has a queer idea that half a loaf is better than a whole one. It is because of his strange and illogical reasoning that he reaches the fantastic conclusions that he does. There is neither coherence nor logie in any suggestions that he has put forward. He contended that the bill is good, but later he said that the States had to carry the full responsibility of housing the people. 1 have a shrewd idea that the honorable member would like to see private enterprise back where is was in other years, building houses, charging what it liked and freed of rent control. That is the real reason for his attitude. If any electors in Victoria are listening to this debate to-night, I hope they will realize that the people who are criticizing this bill on the Government side are those who want rent control abolished in much the same way as the Leader of the Liberal party in Victoria wants rents raised by 25 per cent.
– I wish to reply to some of the statements that were made by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) in which he accused the Labour Government of having made an agreement for tenancy and so prevented people from building or purchasing their homes. If the honorable member read the bill carefully and the amendments proposed to the agreement he would see that that was not its effect. In the old agreement paragraph 14, which deals with the sale of houses, provided - fi.) 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 at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling . . .
That simply means that after a State authority had built a house, it could sell the house to any one who had the money to pay for it. This bill provides that that paragraph is to be omitted and the following paragraph inserted in its place : - (1.) A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion to the tenant of the dwelling on such terms and conditions . . .
The implication is that whereas, under the previous legislation, the State could build houses with money advanced under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and sell them to anybody atwill, without the purchaser being a tenant or having any other qualifications, under this proposal the only persons to whom the State can sell its houses are tenants. Consequently, all houses that the States build, even under this agreement, will be for the purpose of letting to tenants.
– But every house built under the old agreement was for tenancy.
– My reply to the honorable member’s interjection is that this agreement will not cost this Government one penny more than it had to pay under the old agreement.
– But the States will make more profit.
– The States may make a profit, but they could have done that also under the old agreement. If, under the old agreement, the States sold a house for more than they paid to build it, the balance remained with the State, as it will under this proposal. Formerly the State could build a house and sell it to any one who could get the finance from somebody else so that he might pay cash for it.
– But it had to be a tenancy project.
– I disagree. The State had the right to sell it to any person when it was built. The honorable member for Bennelong now talks about a tenancy project. I remind him that this amendment is more of a tenancy project, because when the State builds a house it has to be let to a tenant and can be sold to a tenant only after he has been in possession of it. The difference is that under the old agreement the State could sell a house only if it paid the full capital cost back to the Commonwealth immediately.
– That is what the Labour party’s scheme provided.
– Instead of paying the full amount back to the Commonwealth, under this agreement the State will continue to pay the weekly or monthly instalments, to the Commonwealth as though the house in question were a tenancy project. This proposal will not result in the States building more houses or in more persons getting houses than could obtain them under the old agreement. The honorable member for Bennelong quoted what had been happening in New South Wales about the purchase of houses, but I invite him to examine what has been happening in South Australia, a State which he ha? lauded. If a person wanted to buy a house from the South Australian Housing Trust he would find that the total advance available to him from the South Australian Government would be £1,750. Can the honorable member tell me where any person can buy a house for £1,750? If the total cost were £3,000 the purchaser would have to find a deposit of £1,250. That is the position in a Liberalgoverned State that the honorable member alleges is .providing the best deal in housing.
The amendment provided in the bill operates in one direction only. It will stop the States from finding the money to sell to people outright, because the Commonwealth will provide the money for the States for an extended period. I hope that honorable members will not be misled. This is a good measure and I am not arguing against it. I have expressed my criticism of the high rate of interest and the short period of repayment. Although I recognize that the amended agreement will enable people to purchase homes, I remind the honorable member for Bennelong that the average worker - the man who needs the most assistance - will be able to take advantage of this legislation only in rare cases. Not many will be able to pay the difference between the purchase price of a house and the Government advance of £2,750. Only those in a relatively good financial position will be able to do that, but the man at the bottom of the financial scale will have difficulty in finding the amount of cash necessary.
– I do not propose to take up much of the time of the committee. I merely want to correct a mis-statement that was made by my friend and colleague the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is no longer in the chamber. I have no doubt that when he noticed that I sought to obtain a volume of Hansard from which to quote a passage following the interjection. I made about “little capitalists”, he absented himself from the chamber.
– Surely the Minister does not think that the honorable member was afraid to remain here?
– I do not say that he ran away, but I say, in all courtesy, and kindness, that he absented himself from the chamber. I do not want to deal with many details associated with the bill. Speaker after speaker on the Labour side has said that it is a good measure, and that he will support it. This is a sort of late repentance, is it not, because Labour is a solialist party, but the whole of its policy has been aimed at tying the workers to rented homes. The difficulties experienced in New South Wales at the present time by a person who wishes to obtain and own his home, would baffle Raffles. He could not possibly break those locks and get in. Therefore, I say it is a sort of late repentance on the part of members of the Labour party when they state, “ Yes, this is good. Let us make the workers little capitalists; let us give them an opportunity to own their homes “. I could not help, when I listened to the unctuous remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, whose tongue was poked so far into his cheek that it looked as if he had a life-sized boil on the side of his face-
– Order !
-When he did so, I was constrained to make the interjection that is so well known in this chamber as to Labour’s policy about making little capitalists. Then, in great indignation, the honorable member for Melbourne said that courts of law had found, on inquiry, that this statement waa never made in the House. Courts of law, obviously, did not refer to the Ilansard report of the proceedings of this Parliament. The honorable member also said that Hansard does not prove it. Some persons who have been listening to the broadcast of these proceedings may seek to place some reliance upon. the statements that the honorable member for Melbourne has made with regard to Hansard. I take it that, when they hear the quotation I shall read from Ilansard, whatever point he has made that is likely to interest, them will be dissipated; because a person who cannot tell the truth with regard to this statement is a person who cannot put forward an honest and sincere policy with regard to housing. I know that the honorable member for Melbourne was talking to the Victorian listening public. I just want to remind them of what was said about “little capitalists” in 1945. I refer now to Hansard, Volume 185. page 6265-
– In what debate?
– The remark was made by Mr. Dedman, who was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, when closing the second-reading debate on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1945. In that debate, Mr. Dedman followed Dr. Gaha, who was then the honorable member for Denison, and picked on a remark that had been made by that honorable member. As reported in Hansard, volume 1S5, at page 6265, Mr. Dedman said -
The Commonwealth Government is concerned to provide adequate and good housing for the workers; it is not concerned with milking the workers into little capitalists.
The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who was then sitting in Opposition, interjected -
In other words, it is not concerned Wit milking them home-owners?
Mr. Dedman then went on ;
If there is any criticism which may Indirected against the policies of past g-‘vern ments supported by the present Opposition, it is this: Too much of their legislative programmes was deliberately designed to p’ace the workers in a position in which they would have a vested interest in the continuance of capitalism. That is a policy which will not have my support at any rate.
In other words, Mr. Dedman said that the Labour party, when it formed the government of this country, was not too much concerned with enabling workers to own their homes, and become independent. Therefore, he said, in effect, “ I will have none of it “. He was speaking for Labour at the time. When we look at the socialistic programme of Labour, we can understand why that party will have none of it. Labour believes that the State should control everything - the hearts, the minds, the bodies and the homes of the workers; otherwise, Labour will have none of it. I have read that passage from the Hansard report to show that it was Labour’s policy and that Labour is now disavowing it. I notice of late that quite a number of honorable members on the other side of the chamber are disavowing Labour’s policy on various matters, and if they wish to disavow this-
– I rise to order ! The Vice-President of the Executive Council has read a passage from the speech of Mr. Dedman, who was a Minister in the previous Labour Government, on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1945. However, the VicePresident of the Executive Council was not fair. He did not read the opening remarks of the Minister on the bill-
– Order! The honorable member may not quote from Hansard of the current sessional period. No point of order is involved.
– I think that I have said sufficient. I have completely circumvented the honorable member for Melbourne, who has made a belated attempt to gain some political kudos from his observations. I have destroyed almost completely the arguments that have been developed from the Opposition side of the chamber during the last few days, and us there is now no further reason why this debate should continue, I move -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Ch airman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island Act - Regulations - 1955 -
No. 2 (Boarding-houses Ordinance).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Air - W. S. Armstrong.
Health- A. K. O’Gower.
House adjourned at 10.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’3 questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550519_reps_21_hor6/>.