21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I have to inform the House that I have advised the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives and to give notice of an election for half of the Senate in time for an election for both Houses to be held on the 10th December.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
- His Excellencyand I am glad to observe that all honorable members concur - has been pleased to accept this advice. It will he well if I give to the House some of the considerations that influenced me in tendering the advice to the Governor-General. One half of the members of the Senate are due to retire on the 30th June, 1956. An election to fill their places must therefore occur by about the end of May if new senators are to be declared elected by the 1st July. No election for the House of Representatives need occur until the middle of 1957. . My colleagues and I have given very much thought to the problem so created. Until the time of the double dissolution in 1951, it was the normal rule for elections for the House of Representatives and for the retiring half of the Senate to occur on the one day. This had, and has, obvious advantages, ranging from the fact that it avoids a large double outlay on the cost of an election to the profoundly important fact that, if we are to have a three-year Parliament, as we are supposed to have under the Constitution, general elections should occur every three years, and not twice in every three years. Since the double dissolution we have a position in which, unless there is an early dissolution of the House of Representatives, we shall have a Senate election in 1956, a House of Representatives election in 1957, a Senate election in 1959, a House of Representatives election in 1960, and so on. This, sir, seems to be an intolerable position.
– When did the right honorable gentleman wake up to that?
– As long as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has wakened up, too, I am happy about that.
– I woke up a long time ago.
– Did you? Well, we are at one. This is a most delightful unanimity which has broken out between myself and the honorable member. The position to which I was referring is not conducive to long-term policies nor to a proper concentration of Parliament and the Cabinet on the great . executive and legislative problems of the nation.
My colleagues and I believe we should take an early opportunity to synchronize once more the elections for the two Houses. I have accordingly so advised His Excellency the Governor-General. The next question was, when this could best be done. There was one most important matter which was of prime significance in my mind in advising on the timing. Recently, after extensive conferences with important sections of industry, I announced a comprehensive economic policy, the immediate objective of which is that Australia’s overseas payments and receipts should, and must, be brought into balance by the 30th June, 1956, so that the fall in our overseas reserves shall then be arrested. The achievement of this purpose requires, in addition to what has already been done, steady and firm action, and a clear authority. These are vital. We desire a clear mandate from the people to deal with these economic problems, and the election of a Parliament - and here I must borrow the words of my friend the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition - which will represent a definite public opinion about them.
– About what?
– About the problems that have to be dealt with.
– What are they?
– The Leader of the Opposition is one of them.
– -Who am I to promote any disharmony in the Opposition’s ranks? Dear me! Why, it was the right honorable gentleman’s own deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne, who, two or three nights ago in Melbourne, said that we must have an election at once to clear the air, and my pacific friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, agreed that the sooner it was held the better. But the Leader of the Opposition is not so sure.
The second point concerns important aspects of Australia’s political time-table. It so happens that the States of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are all due to have general elections, in the ordinary course, before May, 1956; the probable months, following past practice, being March or April. It is true that in New South Wales it appears to have been decided - or it has not, I am not quite sure yet - with some misgivings, to have an election on the 3rd December next. But this leaves the other three States to follow, so far as one can tell, the normal course. It is obviously most undesirable to have a national campaign preceded by some months of State campaigning. My Government believes that to have an election next May would be to produce the almost certain result that the vote would be taken in an atmosphere of what I shall call political exhaustion, with inevitable prejudice to the care and thought which ought to be directed to the political affairs of the nation as a whole. We also feel, sir, that unless for some reason it is inevitable, an election just before the opening of a new business financial year should be avoided because it does tend to increase uncertainties in business planning. Accepting, therefore, that a May election is undesirable, and a March or April election being, in practical terms, precluded by State political campaigns in, probably, three states - or should I now say in four - the practical choice comes to December, 1955, or February, 1956. I exclude January because January is, by common consent and long practice in Australia, a quite impracticable month for the holding of a poll. For exactly the same reasons, a February election, which would necessarily involve campaigning in January, is not practical politics.
With all these considerations in mind, and after consulting with the Cabinet, I therefore advised His Excellency that the House of Representatives should be dissolved, and the necessary notice of Senate elections be given in time for an election of both Houses on Saturday, the 10th December. The issue - should I say might - might be to some extent confused by the holding of a New South Wales election on the 3rd December but, in a choice, it is better that it should be partly confused in one State than that it should be entirely confused in several States. In any event, statements already made in reference to New South Wales indicate that a great deal of the contest in that State will tend to turn, either upon federal issues as such, or upon issues between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales.
I confess, sir, that I gave some consideration to the idea of an election on Saturday, the 17th December; but it would be extremely difficult, and perhaps unfair, to endeavour to have a poll a week before Christmas, at a time when many thousands of people who are actively and properly concerned with politics are moving out into the midsummer holidays. It was, I think, for this reason that my predecessor, Mr. Chifley, selected the 10th December, 1949, as the date of the last recorded December election. Writs will be issued on Monday, the 7th November and I hope all honorable members will remember that nominations for the election will close on Wednesday, the 16th November.
– by leave - Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have had the announcement, publicly and officially, that all the House has had from other sources - sources which are provided by the Government - for a considerable time past. I only rise to speak because of the alleged reasons given for the election at this time. I wonder whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told His Excellency that these were the reasons - the true reasons - for fixing this particular time for the election. I must say that I share the view of my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to this extent, that the situation in the House has become extremely difficult.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I wonder if you would, on some occasions, listen to the Leader of the Opposition with the patience that you show when you listen to the Prime Minister. For three reasons-
– Listen to the Leader of the Opposition and be silent. Show your manners !
– Order ! All sections of the House must come to order.
– Let us look at the reasons. First of all, the Prime Minister thinks that there should be a synchronization of the elections. Everybody agrees with that. Seven times during this session he has suggested that that objective should be attained by joint action of all parties of the House and, over and over again, has suggested the formation of a committee to achieve that objective. So it cannot lae merely for that purpose, because this does not solve that problem for the future. Therefore, we can dismiss that as a reason.
The third reason given - and I shall deal with it now - is the election timetable of the various States. With great respect to the Prime Minister, I do not think that the time-table of the States entered his mind. Normally he would fix a Senate election date close to that on which the term of senators would expire. He did that in 1953. On that occasion the Senate election was held as near as possible to the date on which a new term would commence. If that were done on this occasion the term of office of the newly elected senators would commence one month, not seven months, after the elections. That would be democratic because, next May, the people of Australia would presumably express themselves in the light of the position existing then. For these reasons I think that all reference to the States is so much eyewash.
The second reason given - if it is a true reason - is very important. I refer to the economic position and the gradual building up by the Prime Minister of an atmosphere of economic crisis. He had special broadcasting arrangements made and everything set up with the usual show. In the absence of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), he told us what the economic crisis was. He said, “ It is a real economic crisis “ ; but the truth is that the crisis is mostly imaginary and has been caused, to a large extent, by mismanagement on the part of the Government. However, if that is the issue on which the Government is going to the people everybody on this side of the House will welcome it. I do not mind if the Prime Minister adds a few other issues, because I will do it myself.
What I think odd is this: Were those the reasons given to His Excellency, who would hardly know the complicated constitutional position in detail? The Governor-General, of course, depends upon complete frankness from the Prime Minister. Are those the reasons that really animated the Government? They are not the reasons given by its press supporters. No, the Government is trying to seize a political advantage and effect a political deception. The people of Australia have seen only one occasion like this in our history. I refer to the elections of 1929, and I say now, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall “.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether, following my previous question on the same subject, any action has been taken to ascertain the extent of the traffic in arms by iron curtain countries with the object of arming Egypt for aggression against Israel. If reports of the growing magnitude of this traffic are true, does not the Minister agree that it constitutes an everincreasing threat to peace in the near East? Will the Minister take any necessary action to instruct Australian representatives at the United Nations to support any move by Israel to obtain an immediate cessation of such traffic?
– In view of the honorable member’s previous question on this subject, I have followed developments in this sphere closely. As honorable members will realize, only recently the Egyptian Prime Minister announced that a commercial agreement had been entered into between his country and Czechoslovakia. Under it, Egypt will provide cotton and rice in return for armaments. Australia regrets this type of transaction, which cannot contribute to the stability of the Middle East. In order to prevent an arms race between Israel and the Arab States, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France declared jointly in 1950 - I recall this to honorable members because it is very important - that they would limit the supply of arms to all countries in the Middle East to their legitimate need for self-defence and internal order. The balance established in this way may be upset by the present transaction. Reports have already indicated that Israel is seeking further arms in order to. offset the increase in Egyptian strength, and this in turn has provoked an adverse reaction from other Arab countries.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the Minister may, in answering a question without notice, make a statement that is” obviously prepared. A question which is answered by a prepared statement is obviously not a question without notice.
– The Minister is entitled to answer the question as he chooses.
– I would remind the House that I promised the honorable member for Hoddle, when he asked a previous question, that I would follow this matter up, and I have done so. As far as we are aware, no action has been taken by Israel or any other country to raise this matter before the United Nations organization, and therefore no reply is necessary to the honorable member’s third question.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question which has reference to certain questions recently asked by honorable members on this side of the House regarding the dairy industry, with which many honorable members are deeply concerned. la the Minister in a position to give the House any information on price moves which have just been announced for butter and cheese in the United Kingdom? Is it reasonable to assume that the present price trend indicates that the dairy-farmers of Australia in this year will receive the highest price ever recorded for their products?
– I am glad to say that there was advice yesterday of a further substantial increase in the value of Australian butter in the United Kingdom. The price of Australian butter in July, when the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited decided the interim payments, was 322s. a cwt. The price yesterday was 375s. sterling a cwt., following . a further increase of 20s. The interim payment that had been made by the equalization committee, until a decision was made by it yesterday, was based upon an assumption that Australian butter would be valued in the coming season in the United Kingdom at 269s. sterling. In short, the spot price for Australian butter in the United Kingdom is to-day ls. 3d. per lb., in Australian currency, higher than the value assumed by the dairy-farmers’ own committee in J July, when the equalization committee made its decision. That price trend, which one can only hope - and, for my part, I expect - will be enjoyed when our butter is in the United Kingdom in quantity for sale, combined with the very substantial subsidy made available by the Government this year, shows every prospect of returning to Australian dairy-farmers a higher price for their product this year than has ever been known before.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council why only six of the seven members of the Tariff Board signed the report that he tabled a week ago. Has the right honorable gentleman failed to table the report of the seventh member because of that member’s criticism of the Government’s economic policy and administrative actions ?
– The honorable member must be aware that I represent the Minister for Trade and Customs in this House. The Minister for Trade and Customs had the Tariff Board report tabled through me, as his representative in this house, and it was tabled as I received it from the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question supplementary to that just asked by the honorable member for Corangamite. Can the Minister tell the House whether these highly satisfactory prices for butter now being received on the English market include substantial or, at any rate, considerable supplies of Australian butter? In other words, are supplies of Australian butter now reaching the market in sufficient quantities for this to make a satisfactory difference to the Australian price?
– The prices which I have quoted are for Australian butter, but principally with respect to Australian butter held by the United Kingdom Government and released by the United Kingdom Government on a basis of prevailing market values at the prices I have indicated. I say advisedly that there are comparatively small quantities of new season’s Australian butter arriving now and selling at these prices. I understand some quantities are being sold on the Continent at even slightly higher prices than these, but, as I sought to indicate when replying to the honorable member for Corangamite, and as I have been careful to indicate on a number of previous occasions, substantial quantities of Australian butter will not reach the United Kingdom before December. The critical period of Australian sales is from November to March and all I can say is that on the advice I have received, I am confident that at least very satisfactory levels, if not these exact levels, will prevail.
– In view of the importance of correcting Australia’s adverse external trade balance by improving the economic production of Australian industry, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that manufacturers requiring replacement machinery and equipment from the United Kingdom, which are essential to reduce costs of production, will be given import licences.
– I can give no assurance except that the import licensing system announced quite recently will be observed completely. I do not suppose for one moment that all the people who want to import plant will be able to do so, because the honorable member will appreciate that once having put down an import licensing system to save so many millions of pounds on the overseas account, one cannot at once proceed to whittle it away by making exceptions in the case of Jones, Brown or Robinson. Therefore, I cannot give him the assurance, but, as usual, these restrictions will be honestly and fairly administered.
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I refer to the periodic outbreaks of grasshoppers, more correctly called plague locusts, particularly in the eastern States. I also draw attention to the fact that the Ministers for Agriculture in those States have warned land-holders that on account of the particular seasonal conditions operating, there is the possibility of an outbreak this year. I ask the right honorable gentleman what researches the Commonwealth has undertaken into this problem, either individually or in co-operation with the State governments.
– This is a very grave menace to Australian pastoral and agricultural industries. This Government, like previous governments in the Commonwealth sphere, has taken the general line that it is the responsibility of the State governments to deal with floods, fires, and this kind of problem. But, having taken that as a general principle, the Commonwealth has nevertheless set out consciously to stimulate a campaign of research and study of what can be done to either prevent or deal with this situation. I know that after six years of negotiations with the States, we have at least reached an agreement under which there will be maintained, with a fund provided jointly by the Commonwealth and States, a patrol to study the origin and development of grasshopper plagues and to conduct a trial control campaign. Approximately £55,000 has been made available by the Commonwealth and the mainland States for that purpose, and all the relevant agencies of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be made available in that patrol and trial control campaign. I have no doubt that, if an emergency arises, the Commonwealth will assist, as it has assisted before, through the agency of my colleagues the Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army, and the Minister for Air. A solution of this problem will perhaps be found now for the first time by this system of patrol and trial control campaigns.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Did the right honorable gentleman negotiate any new dollar loans on behalf of the Government while he was overseas? If so, is he in a position to give particulars of them now, and can he also state in what way further overseas loans will affect Australia’s serious adverse trade balance of £256,000,000 as shown in the figures for the financial year 1954-55, which is, in effect, the cause of the approaching economic storm and one of the reasons why the Prime Minister is rushing on the general elections in order to avoid the crisis which will probably arrive about next May?
– I am surprised that the honorable member takes so little interest in the business of the House and does not know that the Canadian loan will be discussed this afternoon.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question with reference to the so-called unity conference that, I understand, was held last Monday evening by the Australian Labour party in Sydney and was attended by the Leader of the Opposition in this House and the New South Wales Premier. I am informed that, at that conference, the New South Wales Premier admitted the disastrous state into which public works had fallen in New South Wales and blamed the position on the Australian Government, stating that this Government had provided insufficient money for New South Wales. I now ask the Treasurer, first, whether it is not a fact that this ‘Government has provided far more money to the States than was provided by any other Government Secondly, has this Administration not voluntarily relinquished its share of loan moneys to make more money available to the States? Thirdly, has there been any occasion on which New South Wales has not received its fair share of the money available?
– Obviously the term “ unity “ applied to a conference attended by the Leader of the Opposition in this House and the New South Wales Premier, is a misnomer. I cannot see where there was any unity in the conference. The answer to all the honorable member’s questions is the same. New South Wales has received more consideration, financially, from thos Government than it has received from any other Commonwealth Government since federation.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman a-ware that ex-servicemen’s organizations in New South Wales are holding meetings of protest against the Repatriation Commission’s interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which relates to the onus of proof and the benefit of doubt in claims for repatriation pensions? Will the Prime Minister instruct the Repatriation Commission and the appeals tribunals to notify reasons for adverse decisions to ex-servicemen or their dependants who are seeking entitlement benefits under the Repatriation Act? Has the Prime Minister received any official complaints from ex-servicemen’s organizations concerning the department’s interpretation of the act, and what action is contemplated in dealing with these complaints? .
– I am asked whether I am aware of certain meetings. I am not.
– Well, you read the press.
– I read the press as little as possible. ‘
– You seem fairly well’ informed.
– Wonderfully, but then I know the facts.
– Why are you so depressed ?
– If that question ion the record, I could answer it. I am looking forward to the next Parliament with mixed feelings of pleasure and sorrow. “All, all, are gone, the old familiar faces.” But insofar as the question that was originally put relates to these matters - of course, I shall convey the question to my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, the most successful Minister for Repatriation that this country has had, and ask him to consider it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the dispute at the new Shell oil refinery at Corio, which is in Victoria, of course, which dispute threatens to close down the plant entirely ? Is there a possibility of any early action being taken which would avoid a most detrimental effect upon employees’ wages and a setback to essential production ?
– I understand that this matter was before Conciliation Commissioner Galvin yesterday, when, at the request of Mr. Evans, of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, the hearing was adjourned to allow the union representatives to confer among themselves. I am now given to understand that the matter has been placed by them in the hands of the representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– This sounds like a “ Dorothy Dix “ question.
– No, it is not. Unlike the honorable member, I manage to keep myself reasonably well and accurately informed on these things. They are meeting in Melbourne to-day to consider the matter.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the establishment of a special parliamentary committee to consider redrafting sections of the Income Tax Act, particularly sections 263 and 264, to give the necessary safeguards of British justice to decent Australian citizens - not crooks or racketeers, but the innocent persons whom the Taxation Branch suspects - to ensure that they will be given elementary protection against injustice at the hands of overzealous taxation officials, who to-day have the power to cause great difficulty and unnecessary anxiety to decent law-abiding citizens ?
– I shall not give any consideration to that matter at this juncture.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The right honorable gentleman may remember that some time ago I asked that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization make an effort to discover means of eradicating skeleton weed, which in areas of Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales, is a menace to cereal crops. Has any progress been made, and, if not, will the Minister inform the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that there is again a prolific crop of this weed between Parliament House and the Hotel Kurrajong, on which experiments could be made, the result of which may be of great value to Australia?
– I will bring the observations of the honorable member before my colleague, ascertain just what the position is, and advise him accordingly.
Fourteenth annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, for vear 1954-55. » Ordered to be printed.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following matter : -
Proposed erection of Commonwealth Offices, Yurong-street (Palladium), Sydney, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the raising of a loan in Canadian currency, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Beale do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, on a point of procedure, I direct your attention to the fact that I have addressed to you a letter, the terms of which are similar to the terms of a letter that I wrote to you earlier in the week, regarding the need to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the necessity to restore basic wage adjustments. You have not yet referred to that matter to-day. I should like to know what has happened to it. We have submitted it for discussion on three occasions.
– I have received two letters, one from the honorable member for Blaxland and one from the honorable member for Yarra, in identical terms. I have determined that the matter submitted is not in order. It is in substantially the same terms as that placed before the House yesterday, and, I may add, last week. On neither occasion did the proposed discussion receive the necessary support. It is laid down in May’s Parliamentary Practice, at page 351, that failure to secure the requisite support is held to be a refusal of leave by the House and to prevent the same matter being raised again during the same session.
– The purpose of this bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for a borrowing in Canada by the Commonwealth of 15,000,000 Canadian dollars and to seek appropriation of the proceeds. This is the first loan raised by an Australian Government in Canada. In fact, it is the first loan made by the Canadian market to an outside government, and this is a point which reflects most favorably on our credit standing overseas. The possibility of the Government raising a loan in Canada was mentioned to me when I was in North America last year attending the annua] meeting of governors of the International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Subsequently, the proposal was carried further by discussion and correspondence, and I was able to conduct the final negotiations personally in Toronto shortly before returning to Australia recently.
The loan was opened for public subscription on the 7th October. It proved a great success, and the books were closed oversubscribed within an hour of the opening. This result was highly gratifying. Although the amount of the loan, about £A.6,750,000, is not particularly large, it was in the nature of a pioneering approach to a market unaccustomed to foreign lending. Its enthusiastic reception can be taken as a token of the keen appreciation in Canada of Australia’s economic progress and potential. The bill now before the House provides the necessary legal framework for the loan. It is designed to approve the borrowing and the issue of securities, to set up machinery for using the loan proceeds to assist the development of our resources, and to provide for the servicing and repayment of the loan. The loan underwriting agreement and the form of securities, which are reproduced as schedules to this bill, contain the terms and conditions of the loan.
The loan has’ been raised to assist Australia’s development programme, and the proceeds will be used to assist in financing capital expenditures from the loan programme approved by the Australian Loan Council for 1955-56 for Commonwealth and State governments. In recent years, the Government has financed most of its public works expenditures from revenue, thus making available a greater volume of loan funds for development projects being financed by the States. These include a wide range of Works such as construction of facilities for steam and hydro-electric power generation, construction of dams for water conservation, flood control and irrigation purposes, drainage schemes, railway construction and maintenance, and construction of port facilities, roads, houses, hospitals and schools. It is to essential works of this nature that the proceeds of the Canadian loan will be applied. Very large amounts of capital investment are required to ensure the continuation of our economic expansion and consolidation of our prosperity, and the greater part of this is being financed from domestic financial resources. However, overseas capital has an important part to play and, to the extent that our own savings can be supplemented by investment from overseas, development can proceed faster and with less strain on the economy. Accordingly, the Government has borrowed overseas as favorable opportunities have arisen. Including this new Canadian issue, the Government has raised £134,000,000 of new money overseas since coming into office, including £115,000,000 from four loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and £12,000,000 in Switzerland.
Honorable members will appreciate that oversea loans have the further advantage of supplementing our holdings of foreign exchange. The Canadian dollar is one of the world’s strongest currencies, and it has been exchanging at a small premium over the United States dollar for some four years now. Our external debt is not large for an economy of the size of our own. It is less than 15 per cent, of gross national product, and this proportion is less than one-half of what it was ten years ago. Total interest payments on foreign debt of Australian public authorities are less than 3 per cent, of our total current external earnings. I may mention that during the early 1930’s we were devoting more than 30 per cent, of our external earnings to servicing our overseas debt.
Approval by the Australian Loan Council was obtained before the loan underwriting agreement and related documents were signed. The main terms and conditions of the borrowing were as follows : - Interest at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum, payable half-yearly; duration of the loan, fifteen years; issue price to the public 98-J to yield approximately 4.13 per cent. ; payments of interest and capital to be free of Australian taxes for bondholders not resident in Australia, which is in accordance with our existing income tax laws. The loan agreement gives details of the underwriting and other costs of the borrowing to be met by the Commonwealth, the responsibilities of the underwriters, arrangements for the provision of a prospectus, the procedure for delivery of the bonds, and the appointment of a fiscal agent responsible for making interest and sinking fund payments on behalf of the Commonwealth. The form of securities sets out the sinking fund and redemption provisions relating to the loan.
The loan agreement provides that the bonds shall be delivered to the underwriters on the 1st November, when the cash proceeds of the borrowing will be handed over to the Commonwealth. The Government will then sell the net Canadian dollar proceeds to the Commonwealth Bank for Australian currency. The latter will be placed in the Loan Fund. The bill now under consideration authorizes the transfer of the Australian currency proceeds from the Loan Fund to a proposed new trust account to be known as the Canadian Loan Trust Account. Subsequently, they will be invested in Commonwealth loans, thus assisting the loan programme approved by the Loan Council for the current financial year.
The Canadian Loan Trust Account will provide the necessary sinking fund payments, which are annual amounts of 500,000 dollars in each of the thirteen years 1957 to 1969 inclusive. When the time comes for these sinking fund payments and for the final repayment, the trust account investments will be realized to provide funds for that purpose. Interest received from the investment of the loan proceeds may be paid into the trust account as provided for in the bill and will be used, as necessary, to meet any possible deficiency between the amount to be placed in the trust account and the amount ultimately required to meet repayment of the loan. The net loan proceeds that will be placed in the trust account represent the gross amount of the loan less discount, underwriting and other flotation expenses. Other amounts paid into the trust account must be sufficient to meet these flotation expenses and, in addition, provision must be made for possible movements in exchange rates which might increase the cost to the Commonwealth of repaying the loan in due course. To the extent that it is not found necessary to build up the trust account in this way, the interest on the trust account investments will be credited to Consolidated Revenue. Moreover, as provided in the Audit Act, any balance which might remain in the trust account after repaying the loan would be transferred back to Consolidated Revenue.
Because of these arrangements, it will not be necessary to make normal sinking fund contributions in respect of this loan; and the bill accordingly exempts the loan from the provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act. Halfyearly interest payments on the loan will be met from Consolidated Revenue. This loan from Canada is an important landmark for both countries. As I have said before, this is the first occasion on which a loan of this character has ever been made by the Canadian market to an outside government. It creates a new economic link between two great countries of the British Commonwealth which I am confident will stimulate many others and will help to foster even closer relations between us. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– No, for to-morrow. How can we debate a bill of this sort without sufficient opportunity to study it? I shall not accept any assurance about our opportunity to debate the measure while the motion remains as it is. If necessary, I shall move an amendment to the motion to provide that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. If the Government does not allow the debate to be adjourned until to-morrow, instead of to a later hour to-day, it will not be given leave by the Opposition in relation to other bills.
– In the circumstances I move -
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day’ for the next sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to ‘establish a Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my budget speech on the 24th August last, I said that legislation would be brought down to establish a trust account to be named the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and that an amount of £48,500,000 would be appropriated to this trust account from Consolidated Revenue during 1955-56. Under the Audit Act the Treasurer may establish trust accounts and define the purposes for which they are established, and it is common practice for this to be done. In this case, however, the Government considers it desirable to seek legislation for the purpose. The appropriation of a large amount of money is being sought, and it is proper that the Parliament should be asked specifically to consider and approve the purposes for which this money will be used.
The primary object of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve will be the reduction of Commonwealth debt. In this connexion that term means debt of the Commonwealth incurred for its own purposes as distinct from Commonwealth securities issued on behalf of the States under the Financial Agreement. It is (veil known that a very large amount of Commonwealth debt falls due in the next few years, and particularly in the period 1958 to 1961. Chiefly it is war debt arising from public loans floated during, or shortly after, World War II. At the 30th June last the amount of such war debt maturing in the period up to 1961 was £870,000,000.
No doubt when the time comes, efforts will be made to convert as much as possible of this debt into other securities, but this could well prove difficult. There is no means of knowing in advance what financial conditions are likely to prevail in that period. It would, however, be gratuitous to assume that conditions will be favorable to the conversion of large blocks of securities on satisfactory terms and, if the experience of recent years is any guide, there is likely to be strong competition on the part of both public authorities and industry to raise new capital resources. There will also be large amounts of State debt falling due in some years.
The possibility must be recognized, therefore, that considerable amounts of Commonwealth debt will have to be re deemed on maturity and, this being so, it is no more than prudent to make some provision in advance against a contingency of that kind. The National Debt Sinking Fund, of course, usually has fairly large resources available for the redemption of debt. Its annual income now exceeds £50,000,000, and from time to time it has accumulated balances to carry forward. The sinking fund, however, has obligations to redeem State debt as well as Commonwealth debt. It is easily conceivable, therefore, that in some years, when large amounts of Commonwealth debt fall due, the resources of the sinking fund might not be nearly sufficient to meet the whole of the amount that has to be redeemed. Very difficult financial problems could then arise unless there were other resources available for debt redemption. Accordingly, with these considerations in mind, the Government has thought it wise, as and when resources become available, to undertake the building of a reserve for the specific purpose of debt reduction.
In each of the two financial years 1953-54 and 1954-55 the surpluses which occurred in the Consolidated Revenue Fund were appropriated to the Debt Redemption. Reserve, which now has a credit balance of £126,000,000. The Debt Redemption Reserve was established as a trust account under the power contained in the Audit Act. But since there are grounds for bringing it under specific legislation, and since its purpose is the same as that of the proposed Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, there is a clear case for amalgamating the two accounts. It is proposed in this bill to effect the amalgamation by transferring the balance in the Debt Redemption Reserve to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. The latter account being established, it is proposed, as I have already mentioned, to appropriate to it from Consolidated Revenue in this financial year, an amount up to £48,500,000. The amount transferred to the reserve will add to the balance available for debt reduction purposes.
From the resources available in the reserve it will be possible to redeem Commonwealth debt on maturity and also, as and when securities representing such debt can be re-purchased before maturity, to acquire and cancel them, so reducing the total amount of debt outstanding. Pending the use of credit balances in the reserve for debt reduction, they can be temporarily invested. This will be done - subject to one exception - in the manner prescribed in the Audit Act for the investment of trust fund moneys. That is to say, they can be invested in Government securities or on deposit in a bank.
The exception, which is specified in the bill, is, in effect, that only securities issued or guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government will be eligible for investment of the reserve. Under the Audit Act as it stands, credit balances in trust accounts may be invested also in securities issued or guaranteed by State governments. Since, however, the object of the reserve is the reduction of Commonwealth debt, it does not seem necessary to include State securities within the scope of its investments. In any case State governments no longer issue securities on their own account.
In the form of temporary investments, it will be possible to make use of funds available in the reserve to meat such Commonwealth commitments in the current year as those I mentioned in my budget speech. I explained then that there were certain items of Commonwealth expenditure, such as war service land settlement and redemption of war savings certificates, for which finance would have to be found outside the budget and that there was also an indeterminate but potentially large commitment to assist the Loan Council programmes for 1955-56 from Commonwealth sources. It was to make provision against these commitments that the Government proposed to make an appropriation this year from Consolidated Revenue to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. This bill, accordingly, contains a clause providing for the appropriation of an amount up to £48,500,000 to the reserve.
From time to time, it may be found possible and desirable to appropriate other sums of money for the reserve and temporarily invest them pending their use for debt reduction. Thus, on the one hand, as such sums were added, the balance in the reserve would increase whilst, on the other hand, the balance would fall as, and to, the extent that the reserve was applied to debt reduction.
As a further point, the bill provides for interest received from investments of this reserve to be paid into the reserve, so adding to the resources available in the account. In general, the Government considers that the establishment of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve should provide a valuable instrument for promoting financial stability and it should, in due time, assist considerably in meeting difficult problems carried over from the past and in particular from the war years. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936- 1954, as amended by the Salaries Adjustment - Act 1955, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Yes. It was never the intention to do otherwise.
– I am not trusting any arrangements, now.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the course of my recent budget speech, I explained that, because of prevailing economic conditions, there would be no scope for taxation concessions which would involve a reduction of revenue in this financial year. Whilst the passing weeks confirm the wisdom of that decision, it is necessary to introduce some amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act in order to give effect to decisions reached by the Government either before or after this year’s budget was framed. Such are the purposes of the bill now before this House.
Amongst the proposed amendments is a provision to extend, by one year, the special 20 per cent. depreciation allowance to primary producers. Honorable members will recall that this allowance was introduced by the Government in 1952, as one of a number of measures designed to assist in the drive for increased production in the primary industries. Under the present law, a deduction is allowed in each of five years of one-fifth of the cost of-
By clause 7 of the bill, it is proposed to extend the period of operation of this special allowance to the 30th June, 1956. Structural improvements which are commenced before the 30th June, 1956, and completed by the 30th June, 1957, will also qualify for the special allowance.
When I announced extensions of the primary producers’ depreciation allowances some months ago, I made it clear that the Government’s decision should be regarded as an interim one. Final consideration of the question would necessarily have to await a comprehensive examination of the Hulme Committee’s report on depreciation rates generally. As honorable members know, the recommendations of that committee have been very carefully considered by the Government, but, for reasons explained in the budget speech, the conclusion was reached that the wisest course, for the present, would be to defer action on the general issues of depreciation allowances.
Another amendment proposed in this bill which will be of assistance to some primary producers is one relating to the taxation of profits arising from live-stock sales necessitated by the tick eradication campaign. That campaign, which will enter an active phase in January next, is designed to eradicate cattle tick from two important dairying and beef cattle districts on the north coast of New South Wales. It will not be necessary for me to traverse in detail the various stages in the campaign. Suffice it to say that, for the purposes of the campaign, some stock-owners will be obliged to dispose of substantial numbers of cattle, and to refrain from re-stocking for at least sixteen months.
Under the present law the profits from these abnormal sales would require to be included in the stock-owner’s income tax assessment of the year of sale. As a result, his liability to income tax might be so increased as to make it difficult for him to purchase cattle for re-stocking at the conclusion of the campaign. As a means of minimizing these financial difficulties, it is proposed by clause 5 of the bill to give the stock-owners concerned a right of election to be taxed on one-fifth of the profit in each of five years commencing with the year in which the stock is sold. By so electing the stock-owner will be able to defer the greater part of his tax liability on the profit arising from these sales and thus obtain material assistance in providing for re-stocking at the conclusion of the campaign.
Although not directly related to income tax, I should mention, by way of illustrating this Government’s practical interest in the tick eradication campaign, that the total contribution by the Commonwealth towards its cost will, by the end of the current financial year, exceed £750,000. This expenditure, in conjunction with the taxation measures proposed, should encourage all concerned to give the fullest support to this concerted effort to rid the cattle industry of one of its most costly and intractable pests.
I turn now to clauses 3 and 11, which are designed to provide exemptions and deductions for residents of Macquarie and Heard Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory and Cocos or Keeling Islands.
As honorable members know, the assessment act has provided, for some years now, for a zone allowance to residents of isolated areas. In the case of residents of the more isolated area - known as zone A - a deduction of £120 per annum is allowed. The disadvantages suffered by residents of the places I have named are as great as those encountered by those resident in the present zone A.
In anticipation of these amendments, the deduction of £120 has, since the 1st July, 1952, been taken into account in fixing the amount of tax instalments deducted from salaries and wages of residents of those areas. The present bill will bring the assessments of the people concerned into line with the tax instalments deducted from their earnings. So far as residents of Cocos or Keeling Islands are concerned, an even wider concession is proposed. As these islands will shortly become one of the external territories of the Commonwealth, it is appropriate that residents of the islands should receive the same exemptions as those applying to our other external territories - Papua, New Guinea and Norfolk Island. It is proposed by clause 3 that residents of Cocos or Keeling Islands shall be wholly free from Commonwealth tax on income derived by them from sources within those islands. This exemption will operate on and from the 1st July, 1953.
By clause 8 it is proposed to allow the deduction of gifts to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Study Conference Account, which is maintained by the Department of Labour and National Service, as well as gifts to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science and the Australian Administrative Staff College. As honorable members know, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has sponsored a study conference to be held at Oxford next July for the purpose of considering the human problems of industrial communities within the British Commonwealth and Empire. It is intended that Australia shall be represented at the conference by 25 delegates chosen from various sections and levels of industry. For the purpose of paying the travelling expenses of these delegates,, which are estimated to cost about £15,000, a fund will be established by the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service. Part of the fund moneys has been contributed by the Commonwealth, but contributions, to the extent of about £10,000, will be sought from organizations of employers and employees, as well as from professional bodies and industrialists. The study conference will be of undoubted value to Australian industry and it is thought appropriate that contributions should be allowed a3 income tax deductions.
Under the existing provisions of the Assessment Act, gifts to the Australian Academy of Science are allowed as deductions. It is now proposed to extend a similar allowance to gifts to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. A more recently established institution which it is proposed to include within the scope of the allowance is the Australian Administrative Staff College. The primary objects of this college are the instruction of men and women in leadership, administration and cognate subjects, and the carrying out of research into the best methods of administration. In many respects, its objects and functions are comparable with those of a public university, gifts to which are already allowed as deductions.
By clause 4 of the bill it is proposed to repeal the existing section 23d and to insert a new section 23d in the principal act. Existing section 23d exempts, until the- end of the income year 1959-60, the income derived from the working of a mining property in Australia, Papua or New Guinea for the purpose of obtaining uranium-bearing ore. The conditions attached to the exemption are that the taxpayers deriving the income shall be residents of Australia and that the Commissioner of Taxation shall be satisfied that the uranium recoverable has or will become the property of the Commonwealth or has been or ‘ will be sold or disposed of to a person approved by the Commonwealth. In the case of a company, it is provided that not less than three-quarters of the voting power shall be controlled directly or indirectly by individuals who are residents of Australia.
Under new section 23d it is. proposed to remove the qualification that not less than three-quarters of the voting power shall be controlled by resident individuals so that the exemption will apply to all companies resident in Australia. It is also proposed to extend the exemption to income derived from the treatment in Australia, Papua or New Guinea of uranium ore for the purpose of recovering uranium concentrates. It will be necessary, however, that the treatment shall be carried out by the company or individual who mines the ore. It will not be essential that the treatment shall be carried out on the mining property, or in the course of working the mining property. By clause 6 of the bill it is proposed to extend the exemptions to those dividends paid wholly and exclusively out of exempt income from the treatment of uranium-bearing ore. This exemption already applies to dividends paid out of exempt income from the working of a mining property.
There remains for consideration one other provision in this bill - clause 10 - which provides for the taxation of income derived by friendly society dispensaries. At present, income tax is not paid by friendly societies or by friendly society dispensaries. However, many friendly society dispensaries have been granted the right to dispense benefits under the national health service scheme to members of the public, whether they are members of friendly societies or not. In addition, practically all dispensaries may sell patent medicines, toilet preparations and other goods to members of the public. In these circumstances, complete freedom from income tax has conferred a considerable trading advantage on the dispensaries over other pharmacists operating in competition.
The Chifley Government sought to remedy this situation in 1947 by amending the Assessment Act to impose tax on 15 per cent. of amounts received from the Commonwealth by the friendly society dispensaries under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947 and on the gross proceeds of the sales of medicines and other goods, as well as special charges for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits. As the Chifley scheme was virtually inoperative, the tax was not actually levied. The national health services have now been established by the present Government on a sound basis, and the businesses of friendly society dispensaries have expanded. It has become necessary, therefore, to look at the problem again in order that the dispensaries and other pharmacists shall be placed as nearly as possible on an equal footing so far as income tax is concerned.
After an exhaustive examination the Government proposes that the dispensaries shall in future pay tax on 10 per cent. of the gross income that they receive from the Commonwealth under the national health services scheme and from trading with the general public, including members of friendly societies. However, amounts received by friendly society dispensaries in the form of per capita payments from their constituent friendly societies for the provision of benefits to members of those societies will continue to be free from income tax. Effect will be given to this proposal in the present bill. The liability to tax will arise only in respect of amounts received by friendly society dispensaries, from the sources mentioned, on and after the day on which the bill receives the royal assent.
At the same time the inoperative provisions introduced by the Chifley Government in 1947 will be repealed. Although the basis of taxation to be imposed in future will be similar to that which was proposed in 1947, the proportion of gross receipts subject to tax will be 10 per cent. instead of 15 per cent. The new provisions will remove the taxation discrimination between various classes of pharmacists without imposing an unfair burden upon friendly society dispensaries. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
– (1.) That, in this Resolution - “co-operative company” have the same meaning as in Division 9 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “ life assurance company “ have the same meaning as in Division 8 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “mutual income”, in relation to a life assurance company (other than a mutual life assurance company), mean -
Imposition of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
– (1.) That a tax by the name of income tax and social services contribution be imposed at the rates declared in this Resolution. (2.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in this resolution, income tax and social services contribution be not imposed upon a taxable income which does not exceed One hundred and four pounds derived by -
Rates of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Payable by Persons other than Companies.
Limitation of Tax and Contribution Payable by Aged Persons.
– ( 1.) That this paragraph apply to a taxpayer who -
Minimum, Tax and Contribution.
Bates of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Payable by a Company.
Elimination of Pence.
That where the amount of the income tax and social services contribution which a person would be liable to pay under the preceding provisions of this Resolution, before deducting any rebate or credit to which he is entitled in his assessment, is an amount of pounds, shillings and pence or shillings and pence -
Tax and Contribution where Amount to be Collected or Refunded would not exceed Two Shillings.
– (1.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this Resolution, where a person has, in accordance with section two hundred and twenty-one h of the Assessment Act, forwarded to the Commissioner a tax stampssheet or group certificate issued to him in respect of deductions made in a year from his salary or wages, and the difference between the available deductions and the income tax and social services contribution which would, but for this sub-paragraph, be payable by that person in respect of the taxable income derived by him in that year is not more than Two shillings, the income tax and social services contribution payable by that person in respect of that taxable income be an amount equal to the available deductions. (2.) That the last preceding subparagraph do not apply -
Levy of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
Provisional Tax and Contribution.
General Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by Persons other than Companies.
The rate ofincome tax and social services contribution for every £1 of each part of the taxableincome specifiedin the first column of the following tableis the rate set out in the second column of that table opposite to the reference to that part of the taxable income : -
Rates of Tax and Contribution by Reference to an Average Income.
In the case of a taxpayer to whoseincome Division 16 of Part III. of the Assessment Act applies, the rates of Income tax and social services contribution are -
Rate of Tax and Contribution by Reference to a Notional Income.
For every £1 of the taxable income of a taxpayer deriving a notional income, as specified by section eighty-six or section one hundred and fifty-eight d of the Assessment Act, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is the rate ascertained by dividing the tax and contribution which would be payable under the First Schedule upon a taxable income equal to his notional income by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that notional income.
Rate of Tax and Contribution Payable by Trustee.
For every £ 1 of the taxableincome in respect of which a trustee is liable, in pursuance of either section ninety-eight or section ninety-nine of the Assessment Act, to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution, the rate of income tax and social services contribution Is the rate which would be payable under the First, Second or Third Schedule, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution on that taxable income.
Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by a Company other than a Company in the Capacity of Trustee.
For the reasons outlined in my budget speech the Government does not intend this year to vary the rates of tax from those payable by individuals and companies for the financial year 1954-55. Accordingly, the resolution which I now put before the committee proposes the same rates of tax and contribution for the financial year 1955-56 as were enacted for the previous year. There is, however, one feature of the resolution to which I would like to draw the attention of honorable members, namely the provision for an increase in the exemption levels for aged persons. Since 1951, when special concessions to aged persons were first introduced, the exemption levels for aged persons have either equalled or exceeded the maximum permissible income for age pension purposes. Thus, for the financial year 1954-55 the exemptions were £375 in the case of single persons and £750 in the case of married couples. The maximum permissible incomes for age pension purposes were £364 and £728 respectively.
In my budget speech, I announced that the maximum permissible income would be increased by 10s. per week to £7 10s. per week, or £390 per annum, in the case of single aged persons, and £15 per week, or £780 per annum, in the case of married couples. In consonance with this increase, paragraph 5 of the resolution exempts from tax a net income of £390 or less in the case of a single aged person, and a combined net income of £780 or less in the case of a husband and wife both qualified by age.
As in the past, provision is also made to grant some relief to those taxpayers whose incomes are slightly higher than the proposed exemptions. Where the income exceeds £390 or £780, as the case may be, the tax payable by the taxpayer is limited to 9s. in the £1 on the excess of income over the exemption. Some benefit from this provision will accrue to aged single persons whose incomes do not exceed £434. In the case of a married taxpayer wholly maintaining a spouse some benefit may accrue where their combined net incomes do not exceed £937. However, to provide for cases where the taxpayer is entitled to part only of the £130 deduction on account of a spouse, the limiting provision is extended to combined net incomes of £1,030. The cost to revenue of this extension of the age allowance is estimated at £375,000 annually and £250,000 in the current year. I commend the resolution to honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946-1952, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill for an act to amend the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946-1952. Its provisions are quite simple. It merely extends the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act for another three years. This act followed on arrangements which I negotiated in 1940, in the early part of the war, with representatives of certain unions and employers’ organizations for the dilution of skilled labour. These arrangements were covered during the war years by regulations under the National Security Act. In 1946, discussions took place with employers’ organizations and the unions concerned regarding the continuance of the arrangements. The Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act was the result. Section ‘ 52 of the act dealt with its period of operation, and provided that it would cease to operate when the preference provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act of 1945 ceased to operate.
The Re-establishment and Employment Act of 1945 was directed to the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women, and the preference provisions were originally stated to expire at the end of seven years after the cessation of hostilities. Some time before that prospective date, which was due to occur in September, 1952, discussions were undertaken with representatives of employers and unions. As a consequence, it was decided by the Government to modify the restrictive character of some of the provisions of the original legislation, particularly as they affected the normal rights of employers to engage and dismiss. Another amending provision was the award of tradesmen’s status to dilutees of seven years standing who had entered the trades under the dilution agreements. Opportunities to enter trades were provided for Korea and Malaya veterans. Another important provision was designed to facilitate the acceptance as tradesmen of the growing number of migrant tradesmen arriving in Australia. It was decided that the act should be extended for three years .to September, 1955, a period of extension which had also been decided upon for the preference provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act.
The 1952 amendments have been most notable for the contribution made to the assimilation of tradesmen migrants. Local committees were empowered to. grant a certificate of recognition as a tradesman to a migrant, where they were satisfied that that person” had qualified, in accordance with the laws and customs of his country of origin, for employment there as a tradesman in one of our dilution trades, and that he possessed the skill necessary for the performance here in Australia of work ordinarily performed by a recognized tradesman.
Since 1952, the central committees under the act have, in consultation with my Department of Labour and National Service, settled the criteria for selection abroad of migrant tradesmen, including trade testing, upon satisfaction of which a certificate of recognition under the act will be issued. I am able to say that these arrangements went far to removing the concern of governments of countries of emigration and of prospective migrants as to whether they would be accepted as tradesmen when they reached Australia. Our desire to keep the arrangements running smoothly is one of the reasons for this present bill.
There have, in recent months, been a series of discussions at the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, and between the Department of Labour and National Service and the metal trades employers’ organizations and the trade unions. These discussions have ‘been directed to the future of the act and with trying to develop some generally acceptable scheme of adult training which would supplement the supply of tradesmen from appenticeship in trades in which there are shortages of tradesmen. It is generally recognized that shortages exist and are seriously impeding our economic progress. There is nothing novel in the idea of an adult training scheme, in these circumstances. Indeed, the committee of inquiry into apprenticeship foresaw that such a scheme might well become necessary.
It is a matter of common knowledge that views differ on the need for continuance of the act and for an adult training scheme. All I need to say here is that after weighing carefully the views put to it, the Government has decided to extend the act for a further three years. It has also decided to extend the preference provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act for a like period and I shall present a bill for that purpose in a few moments. It is my hope that with this period of extension, just as the unions and the employers were able to find agreement with the Government on a scheme to provide skilled workers to meet the needs of war, so also will they again be able to find agreement with the Government on an adult training scheme to add to our skilled labour force to meet the important needs of our peace-time economy. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1953, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The major purpose of this bill, as I indicated a few minutes earlier, is to extend for a further period of three years the entitlement to preference in employment, which ex-servicemen of World War II. and others have enjoyed under the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1953. The bill contains two other minor amendments. One relates to allowances for wives of unemployed exservicemen; the other to lodgment of applications for certain business re-establishment allowances.
Honorable members will recall that preference was originally granted for a period of seven years after the cessation of hostilities of World War II. This period ended on the 2nd September, 1952, but was extended in 1952 for a further three years in a bill introduced by this Government. Thus, the preference provisions expired on the 2nd September, 1955. After very careful consideration of the present position, and bearing in mind the representations which have been made from time to time for an extension of the preference provisions, the Government has decided to extend preference for a further period of three years. Clause 3 of the bill provides for this. The operation of the preference provisions will be ante-dated to the 2nd September, 1955, but the attention of honorable members is drawn to sub-clauses (2.) to (4.) of clause 3, which are designed to guard against any possible injustice arising out of the retroactive operation of this bill.
As I have mentioned,, advantage has been taken of this opportunity to amend the act in two other respects. Clause 4 increases the allowance now provided in section 76 of the principal act for wives of unemployed ex-servicemen from £1 2s. to £1 15s. 6d. The allowance of £1 15s. 6d. has, in fact, been paid since the 5th November, 1953, and this amendment gives legislative sanction to the increased rate of payment. The second amendment is contained in clause 5 and merely affects the regulation-making power under the act. Honorable members will recall that the act was amended in 1952 to extend certain of its provisions to members of the forces engaged in the Korea and Malaya operations. Because of a deficiency in the legislation, it is not possible to prescribe the period within which an application for an agricultural allowance, as opposed to other business re-establishment allowances, should be made by members and exmembers of the Korea and Malaya forces. It is desirable that there should be power to prescribe this period, and the purpose of clause 5 is to confer the necessary authority.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Coal Industry Tribunal.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to remove technical difficulties that arose from the appointment of the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. F. H. Gallagher, as a judge of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. Section 30 of the principal act provides, inter alia, that the person appointed to constitute the tribunal shall be deemed to have vacated his office if he engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office. The appointment of Mr. Gallagher to the New South Wales Industrial Commission could be deemed to be such an employment. Section 30 also provides that the tribunal shall be deemed to have vacated his office if, except on leave, he absents himself from duty for fourteen consecutive days or for 28 days in any twelve months. The bill before us avoids the need to secure that leave. In short, the only substantial purpose of this bill is to remove any doubts that Mr. Justice Gallagher can remain as Coal Industry Tribunal while a member of the New South Wales Industrial Commission.
There is, I believe, general agreement that Mr. Justice Gallagher has done an excellent job as Coal Industry Tribunal, and that he has made a valuable contribution to improved industrial relations in the coal-mining industry. He has, I think it can be said, the confidence of all parties in the industry. I am also able to say that, like the Commonwealth Government, the New South Wales Government desires to retain Mr. Justice Gallagher as the Coal Industry Tribunal. Indeed, in accordance with the arrangements that exist between the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments in relation to the coal-mining industry, for agreement between each other on any amending provisions, the New South Wales Government concurs in the bill now before this House and the Commonwealth, on its side, has approved of a similar bill which is being submitted to the State Parliament.
The New South Wales Government is also in agreement with us - there have been communications between us for this purpose - that first call on Mr. Justice Gallagher’s services shall continue to be given to the coal industry. I commend this bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in ‘a bill for an act to amend the National Health Act 1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The National Health Act covers the provision of medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits, the provision of the free pensioner medical service, as well as a full and complete range of medicines for pensioners. In addition, the act provides for all the machinery necessary to administer the national health scheme by a system of committees. The extensive range of Commonwealth medical benefits is listed in the schedule to the act. Since it was passed in 1953, it has operated with extraordinary smoothness, but with the advance of medical science, and as a result of experience, it is now desirable to make certain amendments. These amendments are contained in this bill. They will not alter any of the principles of the act, but they will smooth out a number of procedural and machinery problems that have arisen from time to time. It is essentially a committee bill. The necessity and significance of these amendments in maintaining and extending the whole of the national health system will be appreciated if I review briefly the results obtained over the last sis years in our experience of the working of the various phases of the national health plan. Our programme has been carried out by the active, co-operative and intelligent partnership of governments, hospitals and staffs, doctors, chemists, insurance organizations and individuals. This partnership encourages and stimulates self-help, which helps the whole community. It dovetails together the various phases of the health organization which act and interact cumulatively on one another to secure the best results for sick people and other elements of the partnership. Each partner has defined functions and obligations with the aim, within its specific field, of implementing measures to cure disease, shorten the duration of sickness and to make the scheme pay more back to the community than it costs. It does this by saving lives, and by getting sick people out of hospital and back to their normal occupations as quickly as possible.
An instance of how effectively the national health scheme is doing its job is that at the Canberra Community Hospital the number of daily occupied beds to-day is eight fewer than it was six years ago, despite an increase of Canberra’s population from 22,000 to 32,000, or an increase of 45 per cent. The average stay at the Canberra Community Hospital has dropped from fourteen days to nine days for each patient. This reflects the results of early diagnosis, provision of life-saving drugs and skilled medical attention within the reach of all because of medical benefit insurance and the pensioner medical service. This scheme assists the prevention of disease, lessens the impact of sickness on the life, family and pocket of the individual, and aids hospital and State government revenues.
There are other public health measures also. The Commonwealth provides the money for the free milk scheme administered by the Education Departments of the States. It also pays 80 per cent, of the maintenance expenditure on tuberculosis and the whole of the cost of the campaign to eradicate the disease. This campaign has reduced the death rate from tuberculosis from 25 to 10 in every 100,000 of the population. In addition. the Commonwealth has saved patients approximately £10,000,000 a year in expenditure on life-saving drugs during the last five years by providing these drugs free on doctors’ prescriptions. These drugs are most potent and frequently are very costly. The saving to patients has proved an immense boon to the very ill, as the doctor feels free to prescribe the appropriate quantity to obtain the best results. These drugs have had a marked effect on acute infectious diseases, sometimes completely aborting them and always cutting them short. This saves many people from having to go into hospital, and, if they do have togo to hospital, they spend less time there and are back at work sooner. This provision of free life-saving drugs, together with the operation of the medical benefits insurance scheme, has revolutionized medicine in Australia, has promoted earlier visits to the doctor by the sick, and earlier treatment, has shortened the duration of the disease and lessened complications, both immediate and remote, with a marked saving in hospitalization. Throughout Australia the average number of days spent in hospital by each patient has declined from twelve to ten days. This has saved the community approximately £9,600,000 a year. This free system is policed by doctors’ and chemists’ committees, which have already steadied the costs of this phase of the health scheme. The major amendments to the principal act proposed in this bill are designed to make these committees work more smoothly.
There are two elements in this scheme. The first is the treatment of the individual sick. Their condition was first improved by providing free medical treatment and medicine for the most vulnerable section of the community - pensioners and their dependants. These are past their full earning capacity, either from age or sickness. Nearly 700,000 persons, or 8 per cent, of the total community, are covered by this service. Last year over 4,500,000 free medical services were given to this group which, with appropriate medicines, cost £3,500,000. As probably only 10 per cent, are sick at any one time, this means an addition of £1 a week each to the pension benefit when it is most needed. Even more valuable than the actual money benefit is the knowledge to the aged and ill that medical care is readily and freely available. The fact that pensioners can attend a doctor or have him visit them at their homes, without charge to themselves, has already had a marked effect on the number going to hospital out-patient departments. The number of hospital beds occupied by pensioners, who are usually a long time in hospital when admitted, also is lessened. This is reflected in fewer out-patients, and a diminished use of in-patient beds. It has also influenced, over the whole of Australia, the reduction of average stays in hospital from twelve to ten days during the last four years. These shorter stays in hospital make the turnover of beds much quicker and, in fact, are really worth so many more actual beds to the hospital system. This service is on the way to paying for itself.
Historically and traditionally, the medical profession has always given special consideration to those in the community in unfortunate or indigent circumstances. The British Medical Association expressed to the Australian Government its willingness to treat pensioner patients for a concessional fee, subject to alterations of the means test. This has been done since February, 1951 - for almost five years. However, the liberalizing of the means test in 1954, and the 10s. a week increase of each pension in 1955, made it possible for a married pensioner couple to have £15 a week joint income, including their pension. This is roughly £3 a week greater than the basic wage. The anomaly was created that this income was above the wages of many hundreds of thousands of young working men with families, who do not receive concessional medical treatment, but who mostly provide for their medical attention by some form of insurance. To overcome this anomaly, the Government has decided, and the British Medical Association has agreed, that all pensioners shall be entitled to continue to receive free concessional medical treatment so long as they have been received into the pensioner medical service by the 31st October, 1955. This ensures that no pensioners who have become entitled to free pensioner medical treatment will be excluded. All new pensioners, after the 31st October, 1955, will be subject to satisfying the means test as it was in December, 1953, insofar as the pensioner medical service is concerned. After the 31st October, 1955, a pensioner’s eligibility for admission to the pensioner medical service will be governed solely by the amount of his income from all sources, apart from his pension. If his pension is increased, he will receive the benefit, because the increase will not be taken into account.
– What about his property?
– Only income from property will be taken into account. The value of the property will not be considered. Under the means test in force at the 31st December, 1953, a pensioner could have a specified amount of income, usually known as “ permissible income “, and still receive a full pension. He still will be able to get an entitlement card for pensioner medical treatment. Where the pension is granted after the 31st October, 1955, and the pensioner’s income from all sources, apart from his pension, does not exceed the specified permissible income under the 1953 means tests, he will be admitted to the pensioner medical service. If his income, other than pension, does exceed the specified permissible income, he will not be eligible for the pensioner medical service. For this purpose, income from property will be taken into account, but not the capital value of the property itself.
Except for married couples, and certain invalid pensioners who are permanently blind, the 1953 means tests specify £2 a week as the permissible income from all sources that a pensioner may have and still receive, in addition, a full pension. In the case of married couples, the normal social services practice of taking the income of each to be half the total income of both will be followed. Consequently, where both are pensioners, the permissible income that they may have between them, in addition to their two full pensions, would be £4 a week or £12 a week in all. Where only one is a pensioner, the permissible income that they may have between them, in addition to the one full pension, would be £5 a week, or £9 in all. The following examples illustrate the effect that the proposed amendment will have in the vast majority of cases : -
Government subsidy of the medical benefits insurance permits substantial benefits to be given for relatively small premiums. The fact that only a small portion of the fee has to be paid by the patient has already had a marked psychological effect on the attitude of the sick in seeking early treatment, with corresponding early diagnosis, curtailment of the duration of the disease and a shorter stay in hospital. This system thus helps to create a beneficial circle in which sickness is shortened, money is saved in bills for medicine, doctors and hospital treatment, and the patient returns to work earlier. This is of great direct value to the nation with over-full employment when there are more jobs than people. Last year, in addition to the provision of free life-saving drugs valued at £10,000,000, the payment of £13,000,000 worth of medical costs was assisted by the medical benefits scheme. The percentage still paid by the patient varies according to the States, especially with the interest of the various State governments in insurance. Government benefit payable for particular medical services is specified in the schedules to the National Health Act. Revision, in light of experience of the last two years, has provided for new medical procedures which have been brought under notice. The revised schedules are included in this bill. The alterations made are not substantial and do not affect the benefit payable for the more common services. A separate statement showing the details of the changes will be available for any member who would like to examine these details.
Encouragement is given to hospital insurance by a subsidy of 12s. a day for each day of hospitalization to every one insured for at least 6s. a day. The great bulk of people are insured for much more than this amount. The proportion varies in different States and in different hospitals. In the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital 88 per cent, of paying patients are insured. As a result of this combination of assistance to the States and insurance organizations, the financial position of hospitals throughout Australia has greatly improved. Hospital revenues from fund and Federal Government sources have increased from about £6,500,000 to £13,500,000 and are still rising. Previous to the inception of the scheme, beds which were kept vacant because staff could not be paid, are now being fully used. Provision of Separate beds for tuberculosis cases under the Federal Government’s tuberculosis scheme has taken out some 1,200 patients from the general hospital list, and will ultimately take out 2,800. The pensioner, medical benefit and free life-saving drugs schemes have lessened the call on hospitals and shortened the number of days spent by the average patient in hospital. These improvements unfortunately have not yet completely overcome the lag in hospital building that occurred during and after the war. They have, however, permitted a great many more people to be hospitalized than otherwise would have been the case. The number of waiting cases has also been lessened. This is a broad picture of the working of the scheme. Every one’s problem is now to maintain its full working. With the scheme in full operation the sick will have available the best treatment at reasonable cost, without abuse, by the working of the partnership in which there must be co-operation of individuals, doctors, insurance organizations and friendly societies, hospitals, chemists and States. Benefits are of two types. One is free, and one is given by insurance made cheap by government subsidy. Abuse must be prevented in both types.
The State education departments control the issue of free milk in their ordinary routine and waste is avoided. In tuberculosis we have clinical tests to ascertain the condition of the patient. In the pensioner medical service and free life-saving drugs scheme, control to prevent waste and fraud is more difficult. Disciplinary committees, consisting of doctors and chemists, have been brought into existence to give this control. These committees are specially provided for by the National Health Act. The medical services committees consist of doctors appointed by the Minister from panels nominated by the British Medical Association. Any cases of suspected irregularity or abuse are referred to the committee by the Director-General of Health. The committee then examines the case and gives the doctor the opportunity to make a personal explanation. Should it be found that the doctor has not observed proper standards, an appropriate punishment is recommended to the Minister. A similar procedure operates in relation to chemists in connexion with the supply of free life-saving drugs and medicines for. pensioners. Experience already shows that the very existence of the committees is an invaluable check on abuse. The publicity which follows abuses has a tremendous deterrent effect. Experience also shows the percentage of cases which require disciplinary action by the committees is extraordinarily small. The overwhelming majority of doctors co-operate in the conduct of the scheme without any suggestion of irregularity. Insurance subsidized by the Commonwealth qualifies for the second type of hospital and medical benefit.
There has been very little abuse of the hospital and medical benefit schemes because of the checks imposed; first, by the fact that the insurance organization must pay its own benefit with the Commonwealth benefit and, secondly, by the fact that the total fund and Commonwealth benefit is slightly less than the actual account. Nevertheless, it has been thought wise to provide for the establishment of similar hospital and medical benefit committees, which will have power to investigate any irregularities which may occur. The establishment of these committees is provided for in this bill
The essence of insurance is that it gives a sense of individual security as well as averaging individual costs over the whole community. The patient knows exactly what premiums he will pay, what benefits he will get, what the government benefit will be and what he will have to pay the hospital or doctor over and above government and insurance benefits. The government benefit will remain constant. The insurance benefit can be elastic. It is obvious there must be no sudden changes in charges or else the insurance companies cannot work. Doctors and chemists, as well as individuals, are all concerned with this problem of getting some certainty, and constant definition as regards charges. The government benefit is fixed. A fairly constant ceiling of charges by doctors and hospitals will greatly stimulate insurance. If any change in charges is contemplated, notice of several months - or, even better, a year - ought to be given to enable fresh insurance rates and premiums to be calculated and advertised.
Enough has been said to show that a comprehensive health scheme without nationalization is practicable. The successful operation of a voluntary system relies largely on the idea of a faithful partnership of government, doctors, chemists, insurance organizations and the individuals of the community. This great National Health Scheme has had a splendid, even a spectacular, beginning. The scheme is worth preserving. It is now assured of a successful future if each and every one of its partners works for stability and orderly development. It may now be useful for me to sum up what is expected from the partners to ensure the preservation and continued progress of the scheme. First, there is the role of the medical profession, around which so much of the scheme revolves. In the field of medical benefits through prepaid insurance, an important objective is to achieve some stability in medical charges so that insured patients have a measure of certainty as to their commitments when stricken by sickness. On the whole, the medical profession has set a splendid example of restraint and good sense in this matter. The leaders of the profession are, in fact, now taking action with a view to maintaining such relationship between medical fees and benefits as would ensure the continuance of the popularity of the National Health Scheme.
The profession must also continue to accept its responsibilities in respect of such aspects as the hospital benefits scheme and the pensioner medical service as concern it. For instance, the doctor decides whether a patient should be admitted to hospital and when he should be discharged. Unless this decision is made in a responsible manner, there will be a harmful effect, not only on the hospitals, but also on the hospital and medical benefit organizations. Higher premiums or lower benefit rates must ultimately result. Insofar as the pensioner medical service is concerned, the main problem is to eliminate abuse. The supply of free lifesaving drugs calls for a careful exercise of judgment by the individual medical practitioner in diagnosing and prescribing. The supply of these drugs by the pharmaceutical profession is carried out under agreements which enable the chemist to supply these expensive and important drugs under the best possible conditions. I am happy to report that the leaders of the medical and pharmaceutical professions are highly appreciative of all these problems. They give much time and thought to their consideration, and are fully co-operative in the provision of measures such as the establishment of medical and pharmaceutical committees to deal with these matters.
The States have been fulfilling very useful functions as partners in the national health scheme. State machinery is used for the distribution of free milk to children. Because of the stability of the education systems within the States, this phase should continue to operate smoothly. The States are also assisting in the hospital benefit scheme through the provision of hospitalization certificates, and such other information as is required. However, sudden sharp increases in hospital fees without sufficient warning, such as happened recently in New South Wales, have a disquieting effect on the hospital benefit scheme and are to be deprecated. The registered health benefit organizations have a very important role in the national health scheme. These funds, which now cover millions of people for medical and hospital benefits, inevitably had “ growing pains “ in the initial stages. They are to be complimented for the manner in which they came through, and for the service they now render to their contributors. I would urge them to continue the happy relationship in their dealings with the Health Department and to handle benefit payments liberally and tolerantly within their financial resources. They must not, however, lose sight of the fact that they are trustees for the contributors.
The contributor, as represented by the man in the street, is the most important person to consider. It was for him and his family that the scheme was evolved. He is the barometer showing the degree of popularity of the scheme. I should like to impress three things on the contributor. First, the funds belong to him; secondly, the managements are not out to deprive him of any legitimate benefits to which he is entitled; thirdly, while every encouragement is given to seek medical attention when ill, including early diagnosis and immediate courses of treatment, unnecessary medical and hospital treatment imposes on the funds, the doctors and the hospitals, and must ultimately be reflected in either higher premiums or lower rates of benefit.
The Government has had several roles to play in the service. There have been, of course, the initial planning, the negotiations with interested bodies, and the implementation of the service. The continuing participation of the Commonwealth consists of the direct arranging of medical services and medicines for the most indigent class, that is, pensioners and their dependants; the provision of free milk for children; the provision of free life-saving drugs for the community in general; and the provision of hospital and medical benefits in the form of subsidies to encourage voluntary prepaid health insurance. Then, in some phases of the service, the Commonwealth acts as co-ordinator and watch-dog, leaving it to the partners to carry out the major part of the administration. The principal aim now is to consolidate our position, to eradicate any weaknesses of the service as disclosed by experience, and build up on the solid foundation laid.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 25th October (vide page 1S90), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the following paper be’ printed: - Report of the Royal Commission on Espionage.
– When the House adjourned last night, we were dealing with the report of the Petrov royal commission. I should like to say at the outset of my address that I do not think we can appreciatefully what has happened in relation to this matter unless we cast our minds back to early in 1950, when this Government, newly elected to office, met the House for the first time. When the House met on that occasion, the .Government parties were confronted with a tremendously solid, virile and loyal Opposition under the leadership of the late Mr. Chifley. We found that any move that we made then was countered by a most relentless and organized Opposition. That was the position until a short time ago. Then the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), the present Leader of the Opposition, took control of the Labour party. During the short period that he has been the leader of -that party, he has succeeded in tearing it to pieces, in splitting off a very virile section of the members - who have formed a separate party - and in completely disorganizing, discouraging and disheartening all of the honorable members who now sit behind him. I will admit that at times they hide their discomfiture under a brave and tearful smile, but those are the facts.
Let us consider this matter, but not in terms of the arguments that occur between the different sections of the Labour party about the’ tactics and, I might also say, antics of the Leader of the Opposition in the political sphere. Those tactics and antics may be diverting and they may be interesting to the rest of the nation, but we must consider their impact upon the Parliament in which we sit to-day. I say that it is little short of shocking that, for the greater part of the period since the last general election, the Opposition has been so demoralized, so torn with faction and dissension, that it has been incapable of discharging the high and important duties of an opposition. That is something that must cause every thoughtful man and woman in this country the greatest concern. The parliamentary system of government, whatever its defects may be, is the best system of government that has yet been devised to safeguard the liberties of human beings. If the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament - paid by Her Majesty, or paid from Crown funds, to represent the people who are not immediately represented by the Government parties - has torn the machinery to pieces, or so disorganized it as to prevent the proper discussion in this House of the affairs of the nation, I say he has done something for which he must stand condemned at the judgment bar of this country and by the decision of the electors.
Let us consider the factors which have caused this destruction of the capacity of the Opposition to carry out its duties. I am not the only one who says that that is the position. I have read a report of words spoken by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, welcoming an election because he believes an election will clarify the position in his own party. What has been the cause of this extraordinary demoralization of the Opposition and of this weakening of the capacity of the Parliament itself to perform its functions? The Parliament is weakened when the Opposition is unable to discharge its responsibilities properly. When we analyse the matter, and get down to bedrock, we find that the cause is to be found in the comprehensive, impartial and far-reaching report published by the royal commissioners. We find charge and counter-charge to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition, has given aid and comfort to the enemies of this country, to people who were associated with the Russian Embassy here, to people who were its paid and unpaid hirelings and spies in this country. That is what has paralysed the working of this Parliament.
I am more concerned with that than with some “ tiddlywinking “ detail such as whether the royal commissioners crossed a “t” or dotted an “i”. That is the matter to which this House should address itself. The right honorable gentleman and his friends have drawn all kinds of red herrings across the trail. They have tried to get away from the facts - facts which were discovered after the most careful consideration by a judicial body. They have tried to obscure the outstanding fact that the honorable members who sit behind the right honorable gentleman have been associated, willingly or unwillingly - too often, I think, unwillingly - with the course that he has pursued. He went even to the length of writing to the Foreign Secretary of the Russian nation in order to secure from him a denial of a truth which was published by the royal commission. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is reported by the public press to have said that he was astonished when his leader, the right honorable member for Barton, said in this House that he had written to Mr. Molotov. To me, the act of writing was like somebody in the days of Dickens writing to Fagin, the man who ran the thieves’ kitchen and trained young people to be thieves, to ask, “Is it true that you have been training young people to be thieves ? “ One can imagine Fagin saying, “ Oh no, that is quite wrong”. Yet that is the kind of approach which the right honorable member for Barton has made to a subject so serious as this.
I want to say that, in my opinion, a grave danger confronts the people of Australia. I believe that it is a danger which has been brought into existence, directly and calculatedly, by the Leader of the Opposition and some of his enthusiastic friends, inside and outside the House. The danger is that the real facts will be obscured by the constant introduction into this debate of items of detail. Let me restate’ the facts as I see them. They are the facts which brought the royal commission into existence. They are the facts contained in the commission’s report. They are facts established on sworn evidence, after most careful consideration by a very able commission. Fact No. 1 is that during the war and until 1954, the Russian embassy in this country was used as a centre for espionage and for the subversion of Australian subjects. Fact No. 2 is that amongst those seduced from their allegiance to Australia were highly placed public servants. I refer particularly to a man named Milner, who is at present on the staff of a Czechoslovakian university and who was calmly trading away the secrets of this country to the people who were engaged in such activities as the blockading of Berlin and generally in fostering cold-war and hot-war conditions.
Fact No. 3 is that this seduction of Australian public servants took place in the Department of External Affairs, mainly between 1945 and 1949. Fact No. 4 is that the Leader of the Opposition was then the ministerial head of that department. Fact No. 5 is that amongst those persons who were seduced or disloyal, or who associated actively with Communists or were Communists, were several members of his own staff. Fact No. 6 is that some of those persons who were named by the royal commission continued as members of his staff right up to. the defeat of the Government of which he was a member. Fact No. 7 is that, since the Menzies-Fadden coalition has assumed office, no leakages of information have occurred. This, according to the findings of the royal commission, is the result of added vigilance and the steps that were taken to cope with what was common .rumour.
Long before I was elected to this Parliament, and when I was in public life in a State parliament, it was common rumour that anybody who had Communist affiliations could get into the Commonwealth Public Service, particularly into the Department of External Affairs. I did not attach very much importance to that rumour. I have found in public life that sometimes such rumours are circulated. But these rumours . persisted, and unfortunately they have been proven to be true, especially in relation to the opportunity for Communists and Communist sympathizers to get into the Department of External Affairs. That is not my word ; it is the finding of the royal commission, despite every attempt that has been made to prevent information given to it coming to the knowledge of the general public, and to attack the validity of the findings.
Pact No. 8 is that the defection of Petrov and his wife, who was also a member of the M.V.D., the espionage service of the Russian Government, discloses, first, the facts already stated and, secondly, the leakage of secret and confidential information entrusted to us by our friendly allies1. I have referred particularly to one, Milner. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following statement at page 145 of th report -
The files show that strong protests were made to the authorities by two responsible persons against the appointment of Milner, on the ground of his pro-Soviet sympathies-
Yet he was appointed. The report further states -
When investigations into the inadequacy of security measures in the Department of External Affairs came to be made in 1948-1949, Milner, while acting as Head of his Division and as the departmental representative on the Defence Post-Hostilities Planning Committee, was found to have been in possession of secret documents in circumstances which gave rise to grave suspicion as to the use he had made of them.
I should like to speak at greater length about some of this evidence, but I shall confine myself to these facts I have been enumerating. The leakages to which I have referred and the facts that I have outlined are the real facts that the Australian people must keep in mind. They must not allow their attention to be distracted from these basic facts.
At a time when Russia professed to be a friendly country and an ally of Australia, Soviet agents were engaged in building up, as was found by the royal commission, a so-called legal spying apparatus within the Russian .Embassy, and, outside the embassy, an entirely different and so-called illegal spying apparatus. I use the word “spying” rather than “ espionage “, because we all understand what spying is. Why did these people establish this organization? They did so to ensure that, if the embassy were closed and diplomatic relations cut off, or if there were a war, they would have an organization that could be used to undermine the safety and stability of Australia. There are people like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the right honorable member for Barton who try to argue that black is white, but the matters that I have mentioned are incontestable facts. They should prove, and do prove to any on© who is capable of receiving proof, that grave danger existed during the whole time that the right honorable member for Barton was in control of the Department of External Affairs. The department was riddled with people who had Communist sympathies, who were themselves Communists, or whose judgment in protecting Australia’s interest could1 not be trusted. These are the cold hard facts that have been revealed by the report of the royal commission ; their truth has been clearly and dispassionately established. It is vital to the safety of Australia, and to the continuance of peace, order, and good government, that they should be equally clearly and firmly understood by the people of Australia.
What has been the reaction of the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for East Sydney in respect of these matters ? Time will permit me to state only one or two specific matters. .From the outset, and. before the royal commission had really got under way, the right honorable gentleman set out to discredit the commission and, if he could, to destroy its reputation in the eyes of the people of Australia. He wasably assisted by certain honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for East Sydney. Secondly, he deliberately set out to confuse the publicmind about the facts that are stated in the report of the commission. He and his friends have concentrated on twopoints, the first of which is that there hasbeen no prosecution. I heard the right honorable gentleman earlier in the debate, and the honorable member for East Sydney last night, make a tremendousmouthful of the fact that there’ had been no prosecution. But the report sets out the weakness of a law that enables us to take specific action in time of war but’ not in time of peace, even though the things done are inimical to, and destructive of, Australia’s rights and liberties and its continuance as a nation. If the right honorable gentleman were worthy of the position that he occupies, he would not defame a magnificent commission and* seek to destroy the confidence of the people in their own institutions. Admittedly, it was his duty to take the Government to task because it had not succeeded, perhaps, in seeing further than he did when he was in charge of Australia’s counter-espionage activities and its external relations. My charge against the right honorable gentleman is that he has failed in his duty to the people of this country. He has attempted to do somer thing unworthy of it.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- There is only a limited time available to me in this debate, but I am helped in my use of that limited time by the argument advanced by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) because, he having said nothing, there is nothing for me to answer in his speech. I should like to refer particularly to two aspects of the debate arising from statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). The Prime Minister, from the pinnacle of his high office, spent a good deal of time defaming and belittling two women in the case. One is Madame Oilier and the other is a typist in Sydney, whose maiden name was Frances Bernie. I shall deal with these cases later, because they have a great deal of relevance in showing how paltry is the basis of the Petrov inquiry, when all that the Prime Minister could do, in a speech lasting the best part of two hours, was to get down to personalities about two women concerned, and I shall attempt to prove conclusively, in the limited time at my disposal, that the laws of evidence were swept” out of the door every time the royal commission sat.
Then we had, true to form, the honorable member for Yarra defaming public servants whose boots he is not fit to black. Before he achieved a seat in this Parliament the honorable member was for six years a representative of public servants. What do they think of him now, when he spent his time snivelling around the security service trying to get some whisper against public servants, and then coming into this House, from his position in which he is well paid, and defaming them - men like Dalziel and Burton who have been exonerated, absolutely cleared, by the commission. The electors of Yarra will not clear the honorable member for his libellous statements about good Australians. The 10th December, the date of the next general election, will be D day for the honorable member for Yarra. He will go out of this House, unwept, unhonoured and unsung, because of his capacity for getting hold of halftruths and playing them up, with some Celtic imagination and some flair for debate, which I concede to him, but with no significance or adherence to the truth at all.
The House should take the case of Dalziel into due consideration, because Dalziel has been pilloried for being a good and faithful public servant. He has been pilloried further because he happened to be the private secretary of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Had he been Mr. Yeend, who was the object of such encomia last night, who quite obviously made egregious boners in his interview with Bialoguski, he would have been forgiven, because he was on the right side, but because Dalziel was courteous, painstaking and devoted, and worked for the Labour leader, he was made the victim. It has been a case of the little men and the little women being the victims in this debate and in the Petrov inquiry. The allegations against them should be proven. Away back in the early days of the case, after counsel assisting the commission had said that there would be no names mentioned unless those concerned were first advised, there was suddenly a change of front, and Mr. Justice Owen, the chairman of the commission, said in July -
I am disturbed to see that sources of reference in document J are three members of Dr. Evatt’s secretariat.
This was in July, and it was only late in August that Dalziel was allowed to answer. Yet we have all this talk about the purity of motives. The Prime Minister almost swooned in expressing his feelings for the judiciary who were being assaulted, he said, by the Leader of the Opposition in the debate on this matter. So far as the ordinary man’s conscience comes into the matter, what about the time lag for Dalziel and people of his ilk, who were swept into this commission on the hearsay of people who are not even guaranteed to be truthful, and whom we cannot fully recognize except as informers ? These things, added to the smears of the honorable member for Yarra, are not hard to understand, but they should not, at least, be supported by the Prime Minister.
Then we come to the case of Madame Oilier. The Prime Minister, with a magnificent sweeping gesture which embraced not only the House, but also the whole of the nation, asked everybody to listen to his story about Madame Oilier. Madame Oilier, he said, was presented with a wristlet watch which was valued at £35. The Prime Minister said that it had been evident from the commission’s report that it had been given to her by Pakhamov, one of the officers of the Russian embassy who was alleged to be concerned with espionage. And here I ask the whole of the House to consider the facts of this story carefully. I am not a lawyer, but it would be obvious to even a child that something went wrong here. Petrov said he did not know that the watch was ever given to the lady. Pakhamov said he did not remember it, and Petrova, the wife of Petrov, said she did not know anything about it either. Was there not then an element of doubt, and should not the man or woman concerned be given the benefit of the doubt?
– What was Molotov’s opinion ?
– To my mind it would be something like the honorable member’s. He may work that out for himself. The Oilier case became a cause celebre. No wonder the French Government examined it and, as a result, completely exonerated the lady concerned.
Then there is the case of Frances Bernie. She was a young typist during the war years who was man-powered into service in the office of the present Leader of the Opposition. So much for all this story of “ Corns “ waiting lined up to get a job with Dr. Evatt, or about Dr. Burton sending them along to get a job. In those days people who were not in active service with the fighting forces, or otherwise employed, were at the dis posal of the man-power authorities. I knew this girl because I was associated with the present Leader of the Opposition at the time, and I would say that in these days she was just a mixed-up kid who was to some degree interested in communism, but was capable of being saved. She was a brand that could be snatched from the burning if anybody was interested in saving her, but instead these foul haters were trying to push her into the fire. They were not interested in saving her, but were interested in getting another case, so that they could run along to the security service with it, as the groupers have done for years. The groupers who have left our party, are so interested in the commission that they have an ecstatic seizure every time it is mentioned. They have been lying and peddling lies day after day. The honorable member for Fremantle got entangled in this because he went abroad, and said on his return that everywhere he went there was a Communist chasing him. There is a fervour there that I cannot understand. He has since recanted his statement, and we have accepted, as we must, the recantation. He is a member of the party, but I must mention it in passing.
– When did he recant?
– There is no chance of the members of the corner group ever recanting. And it is of no use for them to attempt to do so, because we would not let them into the party again, no matter what- they did. Let them recant before the electors. Men who have come to this Parliament as Laborites have treacherously defected from the Labour party, in precisely the same way as Petrov defected from his own nation.
Then we come to the famous document J, which was supposed to be a document that was asked for by the Soviet espionage organization. It was to contain, we understand, a survey of the infiltration of the Australian economy, both commercially’ and otherwise, by other countries, and with information on the Australian defence position. Then it degenerated into a gossip column about various people in this country. It wa3 called by the barrister assisting the commission a “farrago of facts, falsity and filth “. What happened when this was analysed? Why did they take so long to come to a conclusion ? Because there were a lot of names mentioned in the document, including stupid incomplete references to members of the staff of the Leader of the Opposition, and that was good hunting, and they stayed on the mark because the shooting was good. There is a big question mark over document J, the biggest question mark that attaches to any aspect of the commission. If this was something which the Russians wanted to know about Australia, including information about those who were Communists and those who were not Communists, why was not the Prime Minister’s’ name in it ? Was it by some miraculous chance that his name was not mentioned? It is a curious thing - the talk about the journalists who prepared this - whether Lockwood or O’sullivan. But with all the little street-corner gossip that went into document J, and with all the little nebulous things, the Prime Minister’s name was never mentioned on any occasion. There were many other notable absences from the document, but none more notable than that of the Prime Minister’s name. We know that the Prime Minister’s name was not mentioned and there were deletions from, and annexures to that document. Nevertheless, it was a completely doctored document - the same infamous document J - and nobody knows to-day who is the author of it. Some say Lockwood, as the commission found, some say O’sullivan. In my own belief, it is a combination of each.
So we come to the question of document J. A question mark lies over it, which the arch-hater of communism in this country, self-styled - the Prime Minister - has not mentioned. A notable lady also is not mentioned because of her judicial association. No wonder, in the eyes of the. Leader of the Opposition and many other people, there are massive doubts in this case-
Take the case which occurred at Christmas time. After having worked for weeks on document J, the commission decided to have a party. We go from high drama to bathos. Seven shillings in and meet over at the House! Everybody was invited ! First of all, the office boy arrived, and then the man with the beer arrived. Then along came the security officers. Along came counsel handling the affairs of the commission. And gently, unobtrusively, but nevertheless there, came the three commissioners themselves. And last of all, making a grand entrance, the Petrova - Mrs. Petrov - talking about her holiday and what a lovely sun-tan she had this Christmas; and by rights she should have been having a white Christmas in Siberia. It will go down in history from the sublime to the ridiculous - from the high drama of this affair to the fact that everybody had a party. It was seven bob and bring your own beer, or bring your security, or whatever it happened to be. So there is a question mark over this matter.
No matter what the groupers on this side of the House state, and despite the fantastic statements of some of the Liberals, the people outside are disturbed by certain aspects of the Petrov commission. They are completely disturbed, and the giggles of the light-weight Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) will not deter me from saying what I have to say on this matter ; nor will the pontifications of the Prime Minister who had his Cabinet here, looking devotedly at him last night - those old grey beards who, thinking with a wet and lonesome tooth on the future, are crowding out young diggers, such as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who is to leave the Parliament.
– Deal with the commission.
– I only mentioned that in passing.
– We are disappointed in you.
– I have tried to point out, in the twenty minutes at my disposal, the fact that the highlights are not highlights at all. The tremendous trumpetings last night did not get beyond the radios of this country and did not sink into the minds of the people.
A man is making his departure from this House - I would say his dishonorable departure. It may be that I, too, am making my departure, but I will go out of this House as I came into it. I spoke up for what I thought was fair and decent. I have not been a smearer, or a chaser of the odd word for security. I have not been an underground engineer so far as my party is concerned. If it were only an attack on the present incumbent of the office of Leader of the Opposition, I could understand it; but the honorable member for Yarra came to this House and said that he was going to bring down “ that gutless Chifley “ ; and his colleague from Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) made a similar remark.
– It is recorded. I charged the honorable member with this in caucus and he did not say anything in rebuttal at the time. The honorable member for Yarra often attempted, on matters of foreign policy, to destroy his leader, who was then the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, and he has walked out of the House because he could not agree.
The honorable member would love this Petrov inquiry because it might, to his mind, have a destructive line towards the Labour party. He enjoys every moment of it and so he chases it up as he chased up the Labour leader, Mr. Attlee, and called his visit to China a pilgrimage of shame. When Nehru visits this country, as the guest of whatever government is in office, he will have something to say. However, I mention that in passing. The report is wide enough for me to say these things. I really rose to talk about the smear upon a man such as Dalziel. I want to say that he is a friend of mine. He is a Christian and he has stood up to treatment to which no public servant should be subjected. He has had the running dogs of lie groupers trailing behind him day after day, attempting to bring him down. He has gone through the travail of deep inquiry at the commission and he has been exonerated. Yet he is not left alone!
If ft were only the honorable member for Yarra, perhaps he could be forgiven for this. But the Prime Minister came back to Grundeman and Dalziel - and not because he cares a tinker’s curse for them. He does not care for them at all. What matters is that they have been attached to the staff of the Leader of the Opposition and that is a cardinal crime; and that has been the consideration of the
Petrov commission. The Prime Minister’s speech last night, whilst it might have had length and some substance on occasion, was extremely disappointing. He was fishing for interjections. He wanted to use his wit on honorable members, but when it came down to hard tack he was not prepared to go on with it. When the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) interjected, the Prime Minister made some reference to prawns. Prawns can be succulent when a worker sells them for a living, but they can be very stinking when peddled over the radio by the Prime Minister. That is the sort of thing that has supervened in this debate.
There are so many aspects of the commission that it is difficult to decide which one should be concentrated upon. But I think that the question that has to be answered by the people is not a legal question so much as a defamatory question. The defamatory attitude to Dalziel, and to Burton in two cases, the defamatory attitude towards Madame Oilier, and the complete misrepresentation of facts in relation to Prances Bernie, will not do any one in this Parliament any good. I conclude by asking, “ What did the costly Petrov commission find out ? “ Did we catch a spy? Even Bialoguski tried to catch one with a small hook. He seduced him with liquor and lies and by various other means. But security did not get him. He brought a spy along. So it was fantastic when the Prime Minister raised his. eyebrows in this House and said, “We have a spy. He has sought asylum in this country. They have been chasing him around the perimeter for three years to get him “, and so on and on.
This is a scenario instead of a drama. It is a “ Whodunnit “ in which the main ingredients of the plot have been withheld by the dishonest authors so that the public may be confused. It still is, in my mind, as it was when it started, an election stunt. How otherwise can be explained the adventitious aid of Petrov in two commissions - one that was discharged eighteen months ago and the one that comes on on the 10th December. The Petrov commission has completely exonerated the Labour party from anything subversive in any way; and the great trade union movement of this country has already been completely exonerated. So where does one find these traitors? Nobody is to be charged, nobody is to be dealt with, because it is all nebulous evidence. There are suggestions that they have found the case proven, but there is not enough to prove that any spies should be prosecuted.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I propose to deal very briefly with the utterances of the speaker who has just resumed his seat. It is a matter’ of supreme consolation to me to know that, despite the welter of accusation - serious and vital and pressing upon our security and the welfare of the generations which will come after us - the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), has succeeded in demonstrating irrevocably and finally that the age of chivalry is not yet dead. He is the champion of the female - Madame Oilier. He also sprang to the rescue of the typist, and on those two threads he hangs the gravamen of his argument. I dismiss that because, as we know, Madame Oilier confessed to getting the watch, just as Lockwood confessed to getting £30 and a’ bottle of brandy, and the typist confessed that Mr. Dalziel, the friend and bosom confidant of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) appointed her knowing full well that she was a leading member of the Eureka Youth League.
I do not suffer from the disability faced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He said, “ I do not understand the right honorable member for Barton “, but I understand the right honorable member easily and readily, because for three and a half years I was the psychologist in His Majesty’s penal establishment at Pentridge.
Opposition members interjecting,
– My friends do not seem to see any maladjustment in the right honorable member.
– Is the honorable member for Gellibrand still under treatment?
– It is obvious that the honorable member for “Wannon failed to respond to treatment. Prompted by the loftiest of motives and animated by the ethical spirit that has dominated our civilization throughout the ages, full of pity for this pathetic figure who has been so stunned and overwhelmed by the hammer blows of the Prime Minister that he is tottering and muttering like a mechanical toy that has run down, and more in sorrow than in anger, I make a personal appeal to the right honorable member for Barton. Amidst the wealth of legal jargon and phraseology used by the three judges who formed the royal commission, one word stands out. Even judges must stoop at times to things earthy, and one word that the commissioners used impinged itself upon my imagination. That word used by these men of integrity, who are so famed in the annals of law in Australia, was “ fantastic “. They could find no better word to describe the charges of the right honorable member for Barton with his perennial stories of conspiracy, fraud, frame-up, terror and despair. They were the chimeras of a distorted imagination, and the judges had to come to the inevitable conclusion that they were fantastic; I ask honorable members to note that the right honorable gentleman used these terms before he had ever seen the documents.
This august House, and the electorate, have been startled by the wild submissions of this man. I know that when election day comes, on the 10th December, the reaction of ‘ the impact of. this matter upon the constituency will be felt throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It is a matter for infinite regret that this globular figure, renowned in the halls of the United Nations and elsewhere, and once capable of putting the Communist point of view with clarity, if not with brilliance, is now so degenerate, and has almost faded into the limbo of forgotten things.
It is a source of eternal wonderment to me that those of his followers who are normally most prominent now reveal a strange anxiety to remain anonymous. One remembers how vocal they have been in the past. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) is strangely reluctant to come forward, as are the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie).
Above all, we must not forget the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Webb). This high and dignified factotum of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party is now conspicuous only by his absence.
– What about the honorable member for Hume?
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) deserves special mention. He is normally vociferous, but now, of course, he is silent. His silence is significant because the day of final defeat and of destiny is arriving.
– Would the honorable member like to become my official astrologer? I like his style very much.
– If the honorable member for Parkes listens .carefully he will detect” a note of regret in my voice. I have a vivid recollection of happier days, when the right honorable member for Barton stood out from his followers like an orchid in a tropical swamp. Do honorable members know what the independents - the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) - are peddling through the corridors of this House, and are saying to the press.?
– We are all orchids now.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) knows what is being said as well as I do. He has heard it too. They are saying, “ Our leader is. not well. He is suffering from a persecution complex. He is haunted by the chimeras and fantasies of his own imagination “. I reject and resent those suggestions, which are inspired only by self-interest. That is why I am appealing to the right honorable member for Barton. Does he not know that all this is gravy on a silver platter for the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Paney their having the temerity to point the finger of doubt at, and to question the lucid moments of, this world-wide figure. I reject that and ask the House to reject it. These “ alarums and excursions “ all bring me to one vital point.
– As a psychologist, the honorable member can read us all like a book!
– As a psychologist, I can read the honorable member’s head and I find there a vacuum. Do you know what the vital point is, Mr. Deputy Speaker ?
Opposition members interjecting,
– Why all this? Surely we still have some friends among the enlightened ones. I know that there are some who are afraid to come out. Their seats are in jeopardy. I know that there are dinkum, sincere fellows, and, strange to say, I put the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and some others in that category for their support of the right honorable member for Barton. But I have infinite contempt for those whose consciences are uneasy, but who are afraid to take this vital jump. As for the others who follow this modern pied piper of Hamelin, we all remember the old ballad, and we remember the type of creature that followed the pied piper, and I say that it is to the eternal disgrace of the Australian Labour party that so many sycophants should sit ‘silent in their places, knowing that they are going to political death and electoral destruction under the leadership of the right honorable gentleman. I am making another appeal to the right honorable member for Barton. Nothing is irretrievable, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Even if the right honorable gentleman did have a ticket in the Communist party at one time, there i3 no necessity for that to be carried on in perpetuity. Even if the right honorable gentleman felt that the Communist party had a perpetual finger on him, is that any reason why he should deliver these poor, innocent, unsophisticated followers up to their final destruction? I am asking all of you honorable members of an enlightened, democratic House, what is the nigger in the woodpile?
– What is the ointment around the fly? The honorable member suggests Molotov. I shall make my suggestion. In my youth I was taught that after the salad came the gorgonzola. Strange to say, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition had intimate, friendly moments with me, and one day he did a sum in arithmetic. He said, “You know, you are wrong. It was not £13,000; I know of only £8,000. Five from thirteen leaves eight.” I said, “ Yes, sir “. I was full of diffidence in those days. He said, “You account for that £5,000 in its passage from Senator Kennelly to the party funds of this party, and I will agree with you wholesale”. I now find another little sum in addition revealed in the report of the royal commission, in relation to Sharkey and 25,000 dollars.
– In 25-dollar notes!
– Of course, the honorable member is a mathematical genius. In looking for the nigger in the woodpile I direct attention to page 148 of the report of the royal commission, where we find mention of Mr. J. Skolnik, a Melbourne businessman, who was the guarantor of Clayton’s overdraft with the bank. He gave the story as to how he became the guarantor of this account, and the commissioners found it “ strange and incredible “. That was Clayton, Who at one time was known as “Klod” Clayton. Mr. Skolnik, this mystery man who emanates from the blue, guaranteed his account, and Mr. Skolnik is the man who was mainly instrumental in financing the campaign of the so-called Cain Labour party in Victoria, and Mr. Skolnik is the man who was the foremost contributor to the party funds held by the right honorable member for Barton.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Everybody knows it.
– That is a complete untruth !
– He is an intimate friend of yours, and you were the collector.
– That is right, and I know!
– And I am also saying that that is the nigger in the ‘woodpile. Searches throughout history have always demonstrated some strong, impelling motive. Money talks all languages!
– It talked with you in the State Parliament in Victoria.
– Whether it was Skolnik: s money or the money that was supposed to have gone to Sharkey, or the money that Senator Kennelly received from the Communist party, or the money that the right honorable member for Barton has been collecting over the decades, it is tainted money. It comes from a red source, and that explains the mental and moral degeneration of this great party.
– You took plenty from the breweries when you were in Victoria.
– I worked in the brewery when you came in to collect for the Labour party, and the right honorable member for Barton was there. I was present when you collected £2,000 on behalf of the Australian Labour party.
– What did the honorable member get the L.B.E. for?
– They gave me the C.B.E., not the L.B.E. - and that shows your colossal ignorance - for voluntary services to the charities of Victoria. I take it as an honour and a privilege to discard forever my association with a party that has sunk into the mire. My grandfather and my father and my ancestors before me belonged to the great Australian Labour party, which has now become a sounding board and subsidiary of communism. That fact will cause the defeat of the honorable member for St. George and the others, who have made the unpardonable error of supporting the right honorable member for Barton, and in that spirit, sincerely, finally and definitely I declare my faith that we have done the right thing. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We can face our children and contemplate the judgment of the generations to come with honour untarnished, with a clear conscience, and equanimity of mind and body.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) said that he was present when I took £2,000 from the breweries as a contribution to the funds of the Australian Labour party. . I have never been in any brewery office, , any liquor trade office, or anything of the ‘ sort, with the honorable member present, at any time in my life. I never took £2,000 at any time from the breweries, and any association that the Labour party has had with Mr. Skolnik or any one else was as a result of an advertisement that we published in the press, inviting people to forward us donations.
– Did he not raise £25,000 for you in 1949?
– No, he never raised anything, but I raised very large sums of money myself, and I have accounted for them in the funds of the party. The honorable member for Gellibrand, who has just delivered his swan song, and who has told us about the contributions to party funds, took very considerable sums himself from the breweries, for himself, while he was a member of the Victorian Parliament.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I am very pleased that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has made his personal explanation. In 1930, and prior to that, I was a paid official of the Liquor Trades Defence Union, a paid official under the late J. J. Liston, of the Liquor Trades Defence Union, before I ever entered Parliament. I reiterate that the honorable member for Melbourne and others came down to collect for the party funds in that office, and that I was present on one occasion when money was handed to them.
Ma Calwell. - I never got one penny from Liston in my life.
– It remains now to attempt to draw the threads together and try to help the House find some- explanation of the really extraordinary attitude adopted by the Opposition during this debate, particularly by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) from whom the Opposition has taken its lead.
The Petrov affair has caused political harm to the Labour party because of the Communist links and activities of the associates of the right honorable member for Barton, and because of the penetration of Communists into his department while it was under his control. But the major harm that has been done to the Labour party arises not from these circumstances but by reason of the speeches of the right honorable member for Barton and his followers in this House and on this debate. This is a strange thing and it has to be explained. I think the public is going to be a little bit interested in the strange case of the right honorable member for Barton. It was only a little while ago, at the last federal election, that the right honorable member became hysterical in his abuse of me, amongst other people, because we drew attention to these Communists links in his past, and now, strangely enough, he has confirmed everything that we have said ten times over by forging here, in this present, and in the presence of the whole of the Australian people, an even closer and less deniable Communist association.
Let us look at his conduct in relation to the commission. He appears before the commission, a former judge of the High Court of Australia versed in all legal procedure and knowing every legal nicety. He abused his position as counsel, to smear without evidence, and finally his conduct became such that he was removed from the case. I believe it was because of deliberate provocation.
The commission found that the charges he had made were, without exception, fantastic His whole conduct before that commission was such as was calculated to serve the interests of the Communist case. There was a complete identity of case . between him and the Communist counsel and an almost open alliance in court thereon. He attempted to obstruct the commission and -to smear those who were condemning communism, to try to bring the commission to nought. He appeared there as the open ally of the Communist cause.
I pass over the intervening time and I come to his speech here in this House last Wednesday on the commission’s report. That speech was notable first for its omissions. There was not one word of explanation as to why Communists and Communist sympathizers clustered around’ him like iron filings round a magnet, something which the Communists had been doing and which the commission demonstrated. There was not one word of apology for the negligences, which the commission exposed, in the conduct” of his own department while he was our Minister for External Affairs and while Communist penetration was allowed to proceed inside it. There was not one word of condemnation of the Communists and their agents who were exposed by the commission. Neither he nor any one of his followers found it in his heart to say one word in condemnation of those people. Instead, we were treated once again to abuse and smearing of judges and other people who, on some totally inadequate foundation, or no foundation at all, were accused of entering into some conspiracy.
Let me analyse what he said. First he went into a long recital of detail in this House. Honorable members know, and he, as a former High Court judge, should know better than any of us, that these matters of detail are best considered by the judges or the jury who are confronted by and see the witness, who ‘ weigh up their demeanour .and who have the whole of the case before them. Legally, it is ethically wrong to try to bring these matters of detail into this forum, where the various ramifications cannot be known, where the witnesses were not seen and where their demeanour could not be estimated. He knew he was doing wrong, but he was doing it in order to try to confuse the issue, in order that he might overwhelm us with these details. He knew that what he was doing was entirely wrong, because he knew that there would not be time for the average person or the average member of this House to go into that mass of detail ‘to try to get to the kernel of truth.
The .second thing he did was to defend every Communist who came in for condemnation. He went to great lengths in this, even straining the truth. For example, on page 1699 of Hansard, he is reported as having said that there was no evidence that Clayton bad received any confidential documents, yet, in paragraph 420 of the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, there appears the sentence that Miss Bernie -
It is quite obvious that he was straining the truth, relying on the fact that his hearers would not have a chance to check the mass of detail.
Then again, there was the angling of adjectives applied to the Soviet and its agents. Any Communist or friend of Communists got off lightly. Any opponent of communism got smearing adjectives applied to him, and indeed the Soviet itself came in for a bit of praise in this snide way. For example, he was contented to describe as “window dressing”, to contemptuously describe as “ window dressing “ the phrases “ tyrannical Government “ and “ despotic “ as applied to the Soviet regime. Whom was he white-washing, and why?
Then, finally, we have the strange case of the Molotov letter where against the word of those who had been his fellow judges he wanted to put the word of one of the people who conducted a succession of Moscow trials, a man whom the whole world knows was well versed in fabricating evidence and arranging perjury.
Further than that, we have this absurd proposal for an appeal to an international court because a criminal, convicted by three judges, doubts their verdict and says so. We have this kind of extraordinary international body, in which the criminal himself will participate, set up to judge the thing over again.
The right honorable member for Barton is eager to seize upon any decision of the tribunal which suits him, to uphold and praise these judges - these upright judges - if they have acquitted one of his. friends or found even one rumour ‘ baseless or one charge unproved, but if they are saying anything against the interests of the Soviet then it must be appealed against and the judges must be upbraided. Most serious of all, the right honorable member for Barton falls in with the line of Communist world strategy. He has shown the House and the country which side he is on. Yet it is very strange He has not done this, the House will feel assured, in any spirit of honesty, because he, as a former justice of the High Court of Australia, must know that the things he is saying are incredible and that the course he is taking is ethically wrong. He has not done these things in the interests of his party. He has contrived to split and decimate his party and will shortly destroy it. No one would think that he is doing this in the interests of the Government. He has not done it in his own interests, because this has hurt him throughout. Why has he done it? I put the explanation to the House - the explanation that I think the House must accept: he has done it in the interests of Soviet Russia.
People may be inclined to dismiss the speech made by the right honorable gentleman last Wednesday as clumsy and foolish. But, measured by the test of whether it is in the interests of the Soviet Government, it was no foolish speech, especially coming from the Leader of the Australian Labour party and a man who has been president of the General Assembly of the United Nations and whose word will be available for quotation by the Soviet press and propaganda machine throughout the world. He has said those things that follow the Soviet line and has stated those parts of the Soviet line that the Soviet authorities would most like to hear fall from the lips of a Labour leader and a former president of the General Assembly of the United Nations. If this were only madness, there is too much method in it, because it fits in with what we knew earlier about the right honorable member for Barton. I say this to the House not for the first time; T have said it many times. On one occasion in March, 1951, challenged by the right honorable member, I said it outside the shelter of the privilege of this chamber. I said that I did not accuse the right honorable member for Barton of being a member of the Australian Communist party, and I quote my exact words -
I do accuse him of having too often adopted policies and tactics which were, in fact, in the Communist interest; and in my view this has happened so often, and sometimes in such circumstances, that, looking at it as a whole, it can scarcely be mere coincidence.
I stick by those words now. Under what circumstances does this kind of thing occur? Why is it and how is it that the right honorable member for Barton says “things that are manifestly untrue and manifestly against his own interests and the interests of his party? Once again, I go back four years to the time when I suggested to the House that he acted as he did because he was under some kind of compulsion; that he had to do these things because the Communists had some hold over him. His present conduct can be rationally explained in no other way. This is the explanation that best fits the facts and fits also what we know of Soviet techniques - techniques which go by the name of “ small hook “, the repayment for favours growing into obligation, and then the obligation growing into compulsion. Each service exacted from the victim renders the next service more necessary because the victim progressively fears more and more the exposure of what he has done in the past.
The Burgess and MacLean technique seems to be the technique that has been applied to the right honorable member for Barton. If I were asked to try to place its origin, I would say that this goes back’ a long time. I would think it goes back at least to 1930, when thu right honorable member for Barton - he was not “ right honorable “ or the member for Barton then, but plain Mr. Evatt - received his promotion to the High Court at the hands of those who were the friends of the Australian Communist party. At that time, as honorable members know, he was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. His career seemed finished. He had been expelled from the Labour party and had lost its endorsement, and he said that he was done with politics. But, suddenly, he was lifted up by “ Jock “ Garden and by a plot made in defiance of Mr. Scullin, then Prime Minister, and Mr. Brennan, then Attorney-General, both of whom were absent in London. The proposal was to make him Chief Justice of the High Court. It is recorded in the press of the time. However, those who lifted him up had to abandon that proposal. They compromised by making him a justice of the High Court. The right honorable member took that appointment at the hands of the left wing and “Jock” Garden, who, I believe, whatever he may say, has all the time been nothing else but a Communist.
– But Jim Scullin was not.
– Scullin opposed the scheme. We come back, this time on more certain ground, to the time of the translation of the right honorable member for Barton from the High Court to this House. Here we have definite documentary evidence, because Dr. Lloyd Ross, who was a member of the central committee of the Australian Communist party, and who ought to know, published an article in the Railroad of the 15th October, 1940 - nearly contemporaneously with the date of the right honorable member’s translation to this House - in which he stated -
The first approach to Dr. Evatt to nominate as a Labour candidate came from the HughesEvans people–
That is, from the Communists. For further documentary evidence, there is no need to go further than the paeans of praise that the Tribune of the 20th October, 1939, bestowed on the right honorable member shortly before he entered this House. It referred to him as “ a comparatively young man with almost unlimited mental and physical energy “, and stated that he was going to become the outstanding Labour figure in the Commonwealth. The Tribune continued -
The need for strong and militant leadership in the Federal Parliament might cause precedent to be swept aside with Evatt elected Federal leader. Thus, he might be Prime Minister in the near future.
That is what the Communists predicted of him. They thought him their man. I believe that from these small beginnings - the small hook, the little favour, the consequent obligation - they have drawn him in more and more and set him on the path through the Department of the Attorney-General, the Department of External Affairs and the presidency of the General Assembly of the United Nations, all the time in reality serving the Communist cause and deflecting his real policy, from time to time cloaked in alibis, in accordance with what the Communist desire really was. I wish I had time to follow that course through in detail, but my time is running out and I shall be unable to do so. However,, I put it to the House that that is the explanation. The right honorable member for
Barton is a man in some way under compulsion by the Australian Communist party, a man who has been forced even against his own interests, and the interests of his party, to do what the Communists wanted him to do because they had gradually, over the years, developed some hold upon him.
This is the position as it stands to-day. He has become to them expendable, because he is now almost in the open as a Communist agent. The alibi is no longer convincing. No one will now believe that there is no link between the right honorable member for Barton and the Australian Communist party.
That, I think, is the explanation of the strange case of the right honorable member for Barton, which this House will dispose of in a few minutes’ time. It is the explanation also of what I have no doubt will become known during the coming . election campaign as “ the strange case of Dr. Evatt “ and will be disposed of by the people of Australia on the l0th December next. The right honorable member is now almost out in the open as a friend of Russia and an associate of the enemies of the Australian people, and it is pathetic to see that those who sit behind him are sitting so docilely. Not one of them has been man enough to come out into the open and condemn the Australian Communist party. Not one of them has said . in this debate one good thing about the Royal Commission on Espionage. They have only censured the royal commission for what it has done. I am sorry that I shall be unable to traverse the case against the right honorable member for Barton in greater detail.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year 1954-55.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1808). on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a measure which usually arises from the budget and the budget-papers. This bill, however, is completely different from previous bills of the same kind because of the implications announced by the Minister. It provides for the raising of a loan of £8,500,000, for the use of both the principal and the agent States. It is unnecessary for me to remind the House that there are two distinct aspects of the war service land settlement scheme. The principal States are responsible for the administration of the scheme within their borders, whilst the agent States - that is, the smaller States - accept Commonwealth supervision. The scheme, from its inception after World War I., has been more or less successful.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the allocation for money for land settlement was being increased. Then he posed a question and answered it himself. That is an old device in politics, and one that always makes me suspicious. Honorable members will have noticed that of the £8,500,000, £4,600,000 will be allocated to the agent States and £3,900,000 to the principal States. The Minister said that the allocations were being increased because the Government intended to accelerate the process of settlement and to bring the scheme to finality. He explained that the Government intended to do that because, years after the end of the war, we. are still faced with a large number of settlers who are waiting for an opportunity to farm land in this country under the provisions of the legislation. He said that, as time is a thief, we must do something immediately, so that those men can be settled on the land. That is all very fair, square and splendid. It is fine and shining. It is very acceptable to us, except for the fact that the acceleration presupposes a certain amount of elimination.
I want to point out to honorable members what is proposed. We, as a party, have no objection to the increased allocation. We acceptthe statement of the Minister that the Government is facing conditions of financial stringency and, consequently, has made certain drastic cuts of its financial commitments. This is one of the very rare cases in which the allocation for a particular purpose has been increased. The Minister has said, if I may repeat myself, that the allocation has been increased because the Government wants to settle these men on the land and complete the scheme. But we say that the Government is not settling all the men. In order to get rid of its commitment in this matter, it has been quite reckless in eliminating from the list of applicants the names of a number of men. Through lack of knowledge of the requirements of the department in relation to keeping qualification certificates in order, or because of a new and harsh regulation, many men are likely to lose their chance of being settled on the land eventually. The Minister said in his speech -
Some people might ask why, in view of the present economic outlook, we .propose to increase expenditure on war service land settlement. Let me remind honorable members that ten years and one month have passed since V.V. Day, and that the ex-servicemen are not getting any younger. The Government has approved the scheme to assist the principal States, and to increase expenditure in the agent States, in an effort to clear up the bulk of war service land settlement within the next three years;
That was a most worthy statement. If it were completely genuine, it would have the approval of the Opposition. But we say that the implementation of the plan is being speeded up because the Government has grown tired of war service land settlement, in the same way as it has grown tired of housing and of repatriation. An onus-of-proof clause, so to speak, is to be inserted in the scheme. There is to be a quiz. That is the new technique adopted by the Government to reduce the number of applicants. I notice that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is looking at me with rapt attention. He knows exactly what I mean, because he is to employ a similar technique in relation to war service homes. That will affect the ordinary men who are seeking homes in. the suburbs of the capital cities. There is implicit in this, let me advise him-
– Do not misrepresent the position.
– I am not misrepresenting the position. I am stating it fairly. There is to be an onus-of-proof clause because the Government wants to reduce the number of applicants. In view of the financial strain under which the Government alleges that it is labouring at the moment, the policy is to treat exservicemen less generously than they were treated by the Chifley Government. I have referred, not only to war service land settlement, but also to housing and repatriation. In each instance, we see the squeeze that is taking place. The view of the Government is that all those things were good after the war, but now it should cut down on them. That is typical Liberal policy. That is typical conservative policy. It is typical of the Government to do that by a snide trick. The trick in this case is obvious.
– I take exception to the statement that this is a snide trick. I have already tried to explain across the table, as calmly as I can, what the Government has in mind. I ask that the honorable member be directed to withdraw the words “ snide trick “. He knows that he is telling an untruth and that he is stating the facts incorrectly.
– The honorable member knows that he must not impute improper motives to another honorable member. I ask him to withdraw the expression.
– I accept the impeachment from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but not from the Minister. I withdraw the words “ snide trick “. The Minister said that I had made an untruthful statement. I am trying strenuously to explain what I mean. I shall come to the nub of the situation in my next few sentences. I say that if this is not a snide trick, it is a completely unfair one.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Surely that is an adequate withdrawal. The bill deals with war service land settlement, and I am trying, to point out what the Government is doing. If honorable members opposite want war service land settlement to be completed with the minimum number of men on the land, they will vote for this bill, but I say that it would be better to take a little while longer about it, and to spend a few more millions’ of pounds in order to settle the maximum number of the men who have been waiting for ten years. When we speak on these matters, we are always told by members of the
Australian Country party that we live in the cities, so we know nothing about the land. The barbers, the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick-makers and the other non-farming members of the Australian Country party know all about the land, but they do nothing to develop it.
I should like the Minister to tell us how many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land under this scheme and how many are still waiting to be settled. This is a problem that faces, not only this Government, but also the State governments, whether they be Labourgovernments or Liberal governments. There is to be a cutting back of the number of applicants. How is it to be done ? It is to be done - as will be pointed out by later speakers from this side of the House, because there is not enough time left for me to do it - through an archaic act which has not been amended since 1908, and by other machinery measures not necessarily in this Parliament. Men who have applied for farms and who expect to get them in due course, will be eliminated from the list of applicants. Primary production is in a flourishing condition. We concede that the war service land settlement scheme is a good one. It is as good as it was when it was handed over to this Government - this dying Government, mortally wounded by its own hand. As the Minister said, it is good business to-day to put ex-servicemen on the land at a cost of £18,000 for a dairying block and £20,000 for a fat lamb property. It is good business for the Government, and for’ Australia.
– What about the position in Queensland?
– The honorable member talks about Queensland: Leaving aside the question of preference to exservicemen, in which I believe, Queensland may have justification for what it is doing, and it is doing it in its own sovereign right. Honorable members who represent Queensland electorates continue to natter in this House to the detriment of that State. I am sure that if the people of Queensland listened to many of the Government supporters from that State, they would be disgusted at the fact that their nationalism does not begin at home but that it swells to something in this House which amounts to a deroga tion of the State. I have no time for any honorable member who commences the advancement of his case in this House by defaming the State from which he comes and the electorate that has elected him to the Parliament. Although that is by the way, it is important. I have seen it happen frequently over the years that I have been a member of the Parliament.
I return to the point that I was making. How many men have been given the settlement that they have sought? Quite a considerable number have been settled, but not enough. There is a waiting list which is of immense size when compared with the number of allocations that have been made, but that is not entirely the fault of this Government. The State governments, too, have had their problems. Let us face this as being a long-range job of doing something for the exservicemen who are waiting. Because the Government wants to have the scheme washed up and done with, there has been a sharp elimination of men with training. If the Government can prove that I am wrong, I shall be the first to apologize. Reports about delays have come to many honorable members on both sides of the House. For example, a man might come along and say, “ I have been an applicant for a farm under the war service land settlement scheme. I now find that I ha ve been tricked out of my application because I have not renewed it for. five years, or for other reasons. My competence is now coming into question “. There seems to be a sharp shoving down of these men who were prepared to wait and who thought they would get farms in due course. I invite the Minister for Social Services, who is sitting at the table, to prove that my statement is wrong. I do not suppose he knows, because he is merely stooging to-day for the absent Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). However, the experts would be able to tell him.
I think there is a case to answer in that regard. If, because the Government is acting in collusion or co-operation or agreement with the States, an exserviceman with the necessary qualifications is being denied the right to go on the land, that is a complete negation of the principles of legislation which provides for the giving of assistance to ex-servicemen.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– Will the Munster he quiet for a minute until I tell him something? Such legislation should be sacrosanct in this House.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– Will the honorable gentleman, instead of muttering, tell me how many men have been placed on the land, and what the Government is trying to do with this three-year period? It looks specious, and it is specious.- The slow, snail-like processes of the Government in relation to its projects have suddenly changed overnight, and it says, “ We are going to clean up this scheme “. We know that, when the Government says it intends to olean up something, that will be the end of it. That applies also to the provision of homes for exservicemen and the ordinary man in the community, as well as to the activities of the housing commissions and the new housing plan. It applies also to repatriation. As I have already stated, the Government has once again placed the onus of proof on the ex-serviceman. It is necessary for him to prove that his qualifications are better than they need be. This requirement comes in innocuously. It is run in as something that might be acceptable. If there were not a wary and intelligent Opposition, it would get through unnoticed. There is a case to be answered. The argument of the Opposition will be developed as the debate proceeds.
Let me repeat that there is quite obviously a cutting down of the number of applicants. How did it come about? We suggest, first, that the Government said, properly enough, “ This scheme has been in operation for ten years. Having had a look at our settlement figures, we find that they are not too good. What can we do about the matter? We can either decide to fulfil our honest obligations to all those ex-servicemen who have applied, or we can sub-edit the scheme by telling some applicants that they cannot participate in the scheme because they have broken the law relating to the continuance of their certificate “. Secondly, there have been conversations with the States in order to limit the number of people who will be settled on the land.
Why is this being done? The Minister has stated that, after long negotiations, he has succeeded in having just terms for the payment of acquired estates paid either through the agent States or through the principal States. What are just terms’ We know that an ex-serviceman who takes up land to-day gets a fair go, because the price that he pays is considered to be a fair price. The difference between the price paid by the ex-serviceman and the fair price to the owner is carried by the community. Why should not the community carry it for the sake of settling ex-servicemen? I do not want to be a dismal Jim, but, on the other hand, we must look at this aspect of the matter. If we are unable to sell wheat, if dried fruits become a drag on the market, and if primary production gets into the doldrums, where will the inflated land values be then and what will be just terms ?
– Does the honorable member object to the owner getting a just price?
– Do not be so infantile.
– That is what the honorable member is saying, in effect.
– I am not concerned about the queasy conscience of the Minister for Social Services, but I am concerned about a fair go for the ex-serviceman. If the Government charges him the price for which his land sells, the real value will not be there, and he will have been the victim of a confidence trick. The Minister knows perfectly well that prices have been inflated and are still inflated. The 1942 values seem to be fair enough. Then there was a 5 per cent, drop on either side, and that seemed to me and to other Opposition members at that stage to be reasonable. As members of the Australian Country party, who are interested in the farming aspect of the matter, know, land values fluctuate with the success or otherwise of primary production. It may be that the soldier settlement scheme which began so badly after World War I. and petered out because of a succession of bad times culminating in a depression, and which began again splendidly after World War II., may end again equally disastrously, because the settler will be left with a burden of debt. So far, that has not happened, and we ought to ensure that it will not happen.
Furthermore, we ought to be assured about two or three other matters. First, we ought to be satisfied that the alterations of the Chifley plan as it has been developed by this Government are good and sound. The Government has not been challenged by Opposition members other than in general debate, but there is now some fear in our minds about certain aspects of the scheme, one of which is the elimination of worthy ex-servicemen who should have an opportunity to go on the land. If the Government does not agree on that point, it is only making nonsense of the immigration scheme and one hundred and one other things.
– Will the honorable member give me one case ?
– I could give a dozen cases.
– Well, give them to me.
– I have not the papers with me. In my electorate there are men who say that they have been eliminated after eight years for no particular reason. Other Opposition members will cite cases later. If the Minister can prove that I am not right, nobody will be happier than I to apologize; but Government supporters should not sit there like a lot of jackdaws and tell me in defence of the scheme that no complaints have been received. They need only go to the cities where the dispossessed farmers’ sons have been trying to get back on the land. We know it is a racket.
We know that the Government is hurrying up the settlement of exservicemen so that all those men who desire to go on the land will be settled, but what about those who will be eliminated? What a formidable queue they would make if they came into the Kings Hall. The Australian Country party and the Government itself should examine the matter.
The Government should act warily in relation to the question of a just price, particularly when, being a coalition government, it is pressurized by both the land jobber and the land-holder. There are not many examples of fine properties that have been sold over-price. Government supporters know that. And what happens when the decay of primary production comes, in its cycle, and honorable members opposite will have destroyed many of the ex-servicemen?
The Minister asked me to produce evidence and I shall be happy to do so, but he has me at a disadvantage because I always like to speak without notes, and for that reason I did not bring the relevant list with me. It is in my office in Sydney and he, or the Minister concerned, shall have it.
I conclude by saying that we give general approval to the war service land settlement scheme ; but we issue a warning that there is some subtlety and subterfuge present, and we want our questions about it answered. We want to know something about the men who have qualifications, but who are being slowly whittled away. The States are doing it; the land boards are doing it; the review boards are doing it, and we know that they are doing it. I ask the Minister to answer that charge.
The second point is that we agree with the increase in the loan to £8,500. We are also very pleased to see the patience of both the Ministers concerned, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, who have, by patient co-operation, tried to devise some formula acceptable to both governments. I think they have succeeded. But that is merely by the way if, having done that, having got a formula, the Government is going to close this scheme up quickly, because it thinks that the best way out is “ buffet’s closed “., in the old diggers’ term - if it is going to say, “ We have got 2,000, or 3,000 men, settled, and we are going to do nothing else”. That is the classical liberal way. I am issuing a warning against that, and I am asking the Minister to answer the charges that I have made, and to give me the details about the numbers of men settled by the Government, which I have requested.
.- If there is anybody in the Commonwealth who does the war service land settlement scheme harm it is members of Parliament, in both the Federal and State spheres, who have not one idea of how the scheme operates and, not only that, will_ not take the trouble to find out how it operates. We have had a glaring example of such a combination of ignorance, allied with diffidence to learn, provided to-night by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who, one of my colleagues reminds me, is throwing caution to the winds because this appears to be his swan song. Regardless of whether it is, or is not, his swan song, he has been doing the war service land settlement scheme a very grave disservice by speaking in the way he has spoken to-night.
The purpose of the measure is to provide £8,500,000 for war service land settlement, in the terms of £4,600,000 for the agent States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and £3,900,000 for the principal States, NewSouth Wales and Victoria. It is being made available by the Commonwealth with a view to expediting war service land settlement, so that the whole scheme can be cleaned up, if possible by the 30th June, 1959. My colleague, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), asks me if Queensland is in it. I very much regret to have to say that Queensland is not in it. It elected to be, on its own volition, a principal State. It made that arrangement with Mr. John Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, but about a year or so ago it decided to cancel the arrangement. This happened after the Queensland Premier had come to a meeting of the Australian Loan Council in Canberra to get money for works. Included in his list was money for the development of war service land settlement in the Wandoan area. Queensland got that money from the Australian Loan Council on the pretence that it intended to use it for settling ex-servicemen on the land, and, having got it, and having acquired the land, and cleared it, it threw it open for civilian settlement. If anybody can tell me that that is a fair deal for exservicemen in any State, I shall have to look to my reasoning. I am very happy to be able to say that a few ex-servicemen did get some of the properties at Wandoan, but the principle behind the thing was, I think, absolutely despicable, to say the least.
I return now to New South Wales. I regret very much that, whilst dealing with this subject, the honorable member for Parkes saw fit to intrude the remarks that he used. He said that the Commonwealth could be blamed for not settling men on the land. That statement shows that he does not even understand the most rudimentary and elementary rules affecting this scheme, because it is not the prerogative of the Commonwealth to classify, select or settle men on the land under it. That is purely a State prerogative. The Commonwealth has no dealings with individual settlers. He added to that by saying that the Commonwealth had grown tired of war service land settlement.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Melbourne, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, this man who has dragged along at the heels of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), says, “Hear, hear!” Let me tell the honorable member for Melbourne that the position when the Chifley Government, which he supported, left office was a very sorry one indeed. I can count on the fingers of both hands, without using all the fingers, the number of men settled on the land in Western Australia by that Government, while the honorable member’s former colleague, Mr. Dedman, was in charge of the Commonwealth end of the scheme. So there is very little room for the honorable member for Melbourne to say, “Hear, hear ! “ to the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Parkes.
We have tried for a long time to get something working in respect of the principal States, and I am very happy to be able to say that Victoria has done an excellent joh. We have very little, if anything, to complain about in Victoria, except possibly valuations. I cannot say the same for New South Wales, and I can say less for Queensland. I am reminded by the honorable member for Gwydir that these two States are under Labour governments.
– It was a Labour government in Victoria also.
– It was, but the people soon found it out. I remind the honorable member that it was a Country Party government which settled men on the land in Victoria.
– It settled them, all right !
– It settled them very well. The honorable member may use the other meaning of the word “ settle “ if he wishes. Every time the Minister for Lands in New South “Wales gets the opportunity he snipes at the Commonwealth. He was at the opening ceremony of a returned servicemen’s function recently and Reveille published a report that he had said that he had always been of the opinion that war service land settlement should be carried out by the Commonwealth because it was a repatriation matter. The same opinion was expressed to-night by the honorable member for Parkes. Where were these fighters, these stalwarts, when Sir William McKell, as Premier of New South Wales, flatly rejected a proposal made by Mr. Curtin for New South Wales to be an agent State. He was supported by the Victorian Premier and then by the Queensland Premier. They said that repatriation was one thing and war service land settlement another and the idea of the Commonwealth coming in to settle ex-servicemen or any one else on the land would be intolerable. I have studied the New South Wales Hansard and the Commonwealth Mansard to find out whether these men battled along the same track as did the Premier of New South Wales. The Minister for the Interior is a man who saw service in two wars. He has some knowledge of land settlement because he has a near relative settled on the land, and I shall tell later of what happened when he endeavoured to call a conference on land settlement. I am very sorry that at the first conference in 1950 we did not engage the services of Hansard reporters to take notes of that conference because later some references are certain to be made about just terms. When the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr. Sheahan, learned that the question of just terms was to be discussed, he shied away from the subject and told the then Minister for the Interior that, if that subject was listed for consideration, he would not enter into the discussion. That is perfectly true. It will be remembered that a few days prior to that conference he promised the members of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, in respect of the Pye case, that he was to have a conference with the Commonwealth on the subject of just terms. The members of the Opposition in New South Wales raised no objection because they took the Minister for a man of his word and assumed that there would be at least some fairness in this matter. But when he came here to the conference, he immediately ran away from the question of just terms.
We come to the next conference. Unfortunately, it could not be held when originally arranged because the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) became ill. But we finally had the conference. What did the Minister for Lands in New South Wales have to say when it was suggested that he should come straight out and discuss this matter ? He wanted to pick the eyes out of the agent States arrangement and the principal States arrangement and wanted the Commonwealth to meet the losses but he did not want the Commonwealth to have a word to say about policy. The Commonwealth had to be kept out of it. So, conference after conference has been held with a view to bringing some measure into operation to push this scheme on. Finally, the Commonwealth agreed to advance to the principal States over a period of three years £5,000,000 a year if the States themselves would put in £2 for £1. There was to be a £2,000,000 maximum for New South Wales and Victoria and a maximum of £1,000,000 for Queensland. What was the result ? Victoria and New South Wales accepted the offer, Victoria without any tags whatsoever. Queensland flatly refused to accept the offer. New South Wales is in a terrible state, according to the honorable member for Parkes. But the Director of War Service Land Settlement is literally hanging on to the telephone to-night to hear from New South Wales whether the Parliament of that State has passed amending legislation so that it can get its hands on to this £2,000,000. The men who own the properties to be made available to exservicemen will at least get something akin to the market value of their land. “Why should any one section of the community be asked to carry the whole of the burden of settling ex-servicemen on the land when those ex-servicemen enlisted in order to fight and protect every individual and every piece of property in this country? Therefore, it is up to every individual to give a hand to settle these men on the land. I support the Minister 1,000 per cent., and would support him to an even greater degree if I could in relation to all the provisions of this amending legislation.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Listen to the people of the city squealing about this. They do not know a leaf of lucerne from a blade of grass. They would not know a clover leaf from skeleton weed.
– We know a hayseed when we see one.
– I notice that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has come into the chamber. They grow a lot of wheat in Grayndler but the weevils are in it. The weevils, indeed, are in the honorable member himself. He has gone. He has had it ! We hear these people talking; but what do we find? Because we have made these arrangements with the State of New South Wales, the honorable member for Parkes has said that we are putting the. onus of proof on applicants. I remind you, my dear sir, that we have nothing to do with the classification, selection or settlement of these men on the land. That is a job for the States, because they have demanded that they do it. I agree that their demand is correct. The land belongs to the States, the individuals are citizens of the States, and the States should be able to do it. As for the Commonwealth having any further control, I say, “ no “. The agent States acquire land; they clear the land and carry out development ; they carry out the administration. We find the money and meet a proportion of the losses in accordance with the arrangement.
In an endeavour to criticize this scheme, the honorable member for Parkes mentioned repatriation, war service land settlement, and war service homes. It is rather surprising that a gentleman who has the record of the honorable member for Parkes should include repatriation as No. 1 in these matters. I very well remember that in the years 1946 to 1949 when that honorable gentleman was sitting on this side of the House, a means test was imposed in relation to the war pension. He supported a move from the other side of the House when we endeavoured to get the means test removed from the legislation. He spoke in favour of it but when it came to a vote, about 2 o’clock in the morning, the same gentleman refrained from crossing the floor.
– You are a liar.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes will withdraw that statement.
– He knows perfectly well-
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw his statement.
– Well, he is guilty of-
– I will give the honorable member one more opportunity to withdraw his statement, or I will name him.
– I withdraw.
– The records of this Parliament show how honorable members voted on that night and they know it well. This Government has a record in respect of repatriation of which it is justifiably proud and of which it always will be proud. This Government did not treat a war widow as a risk in respect of a war service home.
The honorable member for Parkes proceeded to deal with the subject of war service homes. Never since the original war service homes legislation was introduced has so much money been made available for war service homes and never have so many war service homes been built as in the 5- years this Government has been in office. No
Opposition member can deny that. In dragging that matter into his argument in order to make up a case on war service land settlement, the honorable member for Parkes is coming down to a pretty low level.
Now I come to the question of whether somebody has been tricked out of his application. I say again, with all the vehemence that I can bring to bear, that this Government is not responsible for any of the applications. If the honorable member for Parkes or any of his giggling colleagues want to take this matter up, let them see the Ministers for Lands in the various States responsible, because they are the ones that are tricking men. I am happy to say that, in respect of the agent States at least, the Commonwealth does give the settlers a much better crack of the whip than the principal States give them. I met a man the other night in Western Australia when I was doing a touT of farms for the Minister. This man told me that he had tried for ten years to get a property in New South Wales. What was he told? He was told by the representatives in New South Wales - State officers, not Commonwealth officers - to forget all about it. He was told to get himself a good job and stick to it, because, they said, if he got a block of land, all that he would get would be a few pounds to erect buildings on it, a pat on the back, and wishes for good luck. He now has a property in Western Australia. I shall deal with that in a- few moments.
If Opposition members want to drag this sort of thing into the debate, let them first look to the record of the principal States because on every occasion over the last few years, whilst the loan market may have been cut down 25 per cent., it will be found that the amount required for war service land settlement has been cut down 50 per cent, and more by some of the principal States. As I said earlier, the position in New South Wales is absolutely disgraceful. Those honorable gentlemen who are so prone to criticize this Government should go back to their own States and ask what is being done for the lads who have returned from service in Korea and Malaya. The principal States demanded this legislation. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) may giggle and complain, but he should1 ask Mr. Foley, the Queensland Minister for Lands, what he is doing for exservicemen, not only of World War II. but also of Korea and Malaya.
– What is the answer?
– As every one knows, there is no answer. Those men have been given nothing, and it does not look as if they will ever be given anything. I do not know the reason, but it is a heavy indictment of the Queensland Government especially, for not standing up to its responsibilities. Long ago that Government demanded of Mr. Curtin that it be able to undertake this work on its own, and this is what the Premier of Queensland said at a Premiers conference in 1944-
In Queensland, we work on the leasehold principle, and for that reason are naturally disposed to enter the scheme as a principal. To do otherwise would be to make the State Government a kind of absentee landlord.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Melbourne says, “ Hear, hear”.
– I believe in leasehold.
– The honorable member is apparently supporting the action of the Queensland Government. The Premier of that State said further -
It is our wish to make soldier settlement fit’ into our general scheme of land settlement. We recognize that defence is entirely a Commonwealth responsibility, and that land settlement is primarily a State responsibility.
He said that at a Premiers conference which was held from the 3rd to the 5th October, 1944. That was when the whole problem began.
– That was a long time ago.
– It has been far too long. Queensland, in electing to become a principal State, was guilty of a disgraceful exhibition. If the honorable member for Herbert supports its action, he- should be ashamed of himself. Of course, he would not know. He is the best example of the kind of animal that usually runs around barbers’ shops that I have ever seen. These States supported the proposal right, left and centre, but when they were given an opportunity to stir themselves up and get on with the job they adopted all the tricks to which we have become accustomed, and finally the whole thing broke down. Even now, when they have been offered an extra £1,000,000, which would settle at least a few men on the land, they have turned that down too.
– The Federal Government wanted to dictate to the States.
– The honorable member has been subject to dictation for so long that he knows nothing else. He has been dictated out of a job and, as he has only two nights left to him in this Parliament, he ought to be happy and enjoy them.
A few night ago, when the Estimates were being discussed, the question of war service land settlement was brought up. I should like to give honorable members some idea of what is happening in the agent States. One of my colleagues from Western Australia referred to the case of a man with 800 ewes who was expected to pay off an impossibly large sum annually. We have an assessment arrangement which the wealthy States such as New South Wales do not have. A settler is not asked to meet the full commitments until the property will carry the quantity of stock, or produce the yield, that was originally intended. Before he is asked to go out into the cold, cold snow and is put in the hands of the “rural” bank or some other bank, he must have been able, for two years in succession, to meet his commitments. Until he can do that he is not pushed from under the protective wing of the settlement authority. Take the example of a man with a property that is capable of carrying 900 ewes, 100 wethers, eighteen rams, ten cows and one bull.
– Plenty of bull is coming from the other side of the House at the moment.
– Honorable members opposite do not even know the facts of life. Because I say that a farm is carrying eighteen rams and one bull, they begin to make comments. On the 10th December, the electors should send them, not here but to the kindergarten. We should then probably be able to put a lot more legislation through this Parliament, for the ultimate benefit of the man on the land. We used to have here an honorable member who was nick-named, “ The New England Bull “, but I would not give the honorable member for Herbert even the title, “ The Herbert Bull “. The figures that I shall give are conservative and have been checked by my colleagues. In the case I mention, the gross income is £5,268. After allowance is made for replacements and the selling of wethers and lambs - the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) will understand this- the settler is left with £4,062. His operating cost in this and similar areas would be about £2,360. This would leave him with a clear profit of about £1,700.
– The honorable member should-
– Order ! The honorable member for Wannon will cease interrupting.
– In the agent States, a settler is not asked to meet full commitments until his farm is capable of carrying to full capacity. During the four or five years when the farm is being brought up to that stage, the settler need pay only a percentage of the rental, interest and so on. If the money is not raised by the settlement authority in a particular year, it is completely written off, and the Commonwealth and States carry the whole of the indebtedness. One does not find that happening in the principal States, yet the honorable member for Parkes and other honorable members choose to come to this Parliament and criticize the scheme, which is one of the grandest land settlement schemes ever devised.
My greatest objection is to honorable members who will not take the trouble to learn the details of the scheme. From touring the agent States - I have not had time to go completely around the principal States - I have found that invariably such problems as have arisen have been caused by State and Federal members talking a lot of rot to the settler. That can be borne out by the Minister, the Director of War Service Land Settlement and the various State administrators. The sooner these honorable members try to understand the scheme, the better they will serve themselves, land settlement generally, and the ex-servicemen whom we hope to settle on the land.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I shall be as brief as possible, for both my own sake and that of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who, perhaps inadvertently, now that I have considered it, made a statement regarding some alleged action of mine some years ago in relation to legislation that would affect exservicemen and would impose a means test on a service pensioner. That matter has been thrashed out in a previous debate. The honorable member will see that if he refers to Hansard. I merely wish to say that I neither voted on the matter nor spoke in its favour. Rather did I approach the Minister at the table and ask him to move an amendment to exempt servicemen from this impost when the bill went through the Senate. So my mind and conscience are perfectly clear upon this matter. It was debated here previously, and the same attitude was taken up by the honorable member for Canning, but the honorable and gallant member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who is not in his place tonight, rose and put the position fairly. I refer to the relevant copies of Hansard in regard to this matter.
– How did he vote?
– Nobody voted.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), in his quietly spoken way, has put himself before this House to-night as an expert, apparently, on all matters associated with the land and with farming, agricultural and grazing pursuits.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear !
– I understand that he has some particular experience in the heat treatment of wheat and haystacks, and he has on previous occasions put himself before the House as an expert. I can recall that a year or so ago, when I used the forms of this House to discuss war service land settlement within the Australian Capital Territory, and suggested that a station pro- perty known as “ Booroomba “, which hadelonged to the late Sir Keith Murdoch and was then a portion of his estate, should be resumed by this Government and used for war service land settlement, the honorable member for Canning, who spoke in support of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), said that the proposition was completely foolish. I had suggested, in reply to an interjection, that the station property could be broken up into eight farms for settlement by exservicemen. The records of this Parliament show that the honorable member for Canning said at the time that if I had known anything at all about the land I would have known that the property was completely unsuitable for subdivision. The property was sold within a matter of days, and in less than a fortnight the new owner had subdivided the property into eight farms, and had sold those eight farms, retaining about 4,000 or 5,000 acres, at a very substantial profit. So much for the expert advice of the honorable member for Canning. I should prefer to take the advice of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who comes from that very salubrious part of Australia known as Currabubula, and who has a very strong rural background.
The Commonwealth has a great responsibility in the matter of War service land settlement. I remind the House, as I have done before, that the Australian Government is the one that makes the appeal to the nation in time of war. It is the Commonwealth that seeks to attract men to the armed services in time of need! It is the Commonwealth that makes the promises to those servicemen when they go to serve this country, and I suggest that it is the Commonwealth that has the great responsibility of seeing that those promises are honoured, not just in the year or two after the war but in the 10, 15 or 20 years after the war. I believe that ex-servicemen are not being given the justice that they deserve.
I have heard a great deal about land values- from honorable members on the Government side. Let us have a little thought for the value of the exservicemen. “We put a great value on their services when we wanted them in 1942 and 1943, but we prefer to put a firmer value on the land to-day than on the men who should he farming that land and who should be helped ‘by this Government to a much greater degree than they are being helped. It is the custom for Government supporters, who pride themselves on having 75 per cent, of ex-servicemen among their ranks, when they speak on any of these measures, to deride and belittle the efforts of State governments, and to refuse to face up to the responsibilities that this Australian Government has to ex-servicemen, and which I suggest it fails to honour.
– Bunkum !
– I have heard a great deal of bunkum from the Minister and from honorable members on the Government side. I have heard a great deal about the Labour party, ‘about the Australian Country party, and about the Liberal party, and about this State government and that State government. But let us now hear a litle about the ex-servicemen, and about the needs of ex-servicemen who want to go on the land. That is precisely what I propose to tell the House, and let the blame fall where it will. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who was at the table previously, and who has been popping in and out of the chamber .tonight like Pinnochio, said he would like to hear some concrete examples of cases of ex-servicemen who have been excluded from ballots for war service land settlement. I have had occasion within recent months to take up the cases of several in 6he Australian Capital Territory who are eligible, by reason of the qualification certificates that they hold, to apply for admission to ballots in the State of New South Wales.
– Take it up with the New South Wales Labour Government.
– I propose to tell the Minister, if he will be a little patient, of the action I have taken in these cases. There have been five or six of them in recent months, and in each case I have made representations to the Minister for Lands in New South Wales. I shall read the terms of my letters for the benefit of the Minister who is no longer in the chamber and also of other members who may wish to hear of some concrete examples. On the 27th July, 1955, I wrote to the Minister for Lands on behalf of a constituent of mine named T. S. H. Southwell, who lives in the suburb of Ainslie. He is the holder of a qualification certificate, and had been advised by the War Service Land Settlement Board that it was proposed to exclude his application from a ballot to be held at Boorowa on the 15th August in respect of the Bookham estate, apparently on the ground that he had not had sufficient recent experience on the land. In my letter to the Minister I said this -
I have advised Mr. Southwell to write to the Board submitting his case for reconsideration.
I feel very strongly that it is completely wrong for Mr. Southwell to be excluded from a ballot of this kind, for the reasons I shall set out.
Conversation being audible,
– If the Minister for the Interior and the honorable member for Parkes will restrain themselves, I shall continue.
Mr. Southwell, before the war, had a rural lease in the A.C.T. which he ran as a sheep property. In order to enlist and serve his country he disposed of this lease.
After demobilization he returned to Canberra and he worked for 15 or 18 months with the Lands Section of the Department of the Interior. Since then he has worked in the Transport Section, his aim being to save sufficient to finance him in starting on a block when he should be successful in a ballot.
He has participated in 30 to 40 ballots, the most recent of which was for “ Boolaroo “ last year.
Mr. Southwell is a member of one of the great pioneering families of this district. He has an extensive knowledge of the land, and is fully competent to conduct a sheep grazing property. He is 46 years of age.
I repeat that to vie it is completely wrong that this ex-serviceman should be excluded from a ballot for the type of property he is most eminently fitted to conduct.
– I agree with the honorable member, but I suggest that he see Joe Cahill.
-The relevant paragraph in the reply dated the 11th August, 1955, which I received from the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, a man for whom I have the greatest respect, is as follows: -
As you know, under the law the admission or exclusion of an application from ballot is a matter entirely within the discretion of the
War Service Land Settlement Board, which functions as a judicial body, and I have no power to direct the Board or override its decision in this regard. However, I shall be pleased to bring your representations to the notice, of the Board.
The Board consists of three ex-servicemen, only one of whom is an officer of my Department. The remaining two members represent the R.S.S. & I.L.A. and the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen. and Women, and the constitution of the Board is such as should ensure sympathetic consideration to all ex-servicemen.
Mr. Southwell should continue making application for the various ballots and if he receives notice that the Board proposes to exclude his application, he should use every effort to appear personally before the Board, or ensure that he makes full representations in writing to the Chairman of the Board by the date shown in the notice.
That is but one of the eases that I have put forward, and I propose to carry it a little further very shortly. This applicant did take his application to the War Service Land Settlement Board for reconsideration, and I propose shortly to read to this House the case that he submitted, and the result it achieved. But there are so many ex-servicemen holding qualification certificates for sheep-grazing and other farming pursuits being excluded from ballots on the ground that they have not had sufficient experience in the particular class of farming! That seems to me to be completely wrong, as I have said in the letter. I can substantiate the claims of many of these men that they have kept themselves in touch with modern developments. In any event, I do not think that a man who knows sheep-grazing ever forgets it. At least he can keep in touch with modem developments that may be taking place. In order to get some idea of the qualifications that an ex-serviceman was required to fulfil, I wrote to the chairman of the War Service Land Settlement Board on the 27th September, 1955, in these terms -
Several of my constituents who hold qualification certificates for sheep raising and pastoral activities have, in recent months, been excluded from ballots for grazing blocks on the following estates : - “ Collendina “ and “ Bookham “.
In all cases the reason for exclusion was that the applicant had had insufficient recent experience in this class of farming.
In each of about four cases I made representations to the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Hawkins, and was informed by him that although he could not direct the Board or override its decision he would bring my representations to the notice of the Board. Frankly, I find some of the decisions of the Board very hard to understand.
I quote particularly the case of Mr. T. S. H. Southwell, of 25 Tom’s-crescent, Ainslie, who had previously participated in 30 or 40 ballots and whose case was put to the Minister by me on 27th July, 1955.
In submitting Mr. Southwell’s case I pointed out to the Minister that Mr. Southwell had held a rural lease in the A.C.T. before the war and that he disposed of this sheep property in order to enlist, and serve his country. 1 pointed out that Mr. Southwell was a member of one of the great pioneering families of this district, that he had an extensive knowledge of the land and that he was fully competent to conduct a sheep-raising property. I pointed out further that Mr. Southwell had served for fifteen or eighteen months after demobilization with the Lands Section of the Department of the Interior and that since then, while applying regularly for ballots, he had taken a jo”b in the Transport Section in order to save sufficient to finance him in starting on a -block when he should be successful in a ballot.
If a man such as this is to be excluded then I must ask what qualifications must a man have to be admitted to a ballot? I ask that question because it seems clear to me that if Mr. Southwell had taken a poorly paid job on a farm, which would have given him little opportunity to save, he would have been eligible for ballots.
– Ask Mr. Hawkins.
– That is the. reason that has been given for the exclusion of this man. My letter continues -
Other constituents on whose behalf I have made representations-
Here I quoted several names and addresses for the benefit of the chairman of the War Service Land Settlement Board, and concluded my letter with these words -
So that I may advise these men and other constituents, would you please set out for me the conditions which must he fulfilled to render an applicant, who is the holder of a qualification certificate, eligible for participation in ballots.
The reply I received, dated the 20th October, 1955, over the signature of Mr. McGinty, chairman of the War Service Land Settlement Board, says -
It is regretted that I have been unable to reply earlier owing to my absence from Sydney on other ex-servicemen matters.
As pointed out in the Minister’s letter of 11th August, 1955, the War Service Land Settlement Board functions as a judicial body.
In dealing with conflicting applications by ex-servicemen, the Board are guided by Section 28 of the Closer Settlement Act, 1904; Section 10 of the Closer Settlement (Amendment) Act, , 1916 and Regulation 17 under the Closer Settlement Acts.
I may add that before excluding any application, the Board sends written notice of the proposed exclusion to the applicant to afford him an opportunity to make further representations, either personally or in writing.
– In what State is that?
– That reply comes in answer to my specific question as to what qualifications ex-servicemen must hold in order to be admitted to ballot. The acts mentioned in the last letter quoted by me do not relate to war service land settlement; they are the Closer Settlement Acts of the New South Wales Parliament.Regulation 17 of the Closer Settlement Acts of New South Wales reads -
The Local Land Board in dealing with applications lodged simultaneously may, at its discretion -
direct that a ballot be held to determine priority among the applications of those applicants it deems more eligible;
allow the application which secures priority at the ballot;
refuse the applications of those applicants it deems less eligible and those applications which fail to secure priority at ballot; or
select an applicant from those it deems more eligible, allow his application and refuse all other applications.
In response to the invitation that he approach the War Service Land Settlement Board, my constituent, Mr. Southwell, wrote to the chairman of the War Service Land Settlement Board on the 27th July, 1955 submitting further evidence as to why his claim for reconsideration shouldcome before it.
– What board is that?
– The War Service Land Settlement Board of New South Wales.
– Is it a State board?
– I have said that I am speaking for ex-servicemen and I wish to have justice done to exservicemen. I am not talking of governments or political parties.
– The honorable member belongs to a political party.
– This is the War Service Land Settlement Board of New South Wales.
– Is it a State board?
– It is a State board. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) is now happy. This letter is written by Mr. Southwell in support of his application for reconsideration of his admission to a ballot -
I was born in 1909 on my father’s farm midway between Yass and Queanbeyan. I lived on the farm which consisted of about 1,147 acres, running approximately 1,000 sheep during all my school days, doing all the small jobs which could be done by me. In leaving school in 1924 I remained helping my father on the farm which was used for wool-growing, breeding sheep for replacements, also growing of fodder crops. From leaving school in 1924 to my marriage in 1935 whilst assisting my father during most months of the year, I also engaged in seasonal work in various parts of New South Wales, mainly shearing. In 1933 my father transferred about 470 acres to me which I ran on my own account till my, marriage in 1935. I then sold this portion and bought an A.C.T. pastoral lease nearHall, A.C.T., consisting of 670 acres where for about five years I engaged wool-growing and breeding, then for two years also bred fat lambs. In January, 1942, I enlisted in the A.I.F. and consequently bad to sell the lease. On my discharge in 1946 I secured a job with the Lands Section, Department of the Interior, in the belief that work on land was what I was most suited and also work which I liked best, but in September, 1947,I transferred to the Transport Section, Department of the Interior because it offered better wages enabling me to give my two children a better education and provide more amenities for my wife and children. My sole reason for selling my property in 1942 was to enlist in the A.I.F. of my own free will. If I had not sold and enlisted I would now be in a sound financial position.I have no regrets about enlisting, all I ask now is a chance to go back to what I consider my proper vocation. Since my discharge I have been admitted for numerous ballots in New South Wales. On looking through my papers I have records of being admitted for ballots for 25 estates, but I estimate there are another 10 to 15 ballots of which I have misplaced the records.
I have numerous relations on the land in this district, also numbers of grazier friends. Through visits to their properties and a keen interest, I have kept in touch with latest - trends particularly as related to pasture improvement. During the last eight years since working shift work with Transport (working week-ends and having days off during the week) I have periodically engaged in casual crutching and wood cutting on several local properties on my days off, and therefore have been able to keep in very close touch with latest developments on these properties. I am and have been for years a subscriber to, and a reader of The Land newspaper, which I think gives a very good account of modern farm .practices. In renewing my sincere request for inclusion in the ballot for all blocks on “ Bookham” I respectfully ask you to consider the information I have given you.
Your faithfully, (Sgd.) T. S. H. Southwell.
In a postscript, he added -
During 1933 and 1934 I took a course in woolclassing and sheep breeding conducted at Queanbeyan.
The reply to that was that he had been omitted from the ballot, and the reason given was -
It is considered that your claims to priority for a Closer Settlement Lease are not comparable to those of the other applicants owing to your absence from sheep work.
– What have they to do to gain admission to the ballots ?
– That is what E want to know. What has a man to do to be qualified to participate in a war service land settlement ballot? The blame cannot be shifted entirely from the Australian Government, which must honour the undertakings that it gave to the soldiers. This Government should make money available to the principal and the agent States for war service land settlement. I suggest that the ability of the States to settle ex-servicemen on the land is largely limited by the finance made available by the Commonwealth. It is apparent, from the cases that have come to my notice in this small community, that there exists what at least seems to be a definite policy of excluding from the ballots ex-servicemen such as the man whose case I have just cited. If that is the way war service land settlement is to be finalized here, it is utterly disgraceful.
– It is all done by the New South Wales “Labour Government. Blame your own Labour colleagues.
– The Minister for the Interior wants to criticize the States, but let us have a look at the- Territory under his own administration. The ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory make provision for the Minis ter to grant leases in this Territory for war service land settlement to soldier settlers, as they were called in the days when the ordinances were drafted.
– Then it will be necessary to allow every one in all the States to come in.
– If the Minister wishes to talk about just terms for the resumption of land, in relation to which the New South Wales Government has been criticized, let us look at another bill, which has been passed by the Senate and is almost through this House. It provides for the Commonwealth to pay just terms for land acquired in the Australian Capital Territory. The opportunity to settle ex-servicemen on the land is available. Large freehold properties owned by absentee landlords, and admirably suited to war service land settlement,, are available. The necessary means are available to the Minister, because the ordinances of the Territory authorize him to acquire these lands and to make them available to soldier settlers. A measure introduced by the Government very recently - the Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Lands Acquisition Bill 1955 - provides for the repeal of that section of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act which limited compensation to values as at the 8th October, 1908, and provides for the payment of just compensation. What is preventing the Minister and the Government from acting in the Commonwealth’s own Territory? The Minister should not criticize the States. Here is a territory completely controlled by the Commonwealth, which has unfettered power here. Bich grazing properties that are admirably suited to subdivision for war service land settlement, and are held by absentee owners, are readily available. The Minister has power to acquire those properties and subdivide them in the interests of ex-servicemen, but he has consistently refused to do so. There is no excuse for his refusal to act.
If the Government wants to criticize the State administrations and pass the buck on this subject of war service land settlement, let it first look to its own territories and see whether it has done anything in the interests of war service land settlement in the Australian Capital
Territory, where it has complete power, or, indeed, in the Northern Territory, where it has complete power also. Would not Mr. Southwell have liked a block on one of the properties available for war service land settlement in the Territory in which he resides ? Would such a block not have’ been suitable for him? Would he not have been suited to it? Does the Government take any real interest in war service land settlement? Does it really care about the fate of ex-servicemen who have been wanting for years to settle on the land and who cannot do so ? Of course it does not. I suggest that the case I have cited is typical of many. Mr. Southwell should not be denied the opportunity he wants to settle on the land. There are many land-hungry exservicemen and there are land-greedy absentee landlords who use their influence to prevent those ex-servicemen from obtaining land.
I could mention also the case of Booroomba station, to which I have referred before. The Minister and the honorable member for Canning stated that it was not suitable for subdivision for war service land settlement, but within three weeks of their making those statements the property was subdivided and many of the blocks were sold.
– It did not measureup to war service land settlement standards.
– It measures up to maintaining families in suitable style. The wool clip from that property, before it was subdivided, was worth approximately £83,000 in one year.
– How many acres does the property comprise?
– It comprises 13,000 acres of freehold and 13,000 acres of leasehold. The honorable member cannot make me believe that a property with an annual wool clip valued at approximately £83,000, and admirably suited to subdivision, should not be subdivided for war service land settlement. Not one resident land-owner would have been dispossessed had the Government acted, but it refused to act. The land was subdivided and most of it was sold privately at a very substantial profit. The Government stands condemned for its failure to take the interests of ex-servicemen to heart. Its lack of interest in exservicemen makes a hollow sham of its boast that it has 75 per cent, of its supporters ex-servicemen. Let those ex-servicemen in the ranks of the Government look at the position in the territories that it controls and see whether the Government is innocent of blame.
– How many exservicemen could be settled in the Australian Capital Territory? They would fall off the edge.
– The Government could settle some of those who have been disappointed in their search for land. Surely they are entitled to be settled. The Government controls this territory and it must be judged on its administration here. In that judgment, it falls far short of what it should be doing in the interests of ex-servicemen.
.- Bills similar to this one have been debated in the Parliament year after year, and every year we have heard the same old arguments. On the second last evening of this sessional period, I do not want to become involved in any violent argument with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) or anyone else. At this stage, I should like to wish good health and a pleasant retirement to the honorable member for Wannon who does not intend to contest his seat again. Although he and I have had many arguments in this chamber, I wish him well. We have argued in the House, but we have always been on friendly terms, and I hope that our friendly relationship will continue. The honorable member for Parkes has been condemned on several counts. I can say only that I find him helpful towards the interests of ex-servicemen. On a number of occasions, he has supported me in relation to payments to former prisoners of war, and I have supported him a number of times. Therefore, I do not wish to condemn him out of hand.
Several facts about this measure should be known. It will make available for war service land settlement £8,500,000, of which £4,000,000 will be paid to the principal States and £4,500,000 to the agent States. Bills providing for payment of large amounts of money to the agent States for the purpose of soldier settlement have been before the House on various occasions. It has always amazed me that we have never heard any honorable member of the Opposition who comes from an agent State speak on the subject at all. We have heard the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) who comes from an agent State, namely, “Western Australia. To-night I have listened very carefully on this occasion and the last two occasions on which the matter has been before us, but so far no Opposition member from an agent State has said a word. Is it not logical that if the agent States were dissatisfied with the treatment they were receiving from the Federal Government, honorable members from those States would protest? Why do they not protest if they are not satisfied? The agent States are South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. As I said when we debated this subject before, we must acknowledge that the Federal Government is doing a pretty good job of soldier settlement, when no protest is made by honorable members who represent electorates in those States.
The honorable member for Parkes condemned the Federal Government, but all the time he was speaking about State soldier settlement legislation. To the end of his speech he continued to talk along those lines. Any one listening in who did not know the facts would, quite logically, think the Federal Government was on the wrong track and was treating ex-servicemen badly, but all the matters pertaining to the State of New South Wales to which he referred are under the control of the New South Wales Government. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) admitted, after an interjection from the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), that he was referring to the New South Wales War Service Land Settlement Board, and he condemned it roundly. I compliment the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory for condemning openly a board which is under the jurisdiction of the party to which he belongs. I do not think for one moment that the honorable member for Parkes really intentionally tried to mislead the people, but there is not the slightest doubt that any one listening in would form quite a wrong view of the relative worth of the Commonwealth and the States in the field of soldier settlement. The honorable member for Parkes said that in the purchase of land for soldier settlement, governments were “ pressurized “ by the land-holder for high prices. Of course, we well know that, especially in New South Wales and Queensland, governments are eager to acquire land at 1942 values. When we, on this side of the House, object to that procedure, they immediately say, “ This land is for the soldiers. It should be acquired at 1942 values”. In a contradictory way, the honorable member fo? Parkes said that the people should pay for the satisfactory settlement of exservicemen on the land. That is something which I have always maintained in this House. As the honorable member for Canning said, when men went overseas to protect this country, they fought for the man who has a big emporium in Melbourne or Sydney, the man in the orchard, the man in the factory, the tramdriver, and all the other people of this great country. When land is acquired, it should be paid for out of the taxation that the people of Australia pay into Consolidated Revenue, but if Labour had its way, it would make individual persons pay for soldier settlement.
What I am about to say I have said before, but I believe that I am entitled to repeat it because we have had tedious repetition to-night. The New South Wales Government, when acquiring land for soldier settlement at 1942 values, may pay £10 an acre for a farm, whereas the man next door may perhaps obtain £30 an acre for his farm on the open market. The farmer, whose property is acquired at £10 an acre, is being penalized to assist the States to settle ex-servicemen at a cheap rate. I have always said that when ex-servicemen obtain their land permanently they must obtain it at a value which will make it possible for them to earn a good income. Therefore, some years must elapse before the ultimate price of the land is finally considered. Then it must be written down to a price at which the ex-servicemen can do well. Many years have to pass because in most parts of Australia this is the tenth good year. We have been blessed with bountiful seasons in this great Commonwealth, with productive crops, good grass, fat stock, and, on occasions, high prices for wool and you cannot base average productive value on these years. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that the property known as Booroomba should have been acquired for soldier settlement. He cited the price of the wool clip, and I venture to say that he cited the 1951-52 value, when the price of wool rose higher than at any other time in Australian history.
There is not a great deal to say about this subject. Every one wants to see all the ex-servicemen settled. Why should the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory say, “ This man cannot get on the land, after having a qualifying certificate for a certain time”? He said that the ex-serviceman had gone into some other job in the meantime and had ceased to be eligible. But who has decided that? It is the State Government, not the Federal Government. These matters must be clarified. It has been said that the Federal Government promised land settlement to the boys when they went away, and that now, on their return, it should see that they are settled. It is well known that the Commonwealth wanted to have full control of soldier settlement, but the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland said that they wanted to retain their sovereign rights and that they would not allow the Federal Government to participate in war service land settlement to the extent that it desired. As a matter of fact, this bill provides for the payment of £4,000,000 to Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland could also have had a large amount of money, but it refused to accept it. It must be remembered that the States provide money for this purpose out of the general amount made available by the Australian Loan Council. It is most strange that over the years, although the Australian Government has been paying to the States a steadily increasing amount of money, the percentage being made available for soldier settlement by the principal States has been decreasing. There are Labour governments in Queensland and New South Wales, and until recently there was one in Victoria, and the percentage made available by those governments has been cut to the bone. I should have thought that if those States, which are often described in such fine terms by honorable members opposite, wanted to settle ex-servicemen on the land, they would have maintained the percentage at its original level, and, indeed, increased it.
What is the position in the agent States? The agent States, generally speaking, are under the control of the Commonwealth for this purpose. If the agent States - Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia - were not satisfied with what was being done for them, honorable members opposite would rise in their places to protest. I give them credit for that, or I hope I can. But if we read through the Hansard reports of the last two debates on this subject, we find that no member of the Opposition from those States rose to protest against what was being done. If some honorable members opposite who come from the agent States rise to speak when I have finished, you will not take that very seriously, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because one can goad people into doing almost anything. If, of their own free will, and because of a feeling of frustration or of indignation at the Government’s actions, they were to rise, without having been goaded into it, there would be some cause to look further into the proposition that has, on so many occasions, been put before the House. .
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Acting Deputy Speaker - Me. J. McLeay.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1753).
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 503), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- If ever a man gave himself a pat on the back when he introduced a piece of important legislation, it was the venerable and right honorable Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page).
– It was well earned.
– I do not say that it was well earned, because the Minister, as the right honorable member for Cowper, like every other member of the Australian Country party and most members of the Liberal party, opposed the 1946 Constitution amendment which made this legislation possible. But now the right honorable member for Cowper is the Minister for Health. If any one listened to his speech or paid him the compliment of reading it after he had delivered it, he or she would have been inclined to believe that this legislation was dear to his heart and that he had been waiting for years to introduce it. If the members of the Australian Country party and of the Liberal party, with the exception of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), had had their way in 1946, the amendment of the Constitution that conferred upon this Parliament the power to legislate in respect of social services would never have been agreed to, and the present Government would not now be introducing legislation to grant money to the States to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities to the mentally sick. I note that the Minister has just entered the chamber. I repeat for his benefit that, if he had had his way in 1946, the Parliament would not have the constitutional power to pass this legislation.
– Tes, it would have.
– It is of no use for the right honorable gentleman to quote section 96 of the Constitution, which empowers the Commonwealth to give grants in aid, because, if, under that section, it is valid for this Government to exercise the responsibility that it has assumed in introducing this legislation, why did not the right honorable gentleman, when he was the tragic Treasurer of Australia from 1922 to 1929, do this very thing?
– ‘Because the then Government was doing a good job.
– Order ! There is too much noise at the table.
– There are too many competitive noises. The Minister knows very well, when he talks about the great work that has been done by Dr. Stoller and the valuable contribution that the Stoller report has made to the study of mental illness, that no credit is due to the right honorable gentleman as leader of the Australian Country party in former days, because that party always opposed clothing the Commonwealth with adequate power to deal with social services. In that respect, he was no better than every member of the Liberal party other than the present Prime Minister.
– - What about the industrial powers referendum of 1926?
– It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to talk about what he wanted to do in relation to industrial powers. I voted in favour of the 1926 referendum, but let me remind the Minister that he wanted to clothe the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and not the Par liament with those industrial powers. I supported the right honorable gentleman then. But when he comes along and praises a piece of legislation of this kind, he is like a sinner at a penitent’s stool. He introduced the bill by saying -
To appreciate the necessity for and wisdom of the Australian Government’s approach, by means of a substantial contribution towards capital buildings and equipment, to the Australian mental disease problem, it is necessary to recapitulate the history of the attitude of governments to this problem.
I ask, “ What governments “ ?
– State governments.
– Precisely. State governments have dealt with this problem of the unfortunates over the years, and it is only now that the present Minister for Health has seen fit to assist the State governments to carry out the responsibilities that they say it is the duty of this Government to discharge.
– What did the Australian Labour party do while it was in office ?
– The right honorable gentleman asks what we did during the eight years that we were in office. Five of those years were war years. In the first post-war year, we took the power, by referendum, to give us the right to do what the present Government is now doing. Let me ask the right honorable gentleman what he did in relation to this problem between 1919, when he entered the Parliament, and 1941.
The Minister stated, in his secondreading speech, that things became so bad in Australian mental asylums that patients were sleeping in crowded conditions, and that hospitals which were designed to carry 600 patients properly were forced to carry 1,600 unfortunate people. He added -
This meant the destruction of all the essentials of treatment.
Whilst delivering his speech, he seemed to be lecturing the State governments about their responsibilities. He said finally, “We think that it is necessary to have at least another 10,006 beds. The Government -will provide £10,000,000 of the £30,000,000 that is necessary to provide those extra beds “. As the population of Australia grows, and because of the present tempo of living, it will be necessary to install more and more beds in these institutions, but all that this Government is doing is to provide £10,000,000 of the £30,000,000 that it regards as being the total amount required to overcome the problem. It says, “We are making a contribution of £1 in £3 “. In Victoria alone the State Government is providing for an expenditure of £20,000,000 on mental asylum buildings, because most existing mental asylum buildings there are outmoded and outdated, and cannot be converted into modern buildings. In most cases the only way to deal with the problem is to scrap the old buildings and build completely new ones. The amount of money that the Government proposes to give does not represent actually £1 in £3. Prom figures that I have seen, it is something like £1 in £16. If the Government wants to give £1 in £3 it will have to increase its contribution .from £10,000,000 to at least £50,000,000, and even then it will not have properly tackled the problem. Medical science - of course, I am just a layman and can only repeat what I have heard - is suggesting to-day that many people who go into mental asylums are not irretrievably lost to society but can be cured. New and better methods of psychiatric treatment are being discovered or developed, and so a number of those who, in other years, would have been left in mental asylums, can now be rehabilitated and restored to society.
– Why is the honorable member stone-walling?
– I am not stonewalling, but I shall not assist in closing this parliamentary session just to satisfy people who have social engagements in Sydney and Melbourne to-morrow night. This is an important measure. This is the first time that an anti-Labour government has brought down a worthwhile piece of legislation in regard to mental treatment, and the Government wants the Parliament immediately to adopt the legislation without throwing the spotlight on its murky past, its past neglects, its sins of omission, and its failure to tackle this problem before.
– Let us look to the glorious future.
– There will not be a glorious future for this country if this Government lasts much longer in office, and that is so very true. The Minister made the following statement in his second-reading speech -
A measure of privacy for the mentally sick patients is indispensable. So also is room for occupational therapy.
I suppose that that is a medical fact; but the following priceless cliche” should not go unnoticed -
If the hands of the mental patients can be kept busy, in many cases their heads can be kept cool.
– That is right. It is one of the most important medical dicta.
– I shall not stir the right honorable gentleman up, because I have seen him in a very excited mood on more than one or two occasions. It is a cliche.
– It is not a cliche It is a very important medical fact.
– Very well, so it is a medical fact! Well, why has not the right honorable gentleman done something about it before this 1 Then, to let us see that we are still in the atmosphere of the university and the medical school, the right honorable gentleman said -
At first, all those desiderata were available at Callan Park and Gladesville in Sydney, at Kew in Melbourne . . .
And so on. All of those institutions are State-controlled institutions which needed money in the past, and would not, I repeat, have got a penny from the right honorable gentleman if he had had his way in the matter of social services at the time of the 1946 general election.
– That had nothing to do with it.
– It had everything to do with it.
– This is entirely due to section 96 of the Constitution.
– The right honorable gentleman may say that as often as he likes.
– It is true, all the same. ‘
– It is not true all the same. It is done under the social services power as well as under the power to. make grants-in-aid. Why did the right honorable gentleman not deal with the problem when he had the opportunity to do so before World War II.? He stands condemned out of his own mouth for his failure to tackle the problem. In any event, the present Government has been in power for six years. Why has it not tackled this problem in that time? Why has it waited until now to do something about it?
– The States would not have the agreement.
– Of course the States would take money!
– They would not change their agreement.
– They probably did not understand the right honorable gentleman when he went into conference to explain matters to them, and that, of course, would be quite understandable. Here is a huge pretence. In his secondreading speech, after having dealt with conditions in hospitals, and having talked about the invasion of recreation apace in the hospitals for bedrooms, and about day rooms being taken over, and even verandahs and kitchens and pantries, he said -
It was also found impossible any longer to give the doctor a special room in which to examine patients and find out, by gaining the confidence of each patient, the complexes that were the cause of his nervous disorder.
When was that discovered? Just the other day?
– It has been true all the time.
– For how long? For 40 years?
– It has been true for 100 years.
– Then the right honorable gentleman is at least 100 years behind the times. He has admitted it has been known for a century.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. McLeay). - ‘Order! Interjections are out of order. The honorable member for Melbourne will address the Chair. -
– Yes, sir. I have been trying to address you. The right honorable gentleman has been in politics for 36 years.
– Too long!
– Of course, too long ! He has said that this position has existed for 100 years, and after 36 years in politics he has decided to do something about the matter. In his second-reading speech he went on to say -
This overcrowding limited the chances of single rooms for acutely sick patients or patients who could not stand other patients near them. Even general patients of all sorts, in all stages of mental disease, were crammed into common rooms which became both dayrooms and bedrooms.
These facts were known to State directors of health over the years. They have asked for assistance from the Commonwealth, and no assistance has been given.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister says it is not nonsense.
– I still say it is nonsense.
– They asked Labour governments for help and got nothing. They asked for bread and were given a stone.
– Labour governments were in power during the last war, but the right honorable gentleman has been in this Parliament for 36 years, and in that period Labour governments have been in office for a total of only ten years. During the remaining 26 years, the right honorable gentleman did nothing to deal with this problem. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) knows full well that he is just as culpable as his ex-leader for the failure to do anything about this problem. If the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech had made no admission of, and paid no tribute to, the work, done by the State Governments ; if it had paid tribute to the labours of State governments of all political complexions over a long period of years, it might have had some merit. But, from beginning to end, the speech contains no such praise for the States. I have waded through it, and suffered in spirit in doing so, and I could not find one single tribute paid to the State governments for the work they have done in connexion with this problem. This is the new Adam who is going to set everything right at last. I think he should at least have been generous to those who have handled this problem up to date. He could have been more generous in giving more money to the State governments to enable them to do the work they want to do. The right honorable gentleman said that the first, the most important and indispensable step to remove the condition of affairs existing, was to provide accommodation to overcome overcrowding. He creates the impression that his Government is overcoming the overcrowding. He said -
The provision of this accommodation . . . will substantially reduce the maintenance costs of hospitals, and, more importantly, may easily restore to civil life many patients who otherwise would simply be absorbed into the whirlpool of the permanent mentally disordered.
This is a mixture of a medical lecture and a bit of miserable special pleading. This is an unctuous statement which is completely unconvincing. The existing hospitals have given good service, and will continue to give good service, and they ought to be helped to give improved service. Why is it necessary, in these times, no matter how high the cost of building may be, to have to find £3,000 for each bed in each mental hospital? Capital expenditure of £3,000 for each patient in a mental hospital is an exceedingly high expenditure to have to meet. It was nothing like £3,000 a bed in equivalent money values at the time those hospitals were built. I am not saying that there was not overcrowding in other days or that there was the same scientific treatment of patients as there is now; but £3,000 seems to me to be too high an amount for a hospital bed.
Something should be done to bring down the building costs of hospitals, whether for the physically or mentally ill. If we are to pay £3,000 a bed for every hospital that we build, then the cost of hospital building will become a very heavy drain on our resources. I do not know why architects and others have to be paid the very high fees that they are always paid for these buildings. I do not know why the buildings cannot be standardized. I do not know why architects have to get their discount on every item of equipment that is purchased for the hospital ; but that does happen and architects’ charges are very high. Builders’ charges, of course, are high and I do not know whether the amount of money which is to be spent on mental hospitals and which is Commonwealth money, is to be spent under the cost-plus system or whether competitive tenders will be invited ; or whether any regard is being paid to the interests of the taxpayer who has to provide the necessary money.
But there is another delightful piece in the Minister’s speech which is worthy of note, and that is the section which says that for some time there has been widespread public. concern regarding conditions in State mental hospitals. For how long has there been this widespread public concern? Has it’ only arisen because of the Stoller report or was it in existence for many years before that report was prepared? With all my criticisms of the Minister for Health and of governments for their past neglect, I think, in the final analysis, that the general community itself has been responsible for the neglect which exists. We have put the mentally sick away and we wish that we would not have to be worried with them any further. Nobody wanted to raise any protest about existing conditions. Therefore, I suppose we can reach common ground when we say that it is a tragedy that there has been neglect for so long, and that the wide-spread public concern which now exists has only arisen because of the work that Dr. Stoller and his associates have done in exposing the shocking conditions that exist in our institutions.
I say to the Minister for Health that, whilst the bill is good, it is still not good enough. It is a good start, but we could do more. Whilst £10,000,000 is big money in anybody’s language, it has not very much value to State governments which claim that they have so much else to do with the money that is made available to them and which find, no matter what their plans might be in the future, that they will be limited, in the first place, to this donation by the Commonwealth and, in any case, by the amount of money made available each year in the grants which the Government makes to the States at the Premiers’ conferences under the uniform taxation legislation in order to enable them to discharge this and all the rest of their ordinary responsibilities.
– Stop stone-walling.
– The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) will not be here much longer to witness much more stone-walling or anything else, so he may as well enjoy what hours remain to him in this House, which he entered in 1949 and which he will leave permanently on the 10th December, 1955. I return to the bill. I was led astray and I apologize, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The bill has value. The bill has merit. Whilst I could have wished it well and sent it on its way with a few words, I wished to make some observations to show that the Minister for Health was not justified in indulging in a good deal of self-praise. He certainly has never exhibited any tendency to exercise the Communist practice of self-criticism. But at least he did, in speaking on this measure, wish it to be inferred that he is the man who has discovered how to deal with this problem. I think the House is grateful to Dr.
Stoller and his friends for what they have done. I hope that this legislation is but the fore-runner of other legislation which will help the States to deal with our unfortunate brethren who have been laid aside because of mental illness; whose fate, in the past, has been a matter of little public concern; and whose future may be made brighter by the scientific methods that will be introduced into these homes and by the provision for physical comfort which the bill will make. May it help the medical fraternity in their work of providing them with additional facilities to do a better job for these people about whose distress and about the care of whose illness we are just beginning to learn something of real merit.
– It was rather heartening, after a very discoursive speech from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to learn that, after all, he is really in favour of the bill. As he spent a large part of the time during which he was speaking in discussing matters which, if I may say so, had very little to do with the bill, I propose to go back and put before the House the reasons why this bill has been introduced, and some of the main facts concerned with it.
The bill, of course, is quite simple. It is merely a bill to appropriate a sum of money to assist the States in the provision of mental hospital facilities. But I think it is a good thing for us to have in perspective the reasons why the bill itself was necessary. There have been quite a long train of circumstances leading up to it but, in fact, they were the steadily worsening conditions prevailing in mental hospitals. I think it is proper for us all to realize that the condition of the mental hospitals, the provision of finance for them, and the management of those hospitals are and always have been a responsibility of the States.
There was, of course, an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, negotiated by the Government previous to this one, for the provision of finance for those institutions. But it was a totally unsatisfactory agreement for the reason that it only substituted one method of providing finance for another and did not, in fact, in any way increase the amount of funds available. However, the States were unwilling to have this agreement reviewed in spite of the fact that the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), shortly after assuming office, had offered to negotiate a fresh agreement with them. May I point out to the House what this agreement made available to the States in terms of money. In fact, it provided, per bed per day, for New South Wales, ls., for Victoria ls. 2d., for Queensland 10d., for South Australia 10d., for Western Australia 8d., and for Tasmania 9d. No agreement which provided such fantastically small amounts of money could be regarded by any one as really worth having.
– It did not deal with the problem.
– As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) points out, it did not deal with the problem at all. Nevertheless, the States wanted to cling to this agreement. At the same time, they wanted the Commonwealth to come to their assistance with more finance and this Government, very properly, decided that if it was to do so it must have a complete review of the situation. That review was made by Dr. Stoller and Mr. Arscott and has been published in the document known as %40 Stoller report. I should like to remind honorable members of what was revealed in the report. The Medical Journal of Australia, which has on many occasions over the years drawn the attention of the country to the problem, had this to say about the report -
It is not as if these tales were being told for the first time. They are not. For years past the directors of mental hospital departments in several of the States have in their annual reports to the Minister concerned laid bare the facts which Stoller and Arscott have set out. This journal has not been a silent observer of these reports. Over and over again during the years the reports have been discussed in these columns, particularly the New South Wales document, which hae invariably been the most shocking. The governmental neglect has been castigated in the strongest possible language. . . . Always it has been stressed that the medical heads of departments were in no way respon sible for the sorry state of affairs, but that they were being asked to do what was quite impossible.
The article goes on -
Dr. Stoller’s ideas have been set out in our precis of the report. Obviously, the first thing to be done is the provision of more accommodation.
As this is the responsible medical opinion on the subject, it is what the bill sets out to do. The Minister has recognized that the first and basic requirement is mora accommodation; that without it no real attack can he made on the problem; that there can be no satisfactory isolation of mental patients, without further accommodation, nor can their condition be properly investigated and treated. Under the present over-crowded conditions it is difficult to obtain the patient’s confidence so that his disease may be examined and a system of treatment devised and carried out. It is frequently quite impossible under the conditions described in the report to carry out successful shock therapy for instance. Of course, the report directs attention to worse things than the mere lack of facilities. It points out that in some institutions patients with open tuberculosis have to be nursed in close proximity to other patients. Inmates suffering from senility, pneumonia, surgical diseases and differing types of mental disorders are crowded together under the most wretched and unsatisfactory conditions.
The bill has been designed to take the first and most important step of remedying that state of affairs by providing a sum of money on which the States can build figuratively, on which they can build literally, by providing more accommodation for mental patients. It is designed to set in train the provision of 10,000 beds which will be a material contribution to the solution of the whole problem. It is, of course, easy to say that it is not enough, but this Government does not claim that it is the complete answer. It merely claims that it is an adequate first step. Honorable members must keep in mind that this is basically a State responsibility. In the last six years, the States have had in loan funds - quite apart from taxation reimbursements - the enormous sum of £620,000,000 Of this sum at least £350,000,000 could have been claimed by the Federal Government, but was forgone in order to assist the States. It is fantastic to suggest that State governments could not have diverted from other activities sufficient funds to have at least maintained the status quo in mental hospitals, and not let them slip further and further behind.
It is not necessary to make a long speech on this matter, but it is important to realize certain fundamental facts. First, this is a State responsibility. Second, the Commonwealth is, in a real and practical way, now coming to the assistance of the States. Thirdly, if the States had wished, they could have had this assistance earlier by scrapping the unsatisfactory agreements to which they clung for so long. Fourthly, I think that we should look a little ahead. It is not sufficient merely to make money available. In the past we have had experience- of that kind of thing in other fields, and I suggest that a limiting factor should be introduced. Unless the States can show that they are both willing to use, and capable of using, this money, and of matching it with their own contributions, some limit perhaps of time should be placed upon its availability. Otherwise there will be no guarantee that much of the money will not be deflected into other channels. If it is used efficiently other avenues of assistance may be opened later but this is the only real problem that we can discuss under this bill. It is the fundamental problem in dealing with mental diseases in Australia. This is the first time that there has been a provision of funds by the Commonwealth Government on a realistic basis to solve this problem, which is really a State responsibility. The problem has long been neglected. That has not been entirely the fault of any particular Government. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said, the problem has been neglected because of the general attitude of the country towards mental disease. That attitude has not been peculiar to Australia, but it has, perhaps, persisted here longer than elsewhere.
It is futile to bemoan what has happened in the past. The important thing is to do something now. . This bill represents a realistic approach. It is an approach on a practical basis. It is an attack, as I said before, on the fundamental problem which confronts us, and it is gratifying to know that it has the support of the Opposition in this Parliament. I believe that it is a first step for which the Minister can take great credit, and that it is complementary to the enormous amount of health legislation for which he has been responsible, and which has brought great benefits to the people of Australia, during his term as Minister for Health.
.- As always, the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has made a speech that does him credit. I do not entirely agree with all that he has said but, like him, I do not wish to prolong the debate by speaking at great length. It is a matter for regret that such an important measure should be introduced in the last hours of this Parliament. It deals with a problem of great magnitude and we might very well have spent much longer in considering the dire plight of those unfortunates who, because their minds have become clouded, are now inmates of mental institutions.
I believe that this matter has assumed the proportions of a national problem, and that it has become a national responsibility and not merely, as some honorable members seem to think, the exclusive responsibility of the States. A number of people to-day appear to think that the mentally afflicted must not even be discussed, or even referred to, except, in some case, in accents of loathing, as though they have reached their unfortunate position because of acts of their own. While it is true that there are cases of people who are inmates of institutions because of certain acts of their own, in the main their afflictions have been caused by the processes of senility or congenital defect weighing heavily upon their minds, aggravated by the increasing tempo of modern civilization. However, T agree with the honorable member for
Oxley that this hill may achieve something, although I believe that it will not achieve as much as it should.
I approach the bill, not with the object of decrying the Minister or the bill itself, but of merely submitting my points of view on the subject, so that they may be considered by the House. Of course, it is inevitable that most of the references made in the House will be backed by the report submitted by Dr. Alan Stoller on mental health facilities and the needs of Australia in that field. I think that great praise should be given to the two learned gentlemen who compiled this report. It is a monumental work, and it should be properly appreciated by the community. I suggest, however, that a careful analysis of the report will show very clearly that while the amount proposed in the bill is of quite commendable proportions, it falls short of what is required. I propose to deal somewhat extensively, but not, I hope, to the full limit of my time, with the Stoller report, and at the outset I point out that there are a couple of inaccuracies in the foreword to the report. That foreword was written by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), and it states -
This agreement- referring to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States - did not go to the root of the matter as it merely substituted one form of raising revenue for another without any overall increase and made no mention of improvement of methods of treatment.
That is true, but then the Minister goes on to say -
The Commonwealth Government has repeatedly stated its willingness to cancel that agreement and review the whole position de novo. The State governments rejected these suggestions and allowed the five years’ agreement to expire by effluxion of time.
That is not altogether correct. I have with me certain documents that were prepared by a former Minister for Health in the Victorian Government, and I believe what that gentleman has stated in these documents. In commenting on the preface to the report by the Minister for Health, he says -
While the statement is correct in so far as the cancellation of the agreement is concerned, the Commonwealth at no time made any offer to Victoria to review the whole position de novo.
– We made it repeatedly at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– Let me continue. The document goes” on -
He- meaning the Minister, in his foreword also stated : “ The State Governments rejected these suggestions and allowed the five years’ agreement to expire by effluxion of time “.
It is completely false to say that Victoria allowed the agreement to expire by effluxion of time. The agreement was for all time, subject to the possibility of termination after it had existed for five years, by notice of not less than one year given by either party. The record shows that it was terminated by the Commonwealth and not by Victoria.
In a letter dated the 29th July, 1953, the Acting Prime Minister, who is now the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), informed the Acting Premier of Victoria, the Honorable L. W. Galvin, as follows : -
I refer to my letter of the 22nd October, 1952, addressed to your predecessor conveying the proposal that my Government would be prepared to rescind the Mental Institutions Benefits Agreement at the earliest date suitable to both parties.
Since this matter was discussed at the Premiers’ Conference in July, 1952, my Government has given consideration to the request that the benefit rates be increased, but came to the conclusion that continuance of the Agreements would lead to an increasing burden on Commonwealth and State Governments. It was decided to offer to terminate the Agreement with any State if that course commended itself to that State.
The effect of the termination of the Agreement with your State would be that Commonwealth assistance towards the maintenance of patients in mental hospitals would cease, and the State would be free to make a charge for those patients who have the means to contribute something towards the cost of their maintenance.
The concluding part of the letter from which I am quoting, and which was signed by the present Treasurer, in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister, conveyed the following information, which contradicts the foreword of the Minister for Health to the Stoller report -
My Government does not propose to continue the Agreement any longer than is necessary under its contractual obligation. I, therefore, on behalf of the Commonwealth, give formal notice that the Mental Institutions Benefits Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria be terminated on the 31st July, 1954.
I do not think that the Minister will controvert that statement. I mention that matter in order that some errors in this report, which is a record for all time, may be corrected.
I have already said that the days when people were committed to places such as Bedlam and left to rot in incarceration have long passed, and there is a growing appreciation in the minds of humanitarian people that the treatment pf the mentally afflicted is something to be attempted, first, with an appreciation of the subject, and, secondly, with the idea that people should not necessarily die in squalor, as they did in the days of Bedlam, but that many of them can be saved by correct psychiatric treatment. Therefore, any scheme proposed by a government should envisage not only proper and adequate maintenance of the buildings and of the patients in those buildings, but should also embrace a comprehensive programme of psychiatric treatment. Apart altogether from the pathetic picture that is conjured up by the statement that nearly 30,000 Australians are inmates of mental institutions, there is a vast economic loss, because many of those people, with correct psychiatric treatment, could be restored to their normal places in the community. On that aspect I. quote the Stoller report. I use the year of this report as the basis of the figures that I shall give to the House. The report shows, at page 164, that in New South Wales the cost of maintenance of patients in mental institutions was £33,935,000. The economic loss to the community because of the incarceration of these people, because of the fact that they were taken, as it were, from the economic capacity of the com munity, was over £73,500,000. In Victoria, the. cost of maintenance was approximately £27,000,000 while the economic loss of patients in institutions was £47,500,000. In Queensland, the maintenance cost was nearly £13,500,000 and the economic loss almost £29,000,000. In South Australia, the maintenance cost was over £7,500,000 while the economic loss was nearly £15,000,000. In Western Australia, the maintenance cost was £3,250,000 and the economic loss over £6,000,000. In Tasmania, the maintenance cost was over £3,500,000 and the economic loss over £5,500,000. The total maintenance cost of all patients in mental institutions in the year to which this report relates was £80,000,000, but the economic loss to the community was £176,000,000. Adding the two totals, it will be seen that the overall cost to the community in maintenance and economic loss of those unfortunate people who could be restored with a proper but probably inexpensive course of psychiatric treatment is over £250,000,000 for the Commonwealth.
– That is over ten years.
– Yes, up to the base year when the report was made. It is quite true that it was for ten years.
– This bill will cover ten years.
– It will cover ten years, or any period. It would cover three years.
– It would be most unfair to suggest that the Minister is not privy to these particular details, or even to suggest that he is not unsympathetic to them, but I do say that the amount proposed in the bill is not adequate to meet the needs of the community.
There are in the report other matters that may give a more indelible impression of what is required if the mentally afflicted are to be dealt with properly; but by quoting the foregoing figures, I have given an idea of the inadequacy of the amount proposed in the bill.
I should like, however, to mention another item to illustrate the importance of proper, even if expensive, treatment for mentally afflicted people. I quote the following monumental statement from page 173 of the report compiled by Messrs. Stoller and Arscott -
We consider from our observations, and a close study of the extent and nature of the national interest in mental health in the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Canada, that a Federal Mental Health Division would be desirable in Australia.
That is the very point I wish to emphasize. This bill, if given proper scope and administered with sufficient breadth of vision, could be a move in that particular direction. That is the point I am trying to emphasize, whether imperfectly or properly. The comment from the report continues -
It could act as a clearing house for the distribution of mental health knowledge; could, by subsidies, encourage activity in the mental health field, where it was most needed; and could examine the overall statistical position for the guidance of State and Federal Governments. It would act as a catalyst in fostering new mental health developments, according to the needs of each State. It would also be in a position to develop a functional liaison with the Commonwealth Departments of Labour and National Service, and Social Services, insofar as they were able to help with the rehabilitation of psychiatric patients, and with the Repatriation Department.
Here is the important part of the quotation-
We think that merely making a monetary contribution to the States may not, of itself, be sufficient.
Because of that particular factor, because I believe that by its very nature this is one of the matters with which the Commonwealth should deal, this bill should be the prelude to the foundation of a federal bureau of mental health, or a bureau for the care of the mentally afflicted. I think I am justified in saying that while this bill provides for the distribution of £10,000,000 to the States, we must not overlook a situation that arises under the existing social service laws of the Commonwealth. I do not say this with any idea of making party political capital at the expense of this or any other Government but I point out that when the recipient of social services benefits is admitted to a mental institution, the Commonwealth, to put it bluntly, makes a profit. That may seem a wrong statement to make, but I mean it in its best sense, and to support it I shall quote from a letter I have received from the Director-General of Social Services. T asked him certain questions. I asked him what was the position of pensioners who were admitted to mental institutions and. what was the position of the children who were recipients of child endowment when they were admitted to mental institutions. The part of the Director-General’s reply which is relevant to the bill now under discussion is as follows: -
Where a pensioner is admitted to a hospital for the insane his pension is suspended. If the pensioner remains in the hospital for not more than 28 days, he is entitled, on discharge, to receive pension for the full period of his stay in the hospital. If he remains in the hospital for more than 28 days, he is entitled on discharge to receive pension for the first 28 days only.
I point out, and the Minister would know this ‘ from his technical and professional experience, that very many of the pensioners who are admitted to mental institutions, as may be gathered from the growing longevity of the population, remain in those -mental institutions, if they are suffering from senility, for practically the rest of their days. The 28 days is but a shallow period to conjure with.
– The Commonwealth does not pay if the patients do not come out.
– That is so; and when they do not come out, the Commonwealth saves the money that would normally he paid to these unfortunate, afflicted people if they had remained at large in the community, and received the full benefit of the social services for which they were otherwise eligible. That factor cannot be overlooked. It is not possible to obtain any statistical data showing the number of invalid or age pensioners who go into the institutions, but, according to the Stoller Report, there is a steadily growing number of elderly people - pensioners- entering mental institutions and staying there for the remainder of their lives. This is equally true of the recipients of child endowment. I point out these matters in order that the House might not be deluded into believing that this bill represents the optimum of magnanimity on the part of the Commonwealth. Make no mistake about it ! If justice is to be done, if an adequate return is to be gained from the moneys saved by the Commonwealth through non-payment to those who -would normally receive social service benefits had they remained outside the institution, much more will have to be provided, for these unfortunate people…… *;
The position in regard to child endowment is stated in the letter from the Director-General of Social Services as follows : -
The procedure . regarding the payment of child endowment where a child is admitted to -
A Receiving Home.
Experience has been that children admitted to a receiving home do not stay there for more than a day or so and the question of the payment of child endowment for this period does not arise.
If not returned to their parents, the children are usually admitted to a hospital tor. the insane. In Victoria, however, they may be sent to one of three special schools for backward children. These schools, Travancore, Pleasant Creek and portion of .lanefield Colony, have been approved as institutions for child endowment purposes and are entitled to receive endowment at the rate, of 10s. per week in respect of each child inmate. Payment is made quarterly on claims submitted by the authorities of the institutions concerned. ( i>) A Mental Institution.
Where a person is making a reasonable contribution towards the expenses of maintaining a child in a hospital for the insane, the Director-General of Social Services may, in his discretion-
I emphasize the words “ in his discretion “ - determine that that person shall be deemed to have the custody, care and control of the child’. In such cases, endowment is paid in the normal manner either by credit to the endowee’s bank account each 12 weeks or in cash at a Post Office on presentation of an order each 4 weeks.
Although I do not doubt the humane propensities of successive DirectorsGeneral of Social Services, I consider that the. discretionary power under the regulations should be deleted and that it should be mandatory for parents who have been receiving child endowment for an unfortunate child that must be admitted to a mental institution, to continue to receive the endowment during the time that the child is kept in the institution. Every honorable member, including the Minister for Health, knows the capacity of” a mentally afflicted child to enjoy, and its desire to receive even more of the little playthings of children than a normal child desires. Many of these afflicted children are the children of poor, working-class parents, and the deprivation of child endowment means that frequently they cannot obtain the little comforts and necessities that their clouded minds make necessary. For that reason, I say that these matters should be considered when we are considering a measure such as this.
In the brief time available to me I wish to reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Oxley in his otherwise excellent speech. We should do well not to stigmatize the States and to remember, when criticizing them, that they have many obligations and that, very frequently,” the view that they should do more because they obtain grants from the. Commonwealth, and loan funds from the Australian Loan Council, is completely bereft of logic, because the States are fully committed in all the other spheres in which they have responsibilities. I have before nae some details of expenditure by Victoria on mental hygiene. They indicate how inadequate was the financial allocation from revenue in that State in certain financial years for the maintenance only of buildings. In the financial year 1.951-52, the amount allocated from revenue for the maintenance of buildings in mental institutions in Victoria was £151,317. The Stoller report states emphatically that, in every State in Australia, there is a chronic shortage of beds in mental institutions. The allocation of £151,317 was completely inadequate. In 1952-53, the allocation was £248,490.
The estimated requirements for expenditure in 1953-54 was £1,500,000, and the actual provision made by the Commonwealth out of loan funds was £250,000.
All these facts merely confirm the impression held by most honorable members, and my previous statements, that much more consideration should be given to the dire necessities of the mentally afflicted. Although this measure may seem to herald a most laudable contribution towards humanitarian progress in this sphere, it is not enough. My time is getting short. If I had time to present to the House completely the statements, figures and graphs in the Stoller report, I could show that, in Australia to-day, there are tens of thousands of beds short in mental institutions and that, in some asylums in Victoria, patients are congregated together in conditions inimical, first, to their bodily welfare, secondly, to their mental welfare, and, thirdly, to their moral welfare. I believe that the Minister for Health, first, as a medical practitioner, and, secondly, as Minister, is familiar with these facts, and therefore I say to him sincerely that, although the bill does something, it does not do enough in the view of the members of the Anti-Communist Labour party.
.- Although I do not agree with all that has been said by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), I am sure the House is grateful for the measure of support for the bill that they have voiced. At the outset, I should like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the doctors, nurses and wardsmen who staff our mental hospitals. They are very short in numbers, and the job they are asked to do is tremendous. The community owes them a great debt of gratitude. I do not agree with the honorable member for Melbourne, who condemned the bill because it had not been thought of earlier. If that is the measuring stick by which we are to judge any progressive legislation, the Parliament and the country will not get very far. Neither do I agree with the honorable member for Hoddle, who, although he supported the measure generally, condemned it because it does not go far enough. The House and the country should congratulate the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the officers of the Department of Health because this legislation is the beginning of a new deal for the mentally ill. I think it is true to say that this section of the community deserves more consideration. It has been very much neglected in the past.
As has been pointed out by previous speakers in this debate, the Stoller report is a terrible indictment of the State governments. I know that it is a particularly strong indictment of the New South Wales Government, because for quite a number of years I have had the opportunity to visit mental hospitals in that State and talk to the patients in them. Conditions in some of the mental hospitals in New South Wales are very bad indeed. They reveal what I shall term a “ dark ages “ approach to this great and increasing social problem. The attitude of the State governments, at least of the New South Wales Government, towards mentally ill people has been that they should be locked up and put out of sight. That, I regret to say, has been the attitude of quite a number of successive State governments. The approach to this problem has been legal rather than medical. In other words, asylums have been gaols rather than hospitals. The Sydney reception house clearly illustrates this unfortunate attitude. It is essentially a lock-up for persons “deemed to be wandering at large” and is used to restrain persons as prisoners until they are brought before magistrates for judicial action, instead of before qualified medical men for cure. If one looks further, one finds that the reception house offers no facilities for immediate psychiatric treatment, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Hoddle, and the delay in receiving effective medical attention frequently leads to chronic degeneration. Experienced psychiatrists have suggested that, if proper medical treatment were available, at least one person out of every six now certified or committed to an asylum could be returned speedily to normal life without certification. That means that in New South Wales, every day of the year, at least one person is needlessly certified and denied the rights of citizenship. As a result, there is acute family suffering, and needless overcrowding of asylums. If I may digress, I remind honorable members that those persons who are patients in our mental hospitals and who have been certified have no vote; they are, therefore, politically inarticulate. Their relatives are loth to make a fuss about them, and therefore say very little about asylum conditions, because I think there still exists, quite wrongly, a sense of shame in regard to those persons who suffer a mental illness. Therefore, I believe that the first thing to do is to effect a reform in the public attitude to those who are mentally ill. In other words, we must abandon the medieval idea that the mentally afflicted are bewitched by evil spirits. We must learn to regard mental illness as a true illness, to which, we must admit, everyone is liable. We must regard cure, rather than custody, as the most important aspect.
Unfortunately, the percentage which mental illness bears to other illnesses is mounting. That has been referred to by the honorable member for Hoddle. In America, there are more patients in mental hospitals today than in all other hospitals. There are many reasons for the increasing incidence of mental cases. First, as we have heard from the honorable member for Oxley, modern medical science is causing more people to live to a greater age. We know that to a great extent the great killers of the past, the epidemic diseases, diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, &c, have been mastered by the medical profession. Immunization and the more modern antibiotic drugs have worked miracles with these diseases. In addition we have made great advances in surgical techniques. Despite all that, the degenerative diseases are becoming increasingly prominent. The honorable member for Hoddle pointed out that this trend towards mental affliction applies to an increasing extent to elderly people whose mental processes have degenerated. These people comprise quite a large percentage of mental hospital patients.
Secondly, the complexities of modern life impose increasing strains and breakdowns. I think honorable members will realize that this is one of the greatest single factors.
I think it is true to say that comparisons with the past may be highly inaccurate. It is possible that before the advent of compulsory education many families may have hidden those of their members who were mentally ill. To-day, with the spotlight of public attention on the subject, more patients are brought forward. In the light of this strong trend, it is clear that the main attack on mental illness should be made by the family doctor, the general practitioner who knows the family and its background. I feel sure that many honorable members know of a number of instances where a medical practice has been handed down from father to son, and where the patients have continued to be associated with the same medical practice. In this way, full family histories are known. Speaking as a layman, I may say that a great deal is being done to-day on this level. On a previous occasion we have heard from the honorable member for Oxley how it is being accomplished. But I suggest that much more remains to be done, including, perhaps, a greater concentration on the study of mental illnesses during university training and even, perhaps, a compulsory residential service by each graduate for a fixed period in a mental hospital, along the lines of the residential service in a general hospital. This latter idea might also help to overcome staff shortage and provide for closer doctorpatient relationship. Every effort should be made to treat mental illnesses in their early stages, before serious degeneration produces the need for certification. I have had the opportunity of discussing this matter with quite a number of men who are professionally qualified to deal with it. It is a most important subject. They have informed me, and I have concluded from reports I have read, that considerable scope exists for the development of neurological clinics at public hospitals, and for early treatment hospitals, to be attended voluntarily by the patient, along similar lines to those operating in the United Kingdom.
This Commonwealth aid, which the bill seeks to provide, can be largely a means of providing new buildings in order to overcome the terrible overcrowding which exists to-day. I understand, upon advice from the same gentleman to whom I have referred, that this overcrowding aggravates the depressed mental condition of patients, and strongly militates against cure. The new building programme could assist in the re-grouping and reclassification of patients, so that those with a reasonable chance of cure may be placed in a sympathetic atmosphere. In particular, I suggest that the older people, the seniles, should be separated from the others. Patients responsive to treatment should not be forced into being attendants to the more distressing cases. Therefore, a new building programme could help very much to restore the self-respect of the patient, which is so vital to the cure.
The three main factors in the treatment of mental illness in the institution; are custody, care and cure. I have stressed that in the past emphasis has been placed upon custody - that is, the gaoling aspect. Gradually, the conditions of general care of patients are improving, I think, although a very great deal remains to be done. It is on the level of cure that pathetically little progress has been made. It is true that medical science is still severely lacking in knowledge of mental therapy. In that regard, the various States of the Commonwealth could well sponsor psychiatric research, particularly in our universities. We should endeavour to attract to this country the very best minds, so that our chairs of psychiatry may be recognized for their advanced teachings. By those means, we should be able to place more of these people back in employment.
I agree with the honorable member for Hoddle to a large extent. I think we should remember the figures that he cited, especially the figure of £176,000,000, which represents the economic loss to this country due to mental illness, it is a strange characteristic of our modern civilization that research into the human mind and its maladies has been neglected. We have been quick to develop research into various diseases, such as cancer. Those are the spectacular diseases which destroy the human body. But we have not been so quick in our approach to the diseases which destroy the human mind.
Whilst it is true to say that the Com.monwealth has found it necessary to step in and assist the States in this matter, the real challenge is a challenge to the State governments to make these major reforms. It is for the State governments to provide adequate finance to attract and pay expert staff. It would be useless for us to help to produce new buildings if they could not be staffed. In order to assure the physical well-being of patients in mental institutions, some State governments have undertaken the provision of extra-mural treatment. Medical practitioners in the vicinity of a hospital are brought in to work in co-operation with the staff of the .institution. It is important that the extra-mural treatment should be extended to the psychiatric level. The State governments might well attract medical practitioners as both honorary specialists and as part-time paid practitioners to the institutions.
I suggest that, in view of the extra help that will be given as a result of this measure, a greater responsibility lies ob the States. The responsibility for “undertaking the care of mental patients and the cure of mental illness is essentially a responsibility of the States. It is up to them to provide the expert staffs necessary to achieve effective cures. As the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said last Thursday, it is a great pity that the Commonwealth has been forced into fields such as these, however . humanitarian the step may be. The fact is that this is just another step towards unification and towards the breakdown of federalism.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Minister realises that the responsibility of the Commonwealth in this matter is limited, but, despite that fact, we have entered into this field. I disagree entirely with the suggestion of the honorable member for Hoddle that we should gradually assume full responsibility for all general hospitals and mental hospitals in this country. That is not the object of this measure. The object of the measure is that the Commonwealth shall’ help the States, not that it shall take over their responsibilities in this field. lt may be that the honorable member for Hoddle desires that the State governments shall be abolished. I support the measure.
.- This bill has been long delayed. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), in his second-reading speech, referred to the Stoller report, which he released last May, and which he received six months before that. The bill deals partially with a problem which has often been discussed at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers during the Minister’s sixyear term of office. It was discussed in August, 1951, July, 1952, and August, 1953.
– The problem was discussed with Mr. Hanlon, the then Premier of Queensland, in 1950. He agreed with this method of dealing with it. He was the only Premier then who had the wit to agree.
– I shall quote from the report of the proceedings of the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra on the 11th August, 1953. At that conference the right honorable gentleman said -
The Commonwealth has given notice of termination of the agreement in order to ascertain whether we can devise some proper method of dealing with the matter. The Government will intimate at the appropriate time what it considers to he the proper method.
There were some exchanges with Deputy Premiers and Premiers. Then the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intervened and gave them the brush-off. The matter ended inconclusively.
Now, more than two years later, this bill . has been introduced. Better late than never! Better half a loaf than no bread. To that extent, we commend the bill. It provides that there shall be an expenditure by the Commonwealth of £10,000,000 on new mental hospital buildings if the States expend £20,000,000. If the States were to expend £20,000,000 on new mental hospital buildings in the next couple of months, the Government would be obliged to give them £10,000,000 in the same period. But the Government does not anticipate that it will have to make such a sum available within two months, or even within two years. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in item 18 of the supplementary statements attached to the budget, has intimated that it is anticipated that this year a sum of £1,000,000- one-tenth of the sum envisaged in this bill - will be payable. Let us assume that £10,000,000 is paid, and . that it is paid within less than the ten years envisaged by the Treasurer. How far would it go towards solving the problem on which Dr. Stoller reported?
– That is not envisaged by the Treasurer at all. That assumption is absolutely without foundation.
– If there is one person in this Parliament who is not qualified to criticize the present Treasurer, it is the right honorable gentleman who interjects so constantly. We know his own record as a Treasurer. On page 162 of the Stoller report, the following passage appears: -
The actual bed shortage, on a basis of four per 1,000 population, a minimal figure for western communities, is 10,962. In 1985, it is anticipated the Australian population will he 11,000,000 and the bed requirements then will be 20,000 above 1-953 figures.
You will notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Stoller report refers to the figures for two years ago. That is an indication of how long it has taken to publish the report and introduce this measure. The report continues -
In simple language, this means that to allow for future developments *nd catch up on a minimal estimation of overcrowding, twenty 1,000-bed mental hospitals will be required in ten years.
On page 163, Dr. Stoller and his assistant say that the cost of twenty new 1,000-bed hospitals in the next ten years, assuming that costs do not rise, will be £66,716,000. That is well over twice the amount envisaged in the bill. The Minister might at least have introduced a bill to cover the period and the sum mentioned by Dr. Stoller, upon whose report he relies when it suits him.
Surely this is a matter in relation to which we should adopt a national outlook. At the time of federation, mental hospitals were in the hands of the State governments. According to the present Government, which naturally is always half a century behind the times, they ought to remain the responsibility of the State governments. Surely we must accept the fact; - and I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, accept it - that the States are no longer able to improve their social services. Their budgets are limited, and limited by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should take over some of their more expensive functions. It is impossible for the State governments to improve social services that are a charge on State revenue. The only improvements that they can effect are in the field of workers’ compensation, factories and shops legislation, and long service leave, all of which cost them nothing. They can always pass the cost of those improvements on to the employer.
Surely we are only tinkering with the question of providing mental hospitals if we just adopt the method of holding out to the States the bait that, if they earmark £2 for the purpose, we will add a subsidy of £1. That method has been adopted in relation to university subsidies, and it was adopted earlier to-night in relation to war service land settlement, but is it good enough for mental hospitals or health matters generally? The funds of the States are already fully committed. Surely honorable members realize that, if they expect a State government to spend more on mental hospitals than it is spending at present, they are asking it to rob Peter to pay Paul. State governments receive their tax reimbursements from the Commonwealth under a formula which varies according to population and money values. But health costs, and particularly mental health costs, do not vary according to that formula. Indeed, they have risen faster than the formula would have allowed, because new and more expensive methods of cure are now available and are being increasingly employed. The formula makes no allowance for new techniques or different methods. Problems associated with health, and in particular mental health, do not vary between States; they are the same all over Australia, and they should be dealt with in the same way all over Australia. Dr. Stoller, in the passage of the report quoted by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), advocated the adoption of that very policy, but it has been overlooked by the Minister. Only this Parliament can decide how much of the national income can be expended on health, on mental health, or on any other matter, and it should accept that responsibility.
May I conclude by making a modified but practical suggestion which should commend itself to the Minister. Rather than telling the States that we shall give them a subsidy of £1 for every £2 which they ear-mark from the funds that are already committed, we should adopt the method embodied in the Tuberculosis Act 1948, and pay the cost of all new improvements to existing buildings and of all new buildings and, moreover, pay the cost of the maintenance of patients above such cost in the base year. The method adopted in 1948 has worked very well during the regimes of Senator McKenna and the present Minister for Health, and I commend it to honorable gentlemen. If they are reluctant to accept the responsibility of asking the States to give this Parliament the right to legislate on mutual health matters, at least they have the example of the most satisfactory agreement ever made between the Commonwealth and the States to show how this necessary but melancholy activity of government need not be restricted because of lack of State funds, but can be maintained and improved in a proper and feasible way.
– I have agreed to limit my speech to five minutes, and I shall do my best to do so. I support the proposal contained in the bill and, indeed, anything that is done to assist the .mentally sick, whether it be on the basis of a subsidy of £1 for £1 or of £1 for £2. Anything is better than nothing. The fact that the Government has set aside £10,000,000 is to its credit. Whether one is a member of the Government or of the Opposition, one must agree that anything that is done to assist the mentally sick must be applauded.
I believe, however, that the Government, in ensuring that the money is spent, ought to take into consideration the opinions of the medical officers of the asylums and mental institutions, who do not view very favorably some aspects of the Stoller report. They say that, generally speaking, it is a good report, but that they disagree with some aspects of it. Tor example, they say that it is of no use just to erect buildings, because the biggest problem to-day is not so much the shortage of buildings as the shortage of adequate staff. If the Government wants to tackle the problem as it ought to be tackled, it should offer a sufficiently high salary range to attract staff to the institutions. Better still - and this is important - it ought to arrange to send young medical students to countries like the United States of America and England, at its own expense, to study the latest techniques in the treatment of mental diseases. America is years ahead of Australia in its understanding of mental complaints. I believe that the Government would be expending money very well indeed if it sent young medical students, and more particularly medical graduates, overseas for three, four or five years’ training.
In addition, the Government ought to establish sheltered workshops where men and women who are suffering from mental diseases, but who are not sick enough to be sent to an asylum and are well enough to perform some useful occupation, could do their work sheltered from the stigma that seems to be associated with this unfortunate complaint. I shall have to conclude, unfortunately, by saying that the Government, when expending this money, should pay special attention to children. To be able to attend to the requirements of the children and the adults would be well and good, but if we must choose between the children and the adults and ignore the one in the interests of the other, I believe that those who have the longest life in front of them are most likely, because of their youth, to benefit from proper treatment, and ought to be given priority. For that reason I think that the Government ought to establish, as the Victorian Government has done on a limited scale, and as the Queensland Government has also done, colonies away from busy centres, to which young children could be sent for education, and where they could be taught to be useful - perhaps even to be useful citizens ultimately. Many of them could be taught perhaps even to read and write. There are so many different classes of mental patients that they ought to be categorized. Those belonging to a particular group, such as epileptics, ought to be kept together. Those who are not epileptic but suffer from some congenital complaint ought to be kept separately from the others, and those who cannot speak ought to be kept apart with others in the same category. People who are able to speak and to understand, but who are violent, should be treated differently from those who are not violent. I believe that thousands of lives could be saved, and thousands of people could be saved from the tragedy of being placed in mental asylums if treatment could be commenced while those people were still babies, or at least in their early years, when something could be done to save their minds from complete destruction. Many of those minds can be saved if we can start to treat them early enough in the correct way, and give those people conditions and environments which will enable their minds to develop. I believe that if we were to do that we would find that in twenty years’ time there would be nothing like the same ratio of the population going into mental asylums as we have to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Appropriation).
.- I should like to point out that this clause provides as follows : -
Payments under this Act shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.
That means, of course, that the whole £10,000,000 is provided for the purpose required, and the fact that only £1,000,000 is so far provided for this purpose simply means that it takes some time to get this matter moving. The Commonwealth hopes that a great deal of this money may be expended in the quickest possible time in order to ensure that we get hospital beds as Boon as possible, to enable us to do what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) mentioned in his very constructive speech, to provide, first of all, houses for staff, which is one of the ways of attracting people to this work and to do the other things necessary because they also are part and parcel of the programme that ought to be carried out.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 25th October (vide page 1841), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill is a fairly small measure. It provides for the payment of the equivalent in Australian currency of 2,215,000 dollars for Australia’s contribution to the International Finance Corporation. That sum is not, in itself, very large. It is approximately £1,000,000 Australian. On reading the bill it would seem that the money provided is. to be Australian currency, whereas, in fact, it will be found from the schedule of the bill that that amount strictly is not to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but will be provided by Australia, either in gold or dollars. The organization that is envisaged in this measure is linked with another institution known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. On several occasions the House has had before it bills to allow Australia to borrow from that bank sums which now total, I think, about 254,000,000 dollars. The Labour party opposes this measure, not because the amount with which it deals is large, but because it seems to the Opposition that what is contemplated in the measure is a move in the wrong direction so far as international development is concerned and particularly in the terms expressed in the bill as follows: -
We feel, in general terms, that the encouragement of productive private enterprise and development of lessdeveloped areas can hardly be undertaken conjointly; and that the things that are important to the less-developed areas are developments in basic public utilities, education facilities, health facilities and all sorts of things that are not promoted by private enterprise, but can be done only on a government-to-government level. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development deals direct between government and government, and the repayment of any sum that is borrowed from it, even though some of the money may be applied for private purposes, is nevertheless guaranteed by the government that borrows it. There has been considerable criticism from time to time of the role that the International Bank has played. It cannot be denied that, in some directions, it has performed valuable services, but the tendency has been for the loans from that institution to be made to countries such as Australia which relatively - and I emphasize the word “relatively” - are in a better position to look after their own economic development than are some of the other countries that were in mind in the postwar reconstruction period, when these institutions were set up. I think it must be realized that in the world in which we live to-day that the people of countries which, for want of a better term, are called undeveloped areas, feel that they have the same right to. improve their economic standards and to promote their own social and cultural life as anybody else in the world has. But they are not so fortunately endowed as other countries are. In many cases they have an abundance of raw materials, but there is neither the technical skill nor the industrial potential in these countries to enable them to be developed. If those countries are to raise’ their standards of living they can do so only with the assistance of some of the more fortunate areas. There is no doubt that the most favorably positioned nation in the world to-day is the United States of America. Its economy was not damaged as much during the war as the economies of other countries were damaged. It was not subject to direct attack. It certainly played an important part in “World War II., but its economy, because it was a provider of armaments and other manufactured articles, in many ways was stronger after the war than it had been before it. That is not true of other countries such as the United Kingdom and European countries and certainly it is not true of certain Asian countries.
It was realised after the war, in the periods that have been grandly described as period of post-war reconstruction, that if there was to be permanent peace afterwards, something had to be done to ensure that trade flowed more freely between nations and that what might be called less-developed nations should be helped by those in a better position. Realistically, is it not sounder to raise the standard of those countries than to incur huge expenditure on armaments in order to defend oneself against likely aggression from those countries?
I suggest that institutions such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development were founded with that objective but that it has not been fulfilled. Nowadays things apparently are looked at from a profit-and-loss basis rather than from the basis of the development of those areas which most need it.
There has been criticism that the loans that have been made by the bank have been made in dollars and, for the most part, have been spent in the United States of America itself. It is true that in the last twelve or eighteen months a large proportion of the moneys loaned by this bank has been spent outside the dollar area. But basically, in the early years of its development, most of the money was raised in dollars and was spent in the United States of America. It is true that a great deal of important development has flowed from this expenditure, but that development has not occurred in those countries which needed it most. Each year, various international organizations, a large number of them associated with the United Nations, have realized that there has been a very real gap - that the thing that was hoped for has, in fact, not been achieved. Development is not taking place in those countries in which it is most needed. The point seems to have been agreed upon by a large number of nations. That is why I say that this bill is not a move in the right direction but rather that it is a move in the reverse direction. If this bill is read, it will be seen that it has a number of gaps which need explanations by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) which have not been given.
To-day, we lend dollars. To-morrow, we will discuss a bill to authorize the borrowing by Australia of 15,000,000 dollars. I say that Australia would do better in terms of its relationship with the less-developed countries if, for instance, it increased its contribution to such schemes as the Colombo plan. Participants in that scheme have done a good job but, nevertheless, only a minute amount has been done in relation to what is actually required. Sir Ian Clunies Ross, well known to members of this House as the chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organization, delivered in Adelaide on the 17th October, 1954, the fifth Roy Milne Memorial Lecture, entitled “Prerequisites for the Establishment of Democratic Institutions in South-East Asia “. I do not think that anybody can deny that democratic institutions are required in South-East Asia and that democratic institutions cannot flourish if there is economic insecurity. The two must stand or fall together. Democratic institutions cannot be developed without basic facilities such as health, education and technical aid in other forms. Sir Ian Clunies Ross made this statement -
If, for the sake of argument, the enlarged plan for economic and educational assistance called for the provision of £1,000,000,000 of external aid in place of the present level of assistance of something over £100,000,000 to South-East Asia, Australia might be expected to find from eight to ten times her present contribution to the Colombo plan of £5,200,000.
In other words, he said that Australia ought to contribute about £50,000,000 a year in Colombo aid rather than the very small sum of £5,000,000. He said, I think quite wisely -
This may be compared with her estimated defence expenditure of £213,000,000.
That was the expenditure that was announced as the defence objective for last year. I suggest that that is sound so far as Australia is concerned. When people talk about defending Australia they generally have in mind defending it against those Asian countries which are round about us. I say that that is a limited aspect of defence. Australia’s defence should not be aggression. Australia’s defence should be designed to build friendly relations with those countries round about. Instead of spending so much on defence and so little on Colombo plan aid, we should reduce defence expenditure and use more of that money to assist these countries. Expenditure in those countries is not so important in itself as for what it can provide - those basic needs of those countries. They have primitive transport systems, inadequate power resources and inadequate irrigation and water supply. They have large numbers of illiterate persons who require basic education. They require hospitals and all other sorts of social and cultural facilities which countries such as Australia are in a position to provide but which will not be provided if they are left to private enterprise.
In this bill, the Government is relying on sums of money raised at a Government level and which will be used to promote what are called “productive enterprises ‘’, particularly in the less-developed areas. The Treasurer might indicate, for argument’s sake, one of those productive private enterprises which have a high priority for some of these lessdeveloped areas. I suggest that the Government will find it extremely difficult to do that. Also, what is the criterion of lending rates in the view of this institution? One of the faults of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is that a country such as Australia which has a fairly high level of credit can only borrow at the rate of 4f per cent, on a government basis. What rate of interest will be demanded by this new institution when it lends to productive private enterprises in these lessdeveloped areas? Will it be higher than 4f per cent. ? Will it be 6 4/7 per cent, or even more? The Treasurer described it as “risk capital” because it had behind it not a government guarantee but merely the faith of the lending institution in the particular enterprise that it proposed to sponsor. Instead of the money going to the less-developed areas I think we shall find that countries like Australia will borrow it and that the eyes will be picked out of the most productive and remunerative fields in this country.
Any nation at our stage of economic growth must be prepared to be a little unselfish. Primarily, it is not so much a matter of limited money but of the limited physical resources which that money can command. Where physical resources are limited, ought we not to take the broad view and decide that schools and hospitals are more important to Malaya, Ceylon and Burma than are picture theatres, race-tracks and so on to Australia. If one puts it on a lower plane one might even say that that would in reality be a selfish act because we might be safeguarding our own future security. I hope that we shall look at it on the higher plane and say, “ These people are human beings.
In a nation such as ours, which calls itself Christian, they are at least equal to us in the sight of God “. I suggest that that is not unsound theology. If we adopt that outlook we shall agree that the measure does not move in the way that it should. Bather should we contribute money to such an organization and say, “ We do not care whether we get any interest “. For the sake of gaining 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, in interest we may promote development that has not the high economic priority of certain development in other areas. Any one’ who reads the opinions of the best-informed people in the Asian countries knows that, for such countries, investment can come from two sources - internal and external. Because of their relative economic poverty internal investments must largely be on what is known as the budget surplus basis. The Government collects in taxes more than it spends, and the surplus is used for investment within the country. If the general level of average incomes is low the amount that can be raised in this way is limited. Largely, that sort of development must be on a government basis. Some Government supporters might describe it as socialistic but it is the only realistic method of promoting economic growth in under-developed countries.
Similarly, capital derived from outside countries should not be borrowed on the basis that it will yield a profit to the lender. Private individuals can, of course, usually provide capital only if profit is derived thereby, but where assistance is given by another country it can be given on a government-to-government level, where interest is either ignored or is very low. I should like to quote from a book called Federal Finance and Underdeveloped Economy by Baljit Singh, which recently appeared in the Parliamentary Library. At page 49, the author states -
The greatest handicap of an underdeveloped economy-
The bill refers to “less developed” countries - is the dearth of investment both for protective works in agriculture and for basic economic development on which secondary and tertiary industries are built and employment is diversified.
Private enterprise has neither the resources nor the incentive to risk capital in these directions.
Fiscal policy should therefore be vigilant to push socialized investment in those channels to widen the base for industrialization and thus assist development of secondary and tertiary industries.
Public investment for supplying cheap power and efficient transport and communication facilities, including port and harbour installations, as well as, for promotion of scientific and technical research for provision of technical training and education, for improvement of market organization and service both at home and abroad, and for scientific deployment of labour, is all miserably lacking in backward countries.
None the less, public investment is necessary in order to reduce industrial costs and increase productivity, and no wonder, in its absence private enterprise has remained shy and extremely limited.
It is in this way that public enterprise can supplement private enterprise and provide new incentives for industrialization in a system of mixed economy.
That seems to put very accurately the situation that one finds in these lessdeveloped countries. Their low general standards can only be raised on a social, not a private profit, basis with outside influences to assist in the natural development of basic- facilities of the kind that are needed to raise the level of the economy. Therefore, we oppose this measure. We say that it does not reveal any sign that Australia has learnt a lesson from the shortcomings of the International Bank. It is turning in the direction of restricted rather than broad lending to the less-developed countries and is not meeting their very real needs. Certainly the sum involved, £1,000,000, is comparatively small and will not break the national exchequer - except that it is to be provided in gold or dollars, of which this country is relatively short. We could, by using an equivalent amount of our own sterling currency, either here or in any of the sterling areas, do the job just as effectively - probably better, because we could give more than this limited amount and the development could take place in those countries where it is most needed. Therefore, we oppose the bill on that ground.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has stated, the purpose of this bill is to provide funds for private enterprise in member countries, particularly in the more poorly developed countries. About £1,000,000 will have to be provided. The measure will enable the provision of loans without a government guarantee, and under flexible arrangements for repayment.
The speech made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when introducing this measure was disappointing. In one part of his speech the Treasurer said -
In the short term, it would be unwise to expect too much in the way of direct investment in Australia by the corporation.
That was not very encouraging, but if we wanted a really discouraging speech we have just heard one from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Of all his contributions to debates in this House - and they have been considerable at times - I have never heard a speech so gloomy and so much on the wrong foot, and so much without hope for the future, as that delivered to-night by the honorable member. This is a measure which should have the support of the whole House, and my party will support the Government on this occasion. The whole idea behind this measure comes from a very worthy source. The Treasurer said -
Proposals for the establishment of international finance corporations have been under discussion in the Economic and Social Council and in the United Nations General Assembly since 1951.
That should commend the bill to honorable members. But what is quite wrong in the approaches of both the Government and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is that they seem to think that direct assistance is the only sort of assistance that this bill will confer. Any honorable member who thinks about the matter will realize that the indirect benefits to Australia that will flow from this measure are likely to be considerable, and they will also be of great assistance to member countries. The whole object of the corporation, as is stated in the articles of agreement set out in the schedule of the bill, is to seek to stimulate and help to create conditions conducive to the flow of private capital, domestic and foreign, into private investment in member countries. The idea is to start the capital flowing. It is not enough for us to say, “Let us borrow dollars from the United States of America and see how we can spend them most profitably for our country “. “We are in the banking business, and we must use the bank for the benefit of Australia. Certainly there would be direct advantages if we needed to borrow money, but I do not think that that is the purpose of this corporation. We are to pay this money into the corporation to provide a bank. I ask honorable members how they think the great banks of this country really operate. What is their great advantage ? Is it just in the profits that they make ? It certaintly is not. One of the greatest advantages to the United Kingdom and to Australia of the banking systems of those countries is the fact that they provide channels through which private enterprise can sell its goods. Where would the great manufacturing and commercial enterprises of the United Kingdom be if they were not closely linked with the Australian banking system, as everybody knows they are? They decide to sell goods to Australia, and the banks find the money. We in Australia are entering into a most important section of the banking business, the section which deals in dollars. The proposed corporation will have the function of providing funds for private enterprise in countries that want to develop. Those countries will borrow money from the bank. I do not see why Australia should not take advantage of the fact that these countries will borrow money from the bank, and why it should not seek to extend its export market in countries which borrow from our own bank. The Treasurer made some remarks about the amount of money which is being borrowed by these countries outside the dollar area - that is, in sterling countries. He said -
A somewhat similar situation obtains in the case of the International Bank, and the last report of the hank indicates that in the year 1954-55 over 50 per cent, of bank loans was spent outside the U.S.A.
If the money is spent outside the United States of America, obviously some country is in the market and is getting the dollars, and that is very helpful to the economy of such countries. Australia should be in the market and should get some of those dollars.
I deplore the attitude of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in opposing the bill. I believe that it will not only benefit Australia but will also, as the Treasurer said, help the countries which are least highly developed at present. Surely, in all charity, that is what we should be trying to do. If we want to keep these countries away from the Communist influence we must extend to them every kind of help. This is a generous move on the part of the Government. The Government is hard-up for dollars. It is borrowing dollars wherever it can. Yet it is prepared to provide more than 2,000,000 of its hardborrowed dollars to help in the development of these countries. It will make a small profit in interest on the transaction, but that will be negligible compared with the benefit that will accrue to member countries, especially those that are not very well developed. For that reason alone we should all wish to support the measure.
In the articles of agreement of the corporation there is nothing to prevent us from finding out who wants to borrow dollars, and what they want to buy with them, and trying to supply them with some of those goods, thus getting more dollars into our treasury. In that indirect way we can gain great benefits, as can all the countries involved. I believe that if this corporation is managed properly it can be of great benefit to member countries. It is of no use saying, “Here is another source from which we can borrow dollars “. As a matter of fact, if we borrowed from that source, all that we would do would be to borrow back some of our own dollars, and that is not a very good proposition. If a little imagination is used by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer, they will be able to ascertain how the dollar loans made by our bank to member countries are being used. Some of the goods bought with those dollars could be provided by Australia. In that way our owndollar resources could be built up.
I believe that we should support the bill. It will help other countries as well as our own. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports seemed to be dominated by a fear that these countries will spend their money on armaments. There is no ground for his fear. This is a good measure, conceived by a very reputable body, and obviously introduced after considerable thought and preparation. I have examined all its clauses very closely, and I cannot find any that would not be to our advantage. But unless it is used with some imagination, it may well be of not much benefit to Australia or to any other country. I think that the establishment of socialized industry in some of the backward countries is very necessary, but I do not believe for one moment that a country’s industry is the better for being completely socialized. I believe that the opposite view should always be expressed and, in this way, private enterprise is often very beneficial to certain sections of industry which are socialized. I therefore support this bill on behalf of the true labour party, the antiCommunist Labour party. It is a thoroughly democratic measure, and it should commend itself to every member of the House. I am surprised that the rabble on the Opposition side, the Evatt party, does not subscribe to it. Of course the members of that party would not help the backward nations. Their whole object is to see the backward nations passed into the hands of the Soviet countries.
We support this measure. It is very commendable. I commend the Treasurer to make the most imaginative use of our bank, and I feel sure that the management of the bank will co-operate with member countries in order to ensure that they make the best use of it.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to
Thursday, 27 October, 1955. [Quorum formed.’]
.At this early hour of the morning, I do not want to speak for very long, but there were some remarks made by the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) which I think deserve some comment from the Government benches. In the first place, the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party rasied some objection to the statement made by the Treasurer in his secondreading speech, as follows : -
In the short term it would be unwise to expect too much in the way of direct investment in Australia by the corporation. [ think honorable members will readily agree that this is only at the commencement stage and that we do not expect to run before we walk. In the provision of a capital of only 100,000,000 dollars, we are meeting what might be the demands of the near future. The agreement which is contained in the bill states that the purpose is to provide capital for private enterprise in backward countries. The agreement also contains provision for increasing the capital from time to time under certain conditions. Two of those conditions are as follows : - First, there must be a three-quarters majority in favour of such an increase in capital, and secondly - and this is important- none of the member nations needs to subscribe if it does not desire to do so. It is quite obvious, therefore, that when there is a demand for more than the actual capital available, an increase in capital will be possible to meet further commitments.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports informed the House that the Labour party intended to vote against this measure. I find it very difficult to understand why the Labour party should adopt this particular attitude. If I remember correctly, the Labour party, when it was in office with Mr. Chifley as Prime Minister and Treasurer, supported the formation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That being so, I do not quite understand why objec tion should be taken to this particular measure. I suppose it is for the reason which was put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - that this money is to be made available to private enterprise rather than directly to governments.
– Hear, hear! A good point.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggests that this is an admirable approach to the problem, but I think it is desirable that the House should be made aware of what has been done by the International Bank by way of making money available togovernments for what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports refers to as basic public utilities. I am informed! that at the 30th June, 1955, the International Bank had lent no less a sum than 2,300,000,000 dollars comprising 900,000,000 dollars to Europe,. 259,000,000 dollars to Australia,. 600,000,000 dollars to Central and South America, 200,000,000 dollars to Africa and 300,000,000 dollars to Asia. If Latin America, Africa and Asia are to be grouped in the category to which we refer under the present bill as undeveloped areas, they have received about half the total loans which have been made by the International Bank. I believe that that indicates quite clearly that the International Bank is catering for the requirements which we set out and which are the basis of Labour’s objection to this measure. I believe that one should make this emphasis in relation to this particular problem. There are two instrumentalities within the community which deserve encouragement. One is governments in relation to what we will call national works programme. These basic public utilities to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports refers are, I believe, government instrumentalities. They are assisted through the International Bank. As a supporter of the present Government, it is my belief that private enterprise makes the greatest contribution to the development of any nation and that, therefore, it is most desirable that we should support a measure which will bring into operation this organization which is to make loans directly to private enterprise. I believe that there cannot be any reasonable objection by the Opposition to a measure such as this when, in point of fact, we have side by side the International Bank, which has money available to lend for the purposes mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and this organization which will have a limited amount of capital in the beginning to be made available to certain other sections of the community - to certain vital sections, as has been proved, in Australia, America, England, and in every democratic country. It has been proved in all those countries that it is private enterprise which, in the long run, makes the greatest contribution to the prosperity of any community. Therefore, I just make these few remarks to express the view of the Government and government members against those points of view which have been put by the honorable member of Melbourne Ports to-night.
– If private enterprise makes the contribution towards the development of nations that the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) suggests, why does private enterprise need to come to governments for the finance necessary to open up new markets and to help develop existing markets throughout the world? If private enterprise is so successful, and if the honorable member for Petrie and the Liberals who sit with him believe in private enterprise, why do they engage in this socialistic venture - because that is what it is in part - of asking governments to put money into a corporation that is designed to finance private enterprise in developing its markets? I can understand the Australian Country party supporting a measure such as this because it is comprised of the best bunch of antiSocialist Socialists I have ever met. They always want socialism when it comes to the question of the Commonwealth Bank giving them low interest rates on finance for marketing pools and the like. But for the Liberals to talk about private enterprise and expound its virtues, and then support a measure which apparently can be successful only if governments become members of it and provide the necessary funds for it, surprises me.
– The Government uses only private enterprise money.
– The money of the people. Where does private enterprise get money? If it were not for the Commonwealth Bank and governmentcontrolled banks, particularly central banks, there would not be any private enterprise functioning anywhere. It is all very well for the honorable member for Petrie to smile his way through this measure and tell us with a broad, expansive grin what private enterprise will do. When the proposed corporation is established, it will be competent for the board of governors of the corporation - who, incidentally, are also the governors of the International Bank - to decide that they will invest their money, not only in South-East Asia, where some development is necessary, but also in Australia, England, the United States of America or any one of the countries named in schedule A of the bill, and there is a page full of them.
– There are 56.
– I believe the honorable gentleman’s arithmetic is correct, even if his logic is not. The sum of money mentioned in the measure is 100,000,000 dollars. That is equal to about £50,000,000. That will not do so very much for the development of backward countries. That amount of money was sunk in the Kwinana oil refinery in Western Australia. That is just about the value of the other three refineries that have been established in Hew South Wales and Victoria. We who are members of the Australian Labour party do not like this method of finance. We suspect the whole scheme. We believe that this is one means by which the capitalist-minded countries throughout the world are trying to bolster capitalism. If they want to do that, let them put their own money into it and not ask governments for it.
– The honorable member is not on Molotov’s side, is he?
– No, but I suspect that the honorable member for Petrie is on Molotov’s side, because some countries associated with this measure have more association with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics than has the Australian Labour party.
– The leader of the honorable member for Melbourne is in constant communication with Molotov.
– Will you restrain this talkative Minister, Mr. Deputy Speaker I am not concerned with Molotov.
– Why did the honorable member mention him?
– I did not. The name was brought up by the honorable member for Petrie. This measure does not commend itself to the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has stated the reasons. I rose to reply to the unconvincing arguments advanced by the honorable member for Petrie, and to put an opposite view to that expounded by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). The Opposition objects to the measure and will call for a division.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Ms. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve acceptance by Australia of membership in the International Finance Corporation, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a second time.
Debate resumed from the 25th October (vide page 1836), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £33,200,000 to finance the existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which is about to expire, and also to start off the new agreement which is now under negotiation between the States and the Commonwealth. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is in charge of the bill in this House, has treated the subject in a very cavalier fashion. The roneoed copy of his secondreading speech consisted of 35 lines. The moneys to be raised under the authority of the bill total £33,200,000, which represents almost £1,000,000 a line of the Minister’s speech. The House is entitled to a more detailed explanation of the new agreement to which the Minister referred towards the end of his speech. The existing agreement, which has been in existence for ten years, was negotiated by the Labour Government in an endeavour to overtake the housing lag. Throughout the ten years since tie Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was negotiated, a total of approximately £207,000,000 has been advanced for housing. During the same period, the Commonwealth Bank, through the Commonwealth Savings Bank and Credit Foncier loans advanced by the Commonwealth Trading Bank, has made available to building societies and other organiza tions and individuals, for home purchase and construction, no less than £185,000,000 - almost as much as has been advanced under the housing agreement. The Government has done little better than the Commonwealth Bank has done.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! Conversations across the table must cease.
– The trouble is, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the hour is either too late or too early. The Opposition supports the bill, although it believes it to be completely inadequate. It believes also that the new agreement will be welcomed by the home-hungry people of Australia. It is plain that the Government has no appreciation of the housing situation in this country. Three years ago, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who was then Minister for National Development, stated that if we were to tackle the housing problem effectively we should construct 90,000 houses a year. The Government has never yet built anything like 90,000 homes a year. We had a back-lag of 250,000 homes after World War IT., and the number of homes being built is still not enough to meet normal requirements. Yet the present Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated, in an article published last week in the Sydney Morning Herald that, in fact, the back-lag of housing has been overtaken and that there is now no housing problem in Australia. It is a great pity that he does not visit some of the industrial areas of Sydney, or read some of the Sydney newspapers which contain page after page of advertisements inserted by desperate people endeavouring to get rooms or share houses, and offering enormous rentals for any sort of accommodation whatsoever. The Minister’s second-reading speech indicates how out of touch this Government is with the realities of the problems which are facing people who are in need of shelter to-day. However, the Opposition supports the bill. We believe that iti provisions are totally inadequate. We believe that this Government, during the whole of the period that it has been in office, has done nothing to stimulate the building industry; it has given no encouragement to the building industry to go ahead and plan more home construction. This bill does not give to the industry that stimulation or assurance which we believe to be essential for the continuing expansion of the industry in order to provide homes for home-hungry people in this country.
– I think it is necessary, even at this late hour, to reply, if only for the purposes of the record, to some of the extremely foolish statements that have just been made by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) . He started off by saying that some explanation should be given of the proposed new agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. He wanted, apparently, more than is contained in the Minister’s submission. Then he went on to criticize the Commonweatlh Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank instrumentalities for having made available £180,000,000 over the same period that £207,000,000 was made available for housing by the Australian Government. He did not say, of course, that that £180,000,000 that was made available through the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank was for the purpose of home ownership, whereas the £207,000,000 made available through this Government was in perpetuation of the shocking agreement that was foisted on the Government by Labour in the past for the purpose of creating a community of tenants. I shall not go into this matter deeply to-night, but I should like honorable members to listen, to the figures that I want to go down on the record, because they are most illuminating. They indicate that the apparent shortage of houses in Australia to-day has been caused deliberately by the State Labour governments. They have created their own problems, by creating the shortage themselves deliberately, and they have asked this Government for money to build houses that normally would have been already built for investment. Let me explain what I mean.
– That is a good idea.
– I shall go back only to 1947, although I could go back to 1933. In 1947, homes in New South Wales owned by the people - I shall confine my remarks to New South Wales for the moment, because that is the only State in respect of which complete statistics are available as a result of the census that was taken in 1954 - were 48 per cent, of the total and tenanted houses in the State of New South Wales represented 52 per cent., the figures being as follows: - 351,979 houses were owned, and 380,531 were tenanted. In 1954- seven years later - there were 533,266 houses owned in New South Wales, or 59.2 per cent., and only 366,893, or 40 per cent., were tenanted.
– Where did the honorable member obtain those figures?
– I am quoting official statistics, which constitute a most illuminating and shocking indictment of the Labour Government of New South Wales. There are actually fewer houses in the renting market to-day in New South Wales than there were seven years ago, notwithstanding that the New South Wales Housing Commission has built over 40,000 houses for renting in that period, with money provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In other words, as a result of New South Wales legislation, 60,000 houses in that State have been taken away from the renting community. They have been taken away because the New South Wales Government has destroyed the incentive for investment of that kind. It would not matter how much money the Commonwealth provided to New South Wales for housing, because the Government of that State acts like a dog chasing its tail; it cannot catch up on the housing lag in New South Wales while it retains its present legislation.
Time does not permit me to go into this matter very fully, but it is most interesting to cite these figures : The number of homes purchased between 1947 and 1954 wa.s 181,287. At average cost of £2,500 - which is pretty low - there has been £453,217,500 spent on home purchase. Just on £500,000,000 worth of homes were purchased in the period from 1947 to 1954. These people - and it is a good thing that they are buying their homes - have to find their own way to obtain finance. We want to build up a home-owning community as against a renting community. If I know anything about the people of Australia, that is what they want to do. Is there any reason why money should be set aside specially for the benefit of those who rent houses as against the people who wish to own their own homes? The purpose of the new agreement, which has been criticized by the honorable member for St. George, is to see that the people who want to own their own homes are encouraged to do so, and that the whole of the money provided by this Government is not used by socialist State governments to establish communities of tenants. That is not in the interests of Australia, and we oppose it strenuously, because i believe that the people o? Australia want home ownership. This Government should provide them with the necessary money, on an equal footing, to purchase their homes. But the figures will show that up to this point, due to the obnoxious agreement that was introduced by the Labour Government, subsidies have been given out of the taxpayers’ pockets - in other words, the pockets of the people who wanted to become home-owners.
The new set-up is for the purpose of encouraging home ownership, and I hope every man and woman in Australia who thinks about this subject will back the the Government in its efforts to foster home ownership throughout Australia, instead of building up a socialist State such as Labour wants, in which communities of tenants will be subject to State landlordism. I hope that no one will get on his feet to support the terms of the agreement that was produced by Labour ten years ago - to its eternal discredit! The truth is that Labour’s legislation has prevented tens of thousands of young married people in this country from getting homes at all. Labour has created the shortage, and there are tens of thousands of young married couples all over Australia who are now searching for homes. They cannot get them because of the measure that Labour introduced. It was during the debate on that measure that the socialist, Mr. Dedman, who was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the Labour Government, said that he did not want people in Australia to become little capitalists by owning their own homes.
I do not desire to waste the time of the House at this late hour. This matter is of tremendous importance, and I hope that when the new agreement is introduced we shall have a full-dress debate, so that the House will appreciate how the socialists have completely disturbed the housing economy of Australia. More houses have been built since 1947 that would accommodate the increased population. In 1947, there were 25 houses for every 100 persons in Australia. To-day, there are 30 houses for every 100 persons, yet the shortage is apparently greater now than it was in 1947. That is because of the way in which Labour has distorted the economy and prevented young people from acquiring a home in which to live. Instead, they are leaving the places where they live, and families are splitting up. At the door of the Labour party lies the responsibility for that terrible predicament of the young people of Australia, who would have had homes but for the Labour party’s action in introducing an agreement of this kind, together with the kind of legislation which has been enacted in the States. This Government is acting correctly in an effort to rectify the position, which cannot be done overnight. The people of Australia will back the Government every inch of the way if it continues to enable people to build and buy their own homes.
I support this measure, because the Government is hound by the agreement, but this is its last year of operation. At the same time, I sincerely hope that a new measure will be introduced as quickly as possible to enable young married people to become home owners, so that they may rear their families under proper conditions and not in a state of subservience to socialist State Labour governments. The position is tragic, because unfortunately a belief is current throughout Australia that there is a terrific shortage of houses. People cannot be blamed for having that idea. The position is simply that the existing houses are not as fully occupied as they could be, because they have been frozen from movement and use by the controls which have been exercised over them. The reduced number of houses in the renting market is now catering for tens of thousands fewer people than were catered for in 1947. All of those people are dispersed in the community. Therefore, the time is opportune to say that although we must agree to this measure now, we must go further.
The Government has done a magnificent job in housing, because in the last two years it has spent about £90,000,000 per annum for this purpose. We are spending £30,000,000 annually on war service homes, and every penny of it has been spent for home ownership. I emphasize the tragedy that exists under Labour governments in regard to home ownership. Under this new agreement the Government proposes to provide an opportunity for all the people in Australia to have available the finance to enable them to become home owners. In this way we shall destroy the insidious feature which Labour has imposed upon the workers by making them subservient to State governments. That is the purpose of the agreement, and thank goodness this is the last time We shall be called upon to vote for a measure of this kind. Next time we vote on such a measure a considerable portion of the money will be going to people who are buying or building homes, instead of to State Labour governments, to build homes for renting purposes.
– I have been very interested to hear this evening the speech of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon), because it seems to be completely at variance with quite a number of his past performances. By supporting the bill he is in complete opposition to the policy of Mr. Dedman, a former Labour Minister, in relation to home ownership. The Victorian Government is opposed to the release of any of this money to co-opera tive societies to enable persons to own homes. It seems to me that Labour has become very much out of step with the general requirements of the community. Thousands of persons desire to own homes rather than become permanent tenants of a government landlord. It was extremely interesting for me to learn from the honorable member for St. George that the Opposition is in agreement with the provisions of the bill. As a matter of fact, I am not in agreement with them at all. I shall read the last paragraph of the Minister’s speech to indicate exactly what I am driving at -
This bill therefore provides for financial assistance to the States for housing in accordance with the present agreement or under any new agreement approved by the Parliament.
That is a very open and loose statement. We do not know precisely what action will be taken in the future, although I have certain hopes. So far as I can understand, the Commonwealth has proposed a 20 per cent, cut in the State housing programmes for two years, and a 30 per cent, cut for the ensuing three years.
– It is not a cut.
– I shall make that perfectly clear. I do not mean that it is a cut in housing, but it is a restriction of the amount granted to the States for housing. I have no misunderstanding about the position at all. It is intended that the money thus diverted shall be made available to co-operative building societies. My quarrel is that the cut is to be only 20 per cent. I have the soundest of reasons for saying’ so, the first being that last year, notwithstanding the very good agreement which exists between the Commonwealth and the States, there was a tremendous diminution of the number of houses that were constructed, and in the number expected to be constructed this year. That indicates the extent to which the existing agreement has failed, and I am therefore glad that it will be revised. However, it should be revised still further, because there are thousands of people in the Commonwealth who are waiting to build homes, but who cannot do so because they cannot obtain the necessary finance. -
– That is right, and they ought to be able to get it from the Commonwealth Bank.
– They might be able to get finance from the Commonwealth Bank if the conditions were different, but it is of no use to be unpractical in this matter. Unless there- is to be a reservation of this kind, every honorable member knows very well that houses will not be built. In these days of rising costs, it is an outstanding fact that those who build under the co-operative housing schemes have a wide variety of ways in which to cut costs. People work during weekends. I have known of groups of people to work together on home construction. They have managed to get a loan under the co-operative housing scheme, and then carpenters, plumbers and bricklayers have grouped together with the object of cutting costs. A certain amount of labour is given without charge. They give their labour, each co-operating with the other, in order to make it possible for one of the group to secure a home at a certain price.
– They would be groupers ?
– Yes, I should say that they would be. That is only another illustration of the value of groupers in the community. Those groupers, like the groupers in the unions, co-operate to assist the economy of Australia. That seems to be the principal point about groupers and, strangely enough, it also seems to be the principal argument that is used by the Evatt Labour party, or the Molotov party - call it what you will - against the groupers.
It is very important that people should form themselves into groups in order that costs might be cut and to make it practicable for ordinary working men to obtain their own homes. I am very interested in this subject because, not only is it a question of people combining together to build houses, but also once these people combine together they are able to get a stake in the community and attain a position precisely the reverse of that to which Mr. Dedman referred on a certain occasion. It will be remembered that he said that such people would become little capitalists.
– He never said it, and the honorable member knows that he did not say it.
– I was not in the House at the time.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order !
-As I was not in the House at the time, I can only accept what appeared in Hansard. As I am reminded, that statement also was made in court. In addition, it was in line with the general philosophy of Mr. Dedman himself, which was very much the same as the philosophy lying dormant on the Opposition side of the House at the present time.
– The honorable member supported Mr. Dedman. He was in the same party.
– I never supported him in my life.
– The honorable member pretended to support him.
– The honorable gentleman did quite a lot of pretending also, particularly in relation to the central executive.
– Order !
– I am trying to discuss the subject of housing. The measure before the House is most interesting because it will afford people the opportunity to acquire homes. If there is one thing that is needed in this country to-day it is the opportunity for people to build their own homes and, in mat way, to know a reasonable degree of security. This bill might, perhaps, be criticized from that point of view, because whatever happens under this housing agreement with the States, the method of providing houses will be most costly for the States.
The provision of houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is no longer a matter of slum reclamation, although all the costs, associated with that aspect are still retained. The very high maintenance costs applicable to the original slum reclamation projects are being retained in respect of homes which are maintained in a reasonable condition for at least five years. Of course, every other year there is a maintenance bill which should be completely unnecessary. In addition there is a bill for supervision, which also is not now necessary. That supervision consisted of women officers engaged by the housing commission going along and inspecting homos, including bed clothes and the general set-up of the houses, and doing any delousing that was necessary in the early stages.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I know all about this matter. I have more housing commission homes in my electorate than some honorable members ever thought existed. It is no longer necessary to carry out that supervision, because the housing commission has become a sort of rich man’s preserve. It is not possible to get into a housing commission home in the metropolitan areas of Victoria unless the prospective tenant is able to pay rent of up to £4 a week. It cannot’ be said, therefore, that such housing is designed to assist the poor of the community. Therefore, I contend that it is most important that the very high costs associated with the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should be examined carefully, and that more money should be made available for those associated with cooperative housing societies. If there is to be a diversion of capital, it ought to be given to the co-operatives. I know, from my own experience, that there is absolutely no reason why people should have to sit on a block of land-
– I thought the honorable member was going to say something about sitting on the fence.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) should return to his own seat.
– I cannot see why people who have upwards of £1,500 to put into the construction of a house should be denied the opportunity to join a co-operative housing society because sufficient money is not available. From where is the money to come unless the Government gives assistance, such as the assistance proposed by the measure before the House? I contend that more than 20 per cent, of this assistance should be given to the co-operative building societies, because that amount of assistance will not meet the requirements of those who are eager to obtain homes and to bring up their families in decent Australian conditions. If that is not Labour policy, then it should be. Every man should be able to bring up his family with that essential degree of independence.
There is probably only one criticism that can be made of this bill, and that is that it proposes that there should be an increase of the interest rate. That will mean, automatically, an increase of rents. For those people who have been forced to take a housing commission home, that will be an important matter. I say again that co-operative housing is the best means of housing that we could adopt at the present time. Real slum reclamation should be undertaken. The housing commission should not become the landlord for a community of fairly well-off middle-class people, and the ordinary individuals who are living in rented housing commission homes should not have their rents increased. If the original intention of the housing agreements, which was slum reclamation, had been implemented, probably slum dwellers would have been better housed and better educated in the use of new houses - a matter which seemed to be so necessary when the scheme was first embarked upon.
Let me again stress that the only reason why I emphasize this point is, not because there has been an increase of rents, but because I am absolutely satisfied in my own mind that the policy of the Labour party throughout this Commonwealth should be that all people, especially young people who desire to acquire their own homes, should be given an opportunity to do so as soon as possible. They are the people who will eventually occupy what can be regarded as responsible positions in the community. There is no doubt that all the maintenance costs and other costs associated with housing agreements would disappear to a large extent if a larger proportion of the funds made available for housing were diverted so as to enable people to buy their own homes. A person who owns his home wants to improve his asset and has no intention of departing from the bargain that he has made. His whole life is centred in his home. Every possible help should be given to prospective home-owners, because home ownership represents everything that is good and worth while in a community. We should help the young people especially to get into their own homes as soon as possible, so that they can begin to occupy a very responsible position in the community.
– The honorable member is thinking about himself.
– As a matter of fact, I am thinking about myself. If this matter must be brought down to a personal level, let me say that I am a member of a co-operative housing society and that I am waiting to build on my own behalf. I make no secret of that. I need finance. The more finance that T can obtain from the co-operative housing society, the better will be the stake that my family and I will have in the community. Of course I am thinking of myself, but I am thinking also of thousands of other people who are in a similar position.
It cannot be denied that there was a diminution of building last year. There has been a very serious decline of .the number of buildings and contractors available, largely because building for State housing commissions has become a monopoly. One contractor is given an enormous number of jobs, and other builders are forced out of business. Thai sort of thing does not lead to genuine competition in the building industry, nor does it help to reduce building costs.
I am extremely pleased that, in this instance, the Opposition has adopted an attitude different from that adopted by the State Labour governments and by the former Labour Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, Mr. J. J. Dedman. The Opposition is prepared to support the suggestions which have been made in relation to this agreement. It is prepared to support the agreement, whilst the Labour governments in the States are opposing it.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The State Labour governments are opposing it. In Victoria, Mr. Tripovitch, who occupies a housing commission home-
– So did the honorable member.
– Yes, I did. It is quite true that at one time I occupied a housing commission home. The point 1 am trying to make is that, notwithstanding that some Labour supporters occupy housing commission homes, they are opposing the suggestion that the whole of the money allocated for housing shall not go to housing commissions. Mr. Dedman did not like men to own their homes, because he claimed that a homeowner was a little capitalist. We had from the honorable member for St. George to-night a straight-out declaration that the Opposition is prepared to agree to a proposal which may permit much more than 20 per cent, of the funds to be allotted to building societies, if this Parliament and the State Government’s agree to such an arrangement being made. The bill will leave the matter wide open. I hope that we shall go miles beyond 20 per cent. It is difficult to make a speech while all this conversation is going on.
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is not helping his colleague by engaging in a dialogue with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I hope that the percentage of the funds allocated to housing commissions, which are becoming such great landlords, will be sufficient only to enable the commissions to meet the needs of people in the depressed classes, who must be cared for under any genuine housing agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. T suggest that that is all that is necessary. The matter becomes more difficult when one realizes that it is now proposed - I think it is more than a proposal - that tenants of housing commission homes shall be enabled to buy their homes under very favorable conditions. The cooperator, who has saved money over the years with which to buy his block of land, is in an inferior position, compared with, housing commission tenants, in that respect. There is no reason why he should be in an inferior position compared with a housing commission tenant who has an opportunity to buy his house under the scheme, but who, so far, possibly because of the comparatively low rent that he is paying, has not done very much about it.
I hope that the Commonwealth will pi-ess for more money to be released to help people who want to buy their houses through co-operative building societies or other building societies, and that it will resist any move to allocate an unduly large proportion of the funds to State housing commissions, which, in many instances, are using their funds to provide houses for people in what may be regarded as the very favoured middle class of the community.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) made a short second-reading speech of this bill, but nevertheless it was a much longer speech than he could make at this hour of the night. Two points emerge from it. First, he discloses the drop in funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in the last two years, and secondly, he suppresses material figures concerning the drop in commencements. Two years aS°) by the Loan (Housing) Act of 1953, £37,200,000 was made available by the Commonwealth to the States to build houses. This bill provides for £33,200,000, or £4,000,000 less than the figure for 1953. Can it be said that the need for houses, whether for tenants or for owners, is any less than it was two years ago? The Minister cited the figures for completions, which show a certain rise, but he did not cite the figures for commencements, which show a marked decline.-
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) had his annual spasm on the subject of housing. This is the sixth consecutive time that he has made a speech on this annual bill. We are familiar with his views on the subject First of all he referred to “a shocking agreement foisted on us by a Labour government”. That was an agreement made ten years ago by the Australian Labour government and six State governments, some of which were Labour and some Liberal. If the honorable member did not like the agreement, and could persuade the Government that his objections to it were well founded, there was still the simple procedure provided in clause 16 of the agreement, by which any party could, by giving a year’s notice, put an end to it. So lacking in bona fides -was this Government, or so little influence did the honorable member for Bennelong have with it, that notice has never been given to end the agreement.
The honorable member referred also to “tenant communities” which are being foisted on the community by Labour governments. They are being foisted on the community by Liberal governments as well as Labour governments. Two years ago, in 1953-54, the Playford Liberal Government in South Australia, which adopted the agreement initially ten years ago but which had never taken funds under it, asked for grants under the agreement and received £4,500,000. The Australian Government treats both Liberal and Labour State governments with equal injustice because the Playford Government, which two years ago received £4,500,000, last year received only £3,600,000 and will receive a similar sum this year.
It is said that Labour governments have created a shortage of housing. I hear, constantly, from the right honorable the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and from the no less honorable Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) that there is no shortage of housing, in Australia. It is a pity that those gentlemen in the Ministry do not know what their right hand is doing because the honorable member for Bennelong is constantly complaining about the housing shortage. At least there is an unfulfilled demand for housing.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I call the House to order. If Government members wish to have this legislation agreed to expeditiously they will not succeed if they persist in interrupting, because I will leave the chair.
– I presume that the honorable member for Bennelong was referring to rent controls imposed by State Labour governments and by Liberal State governments as well. Rent controls have been preserved since the war in every State in Australia except for a brief period, a year ago, inWestern Australia. At that time, the Liberal Legislative Council lifted rent control and the statistician’s figures showed that as a result rents rose by 41 per cent. in six months and there were wholesale evictions. The real grouch of the honorable member for Bennelong is–
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 25th October (vide page 1838), on motion bySir Arthur Fadden -
That the hill he now read a second time.
– In this carefree pre-election atmosphere, at nearly 1.55 a.m., it is good to note that we have reached unanimity at least in relation to this bill by which theGovernment seeks to provide £18,500,000 for the three claimant States. The Opposition agrees to the passage of thebill.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Yarra must refrain from talking.
– The Opposition appreciates the fact that last year’s grants have been increased by £2,150,000 in the case of South Australia, £1,450,000 in the case of Western Australia, and £1,600,000 in the case of Tasmania. The commissioners always do a good job in the difficult task of ascertaining the financial resources and the difficulties of those three States. Eighty-three witnesses have appeared before the Commonwealth Grants Commission during the last twelve months.
Mr. Wentworth interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Mackellar will sit down and be quiet. If honorable members do not maintain silence, I shall leave the chair. I shall not tolerate this continuous noise.
– Some honorable members should remain silent or walkout.
– Order ! The honorable member will remain quiet, or leave the chamber.
– I should like to mention briefly the principles of these grants, which are continuous in principle with other transfers of Commonwealth revenue to the States. They should represent the amount required to complete the work begun by other transfers, and to reduce the financial inequality of the States sufficiently for the harmonious and effective working of federal government. They are justified when a State, through financial stress from any cause, is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the federation.
– Speak up.
– Order 1 The honorable member for Evans will leave the chamber.
– Get down in the bilge.
-Order! The honorable member for Werriwa, too, will leave the chamber.
The honorable member for Evans and the honorable member for Werriwa thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– The grant to a State should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the other States. That is the principle upon which, each year, the three commissioners have worked out the benefits for the three claimant States, owing to the inequalities between the six States and the Commonwealth, the task of working out the standards and basis of assistance is made immeasurably difficult. The commissioners have pointed out in their report that the differences between the six States arise from differences in financial policy, in administrative organization and in accounting practice. More fundamental differences arise from differences in the basic resources of the States and in the number, age composition, and occupational distribution of their populations. These differences have meant that the cost of developing resources has varied from State to State and, generally speaking, has been relatively high in the States of smaller population. They have pointed out, too, that population and density of population also affect the economy of each State. In addition, they have pointed out in Tasmania, although it has a relatively high density of population, has a lower metropolitan concentration than have other States, and a higher dispersion in small rural communities, and that that also is likely to increase per capita costs of administration.
On page after page of the commission’s report are to be found detailed analyses of the economic situation in each State. I commend the commissioners for the analyses they have given at the back of their report, which provides a complete record of the economy of the Commonwealth in all its aspects. They have reported that some of the State officials have complained about the formula that has been used since 1948. The formula, which is in two parts, called the first part and the second part, is very complex. The Commonwealth Treasury has suggested a simpler method which the commissioners have rejected, at least for this year. They have retained the old formula of two parts. I make a plea to the commissioners to consider the Treasury’s suggestions, and to make the formula simpler. As I have stated, it is a very complex formula which a layman could not possibly understand.
I hasten to mention also that the allowances to the three claimant States in respect of social services have been increased. Those increases are set out on page 30 of the twenty-second report of the’ commission. The commission, refering to its twenty-first report, stated -
The Commission decided that the allowance should he increased as follows: for South Australia, from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent.; for Western Australia, from 10 per cent, to 11 per cent.; and for Tasmania, from 6 per cent, to 9 per cent.
Tasmania complained that this was not sufficient, and it wanted 15 per cent. The commission had gone into the details of social services expenditure in the three smaller States, and it increased the percentage allowances in each of them. South Australia received an increase of 1 per cent., Western Australia an increase of 1 per cent, and Tasmania an increase of 3 per cent., bringing the percentage in Tasmania up to 12 per cent, as a special consideration for expenditure on hospitals and the like. The commission, on page 96 of its report, shows that on public health Tasmania spends 13s. 8d. per capita, whilst the nearest State to Tasmania is Queensland with an expenditure of 6s. 9d. That gives some conception of the enormous cost of social services in Tasmania. The commission gave special consideration to that fact.
Finally, a statement on page 22 of the report deserves repetition. Many people may wonder why the smaller States are still receiving financial help from the Commonwealth in these days when so many other grants are being made to the States. This system has been’ in operation since 1910. The report, on page 22, states -
It might well be asked, however, why the need for special grants persists so strongly when other Commonwealth payments to the States have increased greatly, and when there is evidence of economic expansion in the claimant States at least equal to that which has occurred in the non-claimant States. In general terms, the reason is that cost of expansion of State services, of development of undertakings such as railways and water supply, and of general administration are relatively heavy in the States of smaller populations. At the same time benefits to revenue arising from economic expansion do not flow directly to the State governments.
That is the reason why this year £18.500,000 is to be provided for those three States, the highest payment ever made in the long history of State grants. I am glad the commission has recognized that in the smaller States expansion and development per head of population is more costly than it is in the more populous States. We in Tasmania appreciate very much that this year an increase of £5,000,000 has been made to the three smaller States to enable them to balance their budgets for the current financial year.
– I do not propose to allow this measure to go through without speaking on it. It is of very great importance to at least three of the States of Australia, and it is more important than some other measures on which honorable members have received a very patient hearing during the course of this sitting. The bill provides for the distribution of £18,500,000 to the claimant States, of which amount £8,000,000 is to go to Western Australia. As I have pointed out previously in respect of the system on which these allocations are made, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in order to arrive at the grants to be made available to the respective claimant States, assesses the standard of social services provided in the other States and compares that with the standard in the claimant States. Then, on the basis of what the commission considers is necessary to enable the claimant States to bring their standards up to those of the more populous States, it determines the grants. I agree that the principle of establishing a standard, for comparison only, is a good one; but I emphasize that if the commission persists in the use of that method of assessing the requirements of the claimant States, it is postulating the principle that the standard of social services, namely hospitals, health, education and such services, in the smaller States shall be the lowest standard prevailing in the eastern States of New South Wales, Queensland, or Victoria. Should one of the claimant States, Tasmania, Western Australia or South Australia, desire to provide a standard above that of the more populous eastern States, then it will be penalized to the extent that it attempts to achieve a higher standard. That is not a very good thing. [Quorum formed.’]
I repeat that the basis upon which these grants are made is that the commission assesses the requirements of the claimant States by attempting to make it possible for them by a reasonable effort to reach a standard not appreciably below that of the other States. That is not a very satisfactory basis upon which to assess the requirements of these States because it perpetuates the idea that the standard shall be the minimum standard, and that any one of the claimant States which proposes to establish a standard above that of either New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland, shall consequently be penalized in respect of the amount of assistance that it requires to provide that standard. I am not satisfied that the standard prevailing in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, particularly in Sydney, is suitable for this country. I am glad to hear from all sides of the House supporting “ Hear, hears ! and even “ Lord forbids “, because I have no doubt that the sentiments I have expressed will find considerable support among many people in the country. One feature of the activities of the Commonwealth Grants Commission which should provide food for thought to the three claimant States, as well as to the Commonwealth Treasury and the commission itself, is that each of the claimant States, according to the commission’s reports, is making rapid development and contributing considerably to its own support and to the national economy. The total amount of grants made as a result of the recommendations of the commission is increasing substantially each year. This year shows an increase of £3,000,000 above last year’s total. The total is steadily increasing each year. That fact must surely indicate the need for an inquiry to discover the reason for the steady, continued increase. The commission’s report this year indicates that, “Western Australia, because of its great absorption of immigrants - the rate is higher than that of the other States on a population basis - now has to face the need to provide for the social requirements of a greatly increased population. But that is not the whole of the story. There must be other factors which are making it necessary for the claimant States to obtain increasing assistance from the Commonwealth Treasury. The Treasury may eventually have difficulty in providing the grants that the commission recommends. I have no doubt that it will be able to provide the money, but the alarming position must arise where the claimant States, in the preparation of their annual budgets, will come to rely more and more on Commonwealth handouts, and may be somewhat reluctant to bear the responsibilities which are rightly theirs, either to seek avenues of cutting their coats to suit their cloth or to accept the irksome and undesirable task - at least they apparently do not desire to undertake it - of increasing their own revenue raisings.
According to the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report Western Australia would. find it difficult to cut its coat to suit its cloth more skimpily than it has already done. Its administrative charges, for instance) are the lowest in the Commonwealth. That is an excellent thing. There is very little more economy that Western Australia can practise. The only further economic measures’ it could take would be to reduce services to the public, which would be undesirable, or to increase State taxes, and the States do not want to increase their taxes because of the unpopularity attendant on such a moveSome consideration, however, will have to be given to the fact that the annual grants to the States are steadily increasing every year, and may well grow so big that ultimately the Commonwealth. Treasury will be disinclined to accept the recommendations of the commission! on the ground that it cannot provide the amounts recommended. We shall have to cut the grants at some time or other. So far, the Commonwealth has agreed to the recommendations every year, and it will be a bad day when it has to cut the grants.
I should like. the commission to take into consideration not only a comparison of social services, but also some of the actual disabilities under which the claimant States suffer because they have to conform to the needs of the national economic policy.
– Does the honorable member know that it is a quarter past midnight in Western Australia?
– I know it is. Does the honorable member know that if he will keep his mouth closed I shall finish sooner, and he will be able to get away sooner ? I want to point out that Western Australian imports from the. eastern States last year’ totalled £91,000,000 in value. Our exports to the eastern States were worth only £24,000,000, but Western Australian exports overseas to sterling and dollar countries totalled £72,000,000.
Because we are compelled by the national economy to pool our resources with the rest of the Commonwealth, we are forced to accept whatever trade conditions are available to us overseas, in accordance with the economic policy of the Commonwealth as a whole. Again, because we are tied to the national economy, we are compelled to purchase our import requirements to the tune of £91,000,000 on the Australian market, whereas we could obtain them much more cheaply overseas. All of those factors affect Western Australia’s own economy. Western Australia is an exporting State which is valuable to the whole of our national economy, and it is obvious that it is suffering from some serious disabilities from which it would not have to suffer were it not for the fact that it must conform to the needs of the national economy. We do not object to having to take a national outlook, and to being part of the national picture, but we contend that some recognition must be given to our overall contribution, and that we are entitled to better consideration in relation to grants from the Commonwealth.
That brings me back to my original argument. I believe that we in Western Australia could establish a standard of social services higher than that of the eastern States, but we cannot do so now because we are limited, by the principles on which the Commonwealth Grants Commission operates, to the standard that obtains on the easternside of this continent. That factor requires consideration.
In conclusion, I wish to pay a tribute to Mr. A. J.Reid, who was appointed a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission during the last twelve months. He is a man who has a very fine record in the public service in Western Australia. He understands the budgetary requirements of governments as no other man in the Commonwealth does, or, at least, he is the equal in that respect of any other man in the Commonwealth. He will be an asset to the commission and will, I believe, assist it in its deliberations, withoutbeing biased in any way in favour of the smaller States, because his experience in Western Australia has made him understand, and act in accordance with, the necessity for each State tocarry a full share of its responsibilities. So I say that the Commonwealth can look forward - -
– When isthe honorable gentleman going to finish?
– Again I say to the honorable memberthat if he wants me to finish my speech seasonably soon he will keep quiet. I can keep going for a long time yet. The Commonwealth can be assured that it has appointed to the commission a man who will consider, not only the requirements of the States as laid down in the principles adoptedby the commission, but also the responsibility of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Treasury to meet whatever recommendations the commission submits. I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I inform the Whips,the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), that the two honorable members who were ordered to leave the chamber, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), may return to the service of the House to-day, if they are prepared to apologize.
House adjourned at 2.22 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows,: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
International Bank for reconstrtjction and Development.
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) four, (b) 258,500,000 dollars.
In respect of each loan interest is payable halfyearly on the amount of the loan withdrawn and outstanding from time to time. This interest charge includes 1 per cent. commission required to be charged under the articles of agreement of the bank for the purpose of building up the reserves of the bank. There is also a commitment charge of3/4 per cent. per annum payable on the amount of the loan standing undrawn from time to time.
It is not possible to state the total interest cost of these borrowings. The amount of interest payable depends on the factors listed below which cannot be precisely determined at this stage: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the
Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization -
What stage has been reached in the investigations being carried out by officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Lands, into the eradication or control of lantana?
– The Minister has furnished the following reply: -
The Commonwealth and Queensland jointly financed the despatch to Mexico of an officer of the Queensland Department of Lands, for six months from July, 1953, to January, 1954, to work with an officer of the Hawaiian Board of Agriculture and Forestry on the biological control of lantana. The object of this collaboration was to investigate the insects associated with lantana in central America and to introduce into Hawaii and subsequently into
Australia any insects which might control this weed but would be harmless to useful plants. As a result of this work a number of promising insects were discovered and some of these have been released in Hawaii, whilst others are being held in quarantine in Hawaii. The Commonwealth and Queensland will finance the despatch of a Queensland officer to Hawaii for six months from about next January, in order to ‘submit several of these potentially useful insects to a series of tests which will determine whether or not their introduction into Australia can be recommended. It is hoped that by about the middle of next year it will be possible for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to make recommendations regarding some of these insects. Meanwhile, the Hawaiian authorities are carrying out further work on this problem in central America, and from this we may hope later to benefit, both in the knowledge and the insect material acquired.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551026_reps_21_hor8/>.