22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– During the absence abroad of the Minister for Trade, the Minister for Primary Industry will act as the Minister for Trade.
– I should like to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question as to the present status of the matter before the Security Council of the United Nations in relation to the Suez dispute. Is mediation still taking place? Under what conditions is it taking place? Is there anything relevant to that matter that the right honorable gentleman can report to the House?
– Perhaps 1 might be allowed, in answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question, to narrate briefly the course of events in the past few days on this Suez matter. Last Friday and Saturday the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, France and Egypt met the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations and had further entirely private talks, following which there were two more closed meetings of the Security Council - meetings in camera. The up-shot of these discussions, both in private with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and in the closed sessions, was a limited measure of agreement, particularly on the six principles, which I think are well known to the right honorable gentleman. They have been published in the press, and I think that I have actually mentioned them in the House. These six principles were incorporated in a new draft resolution which was put before an open session of the Security Council on 13th October - last Friday or Saturday, New York Time - by the United Kingdom and France. There were two operative parts of this resolution, one of which, incorporating these six so-called principles, was adopted unanimously by the Security Council. The other operative portion, which sought to get the endorsement of the Security Council for the 18-power proposals and which invited Egypt to meet them, at the instance of the United Kingdom and France, was approved by nine out of eleven members of the Security Council but was vetoed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia. Without entering into what might be regarded as any controversial aspects on this Suez question, I think it may be said that airing of this question in the Security Council has resulted as follows: - The Security Council, by nine out of eleven votes, which is a very large and impressive majority, approved the 18-power proposals. The geographical make-up represented by the nine members out of the eleven that approved the 18-power proposals is significant. That majority included representative countries of Western Europe, South America, the Middle East and the Far East. This is a substantial vindication, we believe, of the position taken by the majority of the participants in the first London conference. As expected, of course, the Soviet Union frustrated the formal acceptance by the Security Council of the 18-power proposals, in spite of that rather impressive geographical and other endorsement. The private discussions between the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, France and Egypt succeeded in obtaining Egyptian agreement to some general principles. I say “ general “ because they cannot be completely and properly described as “ basic “ principles. Egypt agreed to some modification of her position. T think that that is all that it is reasonable to say.
So far as the future goes, on which the right honorable gentleman has questioned me, it is believed that the onus hereafter remains on Egypt. I cannot prognosticate as to how the business will be pursued from now on. Possibly - but this again is pure speculation - the Secretary-General of the United Nations will take a hand in approaching Egypt, on the one side, and Great Britain and France on the other side, and suggest a time and place for a further meeting to put flesh on to the bones of these six so-called principles, and so arrive at some possible solution of this matter. It may go that way; I do not know. As to whether the matter will come back to the Security Council, that again is a possibility, but I do not express any opinion on it. All that I think can be said is that we have now what we might call an agreed agenda for a meeting at some future time between Egypt on the one hand and Great Britain and France on the other hand which, I think, is some degree of advance at least. I hope only - and I think that this would be the view of the Government - that negotiations will go ahead with the least possible delay in this still explosive matter of the Suez Canal.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to the reported move by the AfricanAsian group at the United Nations to have the question of the sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea included in the provisional agenda of the General Assembly, and to the contents of a memorandum handed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, part of which I shall now read? The memorandum states, inter alia -
In its wider context as an unresolved remnant of a colonial problem it affects adversely the whole complex of international relations in that part of the world.
In view of the intention of that group to bring the matter before the General Assembly, will the Minister inform the House of the Government’s attitude towards this move?
– Yes, I am, of course, aware of the facts contained in the question that the honorable gentleman has been good enough to ask me. The Australian position in respect of this matter has, I think, never been in doubt. Since the matter arose in 1954, Australia has strongly supported the existence and the maintenance of Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. The Government deplores this matter again being brought into the United Nations. It has already been twice before that body and, presumably, it will now come up for a third time. Our attitude does not necessitate, I think, any further repetition in the Parliament. It has been clear in the past, and I think it is clear to-day. It is precisely what it has been ever since this matter, we believe quite wrongly, and without international advantage, was first brought before the United Nations. We do not believe that any solution can be found in the United Nations, and we greatly deplore the fact that it has been brought up again for inter national discussion, which we believe on this occasion, as on all previous occasions, can lead only to an increase in bitterness between the principal participants. We deplore anything that makes for increased bitterness between Holland and Indonesia and, at one short remove, between Indonesia and Australia. We have tried to show, by the most practical means at our disposal, that Australia wishes to have the best possible relations with Indonesia. This is the only matter out of a very great many matters in which Indonesia and ourselves are in any way at odds. The Australian delegation at the United Nations will do everything possible to avoid a recrudescence of bitterness in this matter. Nothing good can come out of extreme statements on the matter by Indonesia. We will, of course, do everything we can to maintain our past stand, and everything we can to maintain our support of Holland’s sovereignty, but equally, we will do everything possible to avoid bitterness in this matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: What statutory authority exists for the erection outside the German Embassy in Jardine-street, Kingston, of official signs restricting parking in that section of the street to the vehicles of diplomatic missions? Is there any reason why the officers and employees of the German Embassy should not take their chance with Canberra citizens in obtaining parking space in the public streets? Conversely, should Canberra citizens be required to defer to the officers and employees of a foreign embassy, whose vehicles are not, I understand, subject to our traffic regulations?
– As I understand it, the Commissioner of Police for the Australian Capital Territory has always had authority to reserve parking areas. Apparently some request has been made in this particular case. I am having inquiries made at the moment, and shall give the honorable gentleman a full statement on the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether certain Commonwealth instrumentalities, such as the Commonwealth Bank in Hobart, make a payment to cbe city council in lieu of rates, a practice that does not apply to all Commonwealth properties. Will he give consideration to applying, as a general rule, the principle of payment in lieu to city councils in respect of Commonwealth properties in council areas?
– As my honorable friend knows, some little time back arrangements were made concerning property occupied for what might be called “ trading purposes “. The problem, so far as it affects Commonwealth property in general, is extremely complex. We have received deputations regarding it, and we have had it under consideration. On the one hand, we may have a Commonwealth property in a city, enjoying the amenities provided by that city, but paying no rates. On the other hand, as the honorable member knows better than most of us, we may have a Commonwealth property, such as an aerodrome, which actually - for some reason that is not clear to me - increases the rateable value of land in the vicinity. That is a problem that the Treasurer, and Cabinet, have had under close examination. It was raised on a former occasion by the honorable member who is now in the chair. I can assure the honorable member for Franklin that it is not being overlooked. We regard it as quite a problem.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether he was correctly reported last week as stating that Australia was about to produce a weapon that would end all wars. If that statement, which is of very great importance, is correct, will he take the House into his confidence and tell us just what is this achievement that we are about to witness? I repeat that my question is prompted by what has appeared in the press. I ask him whether the report was correct.
– The report was not correct.
– My question to the PostmasterGeneral concerns personal representations that I have made to him on behalf of certain citizens of Dora Creek, and the progress association in that district, concerning the reduction in the hours of attendance at the Dora Creek telephone exchange. The Minister may remember that my representations culminated in the presentation of a petition. 1 ask the Postmaster-General: ls it possible for the department to do anything that will restore to the area a continuous telephone service?
– As the honorable member for Robertson has stated, he has approached me several times in the last few months about the difficulty prevailing at the Dora Creek unofficial post office. Similar difficulties occur from time to time in unofficial post offices in country areas, and sometimes they are hard to remedy. Actually, the volume of business at the Dora Creek exchange is such that a continuous service is warranted, and a continuous service was provided there for a considerable time. However, some time ago the present unofficial postmaster became ill and his daughter, who had been helping him, married. She is now able to assist him only for limited periods. Therefore, it became necessary for the unofficial postmaster to notify the department that he could not provide a continuous service. No action has been taken by the department to curtail the hours of attendance at that post office. The department, in order to keep a continuous service in operation, if possible, has conferred with the postmaster and has tried to assist him to obtain a suitable attendant to help him with hh duties. So far, the efforts have not been successful. The department is prepared to continue its efforts and, if necessary, to attend a meeting of subscribers in the area so see if something can be worked out. I point out that the department is not in a position to instruct an unofficial postmaster to give a service extending beyond certain hours, if the hours proposed are outside the normal scope of the position. The department has had to accept the present position at Dora Creek. I saw a statement this morning which described the present hours of attendance as useless. I point out that they are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with an hour’s break for lunch, from Monday to Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. I submit that those hours could not justifiably be described as useless, lt is the department’s desire to provide as effective a service as possible. If there is any action that we can take in co-operation with the subscribers in the district to overcome the difficulty, we shall be only too pleased to take it. The honorable member for Robertson has been making quite strong representations to me on the matter for several months. The suggestion has been made that the installation of a rural automatic exchange would provide a remedy. That is so, and investigations have been made to see whether it would be possible to install an automatic exchange at Dora Creek. An application has been approved, but it is not high on the priority list. There are 104 approved applications for rural automatic exchanges in New South Wales, and this application is about half-way down the list. I do not intend to attempt to persuade the department to give this area, which has a reasonably efficient service at present, priority over other areas not so efficiently served. I should like the honorable member for Robertson to inform the residents of the district that the difficulty can be overcome, not by taking telephones out or doing anything that would be an offence against the post and telegraphs regulations, but by co-operating with the department, which desires to do all that it possibly can to provide a continuous service in this area.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply a question, supplementary to that which was asked by the honorable member for Adelaide, about the supposed weapon to end all weapons and to end all wars. Will the honorable gentleman, having disclaimed any intention to indicate a revolutionary change along the lines suggested by my colleague, take the House into his confidence and tell us what he did say on the topic, if he dealt with it at all?
– I do not want to take up question time with a lengthy explanation. Very briefly, what happened was this: I was addressing an admirable body of people, the Liberal convention in Brisbane. I spoke about the Government’s defence policy, and in the course of that speech I mentioned the very substantial amounts of money which were being expended on defence science, and I spoke of the Woomera project, which, of course, is a joint BritishAustralian project, on which we have expended about £56,000,000. I mentioned the fact that we had, on behalf of theBritish Government, first been developing, short-range missiles, and were now moving on to the development of what we calf longer range “ deterrent “ weapons. I speculated then on the sort of hope we had that when these weapons became perfected this might make World War III. the impossible war, in that the enemy would know that, no matter what he could do to us we could do the same sort of thing to him. These views were similar to those stated by Mr. Erroll, the British Parliamentary Secretary for Supply, who was out here some time ago, and they were also stated in newspaper articles published at the request of a Melbourne newspaper by myself somemonths ago. There was nothing revolutionary about it; and it was all published and said before. Strangely enough, the newspaper which published that article was thevery newspaper - indeed the only one - topublish the sensational report two or three days ago. I communicated with the newspaper, pointing out this fact. The newspaper published a retraction in part, but omitted, no doubt inadvertently, to mention” the fact that it had had the article in print some months before.
– Will the Prime Minister receive a deputation from the representatives of dismissed employees of the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow?’ I ask the Prime Minister this question because of the impending departure from Australia of the Minister for Defence Production, who has refused to receive the representatives of the dismissed employees. If the Prime Minister is not prepared toreceive such a deputation, will he, because of the complexities of this matter, arrange for the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Defence to receive a delegation? I point out to the right honorable gentleman that grave anxiety exists among the dismissed employees, who have given as much as fifteen years’ continuous loyal service, but are now faced with the impossible task of finding employment in the district where they live.
– I have a very humanunderstanding of this problem, but I realize more than ever that I did rather open the door when I was beguiled by my friend, the honorable member for Bendigo, into- receiving a deputation the other day, and I hope that my friend the honorable member for Macquarie will not misunderstand me when I say that 1 just cannot go on doing that; there are one or two other things that I have to do. But I will certainly have a talk to my colleagues about the point that he raises. Nobody gets any pleasure out of this. Rearrangements are made, there are always adjustments to be made and, of course, unfortunately, somebody, I hope very temporarily, suffers in the adjustment. But he has made his point, and I will have a word with my colleagues about it. He will forgive me if 1 say that I myself cannot go on receiving deputations on these matters.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs seen a report that Soviet Russia is broadcasting to the people of Panama to incite them to nationalize the Panama Canal? Has the right honorable gentleman any further information on this subject, and, if the report is correct, can he say how this action on the part of Russia will affect the Suez Canal situation?
– 1 do not happen to have seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but it has the well-known ring of truth, because Soviet Russia, I think, neglects no opportunity to fish in troubled waters, and this is a clear and fairly obvious case in which, at least on the surface, Soviet Russia might be able to say something to create trouble where, at the present moment, no trouble exists. However, I do not myself believe that that would have any relevance in regard to the Suez matter. The two artificial waterways are so wholly different in their origins and in the undertakings by which they were established and conducted, that 1 do not think that even the most vigorous and original-minded propagandist could find anything in the Panama matter that could have any further destructive reference to Suez.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a Cabinet decision rejecting the reinstitution of a passenger-cargo shipping service between Hobart and Sydney - a matter that had united all Tasmanian senators and members of the House of Representatives, together with the Tasmanian
Government, led by the Chief Secretary, in deputations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport? Is it a fact that this decision was made at the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday? If so, is the right honorable gentleman aware that the information was withheld from Tasmanian members of this Parliament and from the State Government until after the Tasmanian elections on Saturday last? I might point out that the announcement was made in Tasmania only last night by Senator Marriott, who led the deputation. Is the right honorable gentleman further aware that the need for such a direct service is so urgent that Huddart Parker Limited is prepared to take “ Westralia “ off the New Zealand run and put it on the Hobart-Sydney run, if the Australian Government is prepared to play its part?
– 1 should hesitate to say that I was aware of all the points made by the honorable member in his speech, but 1 am well aware of the fact that the Cabinet decided that it should not offer a very large subsidy for a new shipping service which could not exist without a heavy subsidy. I think that the honorable member has overlooked the fact that this Government, both by its subsidy of “ Taroona “, and in other ways, is providing a volume of subsidy to direct and significant trade between Tasmania and the mainland far greater than that contemplated by any government he ever supported. I trust he is aware of that, and I trust, also, that he occasionally reminds his constituents of it and occasionally moves a vote of thanks to us for it. But now he comes along and whips up this idea about a new service which would involve subtracting another ship from the coastal service of Australia and which, in itself, would require a subsidy of something over £200,000 a year, if I remember correctly. He is now manufacturing a grievance about the matter. I hope, sir, that, in a p spirit of perfect honesty, he will abandon this grievance.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. It has come to my notice that import restrictions have caused a shortage of the drug ansolysen As this drug is important and is included in the free medicine list, will the Minister consult his colleague, the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, to see what can be done to alleviate the position?
– A few days ago, the Minister for Trade answered, at considerable length, a question about another drug which was alleged to be scarce because of import restrictions. I have had no representations made to me about the particular drug mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but, if he brings the circumstances to my notice, I shall ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade to have a look at them.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs seen a statement made by a British Foreign Office spokesman to the effect that Britain would go to the help of Jordan if that country were attacked by Israel? If he has, will he inform the House whether, and to what extent, Australia would be involved in any action the United Kingdom Government took under the Anglo-Jordan Mutual Defence Treaty of 1948?
– I realize that Great Britain has lately found it necessary to emphasize again her obligations under the fairly longstanding British-Jordan Treaty. I have not the terms of the treaty in my mind at the moment, but it was a simple reiteration of an obligation entered into by Great Britain a number of years ago. In the present rather tense situation existing between Israel and Jordan, Great Britain thought it necessary to bring the terms of the treaty to the notice of the two parties again. I shall certainly refresh my memory on the terms of the treaty and let the honorable gentleman know what they are.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services and relates to an announcement made by him regarding the visit of Dr. Howard Rusk, an eminent American specialist in physical medicine. The Minister stated that the doctor would visit Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra, where he would inspect hospitals, spastic centres and other places devoted to the treatment of crippled people, and would also give public lectures.
I ask the Minister to inform the House who was responsible for arranging the itinerary of Dr. Rusk. In Western Australia there is a rehabilitation centre which, I think the Minister will agree, is the model tor the whole of the Commonwealth, and which is run by his department. There is also a very fine spastic centre, as well as other facilities for crippled people. Was Western Australia excluded from the itinerary of this eminent specialist, who would be of great value to us, for any particular reason, or is this just another instance of distance from the eastern States meaning that the western part of the Commonwealth is not included in the Commonwealth scene?
– I share the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Moore in his reference to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre in Western Australia. To a degree, I also share the chagrin of the honorable member, not so much that Dr. Howard Rusk will not be able to visit Western Australia, Tasmania or South Australia, but that he will not be able to visit Old Junee and the Riverina. Dr. Howard Rusk is perhaps the greatest living authority on rehabilitation and physical medicine. He is the professor and chairman of the Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Department of the University of New York. Invitations to visit Australia were sent to him by the Government in 1951, 1953 and 1954, but it was not until 1955 that Dr. Howard Rusk indicated that he would be able to visit this country in 1956. The responsibility for preparing his itinerary rests entirely with the Department of Social Services. However, I remind honorable members that this eminent doctor will arrive in this country on 3 1 st October and, because of his own other pressing engagements, must depart on 14th November. He will be here for only a few days, lt was physically impossible for the department to arrange for Dr. Howard Rusk to visit each State. He will visit Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland. The information that he is able to impart to the authorities in those four States - if I may include the Australian Capital Territory as a State - will be distributed to people who are interested in the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped in the other three States, as thoroughly as my department is competent to do so.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence Production, and preface it by saying that I am reliably informed that private firms are engaged to do a great deal of the work that rightly should be done in munitions factories at Maribyrnong. This practice is also being followed, to a lesser degree, in other Commonwealth establishments within the electorate that 1 represent. I am further informed that the work done by private firms is not up to standard, and that, when delivered to the Commonwealth departments, it is rejected or returned so that further machining can be done to bring it up to standard. Will the Minister undertake to discontinue this system, so that dismissed government employees can be reinstated, and any further dismissals avoided?
– It is the common practice of the Department of Defence Production to assist outside industries to gain experience of work required in connexion with defence production, to establish annexes to perform some of the surplus work that cannot be done within the department itself, and, in conformity with the policy of this Government, to keep industry generally in touch with matters associated with defence production, so that in time of crisis they can rapidly expand. The matter that the honorable member has raised, regarding work done in annexes, has been ventilated in this House on other occasions. When the honorable member realizes that every piece of work that is done outside the department is subject to government investigation and inspection, he will understand that statements that such work is not in conformity with the design and tolerances we require are so much nonsense. I cannot give any assurance that we will discontinue the practice of establishing in outside industry know-how in relation to defence production, but I can assure him that the lessening in the volume of work that is coming forward, which has resulted in a reduction of staff in the government factories, must also reflect itself in a lesser volume of work being done outside, if any work at all is done outside.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that Commonwealth electoral officers conducted the recent State election in Tasmania and received great credit for their efficiency and prompt return of results? Will the Minister ensure that these officers are adequately reimbursed for this additional work, particularly as they worked many hours of overtime in conducting this snap election, while performing their normal Commonwealth duties at the same time?
– lt is rather a pleasure to hear a kind word about the officers of the Electoral Branch of the Department of the Interior, and I shall certainly ensure that the honorable member’s comments are conveyed to the officers concerned. As far as I know, they will be paid according to the salary scales appropriate to the work that they performed. However, I shall look into the matter in accordance with the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. No doubt the Minister is aware that the Government of New South Wales grants fare concessions on government railway, tramway and omnibus services to recipients of Commonwealth age and invalid pensions. The New South Wales Government is most eager to extend the same travel concessions to recipients of widows’ pensions, but because the transport services of that State are operating at a financial loss, caused by the crippling capital debts that the various departments must meet, it is not practicable to include widow’s pensioners among those to whom fare concessions are granted. However, as social services are primarily the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, will the Minister give immediate and favorable consideration to reimbursing the New South Wales Government with the cost of the concessions that are granted to age and invalid pensioners, and approving the extension of these concessions to widow pensioners?
– I am rather surprised that the honorable member should address such a question to me. It excites all sorts of invidious comparisons between what certain State governments are doing for the relief of the aged and the infirm in the community. But since the honorable member has raised the question and has mentioned New South Wales, let me tell him that New South Wales does less than all the other States do to assist the aged, infirm and widows in meeting their special difficulties.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Is the honorable gentleman aware that a member of the South Australian Parliament has suggested that parties visiting Maralinga to witness future atomic explosions should include representatives of the South Australian Parliament? In view of the widespread public interest and speculation in South Australia owing to its geographical position, will the Minister consider inviting members of the South Australian Parliament to Maralinga when further experimental explosions take place?
– The Government is grateful to the Government and people of South Australia for their co-operation in making territory available for the conducting of atomic tests. The value of this cooperation is well understood and much appreciated. I shall ask the Government to give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion when future tests are made. Those honorable members who had to make two visits to Maralinga to witness a test will realize the difficulties. I am bound to say that the mounting of these tests is difficult enough, but the organization of a visit by outsiders is almost as bad.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Bradfield asked me whether a light could be affixed to the front of the Speaker’s chair and operated so as to indicate to an honorable member addressing the House that his speaking time was about to expire. Precisely the same request was made about two years ago to my predecessor in the chair. The request was refused on the ground that the responsibility for the timing of speeches rested upon the member, and to this end extra clocks had been installed in the chamber so that honorable members would have no difficulty in determining their speaking time. I find myself in full agreement with those views, and I regret that I cannot accede to the honorable member’s request.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Donald Cameron and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Donald Cameron, and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £51,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. It is necessary to submit a measure of this nature to the Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid in accordance with such rates as are approved by Parliament. The balance of the amount of £48,000,000 appropriated last budget session is sufficient only to meet payments to the end of this month.
The bill has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid. It merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Additions, New Works and Other Services Involving Capital Expenditure
In Committee of Supply:
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1956-57 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed vote, £108,238,000.
.- 1 wish to continue from the point where I left off at question time, and the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport affords me the opportunity to do so. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave a very unsatisfactory reply to this Parliament at question time to-day. The reply was particularly unsatisfactory to my State. Recently, in Hobart, a very representative gathering of some 40 persons - public men - men engaged in the shipping industry and men from the Marine Board - met Tasmanian senators and members of the House of Representatives. We were also accompanied by Mr. White, the Chief Secretary in the Tasmanian Government. We had assembled in order to prepare a case to put to the Commonwealth for a direct passengercargo shipping service between Hobart and Sydney.
It was an excellent meeting. The representatives were unanimous on the urgent need for such a service. Facts and figures were presented to us by the Master Warden who gave us an outline of the history of this service. Before the war there was an excellent passenger-cargo service from Hobart to Sydney. That has not been in existence since about 1946. The “ Zealandia “ gave that great service, providing Sydney and Hobart with a direct passenger link and taking perishable cargoes in quick time between the two cities.
As a result of that meeting, we formed a deputation in Canberra to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) himself and put the case to him most courteously. We gave him all the information at our disposal. The Chief Secretary gave him all the facts that the State government had on this issue. The reasons why the service should be commenced were given in detail. I do not intend to discuss the whole of the reasons this afternoon, but anybody with the interests of Tasmania and New South Wales at heart will appreciate that such a service should be reinstituted in this modern age. We have greatly increased our production of secondary industries and of perishable foodstuffs in the south of Tasmania - in the Huon Valley and the Derwent Valley. A service such as we are fighting for would have a definite guarantee of cargo. Within a com paratively few hours of leaving Hobart, the cargo would be in Sydney and the housewives of Sydney would be enjoying Tasmanian products, one of which would be potatoes. These are so precious these days that they are called gold nuggets, and they would be enjoyed, particularly, by the poor housewives of Sydney who have had to pay so much for them.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport received us very courteously. I have no criticism to offer on that score. He seemed to appreciate the position very well and said that he would put it to Cabinet. I understand that Cabinet made a decision on the issue last Tuesday, but refused to announce it until after the State elections. I understand that it decided to refuse to have anything to do with the subsidized service that we were fighting for. The idea was that a private company, Huddart Parker Limited, would take “ Westralia “, an excellent ship of 4,000 tons, which would be most ideal for this job, off the New Zealand service and operate it directly from Hobart to Sydney and return; the Government would meet a certain amount of the running costs, and the company would retain a certain amount of the profits.
The arrangement was to be worked out with justice to all parties and the total cost to this Government over twelve months would not be excessive when we consider how much it has poured into the “ Taroona “ service over many years. We have been grateful for that, but the Liberal Government need not take all the credit for it. The service was started before the Liberal Government was heard of, and has been of great value to Tasmania. But this service from Hobart to Sydney would have equal merit. The ship would have to travel a greater distance, but it would serve New South Wales, which is a great mainland State. The ship would provide a direct service for the transportation of cargo between New South Wales and Tasmania and between Tasmania and New South Wales - a two-way service.
– lt would not pay for itself.
– It would not pay for itself in the early stages. It has been out of action for so long that we would have to get people interested in it again, so there would be difficulty over the first twelve months. But we feel that, with the coming Olympics in Melbourne, and the carnival in Tasmania to follow the Olympic Games, we would have quite an influx of visitors to Tasmania who could make what we might call a leisurely boat trip to Sydney from Hobart after the festivities were over. Ii seems to us that this is an excellent time - a splendid period of our history - in which to re-institute the service, as I have mentioned.
The Prime Minister’s reply to my question to-day about the re-institution of this service was to shrug his shoulders and talk about the impossibilities of providing the necessary subsidies. He wiped my question off in a few brief words. But we will not let the matter rest there. The right honorable member for Kooyong will not be Prime Minister of this country for ever and ever, even if he thinks he will be. There will come a day of reckoning for this Government, as was indicated by the result of the genera] election in Tasmania last Saturday. We who represent Tasmanian electorates will continue to fight for the re-institution of this shipping service.
An interesting feature of the Prime Minister’s reply to my question this afternoon was that in it he insulted some of his own supporters as well as me. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber who represent Tasmanian electorates were all present at the deputation to which I have referred. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was there. So also was the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck). The Tasmanian senators were there, too. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley) was not at the actual meeting, but he is in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister’s perfunctory reply to me to-day was like his replies to so many questions asked in this chamber that he does not like. When an honorable member asks him a question that embarrasses him in any way he attempts to put him off with a sarcastic reply. He tries to make honorable members who ask awkward questions look as small as a threepenny bit. That is what he tried to do to me to-day, but he cannot put me down like that. I have been sitting in this chamber for too long to allow myself to be silenced in that manner. I have known the Prime Minister in office for almost seven years and in opposition for three years. 1 know the right honorable gentleman inside out, and I tell him that he will not succeed in bluffing me, or any other honorable member on this side of the chamber, by those tactics. None of us will agree to become what might be called a lickspittle for the Prime Minister. Tasmania will not accept the perfunctory reply he gave to the very important question 1 asked to-day. The right honorable gentleman’s answer to that question will not satisfy even his own supporters, or quieten their protests in respect of this matter, because they have the interests of the people of Tasmania at heart, as we have. The honorable senator who made the announcement last night - two days after the Tasmanian election, be it noted, although the decision, I understand, was made by Cabinet last Tuesday - must have felt very upset and disappointed about it, because he was the key man in this matter, and did a great job. I refer to Senator Marriott, who is very sincere in his advocacy of the reinstitution of the service.
Perhaps the Prime Minister thinks that this matter will die down. He is misleading himself if he does. We have several men in the State government who will continue to fight for this service. There are also very many people in Tasmania, especially in Hobart, who will not accept the Prime Minister’s cavalier reply to my important question. These people will apply pressure if the Prime Minister is not prepared to act as he should. They will have something to say to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), who represents them in this Parliament and is a member of the Cabinet which only last week threw out the proposal to reinstitute the service. We do not like to have to keep knocking on the door of the Government about this matter. We have had some things from the Government that we are grateful for in Tasmania, but we have been fighting for a long time for a Bass Strait ferry service from Melbourne to Launceston. Now, it has been decided that the service will terminate at Devonport, much to the disgust of the people of Launceston. However, irrespective of the terminal point, we will now have, in this ferry terminal in Tasmania, the most modern installation of its kind on the Australian coast. The orders for the ferry terminal to be built were given in the last few days. Our job was to fight for the service for Tasmania, because it will boost that State’s trade, including its tourist trade. lt was not our job - not mine anyhow - to decide where the terminal was to be located in Tasmania. Other people had the responsibility of making that decision. It has been decided that Devonport will be the terminal, so Devonport it must be; but I prophesy that the service will be so successful that another terminal will become necessary in the future. That additional terminal should be at Tamar Heads, at Beauty Point.
– Then you will be able to claim you started it.
– No, I shall not. I am quite prepared to fight along with the other people who believe that such a service must be provided, and the question of who started it is not important. What is important is to get the terminal finished, and finished on time. To-day, the Prime Minister hoped, with his clever reply to my question, to silence honorable members, including his own supporters, on this matter. But he will not succeed. We will see to it that the Government carries out its responsibilities. Ever since the Leader of the Opposition has occupied that position he has fought for an adequate shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania. For years, the Government has talked about the provision of such a service, and during election campaigns has made promises about it, but it has done nothing. It decided to provide a ferry terminal in Tasmania only as the result of sheer weight of pressure from members of the Opposition and some of its own supporters. Now we feel that, since the north of the island has been catered for, the south should also be catered for. That is what I am now fighting to achieve. Hobart, incidentally, is not in my electorate, though much of the cargo that would be carried from Hobart to the mainland would originate in my electorate. We feel that the southern part of the island deserves a passenger ship service. The lack of such a service from Hobart to the mainland would make one think that we were back in the 19th century. Here is the capital of a thriving State which is not linked by a shipping service to Sydney, which is the industrial capital of Australia. That is absolutely incredible in this modern age. So, even though the Prime Minister may go overseas and be replaced by some one else, this fight will be continued for a passengercargo ferry service between Hobart and Sydney.
I wish to refer now to another point about which 1 asked a series of questions of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) only recently. I refer to shipyards in Australia. I asked him the number of people employed in the shipbuilding industry in Australia, which was established by the Labour Government. I find from the Minister’s reply that there are only two Government shipyards in Australia - the State Dockyard at Newcastle and H.M.A. Naval Establishment at Williamstown. There are six private shipyards in Australia. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has one at Whyalla, and others are operated by the Cockatoo Dock and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited in Sydney, Evans Deakin and Company Limited, in Brisbane, Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company, in Sydney, Poole and Steel Limited, in Sydney, and Walkers Limited in Maryborough, in Queensland. There are also a number of small yards capable of building vessels of uri to 200 tons. A marvellous little shipbuilding firm has begun operations at Devonport, in the Braddon electorate. I think it was started by Dutch people who are experts at the job, and who have just secured a big contract from France to build several ships of, I think, about 1,000 to 2,000 tons. That yard deserves every encouragement this Government can give it. In fact, Australia with its long coastline and its adjacent islands including Tasmania - from which Melbourne was established - needs every encouragement in respect of shipbuilding, because shipbuilding is vital to us, as it is to Great Britain and Japan. I believe it to be a tragedy that we have only two Government shipbuilding yards in Australia. There should be many more than that. I also asked the Minister the present number of employees in these shipyards compared with the number in 1949. He said that the number employed varied up and down, but remained around 5,250.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [3.351. - I wish to bring before the committee a transport matter in respect of which I believe Commonwealth expenditure could be fully remunerative. These proposed votes include allocations for extensions and improvements to the Commonwealth railways, but I believe that, before this year is out, we shall have to add to the Estimates further sums for preliminary work on the unification of our trunk-line gauges throughout Australia. Some few months ago the Government parties in this Parliament set up a committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, to inquire whether, in place of undertaking the very great expenditure involved in unifying the whole of the railways, it would be possible selectively to standardize a few of the trunk lines and thus get the major benefits of standardization without any very great expenditure.
One of the troubles in this was that we had to try to devise a system of standardization which would not impair the internal efficiency of the various State railways concerned, or involve expenditure on works which could be regarded as in any way wasteful. The committee has had sittings in many of the States, and in many of the towns of the States. We have had the very greatest measure of assistance from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways and the Railway Commissioners and Transport Ministers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Their technical advice has been invaluable to us. In addition, we have had the benefit of advice from a large number of private people whose interests are adversely affected by the present break of gauge, or who are public spirited enough to see this as one of the main problems of Australia.
I think I can say to honorable members, on behalf of the committee, that we have found a solution that appears to us to meet the requirements of this situation. We believe that, virtually, the problem boils down to the completion of three projects - the standardization of the line from Albury into Melbourne; the standardization of the line from Broken Hill through Port Pirie and down to Adelaide; and the standardization of the line from Kalgoorlie through Perth and on to Fremantle. We believe that if these works were completed they would solve not all, but most, of the breakofgauge problems. I think that we have found, in consultation with the railway authorities in the various States, methods of doing this work at a reasonable price and in a way which will allow the State railways to operate without impediment, internally, from the break-of-gauge. The total cost of this work - at our present prices - would be of the order of £40,000,000, but we are not suggesting that it should all be done together.
– Would that sum cover the Albury-Melbourne section?
– Yes. We rather suggest that the works should be undertaken one at a time, so that one will have been completed and be giving value in service to the community before another is begun, and so that there will not be a large amount of expended money lying idle and unremunerative.
– Is £40,000,000 the total estimated cost of all the works that the honorable member has enumerated?
– Yes. It boils down roughly to something like £10,000,000 for the Albury-Melbourne section and ancillary works; about £14,000,000 for the South Australian work; and approximately £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 for the Western Australian work. The Western Australian section may be a little more expensive than that, but not very much more. We suggest that one work should be undertaken at a time, and completed, so that the amount of money outstanding will never be very great.
– Where does the committee propose that the work shall begin?
– I will deal with that aspect later. I hope that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the matter. Although the capital cost may seem heavy, it is really a saving, because not only will the work be fully remunerative, and add to our defence potential, but what is more important in the short run from the point of view of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is saving every penny he can, it will save a much greater amount, which would otherwise have to be expended on roads.
We know that the Hume Highway, between Sydney and Melbourne, is breaking down and that unless something is done to stop heavy trailers pounding it to pieces. £40,000,000, £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 must be found to repair it. The existing highway, with normal repairs, would carry light motor traffic pretty well indefinitely, but it was never built to carry heavy trailers. We believe that if these trailers continue to operate, and we are to have road communication between Sydney and Melbourne, this very large capital sum will have to be found immediately. If, however, we spend - and I am using this as one example only - a fifth of that sum on the railway we could put in a transport system which would be able, on its own merits, to outclass road transport, lt would not then be necessary to pass legislation in order to run the trailers off the roads. Instead, by natural economic forces, they would be competed off the roads.
Furthermore, we understand - and are prepared to produce supporting figures - that the short-term capital savings to the country resulting from this project would be many times more than its cost. We believe, therefore, that these works are urgent. We believe that they are works which a prudent Treasurer would immediately finance, because they would ease - not increase - the strain on the capital commitments of Australia. We believe that they are works which would add to the solvency of not only the Commonwealth budget, but also those of the various States concerned. We believe, also, that they are works which would help to combat the present inflation. They would reduce transport costs over some of our most vital routes, and, as honorable members know, transport costs are one of the heaviest inflationary forces in our economy.
I shall not endeavour to discuss this matter in detail at the moment. I hope that the House will permit this report, which we hope to complete before the Parliament rises, to be placed on the table, and will do us the honour of debating it. We have endeavoured to look at the problem objectively. With the help of the Commonwealth railway authorities, the State railway authorities and Ministers, and a number of private people, we have managed to disinter a number of relevant facts which have not, we think, previously been considered. We are of the opinion that the recent developments in road transport lend to this proposal a new urgency as a shortterm saver of capital funds. I believe that our proposals generally will commend themselves to honorable members and to the Treasury.
– What section has the committee selected for a start?
– The report, which I hope will be debated, will deal with that. Tt is not an easy question to answer. At least two of the projects are of top priority, but it is not the opinion of the committee that they should overlap. The opinion of the committee is that we should select one project, endeavour to complete it as soon as possible, and then go on to the next. There would be some overlapping because, probably, we should be able to start on one of the projects before the other had been quite completed, but, in general the procedure should be to try to do one at a time. I shall not anticipate the report further. I want to go on record again as thanking all those who have assisted us in our deliberations.
– First, I congratulate the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for - let us get down to tintacks - being game enough to say that the committee of which he is the chairman will present to the Parliament for discussion a report on transport in Australia. I suggest to the honorable member that when the report has been presented, he may find that it will be treated, finally, as a challenge to the Government. I hope that the committee’s recommendations will be accepted by the Government in the forthright manner and in the spirit of Australianism in which I believe they have been prepared.
I know something about the preparation of the report, although I am not associated with the honorable member’s committee. I have to thank the same people as the honorable member thanked for information that was put at the disposal of our committee. It is a shame that the work of the two committees was not co-ordinated. A long time ago, I suggested to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that there should be established to deal with transport problems a parliamentary committee, the members of which would be appointed regardless of political barriers, but the problems were shrugged off by the Government then. If the Government continues to shrug oil the problems of transport for much longer, it will bite the dust, because the economic difficulties with which we are face J as a result of oar failure to deal with those problems are becoming greater as time goes on.
Let us have a look at one or two of the problems. The honorable member for Mackellar said that he did not know which railway gauge unification project should bc tackled first. That is where the challenge to the Government may well arise. I believe that the first stretch of railway line to be converted to standard gauge should be that between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, for the reason that there is no obstacle to the work in the form either of physical ability or absence of necessary legislation. There is in force the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act, which received the Royal Assent on 28th October. 1949. The agreement which forms the schedule to that act provides for the conversion to standard gauge, amongst others, of the railway line of which I am speaking. Clause 7 of the agreement states that betterments may be carried out in conjunction with the work specified in clause 5 and provides that the State may replace existing locomotives, rolling-stock or other assets by locomotives, rolling-stock or other assets of different kinds. Clause 14 states -
Seven-tenths of the cost of the standardization works set out in clause S of this agreement shall be borne by the Commonwealth and three-tenths of such cost shall be borne by the State.
Clause 23 provides that -
The Commonwealth shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Silverton tramway and the locomotives and rolling-stock thereon shall be acquired and vested in the South Australian Railways Commissioner.
V/hen I said that the problem of which project should be undertaken first might give rise to a challenge to the Government, I meant what I said. The Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act contains all the legislative provisions necessary to launch the first of the projects in the standardization programme. Once the project is in operation, the realization of its economic value will force any Commonwealth government - I do not care of what political complexion - to adopt the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Mackellar.
Let us look at the realities of the situation. In June, 1955, we had in Australia 525,742 miles of road, of which only 40,651 miles were of concrete or a higher standard, or were paved or sealed. So we have about 500,000 miles of rough, unsealed roads to contend with. Let me say here that 1 believe that the figure of £40,000,000 mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar as the cost of the standardization of the three sections of railways that he spoke of was not far wrong. That figure corresponds fairly closely with our figure.
In 1954-55, we spent £84,000,000 on roads. Despite that expenditure, the Humehighway, one of our main arteries, is in a very bad condition. Even if, overnight, we could transform all of our 525,000 miles of road into roads of good quality, we could not, as a nation of only 9,030,000 people, afford the man-power necessary to keep them in a condition suitable for vehicles of the type that are using them now. It would take the services of one-tenth of the population to keep 525,000 miles of road in top condition.
But, even if we could spare the necessary man-power, the economic consequences would be disastrous. At present, our economy is staggering under the load imposed on it by the importation of petrol, motor vehicles and everything associated with road transport. The weight of transport charges is pulling the nation down. Recently, I cited a figure in this chamber which was queried by many honorable members opposite and by some of my friends on this side. I said that dieselelectrification had reduced the cost of long hauls by railway to id. a ton-mile. The only point on which 1 really disagree with the honorable member for Mackellar - he will have to consider this matter with his committee - is that I doubt whether we could derive the greatest possible economic benefit from gauge unification unless we could persuade the States to alter their outlook on the handling of their equipment.
– We agree with that entirely.
– Let me give an instance which shows why this problem is urgent. About a fortnight ago, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways put into operation a plan for the railway to pick up at Port Pirie road transports that had been driven there from Melbourne and
Sydney and haul them to Kalgoorlie, where they would be driven from the railway trucks on to the road. We have reached the stage when, with diesel-electrification, the railways can carry a truck, its load and its driver for less than it would cost to run the truck on the road. For every hour that a truck is stacked on a railway wagon, capital and man-power are being wasted.
The cost of constructing between Sydney and Melbourne a road that would carry the kind of vehicles using the present road would be about £50,000 a mile, but the cost of a railway track, following the route of the present track - the honorable member for Mackellar has been over it and knows as much about it as I do, except that he does not know the sleepers - would be £35,000 a mile. Leaving aside expense of upkeep and other problems, I point out that on construction costs there is a margin of £15,000 a mile in favour of the railway. I have no doubt that if there were a standardgauge line connecting Sydney and Melbourne, the railways would be able to compete effectively with road hauliers. That is something that the Government should welcome with open arms, because honorable members opposite say that they believe in competition. All right, let us give to the railways the power to compete, merely by expending on railways half the amount thai we spent on roads in 1954-55. If we did that, the cost of diesel haulage between Sydney and Melbourne would be less than id. a ton mile, because there would be no standing time for the diesels at Albury. Let us consider the service to Western Australia. Under the Commonwealth Railways system at present, the diesel locomotives, on reaching Kalgoorlie, are put away for the week-end. The goods are unloaded onto the ground, because the Commonwealth Railways will .:ot wait for trucks, and the Western Australian railways pick the goods up on Monday. Under a unified system, the same diesel-electric locomotives would be able to travel to Perth and be back at Kalgoorlie again with a full load before Monday morning. On the run between Sydney and Brisbane in the very near future there will be only two stops for the purpose of changing crews. The stages will be from Sydney to Taree, Taree to Grafton, and Grafton to Brisbane. Three crews will suffice on the run from Sydney to Melbourne, the stages being from Sydney to
Harden, Harden to Albury, and Albury to Melbourne, with changeovers taking ten minutes, or fifteen minutes at the outside. These locomotives, hauling 800 tons of goods, will provide a faster service than is at present being provided. If this is done, we will really be doing something worth while for the economics of Australia.
– That is, if the permanent way is improved.
– M friend from New England, wanting a new State, would not want unification of railways, so he says that we would have to do something about the permanent way. 1 remind him that the loads of 800 tons to which 1 refer are already being hauled od bogie vehicles between Sydney and Alburv faster than the expresses are being run. That is the answer. The permanent way need not be improved beyond its present state to provide that kind of service. Let us devote to the railways one-quarter of what was spent last year on roads, £84,000,000, and we will put all the main line tracks into first-class order.
– Spent on all roads.
– If ever there was an issue in respect of which members of the Australian Country party should be right behind the sponsors, it is this issue. The only chance we have of getting decent roads in this country is by spending money on roads remote from railways, instead of spending large amounts on roach which run parallel with railway lines.
– Do not try to indicate that I am against the proposition; I am not. The correct method is to improve country roads.
– Looking at this amount of £400,000 for rail standardization in South Australia and Queensland, this year, I remind the chairman of the parliamentary committee that a tremendous national saving is involved. We know that, at this point, there must be co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States. We cannot afford to have a situation in which a diesel-electric locomotive, upon reaching Port Pirie or Broken Hill, is taken off the train because it belongs to either a State or Commonwealth railways organization. The real secret of the success of diesel-electric locomotives is that the engines may be run through, and they are capable of almost unlimited mileage on a long single run. When we consider the original report prepared on the standardization of rail gauges, we must ignore its computations of costs of equipment and locomotives, because, to-day, these costs simply do not exist. In the Commonwealth railways, eleven dieselelectric locomotives have displaced 43 steam locomotives. If, in New South Wales, overnight we put on the stop blocks all of our 57 and 58 type heavy goods haulage locomotives, oil burners, Garratts, and the 36- class passenger type, and replaced them by diesel-electric locomotives, the New South Wales railways system, even allowing for its £10,000,000 interest bill, would show a profit as from the date of the change. When we consider expending £40,000,000 on the interlocking of capital cities, I go further than the honorable member for Mackellar and say that the Government would not only get back value for the £40,000,000, but, also, the nation would save the capital cost every two years after the new system was really under way, and the community would have a transport service the like of which we cannot obtain until we forget State borders in relation to transport and look at Australia as a whole. If the Government met the whole cost, instead ot 70 per cent., there would be a great saving at the end of the first year’s operation after the services were opened.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whilst the committee is considering telephone exchange services, on which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be expending £20,100,000 in 1956-57, the time might be appropriate for me to say something, very briefly, about the illegal use of telephones, which has been rather more rampant in the last six months than formerly, particularly in Victoria. I have no doubt whatsoever that this illegal use occurs quite as much in New South Wales and in other States as well. When this matter has been raised on several different occasions during question time in the chamber, I have felt that the department has not treated these offences in the serious way in which they should be treated. Constituents of my own division are rather concerned about the matter, because unfortunately in the division we have had one or two bad instances. I can readily understand the Minister’s position, because it is not easy at question time to give a reply which is sufficiently comprehensive to cover all aspects, and I am very pleased that he is in the chamber at present so that he might have the opportunity of reassuring existing and potential subscribers that the department is very concerned about its responsibilities in regard to the misuse of telephones generally.
Apart from the fact that the department’s property is being misused in a way which is breaking, or helping to break, the law on what is commonly called starting price betting, the capital cost of the equipment involved is very considerable. I understand that the installation of a telephone costs about £250. That cost is involved not only in installing the telephone in the home or office, but also in tying it up with the existing system of telephones and cables. In my own division recently 46 telephones were found in one flat, so that about £11,500 worth of capital equipment was tied up in those installations alone.
– I guess they by-passed their federal member to get those telephones.
– Yes, I dare say. The loss to the department occurs not only in relation to the tying up of the capital equipment involved. Most of the calls for which these telephones are used are incoming calls, so that very little revenue results to the department from the misuse of these instruments. The Postal Department should not be expected to be a detecting force for the Police Department, but 1 do think that it has a moral duty to ensure that its property is not being used to defeat the law. I believe that there is ground for much of the sense of grievance felt by many of my constituents who have expressed this opinion to me. It is natural that potential subscribers who wish to increase the size of their switchboards and, perhaps, at the same time, to obtain additional telephones, should be perturbed by the fact that there has been so much misuse of telephones during the last six months. As the Minister rightly said in respect of the incident to which I have just referred, there are sufficient telephones and cables for those in the neighbourhood who require telephone services, but I do not think that that is of much consolation to people living in country areas, or other distant areas, who see so much misuse of telephones but cannot get telephones themselves.
The Minister said that inquiries had taken place following these incidents, but in this respect also there is some reason for dissatisfaction, because the inquiries have not been open to the public. They have been held behind closed doors, so that the public has not known whether officials of the department were at fault, whether equipment in common use could be improved with a view to preventing tampering with it, or whether there was sufficient supervision. Generally, the only announcement about the inquiries has been to the effect that “ The matter is under consideration “. I suggest that it would be more satisfactory to have open inquiries, because the people would then feel that the matters had been probed properly and that those responsible for the misuse had been brought to book. It is most unsatisfactory for members of the public to see notices and publicity concerning misuse of telephones, when they themselves cannot obtain sufficient telephones for their requirements.
Further, in the interests of the thousands of very loyal and honest officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the inquiries should be held in the open so that they may be shown to be free of blame in connexion with the illegal use. I suggest that it will be very hard to convince subscribers and potential subscribers that they should share telephones with other people if they know that telephones are being used in the manner to which I have referred. I have no doubt that within a few days, or perhaps within the next month, there will be another announcement to the effect that misuse has occurred, because this kind of thing is bound to recur from time to time. If the subsequent inquiries are held in public, I think that the people would be very much more satisfied about the position. I sincerely hope that the Postmaster-General will reply to my comments regarding the illegal use of telephones, and that he will be able to give an assurance to the Parliament that when misuse occurs in the future an inquiry will be held in public.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) 14.9], - I wish to join my colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E.
James Harrison), in commendation of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I have always believed that when the honorable member for Mackellar gets away from the subject of communism he is well worth listening to. I should be delighted indeed if he could be given a ministerial portfolio - other than that of Attorney-General, of course, because in that capacity he would have the right to chase real or imaginary Communists. I should like to see him in a position in the Cabinet where he could give effect to the very good and sensible views that he so often puts forward in this Parliament.
– To whom is the honorable gentleman referring?
– The honorable member for Mackellar. I am praising the honorable gentleman for a very good speech which I am sure the honorable member for East Sydney would have enjoyed hearing had he been in the chamber. The honorable member for East Sydney was, without doubt, the most outstanding Minister for Transport that this country has ever had, and strangely enough, the views expressed by tha honorable member for Mackellar coincided with those so often expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney when he was Minister for Transport. Both honorable gentlemen are of the opinion, and I agree with them, that the time is long overdue for this country to have a uniform railway gauge, at least from Brisbane, on the eastern seaboard, to Fremantle in the west, and later to be followed - I suggest this as a South Australian - by the Commonwealth honouring the agreement which it made with South Australia to construct a railway from Adelaide to Darwin.
I wish to pay tribute, as did the honorable members for Mackellar and Blaxland, to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I can think of no person employed by the Commonwealth of Australia other than, perhaps. Sir William Hudson, who also is a very capable gentleman, who is deserving of greater praise than is the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. He is the one person whom I should gladly leave in charge of any Commonwealth department, and I believe that he should be given what ever money he considers necessary to do the job in the way that he thinks it ought to be done. Money expended on a railway system would give a handsome return to the people of this country, so long as it was spent in the way in which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner suggested it should be spent. I think it is a pity that few members of this Parliament take the trouble to read the annual reports of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and to see for themselves the great possibilities that would be open to this Parliament, to the Government and to the people of Australia, if only they paid more attention to railway affairs.
I am one of those people who believe tha: we can never call ourselves a great nation until we have a standard gauge double-track railway from Brisbane to Fremantle, so that it would not be necessary even to stop a train to pass another travelling in the opposite direction. I recollect another excellent speech by the honorable member for Mackellar - I think it was last year - in which he mentioned something that had not occurred to me before. He pointed out that, apart from a mere 40 or 50 miles of line, all the present railways of Australia were constructed by our grandfathers, and that we of this generation had done nothing at all to add to them.
I do not know which section of the railways should be standardized first. As a South Australian - and I hope that I am not being influenced by purely parochial views - I should like to see the FremantleKalgoorlie end of the present transAustralia railway system completed first, because it seems to me that the people of this continent who are entitled to expect first attention are the people of Western Australia. If any Australians have received a raw deal as a result of federation, I honestly think that they are the people of Western Australia. They are isolated geographically, and by continuing to treat them almost as residents of a foreign State, as we do by our failure to do such things as standardize railway gauges with a view to bringing them so much closer to us, we aggravate the feel.ing that I think was responsible for them deciding by referendum, some years ago, in favour of secession. Although that, perhaps, could never be done constitutionally, it indicated their dissatisfaction.
I believe that this Commonwealth Parliament should be prepared to pay the total cost of standardizing the railway gauge from
Albury to Melbourne, from Port Pirie to Broken Hill and, as 1 said previously, from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. If anything is a defence project, surely the provision of a standardized railway system from Brisbane to Fremantle is a defence project! I would rather the Commonwealth met the cost of standardizing the railway systems of Australia than anything else. The amount of £40,000,000, which would be the cost of standardization, is only a drop in the ocean when one recalls that over the last five years £1,068,000,000 has been spent on defence. If the railway gauge were standardized, we would have something to boast about in respect of our defence activities.
The Government should treat the standardization of the railway systems as a defence project. The outlay would be relatively small; after all, £40,000,000 is really a small sum. I understand that some sections could be completed within eighteen months from the time they were started. 1 do not know what the honorable member for Mackellar thinks of that estimate. I am told that the section from Port Pirie to Broken Hill could be completed in eighteen months from the day it was commenced. If that is so - and I assume that the same could be done with the section from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle - it seems to me a disgrace, perhaps to all of us on both sides, that it is only since the honorable member for Mackellar has drawn attention to this matter that any of us has given one moment’s thought to the need for a more up-to-date railway system.
I agree entirely with the honorable member for Mackellar when he says that we would be better advised to spend money on the standardization of the railway system from Albury to Melbourne than to worry about trying to re-build the Hume Highway and have it smashed again by callous drivers or owners of transports. They do not pay anything towards the cost of construction and maintenance of the roads and seem to have no regard whatever for the damage that they do to them. We would not have to worry about section 92 of the Constitution insofar as it deals with interstate road transport if we had a decent railway system.
As the two previous speakers have said, it is perfectly true that no road haulier could compete with an efficient railway system. It is for that reason that I believe that we should give full support to the proposition of the honorable member for Mackellar. I hope that when his report to the Parliament is tabled, the Government will allow a debate on it. What is more, 1 hope that the Government will allow a vote to be taken on it. Let everybody who claims to be an Australian and to have an interest in this country be counted, because the division would show who was prepared to do something effective, and who was prepared merely to go on talking! Whether the Government will do that remains to be seen. I hope that it will allow a vote to be taken. I hope that it will not treat the report, which the honorable member said he will bring down, in the same way as it has treated many resolutions and even bills that have come before the Parliament.
– We have our own committee working on the matter.
– 1 am obliged to the honorable member for his interjection. We on this side have a committee studying this problem. My regret is the same as that expressed by the honorable member for Blaxland. I regret that the two committees are not working together, as a joint parliamentary committee, without any thought of party politics. I regret that the two committees are not working in much the same way as the Public Accounts Committee is working. That committee has given wonderful service to this Commonwealth. Surely a committee such as the one we are now discussing could do an even greater service!
I hope that the time is not too late, even now, for that proposition to be given serious consideration by the Government, so that the report, when it is tabled, will be one upon which the Parliament can justifiably act. If we had plans ready and had the will to start a scheme now for the standardization of railway gauges, we would absorb immediately all the unemployed in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria. The present shortage of work has affected mostly the unskilled men, and they are the men who would be needed for a job such as the one we are now discussing.
It is a pity that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was not given sufficient money to meet the cost of properly ballasting the whole of the north-south railway line. It may not be known that a great section of the Commonwealth railway line in the north is not ballasted and is resting on a bed of sand. It is no wonder that whenever there is a heavy downpour of rain, the railway track is washed away. That is not the fault of the Railways Commissioner; it is the fault of this Parliament. Liberal and Labour governments alike, which have held office during the last 20 or 30 years, should take, the responsibility. There need not be one washaway on the northern line, and there would not be, if the present Commissioner and those who preceded him had been given enough money to build a proper railway line. Money should be made available to enable him to provide proper married accommodation so that good fettlers, who have a stake in the country and who have their families to go home to at night, can be encouraged to go there and to put their heart and soul into the job, feeling that they are doing something not only for themselves but also for the country.
I believe that money should be made available to enable the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to operate dieselelectric locomotives on to the north-south line and to take every coal-burning engine off the line before the end of this year. It is a stupid waste of money for us to be using even one coal-burning engine now that diesel-electric locomotives can be obtained.
– What will the honorable member for Hunter say about that?
– I cannot help it. I admire the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) for supporting the coal industry. That is to his credit. By the same token, I believe that I am entitled to support what I think is in the best interests of Australia as a whole. It may be better for some of us to disregard some of the things that benefit our own electorates or States. We should try to be Australians and to remember that we are members of a National Parliament, not a State Parliament. That is why I have great pleasure indeed in supporting the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Blaxland.
I say.no more, except to pay tribute again to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for a magnificent job well done. It is worthy of note that last year the railways, after meeting working expenses, made a profit of £1,565,000. I do not think that is generally known. The profits of the Commonwealth Railways system under the administration of Mr. P. J. Hannaberry should be contrasted with the shocking mess that has been made of all the State railway systems. If Mr. Hannaberry can do it, why cannot others?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 desire to speak for a short period on the very important matter of the atomic reactor project at Lucas Heights, in New South Wales. However, I am pleased to follow the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). Each laid particular stress on the very apparent need to get on with the job of standardizing railway gauges. Too often, this chamber devotes its valuable time to dealing with effects, when it could just as easily deal with basic causes. The speeches contributed this afternoon by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Blaxland have been particularly constructive from that point of view. lt is useless for the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to talk about the great difficulty experienced in increasing our exports, when the Government is not prepared to face up to an issue of this kind, which has such an important bearing on our ability to improve our overseas trade position.
I was pleased, also, to follow the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) in this debate. He spoke of the position regarding telephone installations, and he made some important and impressive points. I am always interested in this matter, because no electorate in Australia experiences more difficulties with regard to telephone installations than that of Hughes. There are 4,000 outstanding telephone applications from that electorate alone, and I believe that to be a greater number than in any other Australian electorate. I am always interested and impressed when I hear constructive suggestions for solving this problem. I know that many people in my electorate, and in other parts of Australia, were greatly disappointed when it was announced that a fee of £10 would be charged for the installation of a telephone, lt is not generally realized that some £40,000 will be extracted from the constituents of the Hughes electorate alone by means of this charge. The Government should get on with the job of providing new telephone exchanges, and I am convinced that some standardization of construction of buildings would be of great assistance in this connexion. While, in the electorate of Hughes, people have been waiting for telephone installations for periods of up to ten years, we see elaborate exchange buildings being constructed on expensive sites in shopping centres, while suitable, and obviously less expensive, sites are left neglected. We believe that the standardization of these buildings would enable more people to obtain telephones. I hope that something will be done to improve the position, because great inconvenience is being caused to people all over Australia, particularly to those in my electorate, where 4,000 people are suffering because of the lack of this service.
I wish, now, to make a few remarks about the Lucas Heights project. This is the only atomic reactor being constructed in Australia, and I suppose that no country in the world is more in need of experimentation in this field than is Australia. Ours is a land of abundant raw materials and great potentialities. It has an unbounded future, and, obviously, must keep up to date with scientific trends. It is a matter for great alarm that this Government has chosen, in its atomic energy research, to place emphasis on the aspect of defence - or of aggression, because I often find it difficult to understand how we can defend Australia with an atomic bomb. It is a most ironical situation that, if an enemy invades Australia, we must drop a highly developed atom bomb on our own country in order to defend it. The Government has placed great emphasis on the defence aspect of atomic energy research, and it seems to have made little effort to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
– Has it made any effort?
– Very little. As a matter of fact, one could have said a short time ago that nothing was being done in this regard, because the work on the Lucas Heights atomic reactor was brought almost to a complete standstill. In contrast, however, we saw tremendous development taking place at Maralinga in connexion with the testing of atom bombs. The first thing that one notices when arriving at Maralinga is the impressive power station, which is operated by Navy personnel, and one cannot help thinking that it would be far better if the same enthusiasm had been shown by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in developing an atomic power house, which could be located in that area, as in arranging for atom bomb development. The power house at Maralinga is used to purify the local bore water, at a very fast rate, for the use of the personnel located there for work in connexion with the testing of atom bombs. If we could spend some of the £ 15,000,000 allocated to the Department of Supply for defence purposes on the development of an atomic power station, I believe that the waste land of the South Australian desert could be transformed into a luxuriously fertile area where we could produce foodstuffs to improve the living standards of the people not only of Australia but also of other countries.
The Lucas Heights reactor project is very important, because its object is the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Many countries are competing in the race to develop atomic energy for purposes of peace. I understand that under the terms of the Colombo plan the people of South-East Asia will benefit from assistance that will be given in this direction. I understand that they will be assisted to establish their own centrally located atomic reactor project, and that they are pressing for it with great enthusiasm, because they appreciate the benefits that they will derive from this activity. But at Lucas Heights we find that, before the last election, the Government commenced to get on with the job of constructing our one and only reactor, and that after a short period of time had elapsed a labour force of some 500 men had been built up. Those men were lured from other employment. Men who had been working at the oil refinery and in other industries in the southern part of Sydney were enticed by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to work on this atomic reactor project, and they were given a guarantee that full employment would be available. After they had been there for a short period these employees, who, incidentally, represent the pick of Sydney’s tradesmen, were astounded to find that some of their number were being retrenched. This was a very serious state of affairs, and, naturally, the men became concerned and called meetings on the job. But their protests were all in vain, and within a short time some 400 men had been ruthlessly retrenched. That was a most outrageous procedure. In the first place the Australian Atomic Energy Commission enticed them from other work on the guarantee of a long tenure of employment. Having succeeded in getting the men there, the commission ruthlessly and offhandedly commenced to carry out a programme of retrenchment. In those circumstances Australia’s only atomic reactor, the pride and joy of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party during the election campaign, suddenly ground to a standstill, and the Australian people must now accept the unhappy fact that Australia will do nothing, for a considerable period of time, in the field of atomic energy development for peaceful purposes.
This is a most important matter. The annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission sets out in full detail the purpose of this reactor project. It says, for example -
The principal objective of the Australian research programme is to develop means for the economic production of industrial electric power from nuclear fuels. This objective the programme will seek to achieve through the advancement of reactor design and technology. In association with these endeavours, efforts will also be directed towards developing the peaceful uses of atomic energy in other fields.
In more specific terms, the programme provides for-
the construction of a high-flux general purpose research reactor for the investigation of the problems of reactor design, construction and operation, and for general research in the atomic energy sciences;
the erection of large specialized laboratories for associated research in the fields of metallurgy, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, nuclear physics, applied mathematics, reactor instrumentation and health physics;
the promotion of external research, in the universities and elsewhere, in the fields in which such research can contribute to the general_ development programme.
These, of course, are only the outlines of the programme. To carry it into effect, a wide range of related activity will be involved.
This is a most impressive array of intended activities, but it is most disappointing to find that the Government - I think because of its inability to regulate the flow of money to this work - has suddenly considered it necessary to abandon it and retrench the men involved. It is inexcusable for any government to fail to regulate the flow of money required to ensure the continuity of employment necessary to build up and maintain the confidence of the labour force. There is no reason why the flow of money should not have been regulated.
After the unions involved in this retrenchment programme had met, they decided to interview the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who advised them that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was fully aware of the difficulties involved and had approached the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and that it was hoped the Treasury would assist the commission in its endeavour to obtain additional funds. Dealing with this aspect of the matter, the Audito-General, in his report for the year ended 33th June, 1956. said -
The construction of the laboratories commenced during October, 1955, but with delays which arose through bad weather and strikes the expenditure of £815,361 to 30th June, 1956, on this se:tion of the project was incurred in approximately sis months of the financial year. However, a severe curtailment in the rate of progress of construction and a heavy reduction in the work force have since been brought about due to a reduction o> funds made available. The Treasury has been fully informed by the Commission of the consequences of the lack of adequate finance.
Yet the Treasury stubbornly refused to do anything! This is a most alarming situation. The Government stands indicted for the manner in which it has let the Australian people down, in the light of the fact that Australia will depend more and more in the future - probably to a greater degree than any other country - on the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. I sincerely hope that earnest consideration will be given to the need to provide adequate funds so that this project may be completed with the least possible delay.
.- I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) for making available details of the capital works programme so that honorable members may know what works it is intended to put in hand this financial year under the control of the Department of Works. These are the works for which we are asked to vote funds in these Estimates. It is as well for me to point out here that the capital works programme pre.sented to honorable members by the Minister includes only those works which will be undertaken by the Department of Works on behalf of other departments. It does not detail or even mention works which will be undertaken directly by other departments. I think it would be an excellent idea if all works which have been approved by the Government to be undertaken during the year, and which are not part of the capital works programme, were listed in an appendix attached to the capital works programme. Perhaps the Minister will confer with Treasury officials on this matter with a view to ascertaining whether something of this kind can be done.
At page 235 of the Estimates, under Division 8, Department of the Treasury, provision is made for the expenditure of £14.000 on buildings, works, fittings, and furniture, and £77,000 on buildings, works, fittings and furniture for the Taxation Branch- a total of £91,000 which will not cone o tt of the Department of Works vote. I am not debating whether this expenditure shou’l-J or should not be under the control of the Department of Works, but it would be valuable to honorable members to know exactly what it is for, and to be given this information in the same manner as they have been given the information which the Minister for Works was good enough to give about the works to be undertaken by the Department of Works on behalf of other departments.
I want to remind honorable members briefly that they are being requested to vote an appropriation of £109,000,000 under these Estimates - £8,000,000 more than that for last financial year - to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth for capital works and services. I emphasize that this money is to be obtained from taxation revenues. There is no question of loan money being raised to pay for these capital works and services. The whole of the Commonwealth’s capital works programme is to be paid for out of taxation, whereas expenditure by the States on capital works and services is to be met out of loan funds guaranteed by the Commonwealth. I am firmly of the opinion that we should call a halt to this method of financing capital works out of taxation. It is grossly unfair, not only to the people on whom taxation is levied to obtain money now for capital works which should be a charge on the future, but also to subsequent administrations, which may not be able to obtain a true record of the investment of capital in this country in government works of this kind.
I know that difficulty has been experienced in raising money for Commonwealth loans. I repeat the suggestion I made earlier this year that we should change the term “ Commonwealth loans “ to “ National loans “. I think that if we did this we should receive a patriotic response which would result in a bigger measure of support by the public for loans, because the people would then understand a little better that loans were raised not merely for State purposes, but for national purposes, although the money was being spent by the States. 1 suggest that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should emphasize to those who are in a position to lend money that the best and quickest way to achieve a reduction of taxation, which we all want, is to make more money available for Commonwealth loans so that it will no longer be necessary to finance capital works and services out of taxation. If this were done, the £109,000,000 proposed to be spent in the current financial year, and the hundreds of millions of pounds that will be spent in subsequent years, would be provided out of loans, and the money would subsequently return to the people who lent it instead of being taken from them and lost to them forever.
I was most interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) about the standardization of rail gauges and the present chaotic condition of Australia’s transport system. I hope that the two committees that have been examining this problem will soon make their reports available to honorable members, who should study them very carefully. There is a tremendous amount of information which must be made available to members of the Parliament. This is a problem which has to be tackled quickly. Whether the committees actually got down to the fundamental difficulties which are associated with it in connexion with the State and Commonwealth relationships and the problems associated with the huge amount of money involved from a State point of view, is something I hope to discover from the reports. 1 was a member of the Parliament of Western Australia when the proposal for a standardized railway gauge throughout Australia was considered. I think that the scheme was submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he was Minister for Transport, lt was most unfavorably received, because the Commonwealth was not prepared to enter into an agreement with Western Australia as favorable as the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, which provides that seven-tenths of the cost of the scheme should be met by the Commonwealth and that three-tenths should be met by South Australia. The suggestion was not as generous as that. It meant that Western Australia, at that time, would have been called upon to provide between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 towards the cost of a standard gauge railway system, a sum of money which would have met the cost of rehabilitating the whole of the Western Australian railway services. We were faced with this question: Were we to build a broad-gauge railway, contributing our available resources to that and let the rest of our services, which are pretty extensive in this big State, go to the pack; or were we to use the money that we had to rehabilitate our existing services? The answer that was given was obviously the sane and sensible one. We had to devote our resources to rehabilitating our own run-down railway system - a condition that occurred during the war. 1 point out to honorable members, as I pointed out to the transport committee, that under the proposed scheme Western Australia would have to make a very large contribution to the provision of a standard gauge in that State. I also point out that it would be very largely a one-way stream of traffic. I make that statement because the standardized line would benefit considerably the manufacturers who consigned goods from the eastern States to Western Australia, but the benefit to Western Australia would be comparatively negligible because of the huge disparity in the trade which occurs between Western Australia and the eastern States. That is a factor which has to be taken into consideration.
The construction of a standard-gauge line would result in the existence of two railway systems of different gauges in Western Australia, lt would be all right if both systems could be satisfactorily operated, but I point out that goods from the eastern States are distributed long before they reach the end of the line. At present, Western Australian railway trucks containing goods from the eastern States may be disconnected from the train at various railway junctions between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, a distance of 380 or 400 miles, in order that the goods may be sent to towns on the branch lines. If the main line were replaced by a broad gauge, these goods would have to travel all the way to Fremantle, be unloaded and then be brought back on the narrow-gauge railway to inland places.
I agree, in every respect, that this problem must be looked at from a national point of view. It must be looked at from the point of view of national development and national defence. But because of the tremendous cost involved, it has also to be looked at from the point of view of those who might be called upon to carry an unjust burden.
– What if the Commonwealth paid for the lot?
– I do not think that Western Australia was ever against the standardization of the railway gauges. It was certainly against contributing such a tremendous proportion of the cost - a proportion completely out of balance with the cost of rehabilitating its own railway system.
– All that stock is capable of conversion.
– The new stock could be converted but the old stock could not be converted. Were we to spend our available money on the standardization of gauges or were we to use it to rehabilitate our old system? We had to decide that our secondary rail system had to be put in order first. Then we could consider the construction of a broad-gauge system from a national point of view. I do not suggest that the Western Australian Government will refuse to contribute anything towards the cost of a standardized gauge, but the whole problem has to be considered from the point of view of the States, in discussing, the financial arrangements.
– Would the honorable member agree to the scheme if the Commonwealth were to pay for the lot?
– I am not prepared to give an unqualified answer to the honorablemember for the simple reason that such a proposal might involve an additional cost with respect to our own system. The proposal would have to be carefully examined.. I would say that if the Commonwealth made such an offer, it would be attractive enough to warrant careful examination, f shall be very interested to read the report of the transport committees in order to find’ out whether some of the problems associated with Western Australia are still in existence.
The final matter to which I wish to refer is that of Postal Department finance. Id the Estimates which we have before us, the Postal Department is seeking an amount of about £30,000,000 for capital works and services. I have suggested before, and I ask again, that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) propose to Cabinet that the Postal Department should consider itself to be a business undertaking in every possible way and raise its finances independently instead of being treated merely as a government department, subject to the economic changes which take place in this country. It is not right that when economic conditions are tough and restrict government expenditure, the expansion of the Postal Department should be limited. Services such as those which provide gas, water supply and electricity are able, successfully, to arrange finance for their own capita! development, and 1 believe that the Postal Department should be able to do that also.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane* [4.54]. - I desire to make a few comments on Division 43, Department of National Development, which appears at page 2391 of the Estimates. I hope that my commentswill be in order, because I desire to mention two or three projects in Queensland which 1 term - and which the Queensland people term - very important national projects. I refer to the Mary Kathleen uranium project and the Mount Isa project.
Honorable members know perfectly well that, within the last couple of years, one of the richest uranium fields of Australia was found at Mary Kathleen, outside Mount Isa. lt has been taken up by a company known as the Rio Tinto company. The company intends to spend somewhere in the vicinity of £10,000,000 in order to bring that vital project into operation in the very near future. I understand that the company hopes to have it in production in 1959. It is at present busily engaged in making the necessary preparations. As a matter of fact, I am informed that it is now building -an up-to-date township to consist of offices and housing for many of its employees. Of course, the same kind of thing was done at Mount Isa. As 1 have said, it is recognized beyond all doubt that the Mary Kathleen uranium field is a much richer field than is the Rum Jungle field. Not only is the Rio Tinto company anxious to get on with the development of the field, but the Queensland Government is also anxious to assist in every possible way, not only to develop the field, but also to provide speedy and efficient means of transport for its products. To this end Queensland Government experts have made a survey which discloses that the railway line from Cloncurry, which is the nearest point to the mine, through Mount Isa to Townsville, is not in a condition to carry the extra load that it would have to carry when the two mining projects, that at Mount Isa and that at the Mary Kathleen field, are producing at full capacity. The line will have to be strengthened and new rolling-stock and new locomotives will have to be provided. With this in view, the Premier of Queensland placed before the last Premiers conference a request that at least £10,000,000 be provided by the Commonwealth to help finance this work. He did so in the belief, which 1 share, that the developments at Mount Isa and the Mary Kathleen field constitute a national project which will benefit not only Queensland, but also the whole of Australia. So, naturally, the Queensland Government is seeking some financial assistance from the Commonwealth in order to carry out the necessary work of improving transport facilities in that area.
The Queensland Government and the Queensland Parliament are approaching this issue from a non-party basis. During the last State elections in Queensland, in May, both political sides agreed on public platforms and in their policy speeches that they regarded the project as of a national character and stated that they would assist in carrying it through on a non-party basis. I do not know whether the Commonwealth has done anything about the request made by the Queensland Premier for £10,000,000 to finance the strengthening of the railway line that I mentioned, which is in a very bad state, and the provision of new rollingstock and locomotives; but it must be known to everybody, particularly members of this Parliament, that it is impossible for the Queensland Government to finance such a project from the amount of loan money allocated to it annually by the Australian Loan Council. The Queensland Premier’s request for additional finance was made to meet extraordinary circumstances, and the people of Queensland are anxious to know just what the Commonwealth intends to do about assisting in this way to develop the very important Mary Kathleen uranium field. In addition to the sum of £ 10,000,000 required for the strengthening of the railway and the provision of new rolling-stock and locomotives, there is also required the sum of £400,000 for the building of an allweather road from Cloncurry to the Mary Kathleen field and to Mount Isa. I have seen in the press a statement that, since the Premiers conference was held, representatives of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development have visited the Mary Kathleen area and made a close examination of the railway line, the rolling stock and the locomotives, for what purpose I do not know. Probably the Queensland Government knows, and probably this Government would know through the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), because I am hoping that the visit by the representatives of the bank was brought about by this Government. I do not know what the report of the bank’s representatives contains, but I feel sure that those representatives would agree that the application made by the Queensland Premier at the Premiers conference was a good application, and that the position is as he stated at that conference - that is, that it is absolutely essential, if that valuable uranium field is to be developed as we hope it will be developed in the near future, for adequate transport facilities to and from it to be provided. Of course, quite apart from the development of the Mary Kathleen field, we must never forget the further development of the wonderful mining project at Mount Isa. ( understand that new development is going on there which will throw extra loads on to the already overtaxed railways in the area. I also understand that the Mount Isa interests are commencing the construction of a new huge treatment plant near Townsville, the operations of which will also mean that an extra load will be thrown on to the railways, because a great deal of the byproducts of mining at Mount Isa will be treated in that plant.
Another project in Queensland which is worthy of mention, and which I hope the Commonwealth will assist in every possible way, including financially, is the rich bauxite deposit discovered in the gulf country in north Queensland, which is estimated to be the richest bauxite discovery yet made in Australia. It is true that in certain parts of the Northern Territory bauxite deposits have been discovered, but according to information received the gulf country deposit extends over a very wide area and is very rich in alumina content - so much so that I understand that several overseas companies have sent representatives to Queensland to seek for further deposits of bauxite in the area. I am sure that there is no need to impress on honorable members the necessity for developing that bauxite field in Queensland, because we all know that the Commonwealth’s own aluminium project at Bell Bay, in Tasmania, depends solely, at present, on imported rock bauxite for its raw material. What a boon it would be to the people of Australia if this project in the Gulf of Carpentaria supplied sufficient bauxite to enable all the aluminium that we require to be produced! I feel sure that we would then be able even to export aluminium profitably. It is believed that when the field is properly developed a second Bell Bay may be established somewhere around Cooktown. It would be a national project, it would bring greater population to northern Queensland, and it would be especially valuable from a defence point of view.
I hope that this Government will not lose sight of the application by the Queensland Government for financial assistance amounting to £10,000,000, to enable it to carry out the work that I have described.
It is proposed, in the very near future, tt> turn the Mary Kathleen field into a regular little township. If this Government is tohonour its promises it must treat this as a national project and give more financial^ assistance to the Queensland Government. Queensland has been neglected - especially by this Government - over a long period, and has not been given the financial assistance that it needs for its development. Instead, it has been trying to carry on with the meagre sums that it has been able toobtain through the Loan Council.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- lt has been most pleasing to listen this afternoon to this debate, which has been on a very high plane, and in the main, entirely free of party bias. Earlier we had a most able address by a Liberal supporter, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), on the vital problem of transport and the need for a uniform rail gauge. He was followed by a Labour speaker, who alsogave a most able address on the same subject.
Transport goes to the root of all our problems. It has been estimated that 75 per cent, of our costs is attributable to transport in one form or another. One has only to look, for example, at the way in which wheat is transported. It must be transported from the farm to the rail siding, from the siding to the store in the capital city, from the store to the miller who turns it into flour, from the miller to the bakehouse and, finally, to the housewife. Other commodities are transported even more. That is why transport is the factor which contributes most to costs. For that reason, suggestions for the reduction of costs by capital expenditure on uniform gauge railways should have the attention of every honorable member. I look forward to the presentation of the report on the subject by the committee of Government members, and also that of the Opposition’s committee.
Last year 1 had an opportunity to visit Western Germany. I was amazed at the reconstruction that had taken place there since the war. There was plenty of evidence of the total destruction of cities and factories but, despite this utter devastation. West Germany is to-day competing with. and outselling, other countries. The West Germans can produce commodities of the same quality, but at a lower price. Upon examination, the reason is quite obvious. The Germans have transport down to a fine art. lt is not a question of rail, road, or canal transport predominating. Each of those systems has been brought to the highest pitch of efficiency.
I was staying on the Rhine, and every four minutes 1 saw diesel electric trains setting out with loads of a size that one never sees in Australia. Their competitors used the autobahns, on which huge capital sums have been spent. These roads carry a constant stream of the heaviest of transports. Along the canals barges proceed, stem to stern. German costs are below those of almost all their competitors simply because German transport costs are lower.
In a country such as Australia we must be prepared to spend our capital in order to bring our costs down. It is not a question of whether the railway should supplant the roads, or whether the roads should supplant the railway. Each of the two systems should be brought up to the highest degree of efficiency. Each would then be able to operate economically because, in certain respects, and for certain commodities, one is usually cheaper than the other.
I do not know how much longer we are to continue this crazy system of transhipping interstate goods at Albury, at Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. One would imagine that the system had been designed to make transport as expensive as possible. Australia is a country of very great distances. Those great distances must lead us to a most careful and thorough consideration of the means whereby our transport costs can be reduced. The people of Australia would willingly contribute to a national fund for the development of our railways, roads and airways, so that we could have three competing services, each providing the cheapest possible transport in its own field.
We must satisfy the people that our objective is nol that the railways shall oust the road hauliers, or that the road hauliers shall oust the railways, or that they, together, shall oust the airways, or vice versa. We must satisfy the people that every system of transport will be encouraged, so that Australia will have the cheapest and finest transport in the world.
But it seems to me that, when the problems of transport are being considered, there is always rivalry between the heads of the various systems. The Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, for instance, appears to take the view that we should not spend any money on roads, because, if we did so, the road hauliers would take traffic from the railways. Germany did not look at the problem in that way. Germany asked, “ In what way can the railways carry goods at the lowest possible cost? “ It asked the same question about road transport and water transport. Each system got down to the problem and reduced its costs. Today, each of three fiercely competing systems claims to be able to carry goods more cheaply than its competitors.
If we have free competition among efficient transport systems, 1 believe we shall solve most of our problems. One of our great problems at present is an adverse trade balance. Our export trade is not large enough to cover the cost of our imports, although the world is crying out for the very goods that we can produce. Our difficulty is not that we are unable to produce the goods or that there are no markets for them, but that the price of our goods is higher than the rest of the world is prepared to pay. Therefore, we must look at our transport costs, because one of the ways in which we can reduce the pi ice of our exports is to reduce transport costs. We have an internal problem. Every one in the community is worried by rising costs. One of the reasons why costs are rising is that transport charges are rising. There again, we must look at the whole problem of transport. 1 feel that we are most indebted to the honorable member for Mackellar and the other members of the committee, who have so studiously, for many months, gone into the problem of how to achieve uniformity of railway gauges. I look forward to the presentation of the report of the committee to the Parliament, and 1 hope that, in discussing it, we shall pool our ideas on the great problem of how to reduce transport costs.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £108,238,000 for the services of the year 1956-57, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) agreed to -
That, towards making good the supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1956-57, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £76,163,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fairhall and Mr. Beale do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairhall, and passed! through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 2nd October (vide page 1005), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 2nd October, (vide page 1005), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed; through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.27 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 11th October (vide page 1 375), on motion by Mr. Fairhall -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is designed to provide for the raising and expending of moneys for the purpose of housing, and to authorize the allocation of moneys to the States for that purpose. As every honorable member is aware, the problem of housing the Australian people has become of great national significance. I submit that it is a problem that has not been faced squarely by this Government, and I confess to the personal view that it was not faced as it should have been by the predecessor of the Government, either, but there is the difference that, to-day. thousands of Australians are seeking homes - I use the word “ homes “ rather than “ houses “ because many of them are living in the most dire circumstances due to the failure of this Government to make available sufficient funds for housing and to accept its responsibility in this respect. Those people are seeking homes, rather than just houses.
We in this House often hear members of the Government and other honorable gentlemen opposite excusing the failure of the Government in regard to housing by saying that, under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the provision of houses is the responsibility of the States. I appreciate that what I am about to say is not strictly relevant, and for that reason I do not propose to go into detail and thus put you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the trouble of interrupting me, but I point ou; that if this Government were really sincere in relation to housing - and I submit that ii is not - it could help to overcome the difficulties iri two material ways. First, it could make available the necessary finance to overtake the lag in war service homes. I understand that, at the 30th June last, there were in Australia 24,655 unsatisfied applications for war service homes. If the Government really wanted to do something tangible towards solving the housing problem, 1 suggest that, as a first step, it could ensure that those 24,655 exservicemen were provided with homes. That would go a long way towards solving the housing problem. Incidentally, there would be no constitutional difficulties involved. T say that because whenever the subject of housing is raised in this chamber members of the Government speak of constitutional barriers which, they say, prevent the Government from doing anything. I point out that there are no constitutional barriers in the way of the Government so far as war service homes are concerned.
There is another way in which the Government could help to solve the housing problem - and again, there are no constitutional barriers to prevent it from doing so. I refer to the housing problem in the Australian Capital Territory. I am not aware of the actual figure, but I know that many hundreds, if not thousands of people in the Territory are waiting for houses or flats.
– There are about 3,500.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) for the information that 3,500 people in the Territory are unable to secure either a house or a flat. Does the Government propose to argue that there are constitutional barriers which prevent it from providing houses for those people? There are in this building people who have been dismissed from their employment with the Department of Works because work was not available to them in the Government’s building programme. It is time that honorable members opposite dropped the phoney argument that constitutional barriers prevent the Government from making a greater effort to overcome the housing problem.
The bill before the House seeks to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £32,150,000 for financial assistance to the States in respect of housing. Of that amount, £6,430,000 is to be allocated by the States to building societies. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I appear parochial in speaking of the housing position in Queensland. That is the State from which I come, although when 1 am in this Parliament I am not a Queenslander but an Australian. However, I am more conversant with the housing position in Queensland than I am with that of the other States, and for that reason I think I am entitled to deal with the Queensland position. I took the opportunity to-day to get in touch with the Queensland Housing Commission to find out the circumstances of that State, and I submit that similar circumstances will apply in the other States of the Commonwealth.
– No! If the honorable member goes to Victoria he will get a very different picture.
– I could tell the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson> something about the position in Victoria, but I do not propose to do so to-night, because I have no doubt that honorable members who come from that State will explain the housing position there. So far as the proposed allocation for building societies is concerned, the Queensland Minister for Housing informed me to-day - and I do not want anybody to misconstrue my remarks about building societies, because I believe that, as such, they are to be respected - that because of the financial policy of this Government, the building societies are unable any longer to obtain finance from the banks. Supporters of this Government are staunch supporters of societies of this kind, and for that reason they have made the necessary arrangements to keep the building societies in business. Therefore, we find in this bill the proposal to allocate more than £6,000,000 to building societies.
What effect will that have on the actual provision of homes for the people who need them? I put it to the House that, in the final analysis, all that matters is what we propose to do to ensure that the people who need homes get them. The political humbug associated with the housing problem should not concern us. If this allocation of funds to building societies will provide more homes for those who need them, then I am sure that every member of this Parliament will be all for it. But the people who will go to the building societies for loans will not be the people with a wife and five, six or seven children. Those people have a very small deposit and, consequently, will not be attracted to the building societies. The people who will go to the building societies will be those who want dearer and better homes. They will not be the type of person who would apply to a housing commission. I venture to say that under this proposal, fewer homes will be built during the period covered by this measure than would be built if the whole amount was handed to the housing commissions. The housing commission in each State is entitled to ask, “ What is it that the building societies can do that we, as a housing commission, are unable to do? “
– Build better homes more cheaply.
– I invite the honorable member to give, during the course of this debate, one tittle of evidence that these societies are able to build houses better and cheaper than a housing commission. If he is able to do so, and if he is able to convince me - and I am easily convinced - I will be the first to admit that I am wrong. Until he or some other member speaking on behalf of the Government does so, I put this proposition: If the Government wanted to support the building societies by making an allocation of funds to them, why in the name of heaven did it not allocate the full amount to the States and then make an additional allocation to the building societies!
Another problem that flows from the allocation of funds to building societies is that contractors who are working for the housing commissions will be taken by the building societies. Consequently, much less work will be done by the housing commissions because it is being done for the building societies. I assert with complete and utter sincerity that, whatever might be the position in other States - and I do not speak for them - the Queensland Government through the Queensland Housing Commission has done a magnificent job with housing.
– I like every one to have his say, even if he accuses me of talking nonsense, but some facts that I have here will prove that my statement is not so nonsensical after all. In 1950 in Queensland some 2,000 people were living in housing centres - huts, ex-service dormitories and that sort of thing. This afternoon, when I checked, I found that that number has been reduced to 631. I include the “ 1 “ so that I will not be accused of being conservative in respect of the figure that I have submitted to the House. If that 631 is subtracted from the 2,000, the result will be the number of people who have obtained homes in Queensland during that period.
We frequently hear the comment thai Labour governments do not believe in these people owning their homes. We in Queensland have the reply to that. The percentage of people owning their homes is higher in Queensland than in any other State. In New South Wales, 66.8 per cent, of the population own or are purchasing their homes; in Victoria, 70 per cent.; in Queensland, 74 per cent.; in South Australia, 69.4 per cent.; in Western Australia, 69.1 per cent.; and in Tasmania, 65.7 per cent. The figures for Queensland prove quite conclusively that the Housing Commission and the Labour Government of Queensland have not only endeavoured to provide houses for the people but have gone even further than that, and encouraged and assisted the people to own their homes. That figure will stand comparison with the figure for any other State; indeed, it will stand comparison with the figure for any part of the world.
Queensland has various schemes. There is a free life insurance scheme for borrowers under the State housing acts, lt was brought into force in 1949. This cover is applicable to borrowers under the age of 40 years who are in normal good health and whose net income does not exceed £1,040 per annum. The maximum amount of cover at the present time is £2,250. Remember, this is free! Such a generous scheme as this is not provided by any other State, the Commonwealth, indeed, any other country. The Queensland Government has acquired land, built miles and miles of roads and kerbing and provided sewerage wherever possible. All this is done in connexion with the Commonwealth and State housing projects. I know that supporters ot the Government do not like to give credit to a Labour government, but I suggest that they should be big enough to appreciate when a job has been done.
Government supporters often argue that this Government makes available more cash than did the Chifley Government. It might. I do not deny that. But so it should! If the value of money to-day is considered, it is essential that more money be given to the States now than was given to them when the Chifley Government was in office. What is the difference between the cost of a house to-day and the cost of a house in 1949? What would have been the purchase price in 1949 of a house that costs £3,000 to-day under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement?
– But a person could not buy one or build one in 1949.
– The honorable member says a house could not be bought in 1949. That might be so. I am comparing the value of the currency in 1949 with its value to-day. If the honorable member wishes, we shall take the first year when a house could be purchased. The same comparison exists. It is futile and it is humbug for supporters of the Government to say that this Government is making more money available for State housing than the Chifley Government did. Of course it does! But what worries the Australian people is not the silly fighting that goes on here between one side and the other about whether this government gave more than that government; all that the thousands of people who want homes and are unable to get them are concerned about is what will be done to make homes available to them. I think that every one will agree that, after health and education, housing is the most serious and the most responsible problem that any government has to face. What is the good of all this bickering when year after year the position gets worse and worse? The housing lag is worse to-day than ever it has been since the end of the war.
– That is not right!
– I wish I could agree that it is not right, but the fact is that it is right and all the denials of Government supporters will not alter that fact. All their denials will not give any comfort to the people of this country who cannot obtain homes.
– How many homes did the honorable member’s government build in 1949?
– The honorable member for Canning talks about my government in 1949. I have tried to point out that it does not matter a tinker’s curse what happened when the Labour Government was in office in 1949. If it pleases honorable members opposite to agree that mistakes were made by the Chifley Government in 1949, what excuse is that for the failure of this Government to provide houses to-day for the Australian people? Government supporters insist on comparing the position to-day with that of 1949. I am simply trying to point out that the amount of money that is allocated to the States for housing is completely and utterly inadequate. Until the Government faces up to its responsibility as a national government, and does something towards providing the States with sufficient money to improve the housing position, it should hang its head in shame. We know that Government supporters say that housing is the responsibility of the States. They say, “We give the States so much money, in accordance with this measure, or measures similar to the one that is before the House to-night. We give the States this money, and it is their responsibility to provide houses for the people who require them “. But honorable members know the position that the States are in. No one knows better than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the financial position of the States. It is well known that the States are short of money for all kinds of public works. No one knows better than the Prime Minister and the Treasurer the position of the States with regard to housing, and until the Government gives the States enough money to enable them to pursue an adequate housing and works programme, we will continue to have a shortage of homes in this country.
Let us consider the provision for an increased interest rate under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Does any honorable member opposite say that 1 per cent, increase in the interest rate is justified?
– I shall tell the House exactly the effect that increase is having on the housing position in Australia. The increase of 1 per cent, in the interest rate means that the rent of a house built in Queensland for £2,750 will be increased by 8s. 8d. a week. The average worker will find his rent increased from £3 12s. to £4 2s. 6d. a week. Government supporters say that the increase is justified, but I cannot agree that it is. The result, of course, will be that people who would otherwise have been able to buy or rent a house will be prevented from doing so. What justification is there for this increase? We know, of course, that building societies have already been adversely affected because of the Government’s financial policy in respect of increased interest rates. Many people have been prevented from obtaining homes through those societies.
I now refer to another aspect of government policy that has adversely affected the housing position. Under the old Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, if a tenant was unable to pay the assessed rental, he was allowed a rebate, 60 per cent, of which was borne by the Commonwealth and 40 per cent, by the States. This Government has now decided on an overnight change of policy, and the States are now left with the full burden of that rebate. Honorable members opposite may say that this, too, is justified. I suppose they must say that it is justified. But where is the evidence of justification for this action, or for the increase in the interest rate?
The Government is responsible for the increase in the cost of houses. It has created a state of inflation in this country, as a result of which housing prices have increased to such an extent that it is almost impossible for the ordinary middle-class working man to obtain a house. Now. just for good measure, the Government has increased the interest rate on housing loans granted under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That is a decision of which this Government cannot be proud.
We know that when a conference was held to consider the renewal of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Senator Spooner put the Government’s proposition to the State representatives, and arguments were put forward against that proposition. At the beginning of negotiations every State resisted the Commonwealth’s proposition to the fullest extent. What attitude did the Commonwealth adopt? It adopted the same attitude as it always adopts when the States appeal to the Commonwealth for finance. The State Premiers and other representatives resisted, as far as they were able, the attempt by this Government to reduce the amount allocated to the States for housing - and that is what it really amounted to.
– That is not right.
– Despite that resistance, the States eventually found themselves in the position of having to accept or of getting nothing at all. The States had no choice. They took what the Commonwealth Government offered, otherwise they would have been left with nothing. I suggest that honorable members opposite, who seem so eager to bellow their lungs out in this Parliament when any Opposition member is talking on this subject, should read what Senator Spooner said to the State representatives.
– At the conference that I have mentioned. He said, in effect. “ You will accept this, or the whole system of Commonwealth and State housing agreements will collapse “. What interpretation can be put on that statement? Only one interpretation can be placed on the statement, and it is this: “You will take what we offer you or you will get nothing at all “. That is precisely what compelled the States to accept the inevitable. 1 repeat, before I resume my seat, that it is to the everlasting discredit and disgrace of this Government that it will not make sufficient money available to the States for housing, and that it will not face up to its responsibility to play an adequate part in relieving the housing situation by reducing the number of outstanding applications for war service homes and by providing homes for the people in Canberra, thus providing employment for workers in the building industry.
– I was rather sorry for the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who apparently was flung into the breach to take up the debate on this subject which he had not studied very much and which he obviously knows very little about. He dealt with it in a cursory way and picked out bits and pieces of catchcries that he thought might appeal to the cupidity of the people who do not know much about housing, lt is very easy to utter those catchcries. It all sounds well, but, of course, it is not the true story in relation to housing. The honorable member said that the Government ought to be ashamed because it has not made more money available to the States. This Government has made more money available to the States1 than the Labour government did. Does the honorable member imply that the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will not be in the interests of the people and that it will not enable them to obtain more homes? All that the honorable member has done has been to indicate to the people of Australia, plainly and clearly - it was really an act of self-confession - something that we have known for a long time: The Australian Labour party’s policy is to give governments all the money and let them build all the houses for the people. Let me tell him that the people do not want governments to build the houses, and would rather build their own. They do not want to have to queue up and be allocated a number which will entitle them, when their turn comes, to a home of the kind that the government says they must have in a place where the government says they must live. That is not what the people of Australia want. They want to retain some individuality and the right to select their own home in a suburb of their own choosing.
– Why does the Government not give them that opportunity?
– We are giving them that opportunity. It is the very purpose of this bill.
I do not want to waste time discussing the details of the speech of the honorable member for Herbert, but I shall refute some of his statements as I proceed with my remarks. This bill is the first under which funds will be provided for housing in accordance with the terms of the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which was approved by the Parliament in June of this year to replace the old agreement which was entered into by the Labour government for a period of ten years which expired on 30th June last. Under the new agreement, 20 per cent, of the £32,150,000 provided for in this measure will be allocated to building societies in the States for the specific purpose of encouraging homeownership, and 80 per cent, will be allocated to State instrumentalities for the provision of homes. I remind .the honorable member for Herbert and other honorable members that there will be no dictation to the States about the use of this money. They will be able to use it for housing as they think fit. There are no conditions attached except that the money must not be used for the construction of shops, or for the construction of huge blocks of flats without consultation with the Commonwealth.
I want to refute now a false statement made by the honorable member for Herbert in relation to rebates. We know that under the old agreement the Commonwealth provided certain rebates to permit some rents to be reduced.
– Sixty per cent.
– Sixty per cent, of the rebate was met by the Commonwealth and 40 per cent, by the State. But the honorable member did not mention that under the new agreement the States will receive a subsidy representing an interest rebate of three quarters of 1 per cent, on rates of interest up to 4i per cent., and 1 per cent, on rates of interest in excess of 41 per cent. The State governments will receive those subsidies, and they will be able to pass them on to the people in whatever form they think will meet the people’s needs. So, although the agreement does not dictate to the States in relation to these subsidies, provision for people to receive the benefit of them is made in the financial arrangements entered into between the Commonwealth and the States under the agreement. The honorable member for Herbert obviously knew nothing about that.
– It is not phony.
– Does the Minister think that no one else in the chamber knows anything?
– If the honorable member had examined the agreement he would have known that a subsidy is to be paid by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the States. Opposition members should not be so ready to criticize this Government, which has a magnificent record in the provision of funds for the States to construct homes, in the field of war service homes, and in other fields of home construction. More homes have been built since this Government took office than ever before. On the other hand, the Labour government had an utterly disgraceful record. I shall give the House, in round figures, some accurate statistics in this connexion. From June, 1945, to June, 1949- the period immediately following the war, up to just before the time when the present Government took office - Australia’s population increased by 621,000. Under the Labour administration, which the honorable member for Herbert supported, 145,000 homes were built. To put it another way, the Labour government built one house for every 4.3 persons by which the population increased in that period. From January, 1950 - shortly after the present Government took office - to March, 1956, the population increased by 1,250,000, and 485,000 dwellings were built. This represents one house for every 2.6 persons by which the population increased. If those figures do not dispose of the arguments that the Labour government’s record was better than the record of this Government, I should like to know what can dispose of them. Labour governments have such a bad record in housing, and have so destroyed the chances of the people to obtain homes, that those who belong to the Australian Labour party should be ashamed of themselves and should never dare to criticize the present Government’s housing record.
The Labour government boosted the old Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement as the great salvation of the people, and said it would provide them with homes. What did that agreement amount to? It was introduced for a period of ten years which, as I have said, expired on 30th June last. The whole purpose of the agreement and the associated measures was to socialize housing. That was intended from the very outset. Prior to the advent of that agreement the Labour government attempted to alter the Australian Constitution to establish a Commonwealth housing commission with branches in every State. Opposition members know that is the truth. The purpose was to provide money to build houses for the people to rent. They were not to be given the chance to become home-owners. The agreement specifically provided that they were not to become home-owners. Following the failure of its attempt to have the Constitution changed, the Labour government laid down in the agreement entered into with the States conditions which required them to sell homes built with money provided under the agreement only for cash, which was to be repaid to the Commonwealth. That meant that the people could not get terms under which to pay for their homes. That condition was laid down by the Labour government. It meant, in effect, that it was trying to discourage, as much as it could, the purchase of homes that had been built by the various States under the agreement. As I have said, the people had to pay cash.
Facilities were not made available in any other way for the people to get money. As a result, only a very small percentage of the houses built while the Labour government was in power were sold to the people in order to enable them to become the owners of their homes. Almost all of the homes built under the Labour government were rented to the people. In one or two cases, the difference between the attitude of the Labour government and the attitude of this type of government is obvious. It was indicated in two States at that time. One was the State of Western Australia which was under the control of a Liberal government. There the government made arrangements for a great number of the houses built to be sold to the people. At one stage, while the Liberal government was in power, at least 40 per cent, of the houses that were built were sold to the people. After Labour took charge in Western Australia that figure decreased, until now it is about 10 or 15 per cent, lt began to decrease immediately Labour came into power.
The other State that sold a great percentage of its houses was South Australia, under the Playford Government. But in every other State, Labour being in power, the number of houses sold did not exceed 5 per cent, of those which were built. That is a clear indication that the whole purpose of the Labour party was to create a tenancy community with houses built by governments. The whole tenor of the speech which the honorable member for Herbert made to-night indicates to the House quite clearly that the purpose of the Labour party is that houses should be built by governments in Australia. Never mind about the freedom of the people! Never mind about the rights of the people to be able to select their homes!
The whole purpose of the new agreement with which this bill deals is gradually to reverse that policy and give the people an opportunity to become the owners of their homes and to encourage the building society movement, which has done a magnificent job. Opposition members oppose that idea. They say, “ Give more money “. What do they mean? Do they want to encourage further inflation in this country? The building trade has been fully occupied in the last few years - ever since this Government has been in power. The provision of extra money would only feed the fire of inflation.
– Does the Minister say that building houses for the people causes inflation?
– One cannot build more houses, even if tens of millions more pounds were available, without more men and material. Apparently the honorable member for Herbert has in mind certain conditions in certain places. No one can deny that over the last several years the whole of the building trade in Australia has been fully occupied. I say that Labour’s record on housing is shocking. I think it deserves repetition in any speech on this subject, because the people should be reminded of it, that when Mr. Dedman, who was in charge of the bill concerning the agreement was challenged about it, he said that his government did not wish to make little capitalists out of the people of Australia. The people will never forget that.
In addition, the Labour party destroyed confidence in investment. It destroyed confidence by its system of control. Prior to Labour getting into office one could go to any trust office in any capital city or to lawyers all over Australia and one could find that people were investing their savings in mortgages and other fields of investment. But when Labour got into power, it destroyed the confidence of the people because of the controlled system that it operated. People would no longer put their money into that sort of investment. As a result, the Labour government deprived the people of Australia of sources of money for the purchase of homes to rent. It was Labour’s policy that completely destroyed that confidence; so much so, that confidence has even been reduced in government securities because Labour wanted to take control of everything away from the people. It even wanted to take their freedom away.
As the honorable member for Herbert, who has left the chamber, knows, the legislation which the States have introduced. If honorable members compare the census legislation which the States have introduced. If honorable members compare the census of 1947 with the census of 1954 they will find that many more homes have been built in Australia than have been necessary to cope with the increase in the population. But notwithstanding that fact, the apparent shortage of houses appears to become more acute year by year. The honorable member for Herbert himself said that the shortage appears to get greater. In the State of New South Wales there was one house for every four people in 1947, at the time of the census To-day, there is one house foi every 3.5 people in New South Wales, and yet the shortage appears to be great. The strange fact is that in Western Australia, which has the same proportion of houses to population, there is no apparent shortage of houses.
– It is a fact. No one can deny these things because they are self-evident to any one who wishes to look at them. Notwithstanding all the houses that the housing commissions have built throughout Australia, there are now fewer rented houses than when the housing commissions commenced to build. The reason is that a greater number of houses has been sold by people who previously owned and rented them than there have been houses built by the housing commissions. The reason, again, has been that the value of houses as an investment has been completely destroyed by Labour legislation. The net result of that trend has been very simple to appreciate if people would only follow it through. But Labour will never face up to facts in these matters. In the capital cities of States which have Labour governments, there are just as many houses in proportion to population as there were when there was no shortage of houses. But as a result of Labour’s control system, tens of thousands less people are living in the same number of houses. That position has created a shortage. One has only to look at the record of vacant houses to see that that is so. It is not an over-estimation to say that there are at least 150,000 vacant houses in Australia to-day.
– Where are they?
– They are in Australia. The people who own them will not let themselves become entangled with the control laws laid down by Labour governments. They are not available to be rented. They are held vacant until sold.
– Where are they?
– They are everywhere The truth of the matter is that Labour is crying out about a shortage of houses when, in fact, it has created an apparent shortage itself. It is not a real shortage in the sense that houses do not exist. There are thousands of houses in any of the big capital cities which are not fully occupied. People will not sub-let or let their houses while rent control exists. They would not do that now even if some of those controls were removed, because Labour has destroyed the confidence of potential lettors of homes. So Labour, instead of helping the workers, has, in fact, injured the workers, because the people who are protected by Labour’s controls are not the people who need such protection. More than 80 per cent, of the people protected by certain rent control laws in Australia to-day are well-to-do people who have made lots of money and can well afford to pay an economic rent. The people whom those controls hit hardest are young people who wish to get married but cannot do so because they cannot find a home to live in, because the available homes are occupied by others who are benefiting at the expense of the rest of the community. The provision of all the money in the world to the State governments to permit them to go on building houses will not cure the immediate problem, because, however many houses the State governments built, they would not catch up with the demand as a result of the effects of these obnoxious laws which are operating against the rights of the people. So unless complete socialism is brought in, and all the properties in Australia are taken over, the problem will not be cured in the way that Labour desires to cure it. What we have to do is to restore the freedom of the people so that they may decide where they wish to live and the kind of home they wish to live in; we must also give them the right to own homes. That is the only way it can be done.
I know that there are people in a community who cannot pay economic rent, and I have no objection to their being helped. But that problem should not be dealt with in the way suggested by Labour. When people cannot pay economic rent, governmental assistance to them becomes a social service, and the problem may well be dealt with on that basis. But there are people all over Australia obtaining the benefit of this system of controls and subsidies who do not need such assistance, and this is affecting the whole housing position in this country. The plain fact is that Labour, by its interference with our economic laws, has distorted the housing position in Australia to the point where tens of thousands of young people are suffering tragedy because they cannot find homes for themselves. It is quite impossible for anybody to go into Sydney or, if it comes to that, Melbourne, where I hope the position will improve very shortly, and get a home to live in, either for rent or under any other arrangement. People do not understand why they cannot get homes to rent, because they know there has been ample building going on. They see figures which indicate that there have been more houses built than there has been increase of population. They see all these things, and they wonder why they cannot get homes. The reason is quite obvious. It is that Labour in the various States has completely distorted the economy by its approach to this very important matter. I do not want it to be thought, however, that a solution would be simply a matter of wiping out all these controls at once in, for instance, New South Wales. That should be done by a gradual process, as it was done in Western Australia, where to-day there are virtually no controls, and where there is no shortage of houses; whereas in the other States where controls operate the shortage continues. If the State Labour governments had allowed the investment market, or the renting of houses, to keep pace with the economy in the normal way, there would be no shortage of houses in Australia to-day, because the houses are here. That is a terrible denunciation of Labour. It is a terrible tragedy, responsibility for which must be laid at Labour’s door. But the only answer to the problem that the Opposition can suggest is to inflate the economy further by pumping more money into the States to allow them to go on building housing commission homes. Let me say now that nobody in the States wants to live in houses built by housing commissions. Somebody has challenged us as to whether such houses are good houses. I say that they are not good houses. They are not the kind of houses people want to live in.
– They are splendid houses.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will keep order.
– They are not! The position of housing commissions is a very serious one, because if they are allowed to develop and extend their functions, the kind of organization they will have to set up for the purpose of the maintenance of hundreds of thousands of State houses will be immense, and the overhead costs will have to be borne either by the people who rent the houses or by the taxpayers generally.
The most economic way of assisting people with the provision of homes is to give them the right of home-ownership through the building society movement. That method is not only the most economical; it can also be used for the expenditure of the same amount of money as is expended on housing commission homes, as the Minister for National
Development (Senator Spooner) has pointed out. The reason is, of course, that people are thereby encouraged to put their savings into a house. Savings stimulate the building of houses, which will be built in greater numbers than if we simply hand money over to the States to build the houses needed by the nation. It is Labour’s idea to hand money over to the States instead of encouraging home-ownership, and that is the difference between us and Labour. That difference comes to light this year in this bill.
This Government has done a splendid job. The only thing that I find wrong with the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is that not sufficient money is being provided to the building society movement, because the more money given to that movement the better the prospect of increased home ownership. But the simple flooding of money in millions of pounds into the coffers of government instrumentalities for use in the construction of homes is not the answer, and never will be the answer, to our housing problem. I sincerely hope that we will reach the stage - and this bill is the first step towards it - at which we will be able to provide through the sources dealt with in the bill, and through the encouragement of savings in the new savings banks, the money needed for the building of homes so that the greatest possible number of Australians will become home-owners. That, in my opinion, is the way to build a nation. But by following Labour’s policy not only would we destroy the citizenship rights of Australians as home-owners; we would destroy also the possibility of their ever getting homes in which to rear their families. The tragedy which lies at the door of Labour because of its policy is something of which members of the Labour party ought to be completely ashamed, because at the door of Labour lies, at the present time, responsibility tor the homelessness of thousands of young married couples in Australia. In the light of that one can imagine that, because of Labour’s policy, Labour is also responsible for the fact that tens of thousands of Australian citizens, who in normal circumstances would have been born in this country, have not been born. The Labour party ought to be really ashamed of this, because it has introduced into this country a tragedy in which no political party could have pride.
This Government stands for, and proudly, the right of home-ownership and the encouragement of home-ownership. We do not stand for, and will oppose as much as we possibly can, the right of governments to be the home builders of the nation and the landlords of the nation, lt is not in that way that we can build a great nation. It is time that Labour gave away its socialistic ideas and restored the people’s rights and the opportunity for individuality and freedom in Australia.
The damage done by Labour in the housing field was never more evident than it has been in this debate. It is time that Labour woke up and realized what it has done to the people in respect of this most important function - and it is an important function, because there is no more important function in life, no more important function of a nation, than to see that the people have happy homes and have the right to bring up families in those homes. Labour has prevented that happening in Australia, and because this Governnent has started a process designed to give the people an opportunity to own their homes, it has become the target of this stupid criticism from the socialists who, for some strange reason see in the Government’s move not a desire to give the people their rights but to seek further power. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is now grinning at me, speaks in this debate, honorable members and people who listen to his speech on the radio will hear the type of socialist speech expressing the type of socialist thinking to which I have referred. It is about time that Labour woke up to itself. Let me tell the Opposition that the people of Australia are not in accord with the Labour party’s ideas in the matter of housing. Let honorable members opposite, instead of criticizing the Government as they have done, applaud the Government for introducing a change in the system that will allow people to own their own homes.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Over the last seven years, this House has listened to many extraordinary speeches from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), but it is safe to say that to-night even he has excelled himself. In the course of his speech, which was a conglomeration of inaccuracies and illogical comments, he contradicted himself at least a dozen times. For instance, he said that the only fault with the bill was that it did not give enough money to the building societies. In this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “, an article entitled “ Hint on Home Finance “ appeared. In it, I found the following: -
Senator Spooner today asked building societies to make themselves independent of Government support.
He said the Commonwealth did not wish or intend to become the major source of finance for building societies.
Commonwealth aid to the societies had been intended primarily to give a lead to others and to encourage the societies to seek money from private investors.
The societies should make more use of savings bank loans and attract more funds from insurance companies.
In other words, if the Minister for National Development had his way, less money would go to the building societies in future than is provided under this bill. The Minister for the Army is so obsessed with the idea that anything which emanates from the Labour ranks must be treated with contempt and derision, that he is not prepared even to follow the lead of the Minister for National Development, whom Cabinet has charged with responsibility for housing. The comments of his colleague yesterday are at distinct variance with his own almost inarticulate utterances to-night.
Let us see what the present ministry has done in the Australian Capital Territory, where it cannot be said that a State government is to blame. In this Territory, where the Commonwealth has complete and unfettered control, this Government, whose spokesman to-night referred so sarcastically to the efforts of Labour governments, has built fewer and fewer houses during each of the last five years. Instead of increasing the number to meet the growing and anticipated population, the Government has, for reasons best known to itself, actually decreased it. It has deliberately cut Canberra’s housing programme, with the result that tradesmen have been forced out of employment and been obliged to seek other fields of endeavour. I suggest that the Government should put its own domain in order before it complains of inactivity on the part of State Labour governments. Hundreds of competent tradesmen have been forced to leave the Australian Capital Territory, and it ill becomes a government with such a dismal record to criticize the housing programmes of governments elsewhere.
I would like to point out to the Minister or the Army that he has an entirely erroneous impression of the function of housing commissions. Housing commissions, orginally, were formed to provide houses for the lower-income groups. The Minister seems to be entirely oblivious of that fact, and suggests that they were formed by socialist government in order to socialize the building industry. Clearly, he has no knowledge of what happened in Victoria. The Housing Commission of that State was established by a Country party government under the leadership of the late Sir Albert Dunstan. It was a Country party government, not a socialist government, which decided that private enterprise had failed to supply enough houses to meet the demands of the lower-income groups for rental properties. Any one with the slightest knowledge of the housing position in the last 20 or 30 years - and we have to go back that far if we are to get at the roots of the problem - knows prefectly well that after the depression private enterprise made virtually no money available for the building of homes for rental, which were required by the lower-income groups.
There has, of course, been plenty ot money available for luxury flats and for houses as large as that in which the Minister lives, but after the depression, private enterprise gave up any attempt to provide renting properties for the ordinary wageearner with three or four children. Sir Albert Dunstan realized that something had to be done. The position in Victoria was becoming well-nigh intolerable and his government began building houses for rental, lt was actuated not by the socialist leanings of which the Minister for the Army spoke so vociferously to-night, but solely by the fact that in 1936-37 insufficient houses were being built to satisfy the demand for rented properties by people who, by reason of economic circumstances, were unable to find a deposit with which to purchase a home. The Minister should get his facts in order before he berates a party which in Victoria in 1937 did nothing more than support wholeheartedly a bill to establish the Housing Commission.
The Minister does not appreciate that housing commissions were established to assist the lower-income groups. He speaks glibly about people building their own homes and says, “ People do not want to live in Housing Commission homes “. That has certainly not been my experience. Every week-end I have at my door a long queue of people who are prepared to go anywhere in Melbourne under any conditions, in order to get a Housing Commission home. Their willingness is prompted by the conditions under which they are living at present. One often finds a man, his wife and three or four kiddies paying £3 10s. or £4 a week for little more than a single room. Anything is better than that. The Minister’s statement that people do not want to live in Housing Commission homes shows that he is completely out of touch. He is concerned only with finding homes for people receiving £1,500 or £2,000 a year. I cannot stress too greatly that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 was designed to provide homes for the lower-income groups. When the Minister gets that into his head he will begin to understand the basic problem confronting the people of Australia in their endeavour to find homes.
The bill before us, about which the Minister speaks so eulogistically, does absolutely nothing to improve the position. Indeed, it is a step backwards so far as Victoria is concerned. Its expressed purpose is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £32.150.000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) pointed out that the States had asked for more, but he encountered a barrage of criticism from the Australian Country party benches. He was told that the States were getting what they wanted. In fact, the States asked for £35,000,000 and are receiving only £32.150,000.
– That is not too bad!
– No, but it is not enough. The States agreed to £35,000,000 because they wanted approval for a total loan programme of £210,000,000. This sum was later reduced to £190,000,000. The States are not satisfied with the amount authorized under the bill. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, this Government made £37,200.000 available in 1953.
Now it is providing only £32,000,000. In other words, in three years the Government has reduced the allocation by £5,000,000.
No one will convince me that the housing position has been at all alleviated in the last three years. It might, of course, have been alleviated for people in the £1,500- £2,000 a year group, but I say unequivocally that the position of the average wageearner, in Victoria at any rate, has not been alleviated one iota. I shall show later that the Housing Commission of Victoria has more people on its waiting list now than it had three years ago. The Government proposes that £25,720,000 shall be made available for State housing instrumentalities and £6,430,000 for building societies. In view of the statement made yesterday by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), I do not know for how long the building societies will receive £6,000,000 a year. In five years’ time they may not get anything.
Despite the laudatory remarks of the Minister for the Army, all that this bill will do will be to increase the difficulties of the States in providing homes for people in the lower income group. The Minister for the Army and other members of the Government appear to be extraordinarily complacent about the housing position. I cannot believe that the Minister’s complacency is based upon knowledge of the facts, because in private life he is a kindly soul. If he knew the real housing position to-day, I cannot imagine that he would be complacent. The fact is that the people with whom he deals in his private capacity as an estate agent are not people in the lower income groups. They are people in the middle or the upper stratum of society. Consequently, the Minister has not the slightest knowledge of the tribulations that beset people in the lower income group.
Honorable members opposite, in order to support their contention that enough houses are being built, argue on lines that have become familiar to all of us. They say that during each of the last four years approximately 80,000 houses have been built. The figure is slightly under that. It is about 75,000, but I will not argue now over 2,000 or 3,000 houses. Then honorable members opposite say that the current need is for 57,000 houses a year - a figure that do?* not take into consideration th» large influx of immigrants. Their argument is that because housing construction is proceeding at the rate of 80,000 a year and the current need is for 57,000 houses a year, the lag is being overtaken at the rate of more than 20,000 houses a year. That specious reasoning will not stand examination. A cold perusal of the housing statistics reveals, not only that we are not building enough houses to overcome the post-wai shortage, but also that we are going further into arrears each year.
It is quite futile for honorable members opposite to base arguments on the number of houses that Labour built between 1945 and 1949. Such arguments are childish. In 1945, the war had just ended. The government of that day was faced with a terrific problem of rehabilitation. Industries had to be started again to provide the bricks, wood, tiles and all the other things essential for the building of houses. Obviously, the Government could not start those industries again in five minutes. Terrific pressure was being exerted upon State authorities for the construction of factories, flats, &c. The pressure upon available resources was so great that not even a government composed entirely of Mandrakes could have built many houses then. It was not until 1948 or 1949 that the supply position became easier and the building industry began to settle down on an even keel. So it is stupid to base an argument on the fact that fewer houses were built between 1945 and 1949 than between 1951 and 1955. In each of those two periods economic and industrial conditions were so different that there is no real basis for comparison. The arguments based on that comparison which the Minister trotted out were on all-fours with other baseless arguments that he has submitted.
In 1944, the Chifley Government recognized that at the end of the war there would be a grave housing shortage, so it established the Commonwealth Housing Commission to consider the problem. The commission found that, allowing for the normal natural increase of population, a minimum of 700,000 houses would be required by the end of 1955 - eleven years ahead. I point out that that estimate did not take into consideration the immigration policy, which had not been formulated then. Everybody knows that since the end of the war about 1,100,000 immigrants have entered the country. In those circumstances, it is obvious that the estimate that an additional 700,000 houses would be required by the end of 1955 was very conservative. The commission estimated that Australia was 300,000 houses short in 1945, and proceeded on that basis.
By 30th June of this year, 575,000 houses had been erected since the end of the war. That was 125,000 short of the figure estimated by the commission, which did not take into consideration the great influx of immigrants. If we were 120,000 houses short on the basis of an estimate that did not take immigration into consideration, how many houses were we short, in fact, with a population that had risen by 1,100,000 as a result of immigration? We must face the unpalatable fact that at the present rate of building we shall never catch up with the arrears. This bill will put us further and further into the red, so to speak.
The Minister for the Army made the point that when the Labour party was in power one house was built for every 4.3 persons by which the population increased and that since this Government has been in power one house has been built for every 2.6 persons by which the population has increased. Those figures ignore the distribution of houses among the people. It is the people in the middle and the upper classes who have gained most in this connexion. We see frequently houses of six or seven rooms being erected for occupation by only a married couple. The people in the lower-income group have certainly not gained anything as a result of the housing policy of this Government. The Minister has claimed that while this Government has been in office one house has been built for every 2.6 persons increase of the population, but we cannot arrive at any specific finding on averages. I point out again that the purpose of the housing agreement was to provide homes for people in the lower income group. If homes have been built for persons with incomes of from £1,500 to £2,000 a year, the figures might show that one house has been built for every 2.6 persons increase of the population, but that would not mean that houses have been built for people in the lower income group - for men on £15 or £16 a week with a wife and four or five children.
I will not hear a bad word said about the Housing Commission of Victoria. I am not actuated by political bias when I say that because, as I pointed out earlier, the commission was the creation of a Country party government. Even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) nods his head and smiles when I say that, because he realizes that, as a member of the Country party, he must support my statement, although it cuts across the arguments that the Government has advanced in this debate. Despite heroic efforts, the Housing Commission of Victoria has not managed to overtake the housing lag. That is due to the insufficiency of the funds received from this Government. Up to the present time, the commission has built approximately 30,000 homes at a cost of £68,000,000, but, unfortunately, the present rate of building does not meet the demand. In 1953, the commission had a waiting list of 11,000 people. Since then, it has built approximately 1 1 ,500 houses, but the waiting list now is 12,000 people. The number of people waiting for houses has increased by 1,000, despite the fact that 1 1,500 houses have been built by the commission in the last two years. I was informed by an officer of the commission with whom I was conversing at a function last week that the waiting list is increasing at the rate of 200 a week. During the last few years, more people have been applying to the commission for homes than ever before.
That does not seem to coincide with the statement of the Minister for the Army that people do not want to go into housing commission homes. The only quarrel that the people have with these homes is that there are not enough of them. I have not the slightest doubt that the people are not concerned about what suburb they go to, or whether the house is of brick, brick veneer, concrete, or wooden construction. They are concerned only with getting for their wives and families a reasonable house, with reasonable amenities, at a reasonable rental. The Minister laid great stress on the fact that the bill proposes the allocation of 20 per cent, of the funds to co-operative building societies, and he advanced the extraordinary argument - I was about to say it was peculiar to him, but other Government supporters have advanced it in the past - that the Australian Labour party was opposed to home-ownership. I wish to refute, with all the vigour at my disposal, that vile allegation against the Australian Labour party, because at every stage of its political existence the Australian Labour party has fought for a policy of encouragement of home-ownership. In all State parliaments Labour governments have at some time introduced legislation designed either to inaugurate a system of home-ownership or to improve a home-ownership scheme already in existence. That has been done for reasons which are not hard to understand. Our party represents, in the main, the working class, and we want the working class to enjoy the good things of life, including contentment and security. Everybody knows, of course, that it is the ambition of 90 per cent, of the people to acquire property of their own, whether it be big or small. The Australian Labour party, above all other parties, understands the feeling of contentment that is attached to homeownership. lt is an understandable feeling. All our efforts by means of legislation through the years have been directed to providing homes for the people and especially homes for ownership. We understand pride of possession, and that having a real stake in the community has a very marked effect on the individual and national morale of citizens.
About eighteen months ago the Parliament passed legislation to amend the 1945 housing agreement to provide for the sale of housing commission homes to tenants on a deposit of £200. The Victorian Housing Commission was very keen to see whether this plan would be successful. It had been observed that tenants, in thousands of instances, had shown a marked interest in the properties which they rented, improved them, laid out very fine gardens, and maintained houses although they were not legally obliged to do so. What did we find? The last figures that I was able to obtain show that of approximately 30,000 tenants of Victorian Housing Commission homes, 676 have paid deposits, the commission is awaiting payment of deposits promised by another 600, and 3,000 have applied to the commission for a sale price quotation. They are the only persons who have shown interest in purchase - about 4,300 of a total of about 30,000. The reason is quite obvious. Many thousands of tenants of housing commission homes have not the slightest prospect of ever purchasing, because they have not the deposit and have not the slightest chance of ever getting it. All that we shall be doing as a result of the Government’s policy will be to take 20 per cent, of the funds and give them to building societies, and fewer homes will be available to persons who cannot find the necessary deposit to purchase homes under building society agreements.
I do not suggest for one moment that funds should not be made available to building societies, but I suggest that they should have funds in addition to those which have always been provided for home> tor rental purposes. The Government’s scheme will not solve the problem in relation to rented properties. All that the Government proposes to do is to deprive the State housing commissions of the opportunity to provide for rental purposes as many homes as they provided before. The Government proposes to take the right to a home from 20 per cent, of prospective tenants. This action will not solve the housing problem at all. More money should be made available by lending institutions to building societies, but what do we find? The Minister for the Army, in one of his many mis-statements to-night, said that the Australian Labour party was so hostile to investors, and that its legislation was so directed against investing classes, that investors would not put money into home construction. Let us see who has provided money for co-operative building societies. Private banks and insurance companies have provided very little indeed of the funds of building societies. They have not met their obligations to the community. The Commonwealth Bank and the State savings banks are the only lending institutions which have realised that they have a job to do in co-operative housing schemes. In Victoria there are 266 building societies which have borrowed £45,000,000 for their operations. Of that amount, the banks have advanced £41,000.000, but of that £41,000,000 the Commonwealth Bank and the State savings bank have advanced £32,000,000. It is time that the Government went to its friends, the private banks, and told them that they have a responsibility to the co-operative housing societies and that they should make more money available.
A similar position exists in New South Wales, where housing societies have had a longer existence. Of £71,000,000 loaned by banking institutions to housing societies in that State, the Commonwealth Bank has advanced £57,000,000. I suggest that in every State the only banking institutions which have done the right thing by cooperative housing societies are the Commonwealth Bank and the State savings banks. To take money from the Commonwealth’s annual allocation for housing commission homes and divert it to co-operative building societies is only to relieve private lending institutions of some of the responsibility which is rightly theirs. If the Government wants to give an impetus to the co-operative housing movement, it should direct private banks to make the necessary money available. Irrespective of what is said by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) he has power under the current legislation to take this action. That is the solution of the problem. The Government should increase its allocation to the amount which was suggested for this year by the States, namely £35,532,000. This amount should be made available to housing commissions for building houses for rental, and the Government should request the private lending institutions to make money available to cooperative building societies to permit them to carry on with their very worthy work. One of the greatest difficulties that confronts the average worker who wishes to buy a house to-day is the high price that he is required to pay. Unfortunately, the cost of a house to-day is between 350 per cent, and 400 per cent, greater than it was in 1939, but the basic wage has increased by only 233 per cent. Retail prices have increased by 160 per cent, and food prices by 204 per cent.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sure that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) would not disagree with me if I suggested that the housing policy of the Australian Labour party is the same in every State which is controlled by a Labour government, and has been the same for many decades. Yet, the honorable member suggested to the House that he, as a Labour man, deplored the fact that so many people were unable to obtain their own homes. He said that the policy of the
Labour party was that people should own their own homes, and then tie instanced the situation that exists in Victoria. Therefore, I think it is only right that we should analyse his statement with a view to estimating his sincerity, and also determining whether the Labour party generally is sincere in contending that people should have their own homes. To do this, let us go to the honorable member’s State, Victoria, where, he claims, many thousands of people are waiting to obtain homes. He said that he wished to see them accommodated in their own homes. Whilst Victoria was administered by a Labour government during the years 1953-54 and 1954-55, that government sold only six of all the houses that were built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In July of last year, however, the complexion of the Victorian administration changed, and a Liberal government took office. That government, during the financial year 1955-56, sold not six houses, but no less than 1,289 of the houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If the Labour party sincerely desires that people should own their own homes, how does the honorable member for Batman explain the fact that, in two years, under a Labour government, only six Victorians were able to buy housing commission homes, whereas under a Liberal government, in half that period. 1,289 houses were sold?
However, do not let us examine only the Victorian position. As I have said, the position is the same in every State where the Labour party is in control. In Queensland, the State from which I come, it is a well-known fact that the Government will in no circumstances sell a home which has been built with State moneys to an exserviceman who wants to buy it through the war service homes scheme. At no time in the history of Queensland, whilst it has been under the administration of a Labour government, has an ex-serviceman been able to buy himself a State home with financial assistance from the Commonwealth through the war service homes scheme. Since the inception of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Queensland Government has sold only 5.71 per cent, of the total number of houses built under the agreement. In other words, the Queensland Labour Government has adopted a similar course to that of every other Labour government in Australia. Such governments believe that the State should own the homes and that individuals should pay rent to the State; that the only landlord should be the State; and that nobody should have the privilege of owning his home.
– That is not correct.
– Therefore, I say that the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Batman are completely unsound. Now, we have an interjection from the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who was a member of a Labour government which appointed a commission to investigate the housing position and determine the steps that should be taken to ensure that the Australian people were adequately housed after the termination of World War II. He will remember clearly that that government, with commendable forethought, appointed the commission to see what could be done to house exservicemen when they returned from service with the forces, and to investigate means of overtaking the lag which had developed during the war, when so few houses had been built. He will, perhaps, recollect with shame the reports of the commission that were tendered to the Labour government at the time, and how those reports stressed the necessity for the government of the Commonwealth to ensure that finance was made available to the people so that they would be able to buy their own homes. What happened? In 1945, Mr. Dedman, the Minister in charge of housing at the time, introduced legislation embodying the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which expired in July last. The honorable member for Bonython supported that legislation. He knows that, under the terms of the agreement, it was virtually impossible for any man to buy a home with moneys advanced by the Commonwealth to the States. Therefore, I suggest that the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Batman to support his contention that the Labour party believes that people should own their homes, were insincere. Although the honorable member for Bonython has interjected, it is clear that he, too.: does not really believe that people should own their homes; otherwise, in the light of the report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, tabled in this Parliament during the last war, he would have opposed the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement legislation introduced subsequently by Mr. Dedman. But he voted for it! That being so, how sincere can he be? Was he not in the House when, in answer to an interjection, Mr. Dedman made a statement to the effect that the Labour party did not believe in people owning their homes because that would only make them little capitalists, and the Labour party was not interested in little capitalists?
We can see, therefore, the real reason why the Labour party is opposing this bill, which provides that the Commonwealth shall make available to the States the sum of £32,150,000 for housing purposes during the ensuing twelve months. Honorable members opposite are opposed to the bill principally because, under the terms of the new agreement, which was put before the States by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) some time ago, it is mandatory on the States that, this year and next year, a minimum of 20 per cent, of the money advanced to them shall be made available for people who desire to own their homes. In the following three years of the agreement, which will expire after five years, no less than 30 per cent, of the total amount of money made available by the Commonwealth to the States must be used to assist people who wish to own their homes. I point out that the agreement will enable people to purchase houses on deposits as low as 10 per cent. Do the honorable members for Batman and Bonython suggest that, by making available this money to people on such deposits, we are catering for the wealthy section of the community? No! We are catering for the working class - for the people on wages, who are able to save only a moderate amount of money. We are giving them the opportunity to acquire homes on small deposits.
The suggestion made not only by the honorable member for Batman, but also by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), that in fact there will be less money available for people to own their homes, is ridiculous. If we study the terms of the agreement, we find that the allocations of 20 per cent, and 30 per cent., which are to be made to enable people to own their homes, will go into a revolving fund. As people purchase their homes, the repayments go into a revolving fund so that there is an accumulating source of finance for people to purchase their homes. That money is not required to be repaid to the Commonwealth by the States for a period of 53 years. Therefore, this is the biggest single contribution to solving the housing problem that has been made.
I say that most emphatically because, as we all know, great queues of people are waiting to obtain housing commission homes. Why are large queues of people making application to obtain these rental homes? The answer is quite evident. It is because the Labour party, of which the honorable member for Bonython is a member, failed to implement the suggestion of the commission that money be made available to enable people to own homes. Under the terms of the agreement, which has run for ten years, people have found that the resources of that section of the building industry which is devoted to the construction of residential type buildings has been concentrated to a large extent on the construction of housing commission homes; in other words, houses owned by the governments and rented to the people, but houses which were not for sale because the States were administered by Labour governments.
No other opportunity to find accommodation exists, because people cannot obtain financial assistance to buy their homes. With no alternative, they have queued up at the housing commission and put their names down for some sort of shelter. With reluctance, I remind the honorable member for Bonython that if he had any knowledge of people who live in housing commission areas, if he were to canvass those people for their opinions, or if he were to take a gallup poll, he would find that between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of people who live in housing commission homes would much prefer to have the opportunity to buy their homes on a 10 per cent, deposit and to pay the balance over a period of years. Recognizing that, this Government has introduced the new housing agreement and this bill is to give the Government the opportunity to make that money available to the people. They will have the opportunity to buy homes, after the vain effort of the Labour party to socialize the industry completely and prevent these people from owing their homes.
The Labour party claims that it represents the little man. It must claim also that it represents the little builder - the little man in industry. What is the situation of these people? In the last financial year, more money has been made available to the building industry than at any time in Australia’s history. I can confirm that assertion by citing statements that have been made by responsible members of the industry. For instance, Mr. R. J. Hornibrook, who is the president of the Master Builders Association, has made an important statement on this matter. Another interesting report is as follows: -
Value of buildings erected in Brisbane last year was a record, the Property Owners’ Association of Queensland stated in an annual report released yesterday.
The sum of £12,044,000 spent on city buildings during the year was an increase of 50 per cent, on the amount spent in 1954.
The fact is that more money has been available to the building industry in the last financial year than at any time in Australia’s history. It is also true that a most unfortunate trend has developed in the building industry. It needs rectification urgently. This trend is that, whilst this vast volume of money is available to the building industry, it is so channelled at the present time that the small builder, who builds only two, three or four houses a year, has been unable to get access to sufficient finance to support him in his business. Unless a man has vast capital resources, it is not now possible for him to continue in the building industry. It means that the small home builder is being forced out of the industry. This bill will provide a source of funds which will be available to that section of the building industry. Twenty per cent, of the money available this year will be taken up by the little man. But the 80 per cent, that is to go to the housing commissions - housing commissions administered largely by Labour governments in the various States - will not be taken up by the little man. That money will be available to the big contractor with vast financial resources who is able to accept a tender for £1,000,000 or £1,250,000.
Only recently we read in the Brisbane newspapers of a new project of the Queensland Housing Commission and how it had let a contract for £1,250,000 to a firm in that city. Of course, the building contractor would not have available to him immediately sufficient man-power unless he was able to recruit small contractors who have been contracting in their own right in the industry over a period of years and who now find that, because of economic conditions largely brought about by the old housing agreement, they are being forced out of the industry. The only chance of resuscitating these people and of keeping the small home builder in the industry is to see that some finance is made available to him. The resources from which he can draw to-day are largely from the War Service Homes Division or from money that will be made available under the terms of this agreement insofar as 20 per cent, of the total amount is concerned.
If the Labour party suggests that it is interested in the little man, then surely the Labour party should applaud the suggestion that 20 per cent, of the fund will be taken out of the hands of the States and will go into channels through which the little man, the working man, will be able to borrow 90 per cent, of the cost of his home. He will then be able to go to the little builder who is able to accept a small contract and say, “ Will you build me a home for £1,500 or £3.000?”. The contractor will have the financial resources available to him to build houses in that category. Not only will this 20 per cent, be most important to the little builders; it will also be most important to the little people of Australia.
I want to refer now to some arguments that were put forward by the honorable member for Herbert. He deplored the fact that the Commonwealth was not making sufficient money available to the building industry for home-building. 1 remind him that he. as a Queenslander, should be perfectly aware of a statement made by the former Queensland Minister for Housing, Mr. Hilton. He is a prominent member of the right wing of the Labour party in Queensland, and he was relieved of his portfolio immediately subsequent to the last election. When he was Minister for Housing, he made a statement in the Queensland Parliament in which he said that the housing shortage in the State had been overtaken. Tt had been overtaken in the few years that this Government had been in office with the money that this Government made available to the Queensland Government. I believe that Mr. Hilton was right when he said that the housing shortage had been largely over taken, but I disagree with his statement that the housing needs of the people have been overtaken. I believe that we must be very wary in our approach to this building problem, because we could find that we had, not a shortage, but a vast surplus of houses.
The real problem in Australia to-day is largely the creation of the Australian Labour party, caused by the State government instrumentalities enforcing their landlord and tenant regulations. By so doing, they have destroyed the confidence of investors in home building. Persons who have homes available for rental are not prepared to rent them, because they cannot get an adequate return for their investment. As a result, thousands and thousands of homes in Australia are empty, as was proved by the census which was taken only recently. These are the factors that contribute to our housing problem.
Let this Commonwealth Government ensure that it takes no step that will cause a recession in the building industry. If it does, the repercussions will be felt in such a great number of associated industries that we will have a high level of unemployment. We must, therefore, be wary in our approach to this problem, and ensure that we maintain the financial stability of the building industry. We can best do that by channelling more and more money into that field of investment that will allow the small builder to continue to operate, and will allow the little man to build his own home. If we do that, we will find that more and more of the houses that to-day are empty will be purchased; more and more rental homes will become available for sale, more and more people will have money to buy them, and the housing shortage will rapidly be overcome. We will see a general movement of the people from rental homes into homes that they own. The people who the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) says are now queued up at the doors of housing commissions, waiting to obtain rental homes will find themselves in a position to obtain homes of their own through building societies or other financial institutions.
I wish now to refer to another argument of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). He said that the Commonwealth Government was neglecting the sect;on of the community that has benefited from the rebate system which operated under the old Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It is true, in Queensland at any rate, that Labour party spokesmen are trying to create fear and panic in the minds of tenants of housing commission houses built under the old agreement, by informing them that an act of this Parliament will prevent them from obtaining assistance under the rebate scheme. That is completely untrue, and I believe that it should be made widely known to be untrue. Every tenant of every house built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 will continue to enjoy any benefits that he previously enjoyed under the rebate system. No rentals should be increased, and if they are the State government concerned must explain why it increased them.
The honorable member for Herbert has suggested that we should continue the rebate system in the new agreement. I consider that it is time that the States accepted some responsibility in this connexion. Every member of this Parliament knows that the Commonwealth has no constitutional authority with regard to housing. Housing is the complete prerogative of the States, and responsibility for housing is one matter that the States have jealously preserved to themselves, and have refused to share in any way with the Commonwealth. We have agreed to make extra finance available to the States to help them solve their housing problems, and we have, in the past, subsidized the interest rate on the money borrowed by the Commonwealth on their behalf. We have subsidized the losses that have been suffered. Threefifths of the losses that were incurred in relation to housing commission projects were borne by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth has borne the brunt of the rebate system. But is it not time that the States accepted some of their own responsibility? If the rebate system ceases to operate in respect of housing commission homes built in the future under this agreement, let us place the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of the State governments, which are not prepared to accept their responsibilities to ensure the continuation of the rebate system.
The honorable member for Herbert also suggested that the increase in the interest rate will result in increased home prices and rentals. Let it be clearly understood that we do not intend to increase the interest rate. The money that is to be provided is money borrowed on the loan market by the Commonwealth and made available to the States at the ruling rate of interest, less three-quarters of 1 per cent., which amount represents a subsidy paid by the Commonwealth to the State governments to enable them to provide homes at lower rentals. If, therefore, the rentals are increased, let us place the blame fairly where it belongs - on the State governments. Let us remember that the rentals are computed on a formula that was drawn up by the Labour government which was in office when the old agreement was negotiated, and if the rentals are increased it will be because the State governments have built more lavish homes. The rentals are determined by the amounts of money invested in the particular houses. The State governments, therefore, will have to determine whether they will build houses costing £3,500 or £3,000. I believe that private enterprise can build better houses for less cost than any State government has ever been able to build. So far as Queensland is concerned, I can guarantee the truth of that statement. When we see houses for which the State Government has paid £2,600 or £2,700 valued by valuators at £1,500 or £1,700, it is obvious that there has been inefficiency which must be paid for by the poor people who are forced to live in Stateowned houses.
Let us be quite honest about this matter. If the State governments are efficient, and if they build modest homes, rentals can be kept at a low level. The Commonwealth proposes to provide the States with money under this bill, and all that it asks is that the States use it to build houses for the people, and it says to the States, “ Pay us back in 53 years the money that we lend you now, and we shall charge you a rate of interest that we are prepared to subsidise to the extent of three-quarters of 1 per cent. We shall continue to ensure that an adequate amount is made available to that special section of the building industry that caters for people who wish to own their own homes “. For this latter purpose an ever-increasing source of finance will be available, and that money also need not be repaid to the Commonwealth for 53 years. 1 commend the bill to the House.
.- The House has been treated this evening to two thoroughly unrealistic and irresponsible speeches by Government supporters. The housing position in Australia is nothing about which any of us can be complacent, but the Government takes the attitude that all our housing deficiencies are the fault of either its predecessor in this place or of the governments of the six Australian States, whether Liberal or Labour. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who was the last honorable member to speak, true to his theories and in complete defiance of all actual practice and experience, would have us believe that private enterprise would build better houses than public enterprise, and that it would build more houses. Let it be frankly stated now that in no Australian State is there any prohibition or restriction on private enterprise which would prevent it from building as many houses or flats as it wants to build for letting to tenants. There is also no restriction in any Australian State on the amount of rent that may be charged those tenants by persons who now build houses. I believe that the same position applies in every State in respect of houses that have hitherto not been let, no matter how old they are. If private enterprise wishes to build houses it can do so. Private enterprise, however, is too selfish to build houses now, just as it has always been too selfish to build houses unless it could secure exorbitant rentals for them. Investors now realize that they can get away with a bigger profit from investing in other fields than they could obtain if they were to invest in housing. It is legal but not practicable for them to secure whatever return they wish on their investment in houses which have been built in the last two years or have not been let before that time.
Reference has been made to the position shown by the census. Ministers and their satellites would have us believe that Australia’s housing position must be satisfactory, because if you divide the number of houses by our population you will get a smaller quotient than you will get by making a similar calculation with respect to European or North American countries. However, that calculation overlooks the fact that Australia’s population has grown in the last ten years, and is continuing to grow by a greater ratio than is the case in any North American or European country.
It overlooks the fact also that our principal cities, where the housing position is most grim, have been growing and spreading to a greater extent than any North American or European city. In Australia the average number of occupants to each house seems satisfactory, but the great majority of our houses have either too few occupants or too many.
Let me refer to the census statistics as at 30th June, 1954. On that date 49,148 Australian families were living in sheds and huts, and another 107,216 Australian families were living in portions of houses.
– How many?
– One hundred and seven thousand two hundred and sixteen Australian families were sharing premises. That is 1,000 more families than were sharing premises at the census on 30th June, 1947. In the hand-out which he read the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) made a comparison which would seem to indicate that more houses have been built under this Government’s administration in nearly seven years in office than were built by the Chifley Government in the four postwar years for which it was in office. I concede that. It would be a shocking thing if that were not the position, because the population is now 1,500,000 greater, the resources of our country have been completely adapted from a war footing, and apparently there are now fewer rumours of war than there once were. But whereas in every year under the Chifley Government an increasing number of houses was commenced, completed, and under construction, and that momentum was maintained for the first two years of the present Government’s term of office, since then, in the horror budget and then in the financial panic measures of the last twelve months, the brake has been very severely applied.
If one looks at the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician or by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) one will comprehend the appalling fact that the number of houses being constructed is declining the whole time. T cite the figures from the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics” for June last, which is the latest issue. It will be seen at page 35 that the number of houses commenced in the June quarter of this year was 16,479. That is a smaller number than in any quarter of any year since the
March quarter of 1953, and except for the March quarter of 1953 it is the smallest number of houses commenced in any quarter during this Government’s seven years in office. If one looks at the number of houses under construction, one finds that there was a smaller number of houses under construction in the June quarter of this year than in any quarter in any of the seven years during which this Government has been in office. If one looks at the number of houses completed, one finds that fewer were completed in the June quarter of this year than in any June quarter since 1953 and fewer than in the June quarter of 1952. Of course, completions are not the real test of the position in the building industry. One must look at the number of houses under construction and the number being commenced. The number being commenced indicates how the money for housing is coming forward. It is plain from the figures to which I have referred you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that the position has never been so grim except in one of the quarters of the year of the horror budget.
– What did the Minister for the Army say?
– He does not worry about statistics. He speaks in general and inaccurate terms. It is regrettable that the Minister for the Army always talks on housing matters. He wants to hark back to the days when he made his fortune from letting houses and flats, collecting rents, and investing money in housing on behalf of private investors under that system which lamentably failed during the depression and failed to overtake the lag during the 1930’s.
– But the honorable member will agree that the Minister has the key to the situation.
– And he charges for it. 1 refer the House to the figures issued by the Department of National Development, particularly those dealing with the dwellings constructed by State Housing authorities under the old Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In 1953-54, 17,063 dwellings were commenced. In the following financial year, 16,634 were commenced, and last financial year, 14,646 were commenced. In the June quarter of 1956, 2.881 houses were commenced, and in the
June quarter of 1955, 4,043 were commenced. It is quite plain that the number of houses being constructed with the money the Commonwealth makes available to the States under the agreement has very drastically declined. I shall cite the figure for completions in my own State of New South Wales. In 1954-55, the number of dwellings completed under the agreement was 5,254. Last financial year it was 3,655, and it is calculated that this financial year it will drop further to 3,400, including 265 homes which are being provided for serving members of the forces - one category of the community for which the Commonwealth has undoubted power to construct houses if it so desires.
One other field in which the Commonwealth has undoubted power to construct homes if it so desires is war service homes, which have been the Commonwealth’s responsibility ever since 1918. The constitutional power of the Commonwealth in respect of war service homes has never been challenged. Yet, we find in the report of the War Service Homes Division, which was presented to us three weeks ago, that during the last financial year 13,524 applicants were assisted, compared with 13,861 in the previous financial year. However, applications totalled 22,131, and unsatisfied applications - that is, the backlag from previous years, together with that for last year - stood, at the end of June last, at 24,655. The total number of homes provided by the War Service Homes Division dropped from 12,788 in 1954-55 to 11,803 last financial year. The number of existing houses which were purchased with assistance from the division dropped from 7.160 in 1954-55 to 6,026 last year.
From the latest figures of the Department of National Development it appears that, at 30th June last, 2,111 houses were under construction for applicants to the War Service Homes Division, whereas at 30th June, 1955, 3,547 houses were under construction. The only thing which has increased in connexion with the War Service Homes Division is the waiting period before one gets one’s money. Nobody who applies for a loan in order to buy or build a home with an advance from the War Service Homes Division will receive an advance this financial year or, in fact, in this calendar year or in the next calendar year. But that is another subject. I refer to it in passing because it very clearly indicates the Commonwealth’s own default in a matter which has for over a generation been its responsibility.
I want to come, more particularly, to the provision made by this bill towards solving Australia’s housing problem. Many references have been made to the housing agreement in previous years. That agreement, for the ten years after the Chifley Government made it with the six Australian States, provided 95,008 new houses and enabled 100,421 houses - one in every six built in Australia since the war - to be commenced. It is rather miserable to criticize an agreement which has made so many houses available in Australia in the last ten years. Some snobbish remarks about Housing Commission houses were made by the two Government supporters who have spoken on this bill.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ snobbish “?
– I would not accuse the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who I believe will speak after me, of being a snob, because he has very little to be snobbish about. If these houses were not well built, then the Commonwealth Auditor-General and the responsible Ministers have failed in their duty in making the money available from Commonwealth sources to the six Australian States. We can assume that they were good houses. That is what the Auditor-General has certified. It is what successive Ministers have claimed. This agreement, if it was not palatable to the Government, could have been ended by the Government upon twelve months’ notice being given to each of the States operating under it. The Government declined to give that notice to them. It declined to do the honest, direct thing. Instead of that, it gradually starved the States. It had not the courage to kill the agreement, but it is only too willing to starve the States.
Let me compare the figures for the last three years with the figures in the bill. In the financial year 1953-54, for the first time the five mainland States participated in the old agreement. South Australia, under a perennial Liberal government, came into the agreement for the first time in that year. An amount of £37,200,000 wa> made available. In the financial year 1954-55, the Australian Loan Council decided that the five States should receive £32,000,000. In actual fact, after a review which was made in December, 1954, they got only £29,150,000 for the whole year. Last year, the five States got £33,200,000. This year, the six States will receive for this purpose £24,522,625, a drop of one-third. That drop has come on top of increasing building costs. It has been estimated that costs in the last three years have increased by 25 per cent. So not only has the amount of money allocated been decreased but the cost of every house has increased. It is little wonder that the number of houses being completed and commenced in every successive financial year has gone down and down and down.
I said that £24,500,000 was being made available this year for the housing commissions in the six States instead of £33,200,000 which was made available to five of them last year. In addition, £6,430,000 is being made available to building societies and £1,197,375 is being made available for the construction of those service dwellings which the Commonwealth has the constitutional ability to provide itself if it wants to provide them.
– It has provided £33,000,000 for housing alone.
– It has provided only £24,500,000 for the purpose for which, for the last ten years, we have passed Loan (Housing) bills.
– It is still £32,150,000.
– This year the Government proposes to spend £24.500,000 on a purpose for which, in 1953-54, it spent £37,200,000, when the £1 went a third of the distance further. It has been claimed that the States are getting what they want. At least the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is now at the table, made it plain in the reply that he gave me on the 11th of this month, and which appears at page 1462 of “Hansard”, that the States will receive £32.150.000 for all purposes instead of the £35,532,000 for which they asked. His reply very clearly sets out that the Commonwealth declined to give the States the amounts for which they asked and, furthermore, that the Commonwealth will review in December of this year, as it did in December, 1954, the amount promised at the Australian Loan Council meeting in June.
The Minister also set out, as one may see at page 1463 of “ Hansard “, the exact amounts which are to be made available in each State for the service dwellings.
Since housing grants to the Mates of Victoria and Queensland have been given by the honorable members for Batman and Herbert, 1 shall give the figures for New South Wales for the last three years and this year. They have declined as follows: -
lt is quite plain, therefore, that in a State in which 30,000 people are waiting for housing commission homes and applications are coming in at the rate of 203 a week, where there are 25,000 applicants waiting for building society loans, and where there are 12,000 applicants waiting for war service homes, instead of providing more houses, the Government is definitely precluding the erection of more than two-thirds as many houses as were erected four years ago.
I have referred to the provision that is being made for the first time for building societies. I shall quote the figures relating to advances for building societies under the Chifley Government, the figures for the first of such advances under this Government, and contemporary loans from all sources to building societies in New South Wales. In the financial year 1948-49, the New South Wales building societies received from all sources £10,835,000. In 1949-50, the year in which this Government shared office with the Chifley Government, the societies received from all sources £12,500,000. Last year they received £6,627,000. As the president of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales is reported in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as saying, this is almost the smallest amount since the war.
What contribution will be made by this bill to the building societies in New South Wales? They will receive £2, 1 60,000, which will still leave them £2,000,000 less than the amount they received in the last full year of the Chifley Government’s term of office, and £4,000,000 less than they received in me financial year which this Government shared with the Chifley Government. Do not let us be mealy-mouthed about it. The position of the building societies has deteriorated ever since that notorious conference of 9m August, 1951, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) told the life insurance societies, which had hitherto been the mainstay of the building societies, to transfer their investment from building societies to government loans. Since that time the life assurance societies have not reinvested in building societies to any appreciable extent. A reference was then made to the position of the four private savings banks, which have been started in the last financial year. Three of those savings banks, as 1 understand it, have made no announcement of their intentions as regards building societies, and the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank which, under its charter, could make, and honorably should make, 30 per cent, of its deposits available for housing, has, in fact, made less than half of that proportion available for housing. It has made nearly all its deposits available for personal loans - Credit Foncier loans - to its customers, and a purely negligible amount to building societies. The only cases in which the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank has made any worthwhile advances to building societies have occurred in new areas where it has set up branches and wants to have a few ready-made customers on its books.
– Give us some figures.
– Well, the honorable gentleman has just come in, and I would not have thought it necessary to go over the matter again. I have been saying that private savings banks can, and in honour should, make available 30 per cent, of their deposits for housing, and they have not done so, that one of them has made available half of that proportion and that the others have not said what they are doing. The total advances of the trading banks during the last year for home purchase and home building dropped by £11.100,000.
The bill is designed to implement a new agreement which differs in three respects from the 1945 agreement. First, the amount of money to be available shall be decided by the Commonwealth, as distinct from the States, and secondly, a fifth of that amount shall be earmarked for building societies. I have dealt with those two features. The third feature is the increase of interest rates This increase of interest rates has been a feature of the Government’s attitude towards home building, and also in regard to all those matters for which the small man has to borrow through the banking system. On the same day as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) gave me one reply on this housing agreement, the Treasurer was good enough to give me a reply to a question on interest rates. That reply appears at page 1461 of “ Hansard “. I shall summarize it by giving the position of a man who has borrowed from a bank the sum of £3,000 and is obliged to make monthly repayments of the amount of his loan, and of the interest on it. When this Government came into office the overdraft rate was 31 per cent. It is now 5 per cent. Had it remained at 3 J per cent, a man who had to repay a loan of £3,000 over 25 years would have to pay £15 15s. a month. Now that the rate is 5 per cent, he has to pay £17 12s. 6d. a month - an increase of £1 17s. 6d. a month. If he is repaying the £3,000 over 35 years he would have had to pay at the rate of £13 2s. 6d. a month had the interest rate remained as it was when the Chifley Government left office; but now that the rate is 5 per cent, he will have to pay £15 5s. - an increase of £2 2s. 6d. a month. That is the increase on the same loan, and is due entirely to the increase of interest rates which has taken place under this Government.
First, the overdraft rate went from 3i per cent, to 4i per cent, in August, 1952, and then in last April it rose to 5 per cent. A man who is borrowing not directly from a bank on overdraft but through a building society, which, of course, gets its money on overdraft, has to pay an additional i per cent, on those figures to cover the building society’s administrative expenses. It is said that the increase of interest rates is part of our fight against inflation. It may be true that an increase of interest rates will deter people from investing in houses, but this increase affects everybody who has already obtained a loan, whether from a bank, by way of overdraft, or from a building society. Surely there is no contribution to the fight against inflation in an increase of the amount of repayments which have to be made by people who have already obtained their loans, and already built their houses! By increasing interest rates in this way the Government is just making more expensive something that has already been put into operation.
The final attack that has always been made by the Government is on the rent control legislation in the States. Let me give one very clear example of what can occur if rent control on existing lettings is removed. In 1954, the Legislative Council of Western Australia, which is not democratically elected, refused to extend rent control legislation in that State, and the Commonwealth Statistician tells us that in the six months of the June and September quarters of 1954 the average rent in Western Australia increased by 41 per cent. It is quite plain that if rent control is removed a very great increase in the cost of living must be expected as the result. Although the Government never frankly states it, we have to face the position that housing is one of the first victims, and has, I think, been the chief victim, of the Government’s fight against inflation. Since the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, has very extensive powers over government spending and the banking system, housing is one form of investment that the Government can control. It controls it, first, as regards war service homes, in relation to which it keeps to the provision of a steady £30,000,000 a year, despite the claims of the returned soldiers league and every interested person in Australia that the figure should be increased so that a similar number of houses, instead of a declining number of houses, can be provided each year. The Government also limits activity as regards housing commission houses, because it gives housing commissions in the States less money each year. This year the amount of money is decreasing from £33,200,000 to £24,500,000. The £33,200,000 was to cover the needs of five States, but the £24,500,000 is to cover the needs of six States. So that is another way in which the Government can restrict housing. The third way is to bring pressure on the banking system. The Commonwealth Parliament has no general power over investment. We have no capital issues control in this country but, since we have power over banking and the operations of those people who depend on the banking system for their funds - the small people who want to set up in business or to buy stock, or erect a house for themselves - the Government can restrict that investment, and it )has done so most drastically.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. “Whitlam) has treated us to a mass of figures. I am not prepared to accept many of them.
– They were brutally accurate.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) says that the figures given by the honorable member for Werriwa were brutally accurate. The bill under discussion shows that the intention is to provide £32,150,000 for housing commission purposes, yet the honorable member for Werriwa, by twisting the figures, would have not only this House, but also people listening to him over the air, believe that only £24,500,000 is being made available by this Government to housing commissions. It does not matter where this money being provided for housing goes, the fact remains that the money is being made available for housing in the States. Whether or not the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States provides that a certain amount shall go to co-operative building societies or any other societies, the money is being made available for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It was only when an interjection was hurled at the honorable member for Werriwa that he did admit that a certain amount would go to co-operative building societies under the bill, yet he tried to give the impression, and in this he was supported by the honorable member for Wilmot, that the Government is making available only £24,500,000.
– I did not say that.
– You said that the figures given by the honorable member for Werriwa were brutally accurate.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair. There are too many interjections.
– The honorable member for Werriwa described the speeches of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr.
Wight) as unrealistic and irresponsible. If he had been in the House for the whole of their speeches he would have realized that, to the contrary, those honorable gentlemen were most realistic and responsible in their approach to this matter. The honorable member went on to refer to the Ministers and their “ satellites “. I do not know whom he describes as “ satellites “ unless it is some members of the Labour party - though which Labour party I would not know.
– He was talking about you!
– The cap would probably fit the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) quite comfortably. I remind honorable members that the Labour Minister for Housing in Queensland, and the Labour Minister for Housing in Western Australia have said that the housing problem in their States has been solved.
The honorable member for Werriwa then referred to war service homes. It is rather surprising to hear a member of the Labour party accusing this Government of not doing a really good job in that field. Opposition members know full well that this Government has, since 1949, built more war service homes than were built in the whole of the division’s previous history. If Opposition members want more war service homes to be built, I remind them that the money is provided out of revenue. Would they support increased taxation for this purpose? That is the real test of their sincerity.
Labour’s whole case rests on the amount of money provided for housing. No other issue is raised by Labour speakers. I hope that the State governments will not continue to act as they have in past years. This Government has met most of their requests. It has completely vacated the loan field. As the honorable member for Yarra knows full well, the States themselves decide how much of the approved loan programme will be devoted to housing. After the Australian Loan Council meets, in this very chamber, and agrees on a loan programme, for the year, the States decide how much shall be devoted to housing. That proportion is then divided among the States. Therefore, Opposition supporters should look to their own Labour State Premiers for an explanation of the amounts that they have agreed upon in this and previous years.
That also answers the claim by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) that the amount authorized under this bill is completely inadequate.
I understand that in New South Wales, especially, no matter how much money is available, if one is not receiving £17 a week or more, it is most difficult even to enter a ballot fox a housing commission home.
– That is so.
– The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) confirms what I have said. What sort of a Labour party would, whilst permitting that state of affairs, repeatedly charge this Government with not making sufficient money available for home building? 1 do not hear many interjections from the Opposition when this is pointed out to them. As every one knows, the basic wage is £13 a week, so, apparently, any one receiving the basic wage is not in the hunt to enter a ballot for a New South Wales housing commission home.
Many of the problems associated with housing are created by State housing Ministers themselves. I remind honorable members that in Queensland and Western Australia - both Labour States - the respective Ministers have said that they have solved the housing problem. This has apparently been possible during the regime of a Liberal party-Australian Country party government in Canberra. The Western Australian Minister for Housing refused to allow timber to be exported to the other States or. for that matter, anywhere else, lt had all to be made available to the State Housing Commission. For a time, the same embargo applied to bricks. The Commonwealth was refused bricks that it needed to build post offices, drill halls and other buildings. To-day Western Australia has caught up with its housing problem. Sawmills, including State saw-mills, are stacking timber and cannot sell it. There is unemployment. Under the embargo, the millers were not allowed to send token shipments of timber even to South Australia, and now they have lost their markets. The Western Australian Government has come to this Government begging for money with which to solve its unemployment problem.
Time and time again we are told by Labour supporters that the working man, or the man on the lowest rung of the ladder, cannot buy a home because of the high prices. To-night the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that one of the difficulties facing a worker was the price that he had to pay for his home. I ask Opposition supporters to tell me of a contributing factor to the high costs.
– MenziesFadden inflation!
– Long before “’ Menzies-Fadden inflation “ as the honorable member calls it, a leader of the Labour party said that prices had risen by 9 per cent. 1 recall also that the trade unions of this Commonwealth advocated that bricklayers, for instance, should lay no more than 300 bricks a day.
– They had a special agreement with the employers.
– The honorable member says that, because the employers agreed, the bricklayers were advised to lay only 300 bricks a day. But who needs these homes - the employers? No, they are needed by the great mass of the people on the lower rungs of the ladder, but Labour, by advising the unions to go slow, makes the worker pay through the nose. He has to pay at least three times as much as formerly for the brickwork of his home. Years ago, without any bullocking - a word I detest - a bricklayer was expected to lay 800 or 900 bricks in a day. If he could not do so, he did not get a job. But now the Labour party, through its various organizations, advises bricklayers not to lay more than 300 bricks in a day, for fear that the employers will benefit. I hear honorable members opposite yelping now. In the long run, their actions penalize the men whom they say they are out to help. I could never see the validity of their reasoning. The honorable member for Batman spoke the truth to-night when he said that one of the greatest obstacles to the purchase of houses by workers is the cost of houses. The biggest component in the cost of a house is not the interest charge. There is a far greater component, which members of the Labour party do not want to recognize. That is the position in respect of brick homes.
I am reminded by the honorable member for Gwydir that a man must be in receipt of at least £17 a Week before the Housing Commission of New South Wales will admit him to a ballot for an asbestos house with an iron roof, without a verandah. Before a man can be admitted to such a ballot, he must be able to pay £4 a week in rent. The Labour party and its various organizations think that, by their tactics, they are beating the employers, but, in fact, they are doing harm to their supporters. Because of their tactics, many working men will never be able to purchase their own homes, and will have to be satisfied with homes rented from a State government.
What will be the position in a comparatively short time? Personally, I do not like the present agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. 1 should prefer a scheme under which people could borrow money direct from this Government - a scheme similar to the war service homes scheme. Under the present scheme, before many more years have passed we shall be faced with the problem that the cost of maintenance work will be so great that funds that should be used for building new houses will have to be used for maintenance purposes. That is a problem to which I suggest the Labour party should give some thought. As I have said, although I support this bill, I should prefer a scheme on the lines of the war service homes scheme, under which a man could borrow money direct from this Government and then go to it and build his own home. That is the only way in which people could be certain that they would be able to build their own homes. If the present conditions in New South Wales and other States run by Labour governments continue to apply, men on the lower rungs of the income ladder will never be able to own their homes and will always be tenants of State governments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Before the House adjourns, I should like to make a short reference to the fact that our colleague, the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric
Harrison), who was Leader of the House for some years and who has now been appointed High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom, will, I understand, resign before the House resumes tomorrow. In the circumstances, I think I should take this opportunity to say to him. on behalf of all of us, I believe, a few words of goodwill and of good wishes in his new post.
The right honorable gentleman has been a member of this Parliament for the last 25 years. He has been at all times vigorous. He has at all times attended closely to the work of a member of the Parliament. He has at all times set a magnificent example of capacity and energy to all of us. I can speak of him, as a Minister, with great feeling. He has been a wonderful colleague. No man could have had a better colleague than he has been to me and to so many of us for so long.
He was the first occupant of the position of Leader of the House. Since his appointment to that position some years ago, he has, in the finest co-operation with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), so organized the business of the House that, in my long experience of parliaments, I have never known business to run so well and bills to be completed with not necessarily fewer applications of the “ guillotine “ of the closure, but fewer long sittings and the irritations that arise from protracted and sometimes all-night sittings at the end of sessions. We are all indebted to him for the work that he has done in handling the business of the House as the Leader of the House.
I do not propose to occupy the time of honorable members very long by saying what I think of him as a man, because my view of him as a man is well known. I look back over a close association with him which leaves me, at the end of it, with an unmixed admiration for him. He is a true man of singular character and of great straightforwardness, as we all know - never concealing a view and never going round a corner to say what he might have said face to face. He is a man of utter integrity. I am sure that I speak- for all honorable members when I say that he carries with him our great respect, our affection and our good wishes.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) is leaving an important post here to take up a more important post in which he will represent not only the Government of Australia, but also the people of Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has spoken of the way in which the right honorable gentleman has represented the Government as the Leader of the House. I do not think there is any necessity for Opposition members to refer to that. He has been a stern taskmaster, but that is partly the duty of the Leader of the House. We all look to him in the position to which he is going - a great position - to represent all sections of the people of this country. In that position it will be even more important for him to do that than it is now. I wish him and his wife a happy tenure of office in the position of High Commissioner of Australia in the United Kingdom.
– I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for the nice things they have said about me. It is with rather mixed feelings that I say to them, on behalf of my wife and myself, “ Thank you “, because, as I stand in this position for the last time and look at the hallowed spot behind your chair, Mr. Speaker, and see it occupied by some one else in consultation with my onetime opposite number, I feel that some of my greatest principles have been outraged.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that, in the new position that I shall be honoured to occupy, I should faithfully represent all sections ofthe people of Australia. I look upon that as being the primary purpose of my appointment in London. I think I can faithfully discharge that duty. As the House knows, I have already had a short period of experience, and I think that during that time I gave some indication that I knew what my responsibilities were and tried to discharge them to the best of my ability. I assure the House and the country that for the period for which I occupy that very high and important position I shall render to the country that I am called upon to represent the best service that it lies within my power to give.
I thank the House, including all my colleagues, for their tolerance of the many weaknesses that I have shown from time to time, particularly to the Opposition when I have had occasion to be a stern taskmaster as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, and also to my colleagues on this side of the House. I hope that they will forgive me and accept what I have done as being an effort to make the business of the House run smoothly. Indeed, if it were not for the great co-operation that I have received from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), for whom, notwithstanding his politics, I have the highest personal regard, things would have been different.. The honorable member has often said, “ If they would only let us alone, we would be able to get the business of the House through much more smoothly and easily than we do”. I subscribe fully to that attitude. There have been times when he has said to me, “ This is what I would like to have I, with my natural modesty, have replied, Surely, Arthur, that is quite right “, and I have let him have his way. Having found that weakness in my armour, he has approached me behind your chair and has sought to widen the gap, and oft-times has succeeded.
I am grateful to the House, particularly to my colleagues, for bearing with me over the long years. I hope to be able to represent them in the heart of the Empire. If it were possible by some magic means to exercise a remote control, I would be happier still. Mr. Speaker, I hand you my resignation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Members’ Stamp Allowance.
Japanese War Prisoners.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Can he state what the gold and dollar reserves of Great Britain were at the 30th June in each of the years 1951 to 1956, inclusive?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom at the 30th June in the years named were as follows: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies: -
The company is controlled by Vickers Limited.
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
i asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the explanation of - (a) the fall in mail payments to Trans-Australia Airlines in 1955-56 compared with 1954-55, and (b) the rise in payments to Australian National Airways ProprietaryLimited in the same period?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The fall in mail payments to Trans-Australia Airlines in 1955-56 compared with 1954-55 and the rise in payments to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the same period is due primarily to two factors - (a) maintenance of approximate equality of the mail loadings on the competitive routes operated by the two carriers a temporary adjustment of load in favour of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited being necessary for this purpose, and (b) variations in the payments made for the operation of developmental routes.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561016_reps_22_hor13/>.