24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.COURTNAY.- I address my question to the Prime Minister. What special action, if any, does the Government propose to take to curb rising prices in rural industries, particularly freights and interest charges, the effects of which are making it increasingly difficult for primary producers to remain on the land?
– This question really astonishes me. The policy of the Government for a long time, I remind the honorable member, has been very substantially directed to avoiding an increase of costs. We do that, having in mind the vital importance of the rural industries and particularly the export sections of the rural industries to the solvency, progress and growth of this country. I have not observed in Labour policies that have been presented the slightest hint that Labour cares a scrap about what happens to primary producers.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. I understand that Australia is now exporting to more than 40 countries, and I ask: Is the Australian motor vehicle industry exporting to a wide range of countries and is it taking an active part in the export drive?
– I am glad that the honorable member for Robertson has raised this matter. It provides an opportunity to pay a tribute to the Australian motor vehicle industry for the splendid job it is doing in the export field. Last year, well over 3,000 Australian manufactured motor vehicles were exported to 24 different countries, principally to New Zealand and countries in South-East Asia, but also further afield to the West Indies and Africa. The motor vehicle industry is particularly active in seeking exports and we appreciate its efforts. It has endeavoured to consolidate itself in these markets, despite great competition, particularly from Japan and certain European countries. However, at this stage I think it has reached the point in its export history which we could classify as the end of the beginning. We look forward to an expansion of motor vehicle exports from now on.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that approval has been given for the importation of 5,000 motor vehicles to be purchased from the Nissan Motor Company Limited in Tokyo? Is the Minister aware of the employment position in the Australian motor vehicle industry as a result of the Government’s disastrous economic policy and of the effect that the importation of this large number of vehicles would have on the already serious employment position in Australia?
– I am not aware of the facts, if they are facts, as mentioned by the honorable member. As he is aware, very substantial protection is provided for the Australian motor industry through the tariff. If fully assembled vehicles are brought in, the tariff rate, plus sales tax, is well over 70 per cent. It is correspondingly lower for completely knocked down vehicles. As I say, I am not aware of the happenings to which he refers, but I shall have investigations made. When those investigations have been completed, I shall be in a position to supply him with more information.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It relates to poliomyelitis. In view of a misunderstanding about the efficacy of two vaccines - one of which is not stocked in Australia - will the Minister ask his colleague to prepare a public statement, shorn of medical terminology, and have it advertised throughout the Commonwealth in order that the public may be encouraged to protect themselves against this disease with the Salk vaccine that is now available?
– I will see that the question asked by the honorable member is passed on to my colleague, the Minister for Health, in another place, and that a suitable reply is given to him.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he has seen comments by the Progress Council of Elizabeth, in South Australia, relating to a film produced for the South Australian Housing Trust for use in a campaign to attract migrants. Is it correct that this film depicts factories as being nearby when they are actually seventeen miles away in Adelaide, and describes as “ nearby beaches “ certain beaches which are up to 70 miles from Elizabeth? Is it also correct that the film shows none of the double unit homes which are actually the standard homes in which most migrants are placed in Elizabeth? Did the Department of Immigration have any part in producing or distributing this film overseas?
– I shall inquire into the allegations which the honorable member has made, but I must say - and I think he ought to agree with me - that the South Australian Housing trust is not a body which has ever engaged in any misrepresentation. Indeed, of all the housing authorities in Australia, I know of no other which has had such a conspicuously successful record of achievment. I think it would be much more appropriate if my honorable friend, instead of criticizing, attacking, or making innuendos against the housing trust in South Australia, were to rise in his place and acclaim it for what it has done, because one of the reasons why more migrants per capita have gone to South Australia than to any other State in the Commonwealth, with the possible exception of Victoria, is because the housing situation has been easier in South Australia, and because the South Australian Housing Trust has cooperated so warmly with my own department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he is aware that North Atlantic red fish imported from the United Kingdom is being sold in Australia under the name “ bream “. Also, is he aware that imported Danish and English whiting, which are being sold under the name “ whiting “, are actually members of the cod family? Is he also aware that, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, there is a limited and known period during which fish retains its quality and remains suitable for human consumption? Will the Minister do his best to protect the deceived consumers of this country by making sure that all imported fish packs are stamped with the correct name of the fish and the date of processing?
– I am well aware that even in Australia some fish masquerade under different names, depending upon whether they are caught in the north or the south. The question is one for my colleague in another place. I shall refer it to him and obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. The honorable gentleman will recall that last October, in opposing the Labour Party’* proposal to reduce the residential qualification for age pensions from twenty years to ten years, he stated -
These residential qualifications could not be altered without consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of New Zealand.
I ask him whether consultations have now been held with these two governments and whether he can give an assurance that all migrant pensioners will be eligible for pensions in Great Britain or New Zealand if they go to live there?
– I confess that I get no great satisfaction from answering questions addressed to me by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; but in this instance, it gives me pleasure to say that I can only repeat what I said when a question of this kind was last addressed to me by the honorable member. The United Kingdom Government and the New Zealand Government have been consulted and are aware that the Social Services Act has been amended and that the residential qualification has been reduced from twenty years to ten years. That, up to this point, is entirely satisfactory to them so far as Australian pensioners are concerned.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister inform the House whether it has yet been decided where the proposed television station for the York-Northam districts of Western Australia will be situated?
– Order! The honorable member for Moore will resume his seat. There is too much audible conversation in the chamber, and some of it is coming from quarters from which one would expect a better example. It is often impossible to hear either the question or the answer. I ask honorable gentlemen to respect the standing order which provides that there shall be no audible conversation in the chamber.
– I will start again. Will the Postmaster-General inform the House whether it has yet been decided where the proposed television station for the York-Northam districts of Western Australia will be situated? I ask the Minister further: What proposals are there to provide, or permit the provision of, television services for other well-populated country districts in Western Australia, such as Moora, Dalwallinu and Merredin, which, because of distance and other limiting factors, are not likely to get satisfactory reception from the country stations that are already proposed?
– The site for the television station in the York-Northam area has not yet been finally determined. I understand, that an area known as Needling Hills is being considered, but a final decision has not yet been taken. In the second part of the question the honorable member was referring to areas which come within the scope of the statement I made on the fourth phase of television in Australia. I stated that some areas with considerable populations were not actually catered for in the fourth phase, because we were not absolutely sure of the coverage that would be given to those areas from existing stations. I said that until the new stations came into operation we would not be able to determine whether further services would be necessary in those areas, or whether reception from the stations already established would be sufficient.
That is the position regarding the areas that he mentioned. I can assure him that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is watching very carefully. As soon as the board is able to report to me on the need for further services in that area I shall deal with the matter.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether his department has resolved its difference with the Department of Civil Aviation over the occupancy of the Darwin airport? If negotiations have not yet concluded, will the Minister give an assurance that nothing will be done that will dislocate or otherwise affect civil airline traffic through that airport, which is the second most important international airport in Australia and which is, and should remain, the front door of Australia?
– As the honorable member knows, Darwin airport; like a number of other airports in Australia, is shared by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation. In those circumstances, from time to time, there are bound to be minor disagreements about the use of facilities. These are invariably ironed out amicably. Certain changes have been made at Darwin recently, of which the honorable member will be aware. The entrance has had to be changed for security requirements because the base at Darwin has been built up for obvious defence reasons which are well known to the House. There is almost continuous consultation between the Department of Air and the Department of Civil Aviation on these matters. The honorable member may also know that civil aviation personnel are stationed at Air Force bases, and vice versa, to co-operate in ordinary flying arrangements and the passage of aircraft. In the last few days there has been discussion between these two departments about Darwin. The honorable member may rest assured, however, that the facilities provided for civil aircraft, both local and international, are adequate, and that there are no serious difficulties of any kind.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by referring to the hardship which is suffered by blind pensioners to whom a telephone service is a real necessity. This hardship is caused by the payment of an installation fee of £10 and rental of £14 14s. per annum. Many blind pensioners are unable to afford telephones because of these charges. Will the Minister recommend, during consideration of the next budget, the extension to blind pensioners of relief from payment both of the installation fees and rental?
– This matter has been referred to previously in this chamber and I have explained the existing situation. A number of representations have been made to me and to others by bodies representing the blind pensioners and we are aware of the strength of their claims. Last year, in conjunction with the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation, I met representatives from these organizations. As a result of an undertaking which was then given the whole matter was thoroughly discussed before the last Budget was prepared. It was decided that the granting of concessions in respect of telephone charges was not a matter for determination by the Postmaster-General’s Department but by the Department of Social Services or, in the case of ex-service personnel, the Department of Repatriation. I think the reason for that decision will be perfectly obvious. Although such concessions have to be administered by the Postal Department they are obviously social services, and the capacity of officers of the Department of Social Services to determine whether concessions should be given is far greater than that of officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That decision was arrived at and is being implemented. Only last week a deputation representing blind pensioners called on me. I explained this situation to them, and they accepted the explanation as reasonable and sound. They then saw the Minsiter for Social Services in conference on the same day.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman been advised by the Minister for Trade that United States officials have given some assurances that they favour transitional arrangements being made to help Australia and other countries which would be harmed by the loss of Commonwealth preferences when Great Britain enters the European Economic Community? Has the Government yet devised any plan for the sale of Australian wheat, meat, dried and canned fruits and dairy produce if and when Great Britain enters the Common Market and the preferences that these products are at present enjoying are lost?
– The latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question should have been directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. The matters with which it deals do not fall within the administration of my department. I do not think that any purpose would be served by publishing details of the communications which are taking place between the Minister for Trade and myself. We are at a very early stage of the negotiations, and I would much prefer to wait until the Minister for Trade has concluded the discussions that he will have, and on his return he can put the House in possession of whatever might emerge from those discussions.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, relates to electrical interference with radio, and particularly television reception. I preface my question by saying that last year there were nearly 9,000 complaints on such grounds. After investigation, about 4,000 of these cases of interference were found to be caused by power reticulation services and industrial electrical equipment. I ask the Minister: Will he consider introducing legislation similar to that which applies in some countries compelling organizations to install suppressors and other apparatus when necessary so that the public may have reasonable television reception?
– This is a matter to which attention was given when the last major amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act was before the House. The amending act provided the power, which is generally included in acts, to make regulations in accordance with the terms of the act. It specifically provided the power to make regulations to deal with interference with the reception of programmes. So the power is there, but the attitude taken so far is that we do not want to make regulations of this sort unless experience shows it to be necessary in order to deal with the matter. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have been in consultation on several occasions with various authorities whose installations could cause a certain amount of interference with programmes. These include not only State instrumentalities, but also car manufacturers and other people like that. We have had a considerable degree of co-operation from such organizations. Also, Mr. Speaker, the board’s inspectors investigate any complaint about interference with reception immediately it is made, and generally are successful in determining the cause. They have found that when a complaint is brought to the notice of those responsible for the interference the trouble is overcome by fitting suppressors or something of the sort. We have not yet found it necessary to make any regulations, but if there should be interference with which we could not otherwise deal we would have to consider using the power already in the act to make the necessary regulations.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that owing to the effect of the credit squeeze, the faster turn-round of ships, reduced employment due to mechanization and the general efficiency on the Brisbane waterfront, an average of 688 waterside workers a day receive attendance money; that this figure represents one-third of the work force, and that a week’s attendance money totals a mere £71s. 3d.? If so, does the Minister believe that this rate is fair and equitable, in view of the Government’s recent increase of unemployment benefit?
– First of all, I should say that the credit squeeze ended many months ago. There is now no such thing as a credit squeeze, nor has there been one for many months. So I do not think it is having any effect upon the waterfront at the present time. Because he has been closely associated with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the honorable gentleman should well know that it is the function of the Arbitration Commission, through the presidential member responsible for work on the waterfront, to determine the amount of the attendance money payment. He, a few months ago, decided that the amount of attendance money should be considerably increased. That increase took place a few months before the increase of unemployment benefit. If it is felt that the amount is not enough, I am sure that the honorable gentleman knows the procedure that should be adopted to bring the matter again before the commission.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. The news that the Minister will visit Victoria in the near future is pleasing. Will his visit to that State be confined to the metropolitan area? Is he aware that the inclusion of important country centres in his itinerary would be keenly appreciated?
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member in my first official visit to Victoria next week in my capacity as Minister for Repatriation. This will not be the first occasion I have been there in connexion with my new duties. I have been to Melbourne on a number of occasions so far, because the head office of my department is situated there. However, this will be my first official visit to the Victorian branch. Unfortunately, in my limited time, it will only be possible to meet the members on the branch staff and also to visit the various hospitals, the artificial limb and appliances centres and to visit the headquarters of a number of ex-service organizations. However, after this particular visit, I hope at a later date to be able to include visits to other parts of Victoria, including the honorable member’s electorate.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I ask him kindly not to forget that I am waiting on word from him as to when I can have five minutes of his time on behalf of the people of Captain’s Flat. I know that my request and the reason for it are on his desk. I know that the Prime Minister of Australia is an extremely busy man, but after four days of waiting outside his door-
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting a little outside the Standing Orders.
– I can put my friend out of his trouble. I told my secretary this morning to see whether it would be convenient for the honorable member to see me at 4 o’clock this afternoon. So he will not need to stay around my door until then.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. By way of explanation I preface my question by saying that I do not question the integrity of the Minister concerned, but deal only with the principle involved. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Honorable Allen Fairhall, Minister for Supply, is named as a director of R. & N. Statham Limited, a Newcastle company supplying and erecting rural buildings and listed on the stock exchange? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether he considers it to be in the public interest for any Minister to be a director of a company which may or may not have business dealings with the Government? Will he also state whether any other Ministers hold directorships and, if so, in view of the almost inevitable conflict of interests at some time, does he not consider that they should devote full time to their Ministerial duties?
– Although this question was directed to the Prime Minister, I think I may be given a reasonable opportunity to answer it, and I think the honorable member may be reasonably satisfied with the answer. It is true, as stated in the newspaper report, that I am at the moment, technically, a director of a Newcastle company, and when I consider the success of the company I think I was rather fortunate to have been asked to join its board. I well understand the convention to which this Government subscribes, that no Minister shall hold a seat on the board of a company, and as soon as I joined the Ministry, the company was notified that my resignation would be in its hands at the appropriate time. However, it was in November of last year that I was invited to join the board, and the company was then proceeding to registration on the Sydney Stock Exchange. As I felt that some prejudice to the company might result if a directorship were vacant at that time, I allowed -my membership of the board to stand until registration had been effected. Registration now having been effected, my resignation is equally effective. The honorable member may like to know that I attended no board meetings and accepted no fees, and that my department has done no business with the company.
– I have a question for the Minister for Primary Industry. I direct his attention to the acute shortage of veterinarians, which is already endangering our livestock industry, and which will worsen unless it is remedied as soon as possible. Will the Minister consider approaching the authority controlling the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and urging the provision of additional special scholarships, with special inducements to encourage students to enter the veterinary profession?
– At the present time, the Government is giving special assistance, by way of scholarship grants, to those who are interested in veterinary science and agricultural science, as well as other subjects. I think it was two years ago that the Commonwealth Government increased the number of Commonwealth scholarships from 3,000 to 4,000 a year. In conjunction with these, there are twelve Australian Agricultural Council scholarships granted through my department and paid for out of the Commonwealth Gevernment’s extension services grant. Two of them are awarded in each State each year. The awards were decided upon by the Australian Agricultural Council.
Commonwealth scholarships are actually within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Prime Minister, but 1 can say that in Australian universities at present there are 530 students studying to become veterinarians, as well as 896 studying agricultural science. These students account for a fair percentage of the Commonwealth scholarships granted. I think, therefore, that we can look with some hope to the future, ar.d that we can reasonably expect that the shortage of veterinarians will soon be overcome.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the latest report issued by the World Health Organization reveals that the suicide rate in Australia has increased by 2 per cent, over the past twelve years? Is he aware that men mostly preferred to use guns and explosives and women poison? Will the right honorable gentleman consider tendering his Government’s resignation in order to bring the suicide rate back to normal?
– I regret to say that the honorable member has me at a disadvantage. His passionate interest in suicide is understandable, but I do not share it.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Has his attention been directed to a recent statement by Professor J. N. Lewis, Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of New England, concerning the altered pattern of action by the private banks with respect to finance for men on the land? Professor Lewis paid tribute to the private banks for their assistance to primary producers in the past. Has the Minister noticed the suggestion that what is needed is a land mortgage bank to provide money over long terms in order to assist men on the land, and that otherwise there is grave danger that the present pattern of finance will force primary producers into a position of virtual peonage? I ask the right honorable gentleman: Has consideration been given to liberalizing the terms of lending by the original Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, that department now having become the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, with a view to taking up the slack which, according to the professor’s statement, obviously exists?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable gentleman refers, but the problem of ensuring reasonable facilities for borrowing for the development of rural properties is well in the Government’s mind. Indeed, recent talks which we had with representatives of various sections of industry included talks with representatives of the banks, with whom this topic, among the range of matters covered at the time, was discussed. Since then, I have been engaged in a series of discussions with representatives of the trading banks in an attempt to obtain, among other things, better arrangements in the field of long-term lending on rural properties. I hope that, quite promptly, decisions which can be publicly announced will emerge from these talks.
With respect to mortgage lending by the Commonwealth Devlopment Bank of Aus tralia, which has taken over the function of the old Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as the House is aware, provision has been made, or is in course of being made, to increase the capital of the Development Bank by £10,000,000 during the current financial year. It is expected that the bank will also be able to obtain additional funds by borrowing, in particular from the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia. In these and other ways, the Government is showing its own recognition of the importance of long-term lending for rural purposes.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I ask: Is it a fact that the Blowering Dam is part of the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme? Is it a fact, also, that the New South Wales Government has asked the Commonwealth for sufficient funds to permit the commencement of the construction of this dam, which is necessary for irrigation purposes? Is it a fact, further, that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has agreed to build the dam if asked to do so? If these are facts, when can the New South Wales Government be. assured of the provision of the necessary funds?
– I will be happy to refer these questions to my colleague, the Minister for National Development, into whose departmental administration they fall.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary
Industry. I ask: Will the recently announced increase in the maximum and minimum international prices of wheat be of practical value to Australian wheatgrowers and to the Australian economy?
– The general position in the world wheat market is that prices have firmed. This has been evident in sales made by the Australian Wheat Board during the last twelve months. I cannot see any immediate practical benefit from the recent agreement on prices, in view of the sales made on contract by the Wheat Board and the arrangements to which it is committed. However, a firming of the market obviously should be of ultimate benefit to the industry and to Australia.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. I refer to the decision of the Government to pay 15s. a week for each child under sixteen years of age to persons in receipt of unemployment or sickness benefit. Has any consideration been given to the position of the A class widow who receives only 5s. for the first child and 15s. for each other child? If the Government has decided at this stage not to increase these amounts to 15s. a week for each child, will it keep this matter in mind? Is it possible to increase the permissible income of an A class widow to more than the present £3 10s. a week?
– Of course, consideration has been given from time to time to the matter raised by the honorable member for Port Adelaide. I remind him that traditionally A class civilian widows received a pension which included a payment for the first child and the first child only. No payment was ever made for any other child of the widow. It remained for this Government to break that tradition and, for the first time in our history, a payment of 15s. a week is made for each child after the first. These matters, as the honorable member knows, are considered when the Budget is in course of preparation, and I have no doubt that this matter will again be considered on that important occasion.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he can say when the clock will be restored to the General Post Office, Sydney. Is the Minister aware that the post office in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, has been so designed by his departmental technicians at considerable expense that Melbourne people will be able to hear chimes between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily? Among the seven tunes to be played will be “ Waltzing Matilda “. I hold no objection whatever to this, but what about the G.P.O. clock in Sydney?
– The question of the restoration of the G.P.O. clock in Sydney has, of course, been raised on a number of occasions. It will be remembered that originally the estimated cost of restoration was between £200,000 and £300,000. Honorable members will recall that in response to requests a survey of the foundations was made by the Department of Works some time ago. This indicated that there would not be a great deal of work necessary on the foundations and that the cost of restoration would be £130,000. I have stated on a number of occasions that while great demands are made on the Post Office for the extension of essential services, I do not believe that the expenditure of such an amount on this project is justified. The money could be better spent in providing telephone exchanges and so on, for which honorable members are continually asking. That is still the situation.
Only a week or so ago, I saw an interesting suggestion. It was that the clock be re-erected on a tower in the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Should any of the Sydney municipalities or instrumentalities care to make suggestions along these lines, and indicate willingness to meet the expense of adopting them, I will be very glad to consider them.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. I preface it by saying that it is an accepted principle in countries claiming to be democracies that a political party is entitled to govern only if it has secured a majority of the votes recorded at a properly conducted election. Is the Prime Minister aware that the official figures released by the Commonwealth Electoral Office reveal that the two political parties comprising the Government received together less than 41 per cent, of the recorded votes at the general election held on 9th December last? Is he aware that if it had not been for preference votes received from the Australian Democratic Labour Party candidates and Communist candidates, his Government would not have survived? Will he state which of the announced policies - Liberal, Democratic Labour Party or Communist - he now contends that his Government has a mandate to implement?
– This is an ingenious exercise in mathematics that the honorable member conducts. If he derives any satisfaction from it, I do not grudge it to him. The only mathematics that concern me in this House appear on the division lists.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented in to-day’s issue of the “Sydney Morning Herald “. This newspaper publishes what is represented as being a report of yesterday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The report reads -
Mr. E. J. Ward (N.S.W.) spoke against Mr. Stewart’s amendment, but proceeded to move one of his own.
In effect, the amendment reported to have been made by Mr. Ward was that the party declared that existing commercial television licences were already injuring the public interest.
The motion as framed claimed that such an injury would result from any increase in the number of such licences.
This report is almost entirely inaccurate. It is so distorted as in no way to resemble what actually took place. It is quite evident that the publishers of this newspaper are continuing their malicious campaign of misrepresentation, distortion and lies against me. This campaign has continued almost without interruption over many years.
My purpose in raising this matter is to direct public attention to the fact that little reliance can be placed on material published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. This newspaper has always claimed for itself a reputation for reliability and honesty in its reporting of the news. The report to which 1 now direct attention is so far from the truth that it can be described only as a complete fabrication.
.- I move-
That in view of the increasing pressure of Communist infiltration, subversion and guerilla aggression in South-East Asia, this House is of the opinion that, in order to strengthen the security of Australia, and South-East Asian countries who may desire assistance -
National Service Training should be introduced on the basis of a minimum of twelve months’ continuous service, and
if it is considered advisable to establish such National Service Training on a selective basis, then rehabilitation benefits should be granted on similar, but not necessarily the same, lines as in the United States of America.
Mr. Speaker, this motion, for some reason or other, seems to have been suspect in certain quarters. Why this should be so, I do not know, because, in these days of uncertainty, and in this age of insecurity, surely the more we discuss the difficulties and problems which will confront our people, the easier it will be for them to follow us in endeavouring to obtain solutions and the better it will be for the country as a whole, the country of which we are naturally very proud, and which we all love so well. As I said last week, I believe it is a tragedy that we have to discuss the subject of defence, instead of being able to discuss spending more money on promoting the peace and progress of mankind.
It is perhaps coincidental in some ways that we should be discussing to-day, for the first time, the problem of defence at the same time as a disarmament conference is meeting in Geneva. When I say “ meeting “, perhaps I should say it is resuming its sittings. I am afraid, judging from the results of the past meetings, that one cannot be entirely optimistic about the results of the present sitting. One can only hope that at this meeting the parties will be able to travel a little way along the road towards controlled disarmament.
But even if the meeting were successful, we still have to deal with the problems of Asia and Oceania. It is not enough just to take into consideration the Berlin problem, or the defence of the Rhine, or Algiers, or other places in other parts of the world. Already I have been criticized by the leftwingers. I have been called such names as sabre rattler. I have been described as a jingoist and as being frustrated. I have been spoken of in various other equally unflattering terms. But the more the leftwingers try to silence me, the more I feel that I must be doing something which they do not like. In some quarters, I have even been called a scaremonger and other such names. But, Mr. Speaker, may I remind the members of the Labour Party that they, together with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, invited the president of the All China Federation of Trade Unions, Mr. Liu Ning-yi, to Australia almost immediately after he had led a hate-America campaign in which he had called the President of the United States of America a bloodstained hangman and the ringleader of bandits. I do not know whether they realized at the time whom they were inviting, but this sort of invitation does not promote friendly relations with the strong allies whom we may need in the not-far-distant future.
I am not taking up the attitude that everybody is out of step but Johnnie. If Johnnie is the only one out of step, then it will be much better for Australia, and it will not matter very much what happens to an individual. But I am fully convinced that, as a nation, we are not aware of the problems that confront us, and to-day we are talking particularly about defence. I would therefore ask honorable members today, besides lifting up their eyes unto the hills and peaks of economic progress and increased prosperity, to turn them just for a moment to the shores, oceans and jungles of the lands in southern and South-East Asia. I ask them to have a look at what is going on there and to ask themselves, “ Is it not necessary to have another look at our defence vote and our defence policy?”
Only the other day, when speaking on the Address-in-Reply, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) very rightly chided the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for having said nothing about external affairs in his no-confidence motion. As the Minister said, the two most critically important things that face this or any other country are defence and external affairs. Yet when have we had a full-scale debate on defence in this House? We have had spasmodic discussions when dealing with the Estimates, but I cannot remember a full-scale debate on defence. I think the last time we discussed South-East Asian affairs was almost a year ago, at the end of last April. When speaking on the Address-in-Reply, the Minister for Defence said -
We have a solemn defence arrangement with our blood brothers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We have given our solemn word and they have given theirs that we shall defend each other in a partnership if the occasion arises.
Mr. Speaker, that is a fine sentiment, but let us have a look a little further at what is implied. Take, for instance, Britain’s undertaking to us, which no doubt the Mother country would carry out to the last comma or full stop, if she could possibly do it. We do not have to look very far back into the history of the last war to find out how busily she might be engaged elsewhere. But let us have a look for a moment at what the British army in the Far East is composed of, and ask ourselves, “ Why are the red Chinese concentrating at the moment on a take-over in Nepal? “ They have recently offered £35,000,000- and the offer has been accepted - to build a road from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. Russia is providing the money to build the east-west road in Nepal. As I said the other day, that will be the end of the road for Nepal. On at least four or five days each week over the last four weeks, the Peking radio has broadcast something about Nepal, stirring up all the discord it can between India and Nepal. One could say that perhaps they want to control the passes -over the Himalayas, but may I remind honorable members that Nepal is the home country of what one Australian in the last war called “ the best bloody soldiers in the world “ - the Gurkhas. In the British Army, east of Suez, there are four regiments in Malaya who are Gurkhas. There are two regiments in Singapore who are Gurkhas. There are two regiments in Hong Kong who are Gurkhas.
– They are paid mercenaries, and you know it. .-
– I do not know what the honorable member is saying, Mr. Speaker.
– He is out of order, anyway.
– I advise the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who is so starry eyed about red China, to have a talk with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) who, 1 think, was in red China at a certain period, for I am sure that if he does some of the stars will be taken out of his eyes. But that does not alter the fact that there are eight British regiments composed of Gurkhas. I think that at least one, if not two, of the United Nations units of Indian troops in the Congo are Gurkhas, and many other units in the Indian army are recruited from Gurkhas. Surely it does not take much intelligence or much common sense to understand why there is this concentration of effort by the reds to take over Nepal and stop the recruiting of the Gurkhas. If that happens, I ask honorable members, “ Are we prepared to take over some of the responsibilities of the British Army in the Far East? “ I ask that for the simple reason that Britain cannot spare troops from theatres such as Nato and elsewhere. Then, if we travel east from Nepal and look at what has been happening we see why it is necessary for us to be more prepared to-day than we have been in the past, and more concerned about our defence.
The road from Lhasa to Sikkim, the next small independent State going east from Nepal, has been completed, and it now takes only a few hours to travel from Lhasa to Sikkim, a journey which formerly took several days. The red Chinese are also : building a road from Kunming, the -capital .pf- the southern Chinese- province of Yunnan into the north Burma States and into North Laos. They are also building a road from Hanoi, the capital of North Viet Nam, into the plain of Jars. These roads are all being built for one purpose - to allow red China to move south and she will go on moving south unless somebody is prepared to stand up to her and stop her.
I direct the attention of honorable members to a question that was asked in this House last week by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.: Beazley). The honorable gentleman directed :the following question to. .the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick)-
What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the attempt of certain great powers to produce a coalition government between the Communists and non-Communists in Laos, and to neutralize Laos? Does the Government believe that Laotian Communists have any aim but exclusive control of Laos?
The Minister gave the following reply: -
Of course, the Communists have a common aim wherever they are; but the Government does believe that it is in the interests of South-East Asia and of this country that there should be a neutral Laos. If that can only be obtained by a coalition government in which various interests are represented, then that sort of government will have to be accepted as a neutral government.
We might just as well be honest with ourselves and say straight out that if that sort of government is to be accepted as a neutral government, we accept the fact that the Communists will take over Laos. Consider the picture further south in South Viet Nam. Last week, 500 were killed there. It is getting to be beyond a small war in South Viet Nam. I do not know whether we have been asked to do anything there, but we could not do much even if we were asked. Think of the position of the rulers of Thailand and Malaya. The position seems to be simply this: During the past year when we, Canada and France have been selling wheat on credit to China, we have actually been acting as hire-purchase agents for the roads that are being built in those areas.
The Chinese are coming down further south and Australia has to take more cognizance of the fact that we cannot just rely on somebody else to do the job. We must take our share of the responsibility. Who have we defending Australia to-day? There are 650,000 Roks in Korea and another 650,000 Nationalist Chinese in Formosa. Viet Nam is spending 40 per cent, plus of its Budget on defence. Thailand is spending from 37 to 40 per cent, plus of its Budget. The United States of America, which is naturally the strongest nation in this area, is spending over 50 per cent, of its Budget whilst Austrafia spends only 15 per cent, of its Budget on defence. The sum of £200,000,000 that we provide for defence each year seems to be a mythical figure. .There is something mysterious about it. We do not seem to be able to go over £200,000,000; yet when we first were elected to office in 1950, £200,000,000 was a much bigger percentage of our Budget expenditure than it is in 1962; and in 1962 we are in far greater danger than we were in 1950 or 1951.
In view of the situation that I have tried to outline briefly, I believe that we have to reconsider the whole position. I know that we are in a better defence position than we were before in peacetime. I do not dispute that. We have modern arms and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) has said that he is proud of the fact that we have so many thousands of trained men. But numbers do not count. What I want to know is how many men we can put into the front line, how many fully-trained supports and fully-trained reserves we have.
It is useless to talk about defence in depth when we have only a regiment iri Malaya and nothing else between them and Australia. It is useless to say that we hope Indonesia will be our first line bastion between us and the Communist countries. Either we have to make up our minds to play our part and take our share of responsibility for the defence of South-East Asia or we must face the prospect that very shortly we might quite easily be an isolated outpost in the South-West Pacific. Whichever course we choose to take - and I hope it will be the former - we must, in the face of the facts, increase our defence preparedness, much as we might dislike it.
I know that the Citizen Military Force is probably better than it has been in the past. I am a great lover of the C.M.F. as I have been a member of it. But the C.M.F. has never been allowed to go away as a unit. We volunteered as a unit in the Second World War. I was with one machine gun squadron of Light Horse, but we were not allowed to go away as a unit because we were not sufficiently trained. The C.M.F. might have improved, but it is not good enough yet. The gap between the C.M.F. and the Regular Army unfortunately is widening.
Those honorable members who believe, as I do, in full employment as an economic policy, need to be reminded that full employment and a permanent army are incompatible, because when you have full employment you cannot get recruits in the numbers or of the quality that you require for a permanent army. Last June, I was in the House of Lords in London when there was a debate on the defence estimates. The theme was that they were trying to find out how they could entice more recruits to join the Regular Army. They were having trouble because there was a boom in industry. That has always applied. If we are going to be successful in our economic policy, we cannot expect to have a Regular Army, much as I know the Permanent Military Force wants it. Unfortunately, at present a man cannot rise above the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the C.M.F. I remind the Minister for the Army that there are certain C.M.F. units - not those in Melbourne or Sydney - which are still equipped with the weapons they had at the end of the Second World War except for the F.N. rifle. The C.M.F. never has been - and is not at present - fit to go into front line operations. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the honorable members for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will all remember what happened in 1941 when, not by design but by the accident of events which had not been foreseen, Australia sent to Malaya recruits who had been in uniform for only three weeks and did not know which end of a rifle to shoot from. It was not their fault. They were sent straight to murder or imprisonment.
In view of the situation to-day, are we doing all we can to prevent a recurrence of those failings if we have to defend Australia to-day? In view of what I have said I believe, much as I love the C.M.F. and admire the Regular Army, that the proper thing to do is to re-introduce national service training. I believe the trainees should have at least one year continuous service because anything less is not worth while. Partly-trained men are of no use in this day and age.
As I think I have said before in this House, when I was in America last year 1 met fellows just leaving university who were discussing what arm of the services they would go into for their two years’ compulsory training. There was no whingeing, no crying and no criticism. They were taking in their stride their duty to their country in order to maintain their country’s place in the free world. If honorable members were young Americans would they consider that Australia was fulfilling its obligation under the Anzus treaty? Let us be fair. We cannot expect other people to go to our assistance under existing circumstances. It is no good saying that we cannot take adequate defence measures because we have to undertake national development. We have a lot of things to do but we are the richest country in the world and we cannot afford not to attend to our defence.
I do not want to be an arm-chair general and discuss all sorts of implications. But I feel that we should reinstate national service training before the remainder of the Australian instructional corps has been dispersed, lt is very nice to look at the fine new buildings for the service head-quarters, but defence forces are not made out of buildings. They are made by troops in the jungles in Asia. It seems to me, therefore, that we must reinstitute national service training. If the Australian Labour Party is against it, may I remind Opposition members that, in 1914, the Fisher Labour Government introduced compulsory military training on the ground that a permanent army was not good for democracy. In view of this fact, I presume that the Opposition will support the reinstitution of national service training.
– Consider more recent events.
– I am reminding the House of certain things. Previously, we have had requests from the Opposition to reduce our defence expenditure. Time after time after time, there has been criticism of what has been done. I am not criticizing what is being done. All I am asking is that we examine the problems, the difficulties, and the dangers that we have to face. We must realize that Australia, a country of 10,000,000 people, cannot, or should not, rely on others for its security.
– The Prime Minister did not say that.
Prime Minister is all right. Please do not let us get down to personalities in this debate. I would rather keep to the objective that I am after, which is the defence of Australia. If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) had been unlucky enough to draw the short match when somebody had to stay behind he would not utter that criticism. I never have and I never will because I know the circumstances. However, we are not dealing with individuals. We are dealing with a very big problem. Opposition members do not seem to know about it, or, if they know, they do not seem to care. On this side of the House, we ought to know the position, and, if we do know, we ought to understand it. lt is no good indulging in legalistic gymnastics. In to-day’s edition of “ Hansard “, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has supplied the following answer to a question on notice by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon): -
Of course in making its decisions, the Australian Government will take into account the consultation and planning within the Seato organization and the action which other members are prepared to take, collectively or individually, but at the appropriate time will decide itself how it will perform ils obligations under the Treaty.
If honorable members were living in South-East Asia to-day, how would they interpret that statement? We might do something if an emergency arises and we might do nothing! We have to be more precise. We have to face up to the position which has deteriorated considerably over the last twelve months. Therefore, I hope that, in this debate, we will not get down to personalities but will keep to the objective which we should have in mind.
Personally, I believe that the best way to tackle the problem is through national service training of at least twelve months for each trainee. I am not going into the civilian side of the question. Defence training is almost the same as being in a technical school. It is good in many other ways. But 1 am dealing solely with the subject of defence. If we have to make the training selective we should be prepared to pay for rehabilitation services such as giving extrainees an opportunity to obtain homes under the war service homes scheme and providing free university courses or free technical courses. In other words, we should make it up to those who do the training so that service to the country will not be a handicap to their future.
– I second the motion and reserve my remarks until a later stage.
Motion (by Mr. Bryant) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Mr. Townley. - Irrespective of the merits of the proposal which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has put to us, and which I shall deal with later-
– Mr. Speaker, I understand a motion to have been moved. Do you propose to proceed with it?
– I ask the Minister for Defence to resume his seat. After the motion had been seconded, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) was rising in his place and the appropriate procedure was to call him because he is on the Opposition side. If there is no objection, I suggest that we follow that course now.
– He proposed a motion.
– I did not want you to see me, Mr. Speaker. I will ask for your ruling. I understand that the Minister-
– The position is quite clear. The honorable member for Wills rose. If he rose in error, that has nothing to do with the Chair. I suggest that he now has the call. If the honorable member does not desire to speak, I shall put the question, “ That the debate be now adjourned “.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has completely misinterpreted two things - ‘the needs of the nation in defence and the attitude of the Australian Labour Party to defence. Traditionally, of course, the Australian Labour Party has been the defence party of the Australian nation. As the honorable member for Chisholm pointed out, it was the Australian Labour Party which, in the first instance, introduced compulsory military training before World
War I., and nearly all the major developments in the Australian defence forces have been introduced by the Australian Labour Party.
– How pathetic!
– The Royal Australian Naval College was founded by a Labour government before World War I. The Australian fleet was purchased by a Labour government before World War I. During the last war, it was a Labour government that mobilized the nation and introduced compulsory training and, after the war, established the Woomera rocket range, the Australian Regular Army, the Fleet Air Arm and all the rest. So, traditionally, the Australian Labour Party has been the defence party of this nation, and nothing that honorable members opposite can do, by innuendo, inference or humorous remarks, can remove those pages from Australia’s history which show that at all stages of our history our political opponents have been found wanting. Therefore, while we may in no way question the sincerity of the honorable member for Chisholm and his desire to see Australia in a position to defend itself, we on this side have nothing of which to be ashamed. Indeed, we may well be proud of our place in the history of defence in this country.
I want to deal specifically with the matter raised by the honorable member for Chisholm - the role of the defence forces of Australia and the part that national service training, as he defined it, can play in our defence services. Since this Government came to office it reinstituted and, later, Abandoned compulsory training as part of the defence system. For seven or eight years compulsory training was one of the basic parts of the Government’s defence policy; but even the Government, slow as it usually is to realize the needs of the Australian nation and to implement policies for more effective defence, abandoned national service training in the face of the realities, on the ground that it did not supply what the country needed.
If one accepts the honorable member for Chisholm’s rather pessimistic and gloomy view of the Pacific area it is very obvious that Australian man-power can contribute very little to a major defence system in the area. With 10,000,000 people and, I suppose, a possible man-power commitment around the 1,000,000- mark, our forces are microscopic compared to what the nations to the north can do. Therefore, to the simple question whether we can supply the necessary man-power by a maximum callup the answer is, “ No “. So the honorable member’s argument is invalid to that extent.
Then there is the question of the efficiency of compulsory training in the production of a defence force. I think that even the last eight or nine years have produced ample evidence that the honorable member’s recipe for the production of a defence force is wrong. Many of us who have been concerned with defence forces in Australia, and who look over the pattern of the last seven or eight years, can see that that is so. The honorable member for Chisholm is inclined to regard the compulsory training system as something that could produce disciplined young men. What happened during the last episode of compulsory military training? Over a period of seven or eight years some £150,000,000, I understand, was spent on national service training alone. That is a tremendous sum - I suppose somewhat more than 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, of the total defence votes for those years. What was produced out of it? In the first place there was the abandonment of the system; and that was the Government’s own acknowledgment that it was a failure. Gradually over the years the Government whittled it down until it became less and less a national service and more and more a lottery for the production of manpower, which was lacking because of the failure of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) or the Government’s policy to appeal to the young people of Australia. So on this simple test it did not produce the kind of things which this Government and the honorable member’s own party said they wanted. It is quite obvious that national service training has not done so, and so, on those grounds, the honorable member’s argument is invalidated.
– That was not based on twelve months service.
– The honorable member interjects and suggests twelve months service as a basis. He suggests that we would produce a better system with a longer term of training. On what grounds does he base that argument? First of all there is the pure economics of it. Can Australia afford, even under the position which has been produced over the last fifteen months, with a dangerously high unemployment level, to put its young manpower into this field for twelve -months, eighteen months or two years, as the honorable member suggests? This country cannot on the grounds of cost afford to do that.
– Is it not a form of social service?
– For some reason the honorable member equates compulsory training with social service. That is a magnificent contribution. Surely it is a confession that the honorable member who interjects - I shall not name him for his own sake - thinks that the only solution of the Government’s difficulty is to call people up and to put them in the Services. This, of course, is nonsense; and I presume that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) had no such idea in his mind. In the first place, if you call up whole age groups you will remove people from the community in their formative years, which are highly important to their training, and at the beginning of their industrial careers, whatever they may be. On the very grounds of the cost in manpower and time, the argument is invalid. This country cannot afford the kind of proposal which the honorable member for Chisholm has advocated. I do not believe it would produce the kind of military system which this country needs. There is ample evidence, from the Government’s recent statement, that the young people of Australia are prepared to serve. I am not sure what the number of people in the military age group in Australia is, but there are over 1,000,000 young men in this country between the ages of 18 and 40 years.
We have to produce a system under which, because of the appeal of the Services and their feeling of national duty, the young men of Australia will join the Services in such numbers that they will adequately fill the war establishment of the defence forces. That is the first test. What is our manpower requirement? I am in pretty fundamental disagreement with the general approach to the organization of the Services which this Government has car ried out in the last few years. I believe it has done serious damage to the Citizen Military Forces and the general structure of the Australian defence forces and, particularly, to the capacity of the Australian people to defend their homeland.
– How many senior army men agree with you?
– The honorable member for Perth raises the question of the number of men involved-
– I asked how many senior army people agree with your summary of the position.
– It has not been noticeable in the past that senior army people have always been right on questions of defence policy. These are matters of public policy. I do not know how many senior army people agree with the honorable member for Chisholm, or how many members of the Cabinet agree with him. But that is something we are going to find out very shortly; and then the honorable member may be able to pass his remarks on to them. Even the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck may be able to raise the question. If we want 70,000, 80,000 or 90,000 young men for the Services in this country, the logical and obvious way to get them is to appeal to their sense of national duty and to get them to volunteer. I do not believe that is impossible, but obviously the Services in Australia at the moment could not absorb more than perhaps another 20,000 young men at the most.
Therefore we, on this side of the House, feel very strongly about the question of compulsory training. In the first place we say it is wasteful of manpower. Secondly, it is uneconomic so far as the nation is concerned. I quote the example of the last effort in this direction which cost somewhere about £150,000,000, which is an astronomical sum and which, I believe, produced very little of military value in our defence forces. The Labour Party does not believe that compulsory training will answer the defence needs of the nation. The honorable member for Chisholm failed to give enough point to his argument to show that this is not so. While you might quote the statistics of the people in countries to our north, all you can do by that is to invalidate the idea that national service training is of value to Australia. From the point of view of the manpower problem alone we cannot produce an adequate force simply by putting all our people under arms. The essence of the contract is an efficient, mobile and integrated defence force pretty closely related to the structure of the nation itself, so that the people feel it belongs to them and that they belong to it. I do not believe that national service training, when it was the basis of our defence system on two occasions in the past, produced just that.
Therefore I hope that honorable members on both sides of the House and people listening to the debate have quite clearly the picture that the Australian Labour Party stands solidly for voluntary training and voluntary enlistment in the defence forces. That has been traditional with us. We have departed from it on several occasions in the past, but over a long period of time that has been our basic approach to defence recruitment, and of course that is the Government’s current approach to it. The Government gets a great deal of satisfaction from it, with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) telling us every now and again how good he is as a recruiting officer. Therefore, at least in this instance, the Government is with us on this point, although it came very late to recognize that this was the way to handle it. And so I am afraid the honorable member for Chisholm is flying in the face of history and ignoring Australia’s defence needs and the needs of its political life, both internally and externally. We, on this side of the House, can see no point in the motion before us to-day. I will be intensely interested to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) define the Government’s attitude in such a way that it will co-ordinate its thinking and its words with the views of the honorable member for Chisholm and its actions with the Labour Party’s defence policy.
– Quite apart from the merits of the proposal which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has put before the House, I think he is to be congratulated because the most important aspect of the motion he has moved is that it directs the attention of this House and of the country, through this House, to the emergence of renewed Communist aggression in South-East Asia. Quite recently the honorable member visited these places and saw just how much the Communists had stepped up their subversion and aggression ih the last twelve months. Interestingly enough, after the Manila treaty of 1954, when Seato emerged, there was a complete cessation of open warfare by the Viet Minh and other Communist forces in South-East Asia. No doubt their infiltration and guerilla tactics went on a bit under the surface, but there was no open warfare. Indeed, in some places the Communists suffered quite severe reverses. But a year or so ago the Communists stepped up their activity throughout the whole of South-East Asia and up to the north of the Indian subcontinent and in all the places which the honorable member for Chisholm spoke about. A new and ominous threat which we never had before came into the picture.
Communist Russia, from half a world away, suddenly intruded into this part of the world, and we find to-day, and have found over recent months, that we have not only the Chinese Communists and the Viet Minh and Ho Chi-minh to deal with; we find that the Russians have been flying enormous quantities of arms into the northern parts of Laos and into South Viet Nam. Strategically these two countries cannot be dissociated. I agree completely with the honorable member as to the extent of the threat in South-East Asia. I disagree, however, with the methods that he suggests we should adopt to meet the threat - but even then I disagree with him only in part.
Perhaps I should make my next remarks more in connexion with what the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said than with what was said by the honorable member for Chisholm. There is one point that is absolutely vital in all defence thinking, and that is the necessity to keep one’s thinking up to date. It is very easy for those of us who were involved in a war seventeen years ago to believe that we are up to date, when perhaps we are not. This kind of mistake has constituted a recurring tragedy in the history of our race. One can go back hundreds of years, to the time of the Napoleonic wars or even further, and find that people in those times erred by getting ready for the last war instead of for the one that was likely to occur. A classic example of this is to be seen in the building of the Maginot Line. Having had experience of the 1914-18 War, when men were in trenches year after year, waging a static kind of warfare, the military commanders in 1939 said, “ Let us have the greatest trench the world has ever seen “. It was built, and it was not worth a cracker, as we all know.
I think that at this stage it would be of assistance if I re-stated the reasons why this Government in 1950 introduced universal and compulsory national service training. At that time the assessment of the threat to this country was very different from the assessment of the threat that exists to-day. First, global war at that stage was far more likely than it is to-day. Secondly, China had just emerged as a military power. Thirdly, the Korean war had just started. Fourthly, we had no Anzus treaty and no Seato treaty, and we were more or less on our own except for our traditional ties with the United Kingdom and with New Zealand. Fifthly, the strength of the forces was just too low. The previous Labour Government, following its own policy - and it is for any government to implement whatever policy it wishes - had reduced the strength of Australia’s armed forces to about 50,000, and we felt that this was not enough. We built the strength up to 85,000.
I have given the reasons why national service training was originally introduced. At that time the Acting Prime Minister of the day said -
The scheme and its progress will be kept constantly under review, and if in the Government’s opinion any revision becomes necessary the Government will not hesitate to make it.
In 1957, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for reasons which he stated quite fully in the House, announced the decision to revert from the system of universal military training to one of selective military training, with an annual intake of 12,000. In 1959 I myself announced to the House that we had decided to suspend national service training altogether. The system had been very valuable. The honorable member for Wills shows a tendency to write it down, but let me remind the House that under the national service training system we trained 250,000 men. We gave them their basic training, and advanced training was carried on in the Citizen Military Forces units.
I think I should also remind the House of the reasons that were given in 1959 for the suspension of the national service training programme. According to the present strategic concept - a concept based on the best professional military advice that we can get in Australia, and endorsed by the military brains of our great allies - there is not much likelihood of a global war being started deliberately as the result of policy considerations. It is quite true that somebody may do something stupid and start one off, but it is most unlikely that a global war will be started deliberately. What is likely is the limited war, the so-called brushfire type of war, in which case the strategy would be to contain the brushfire and prevent it from becoming a bushfire. Limited or local wars are what we must expect, and it is against this kind of strategic background that we make our plans, and it is on this basis that our defence programming and policy rest.
Our policy involves, first, active participation with our allies in mutual security arrangements. When one considers the vast, almost limitless, man-power that is available in Asia, and particularly in tha one great country of Asia which is most likely to become our enemy, one realizes that no power on earth can match such a country in terms simply of man-power. But even to make an effort against such a country it is necessary and vital for Australia to have collective and mutual defence arrangements with other countries. We have made these arrangements in Anzus, in Seato and in Anzam.
These arrangements give us great advantages. First, they give us the advantage of defence in depth. From Australia to the place at which our front line now stands, or where our strategic reserve is located - our spearhead - there are more than 2,000 miles, not of land but of ocean studded with islands. The second advantage of these arrangements is that they enable us to give support to friendly nations that are in a far more exposed position than we are. Thirdly, and this is of critical importance, they attract powerful friends, whom we can ask to help us if we ever need their help. If we are not prepared to go out and help other people and to accept our responsibilities towards other nations, it will be a bad day for us when we find ourselves forced to cry for help.
We pursue our defence policy and ensure our preparedness by having, as far as we can, highly trained, highly effective, highly mobile and well-equipped forces, ready to move as quickly as possible and to be as self-contained as possible. Towards this end we must improve the ability of the regular forces to act quickly and decisively, and - this was the point made by the honorable member for Chisholm - to have our follow-up forces more readily available than they have ever been before. These have been the primary aims of the Government’s defence planning, and as the result we have in this country to-day defence forces ready, equipped, and better prepared than ever before in Australia’s history.
The Navy and the Air Force, by their very nature and because of the equipment at their command, have always been ready to react quickly in an emergency. But after a most comprehensive examination of our defence system in 1959, it was found that the Army was greatly handicapped. It was apparent that there had to be a very drastic re-organization of the Army, to enable it to concentrate on building up readily available forces, far better equipped than had been the case in the past. As a result, we have built up the strategic forces that exist to-day.
It was found at that time that even the restricted national service training system, with an intake of 12,000 annually, was proving a great handicap to the Army. As the honorable member for Wills pointed out, it was making excessive demands on man-power and on finance, and it was using up resources that could have been better employed by our regular forces. More than 3,000 men of the Australian Regular Army were being used to train 12,000 national service trainees. Furthermore, national service training required administrative command structures which were out of all proportion to real needs. It is interesting to note that the total cost of even the selective scheme of national service training was more than £9,000,000 a year, which represented one-seventh of the total Army vote. Where was this amount coming from? It was being diverted from expenditure on equipment that was a vital need of the Army in those days.
There was another complication. Had it been necessary to call up men under some mobilization plan, the situation would have been most complex. The national service trainees, at the end of their basic training, were going into units of the Citizen Military Forces. If we had had to mobilize we would have found that the C.M.F. units were a mixture of volunteers who were ready to go anywhere and national service trainees who could not be sent out of the country. So, just at a time when any delay would have been tragic, and, indeed, dangerous, we would have had to go through all the motions of making cross-postings and of doing a great variety of other things.
I want to point out something that is sometimes overlooked by a lot of people throughout Australia and in this House. The decision to suspend the training of 12,000 men a year under the national service training scheme was not taken in isolation. It was associated with a decision to build up the Citizen Military Forces to a total of 30,000 men. That decision was taken in 1959, and the target of 30,000 men for the C.M.F. has now been achieved. While I am on the subject of the citizen forces, I think I should correct my very good friend, the honorable member for Chisholm, on one point, because he appears to be under a misapprehension. He said that in the C.M.F. one could not get above the rank of lieutenant-colonel. I am pleased to be able to point out to him that that is not so. We have eight C.M.F. battle groups, each of which is in charge of a full colonel. There is a divisional commander, who is a C.M.F. man, with the rank of major-general, which I am sure will please the honorable member. We have expanded the Citizen Military Forces. There may be parents who consider that their boys need military training. The ranks of the C.M.F., with all the comradeship and everything else that goes with military training, are open to such boys and to young men who would like to serve their country.
Perhaps I may add, as I pass on, Sir, that the decision to suspend compulsory military training was not just something cooked up by the Government itself. The Government had been advised unanimously by the chiefs of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force to make that decision, and that advice had been endorsed by the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. We have in the Army to-day, apart from the battalion which is in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, in Malaya, two divisions composed of ten battle groups in all. Two of these battle groups are composed of regular soldiers and eight of C.M.F. personnel. The present strength of the Army, including permanent and citizen forces, is 50,000 men. That is not much below the total strength of the defence forces when the Labour Government was in office. Personnel of both permanent and citizen forces have intensive training programmes at all levels. At this point, I want to emphasize that when we re-organized the Army, we decided that members of the Citizen Military Forces would not be “ Choco’s “ or Saturday afternoon soldiers. We determined that they would be integrated as much as possible with the Permanent Army. This integration has gone on constantly. As much as possible, C.M.F. training has been closely and strictly related to Permanent Army requirements. Members of the citizen forces have trained alongside members of the Regular Army. This policy has been an outstanding success.
The suspension of national service training made available about £9,000,000 for expenditure on equipment for the Army. This not only has enabled the Army to keep up to date with artillery, FN rifles and equipment of that kind, but also has increased its flexibility and mobility. The Army to-day has ocean-going landing craft and fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, and has just been able to take over H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “. This former aircraft carrier, which has fifteen years of life left in hull and engines, will become a fast transport, not only for men, but also for the heaviest of the Army’s equipment. All these benefits have flowed from the decision to suspend national service training.
I put it to the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that acceptance by the Government of the proposal which the honorable member for Chisholm has put forward so forcibly would nullify what has been done in the last three years, during which we have built up the Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces into the readily available and effective fighting force that they are to-day.
– We could increase expenditure.
– I shall come to that in a moment. If we were to do as the honorable member suggests and provide for a minimum of twelve months’ national service, even with a selective call-up of, say, 12,000 men, such as we had before, at the most conservative estimate, the minimum cost would be at least £25,000,000 a year. But even if we were to agree to this, such an increase in expenditure for this purpose would be unacceptable in terms of priority. This purpose would be a long way down the list of priorities submitted by the service chiefs. Such a proposal would again impose a heavy burden on training facilities and would require a considerable volume of additional equipment and resources.
We must remember, too, that national service training cannot be considered in isolation. We have to think also of the combined requirements of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. In these days, the three arms of the services train and work in close relationship. If they go into action, they are closely inter-related and inter-dependent on one another, and we must adopt a balanced national pattern for the maintenance of our forces. Furthermore, we need in these times a vast organized industry to support the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. We have developed a shadow organization in the industries of this country now. Public servants, both State and Federal, and representatives of industry undertake together courses of nine months’ duration. They get to know each other and understand what the respective requirements of the forces and industry are likely to be. In this way, we have already trained something like 1,000 men.
In conclusion, I say that the main objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Chisholm is, not that it would upset the orderly and effective provision for defence that is being made, but that the military advantage to be gained would nowhere near compensate for the cost.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has made it plain that the Government does not support the private member’s motion proposed by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and regards the honorable member’s proposal as unacceptable in terms of priority. The Government believes that, within the limits of Australia’s resources, the best that we can do at present is to have a professional army supported by a voluntary force. The Opposition, also, believes that, within the limits of Australia’s resources, our defence would not be well served by the proposal made by the honorable member for Chisholm. Both the Government and the Opposition find the honorable member’s proposal unacceptable.
– Order! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the time for the discussion of the motion be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– As I was saying, it is plain that neither the Government nor the Opposition is prepared to support the resolution moved by the honorable member for Chisholm. In order to allow the House to debate other general business, on which there may be differences of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I am sure I am expressing the view of every honorable member on this side of the House when I voice my disgust with the way the Opposition attempted to avoid this debate on Australia’s defence policy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in his usual suave way, not only moved that the question be put, but also said that, having heard the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and having found that the views of the Government and the Opposition on the motion of the honorable member for
Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) were the same, it was no longer necessary to continue with the debate.
He did not mention that earlier, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), acting under instructions from his party, and without having heard the Government’s view, attempted to do what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did. This is an extraordinary exhibition of tactics. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was heard to” say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as they crossed the floor and as the honorable member for Wills was about to speak, “ For God’s sake tell him what to say “.
– Mr. Speaker, I claim that that is a gross untruth and a gross personal misrepresentation. I said no such thing. I never suggested that any one should tell the honorable member for Wills what to say.
-I call the honorable member for Barker.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal of the honorable member’s statement.
– The honorable member for Fremantle is referring to the subject matter in debate?
– No, I was referring to-
-The honorable member will have an opportunity to speak later. During the course of his address, the honorable member for Barker made some reference to what happened during the debate.
– No. It was a conversation that occurred when we were crossing the floor of the House.
– I do not know anything about that.
– That is his statement.
– It was a false statement.
– Order! The honorable member for Barker is in order.
– I rise to order! The honorable member for Fremantle asks for the protection of the Chair because the honorable member for Barker claims that something was said in the course of our passing from one side of the House to the other. Surely the honorable member for Fremantle is entitled to call . upon him to withdraw? It has nothing to. dp with the debate. It was a personal reflection, and the honorable member for Fremantle asks for a withdrawal.
– Order! The Chair ls not prepared to intervene in regard to what an honorable member says, or how he expresses himself. I have enough problems to handle without setting myself up as a judge of the ethics of any of the speeches made in the House. In the course of the debate, the honorable member for Barker made reference to something. I do not know whether it occurred or not.
– I rise to order. 1 do not traverse your ruling that it is not possible to require a withdrawal of something that is said about something that was said during the debate, but the honorable member for Barker referred to something which he alleges was said, not in the course of the debate, but whilst honorable members were passing from one side of the chamber to the other. If your ruling is to go without challenge on this matter, it means that no honorable member has an opportunity to clear himself of an aspersion made in that way.
– He can make a personal explanation.
– That is, he can do it this afternoon after the time for debate on this matter has elapsed. I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Order! Before the honorable member proceeds further, let me point out that I have given no ruling. The honorable member’s motion is no.t in order. I have interpreted’ proceedings during a debate. An honorable member referred in the debate to something of which I know nothing. He referred to something that transpired at some stage of which I know nothing. I am not in a position to censure any honorable member. An- honorable member has complete freedom to speak once he gets the call.
I have merely given an interpretation. I have no view on the ethics or otherwise of the incident. I am only trying to follow what is the proper procedure.
– If it offends the honorable member, I will voluntarily withdraw the remark.
– The honorable member voluntarily withdraws the remark.
– Nevertheless, it is correct. It was told to me by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who has never been known to tell a lie in his life.
– Order! The honorable member will proceed.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) negatived -
That the honorable member for Barker be not further heard.
– This procedure conforms to the actions of the Opposition during the whole of this morning. It is another attempt to avoid a debate on defence. There is great similarity between this and the Opposition’s attempt to avoid any reference to what honorable members opposite have said about Dutch New Guinea. Honorable members opposite are confused and divided amongst themselves. They have no defence policy, and they have no policy on Dutch New Guinea. Therefore, in order to avoid becoming embarrassed with their electors, they do everything in their power to prevent discussion of the extremely timely and important motion submitted by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). The fact that the Government does not agree - or I should say, that presumably most honorable members on this side of the House do not agree - with the specific device that the honorable member for Chisholm employed to bring about this discussion which arises from the serious situation on our north, does not make the question any less important.
– Do you agree with it?
– Order! The extended time allotted for precedence of general business has expired. The honorable member for Barker will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an Order of the Day under “ General Business “ for the next sitting.
– by leave- I wish to make a personal explanation. I make no comment on the extraordinary procedure of throwing into the debate not what the honorable member for Barker himself claims to have heard, but what he claims somebody else heard in the course of private conversation as we crossed the floor. The honorable member for La Trobe should have his hearing remedied, but, if he would like the record to be put straight, my remark was -
If the honorable member for Wills wants to speak, for God’s sake let him speak.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 27th March, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to give Aboriginal Natives of Australia the right to Enrol and to Vote as Electors of the Commonwealth, and to provide for certain Offences in relation thereto.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
, - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill and a relatively simple one, but the implications in it are of the greatest significance. I would hope and expect that it will be received by the House with enthusiasm and passed without dissent. By so doing we would proclaim to the world that the representatives of all sections of the Australian community are determined to ensure that the aboriginal people of Australia enjoy complete political equality with the rest of the community. This has been a problem of which the Government has been conscious for some time. It recognized that from the national and international viewpoint, it was important to give consideration to the rights and privileges of our native people. However, whilst the existing laws in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania gave the full franchise to aboriginal natives by virtue of the fact that the respective State laws conferred full voting rights, in Queensland and Western Australia, where, together with the Northern Territory, most of the full-bloods lived, the Commonwealth and State Governments had not favoured extending the franchise when it was raised at the 1946 Premiers’ Conference.
When a general review of the Electoral Act was undertaken during the last Parliament, the Cabinet, while realizing the merits of the case for extending the franchise, appreciated also some of the difficulties and problems which exist. It therefore decided to set up a select committee, comprising members from both sides of this House, to report to the Parliament on the matter.
The committee, which was under the chairmanship of Mr. George Pearce, the then member for Capricornia, visited every mainland State and the Northern Territory. It travelled over 22,000 miles, heard evidence and took statements from over 300 witnesses. The committee displayed magnificent enthusiasm and energy in completing its report within the time available. It deserves the gratitude and congratulations of this House as also do the parliamentary staff and others assisting the committee. The report itself both in text and presentation was a very notable document, and had the additional merit of being completely unanimous.
In paragraph 77 the committee recommended -
The bill gives effect to those recommendations. In paragraph 84 the committee recommends -
It is recommended by your committee that a penal provision be inserted in the amending Act In respect of the use of duress or undue influence on aborigines in the exercise of their franchise.
Since the use of duress or undue influence is already included as an offence in the act in respect of any person, aboriginal or other wise, it was felt that the committee must have had in mind possible offences in relation to voluntary enrolment. The act is, therefore, widened by this bill to extend to enrolment those offences which relate to influencing a vote.
The Government wants to ensure that enrolment of the natives is entirely voluntary and that no undue influence or pressure is used by political parties or other interested bodies to induce the natives in respect of their enrolment or non-enrolment or in the exercise of their franchise. In paragraph 41 (3) the committee’s recommendation states -
That early action be taken by the Commonwealth Electoral Office to inform aboriginal and Torres Strait islander servicemen and exservicemen, and people entitled to the franchise under the terms of the Attorney-General’s memorandum to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of 25 th January, 1929, of their entitlement to be enrolled and to vote.
Action has already been taken in the terms of this recommendation. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Queensland visited the Torres Strait Islands prior to the last general elections for this purpose, and arrangements were made to bring to the notice of all aboriginal natives (including the Torres Strait Islanders) entitled to the franchise, their right to enroll and to vote. Action by the Electoral Office will be extended when the law is amended granting the franchise to all aboriginal natives.
Clause 2 of the bill removes the franchise prohibition against aboriginal natives of Australia, thus granting them the same rights and privileges of enrolment and voting as other Australian citizens. At present these rights and privileges are debarred from most full-bloods in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Clause 3 excludes the aboriginals from compulsory enrolment provisions of the law. The remaining clauses all deal with offences in relation to the enrolment or the refraining from enrolment of the natives.
The existing law already provides penal provisions in respect of duress and undue influence in the exercise of the franchise. The Government has decided not to adopt the recommendations embodied in paragraphs 41 (1) and 41 (2). The Government believes that if compulsory enrolment is not applicable to aboriginals generally, it would cot be right to tighten up the compulsory provisions in New South Wales and Victoria. Further, it does not seem reasonable to administer the act differently in different States, or to attempt to provide different statutory obligations for the natives of the different States. Nor does it seem practicable to define an aboriginal native differently for the purposes of the electoral law from the general definition applied in other circumstances.
It is proposed that the electoral branch seek the assistance of the Department of Native Affairs and the various missions to acquaint the aboriginals of their entitlement under the new provisions. Electoral officers will, from time to time, visit aboriginal settlements and areas of substantial native congregation for the same purpose.
The co-operation of the State authorities and the Northern Territory Administration will be sought in educating the natives in the exercise of their franchise. There are, of course, a number of problems associated with the extension of the franchise to our native people. There is the name problem - some bear a single name tag of local derivation and there is a tendency for others to change their names from time to time. Some have no idea whatever of their age.
In some isolated areas there is also the difficulty of providing adequate voting facilities. I might mention that at the recent general elections polling places were established on nine of the islands in the Torres Strait group. To provide facilities at these . places, the Electoral Branch hired a launch, and the total cost of the facilities for having the 387 votes recorded was just over £700. Again, there are the islands inhabited by natives only where there are no Europeans to act as polling officials. There is also the problem of providing facilities at the five mission stations on the western side of Cape York Peninsula. These problems could make further legislation necessary but if so appropriate action will be taken in the light of our experience. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Speaker, this bill was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his recent statement on a series of economic measures decided by the Government. It is designed to give the necessary legislative authority for the operation of the expanded temporary protection machinery that the Government intends to make available to industry.
When the Government introduced legislation in 1960 to provide machinery for temporary duties, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) explained the necessity for procedures to allow quick action where it appeared that imports could endanger local industry. He mentioned, on that occasion, that conditions in international trading could change so rapidly the Government must have machinery available to enable speedy action to be taken to safeguard industries, primary and secondary, which are vulnerable to sudden unforeseeable competition from overseas suppliers.
The principle involved in providing urgent temporary protection where warranted has been generally accepted both among local interests and in international trade agreements such as, for example, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
The temporary duty arrangements which resulted from the previous amendments to the Tariff Board Act were an innovation in our protection procedures. They broke entirely new ground. In general they have operated well. The Government believes, however, that the existing arrangements can be adapted to give even more effective results. The modifications on urgent protection proposed in this bill are procedural and do not involve any change of fundamental nature. They will, however, provide more clearly for the use of quantitative restrictions as a temporary protection measure and lay down certain safeguards on their continuance.
As already announced, a special advisory authority will be established to advise on requests for urgent protection against imports. One factor which influenced the Government in its decision to establish a special advisory authority was its desire to reduce the time required for normal Tariff Board inquiries. With the formal establishment of the special advisory authority, deputy chairmen will be relieved of their responsibilities in relation to inquiries into cases for urgent protection. They will then be able to concentrate on normal inquiries of the Tariff Board.
This bill provides for the special advisory authority to operate within the framework of the Tariff Board Act. The authority will, in effect, replace deputy chairmen insofar as cases for urgent protection are concerned. It is proposed, however, that he will receive references direct from and will report direct to the Minister for Trade.
The authority, after discussion with the chairman of the Tariff Board, will have the use of such officers of the board’s staff and access to such records of the board as are necessary for any particular inquiry.
As the number of urgent cases referred to the authority is expected to fluctuate widely and as the Government will wish to obtain advice on such cases quickly, the legislation will provide that the Government may determine the number of authorities to be appointed at any time and the duration of such appointments.
Where it is established that imports are causing, or threatening to cause, serious damage to a particular industry, the special advisory authority will be able to recommend that any protection shown as necessary will be given by means of a temporary duty or import restriction or both. This would not conflict with the commitments Australia accepts under Gatt.
It would, I think, be appropriate for me at this point to discuss in some detail the Government’s attitude towards the use of quantitative restrictions for the protection of Australian industries against import competition.
The Government has always recognized that, in special circumstances, quantitative restrictions could be necessary as a measure of protection, either combined with, or as an alternative to, protective tariffs. The
Minister for Trade mentioned at the time of introducing the temporary duty legislation in 1960, that it may be desirable in certain circumstances to take urgent action by import restriction. Moreover, honorable members may recall that the Government has, in fact, used temporary protective restrictions in isolated instances in the past, such as printed cotton textiles, footwear and small internal combustion engines. The present bill makes it clear that import restrictions, combined with, or as an alternative to, temporary duties may be recommended where the special advisory authority considers that a situation calls for protection by that means.
Let me recall the earlier descriptions of the general types of situation the Government has in mind. Firstly, as indicated in the Prime Minister’s policy speech in November last year, the Government has recognized the particular difficulties of certain Australian industries where production efficiency and a reasonable cost level require the maintenance of a continuing high volume of output. Where an inflow of imports has reduced the Australian industry’s share of the market so as to make an otherwise stable industry unprofitable and even, perhaps, uneconomic, it may be more appropriate to apply a quantitative limitation of imports, rather than a temporary duty.
Another circumstance which may warrant temporary protection through import restrictions may be that substantial reduction of domestic demand resulting from general economic circumstances operating in Australia may reduce an Australian industry to a serious situation unless the volume of imports is temporarily diminished.
These sets of circumstances are given for purposes of illustration only. They are not intended to define or to limit the area in which quantitative restrictions are considered to be a more appropriate means of protection than the tariff. However, Mr. Speaker, I must make it clear that the special advisory authority, where he finds grounds for a recommendation for temporary protection, will consider the use of temporary quantitative restrictions only after - and I repeat after - he has considered a temporary duty. This will be the firm approach to our temporary protection machinery - the tariff first; quantitative restrictions where the tariff is not appropriate.
The provisions in the existing legislation relating to the conduct of urgent inquiries and the requirement to report within 30 days of receipt of a reference from the Minister will be retained.
In line with the practice adopted with reports by deputy chairmen the reports of the special advisory authority will be tabled in the Parliament. Because of the nature of the inquiries and the need for urgency it is not expected that the reports will be detailed. There will be no change in the status of any action taken under the amended machinery. It still will be a temporary measure intended to hold the position until the long-term protection needs of the industry have been examined and reported on by the Tariff Board. Consequently, before the Minister takes action to impose either a temporary duty or temporary import restrictions, or both, he will be required, as he has been in the case of temporary duties, to refer to the board for full inquiry and report in the normal way, the matter of protection for the industry concerned.
The requirement that the Minister notify in the “ Gazette “ the date of receipt of the board’s report will be retained. So also will the provision requiring the removal of temporary duties within three months of receipt of the board’s report, and that provision for removal will be extended to apply also to temporary import restrictions. All parties directly interested will, as before, be notified of requests for temporary protection and have an opportunity to submit views and information for consideration.
The procedure for requesting the application of the varied form of urgent protection will be along the same lines as that set up for handling applications for temporary duties. That is to say, a case should be presented to the Department of Trade through the industry panel system. May I interpolate at this point, Mr. Speaker, that an industry can assist itself in obtaining a speedy decision on a request by presenting a fully documented case to the department in its initial approach. As in the past, officers of the Department of Trade will be available to assist representatives of industry in establishing the facts of any particular situation. Where it appears that sufficient grounds exist the Minister for Trade will refer the matter to a special advisory authority for inquiry and report.
There is a widespread misconception that urgent protection is a matter relating to manufacturing industry only. This is not the case. The same facilities are available to any industry - primary or secondary - which may be adversely affected by import competition.
It would be appropriate if, at this point, I were to lay stress on two important points. The first is to repeat that in giving temporary protection the Government will use quantitative restrictions only when tariff protection appears to be inadequate or inappropriate. The other is to make it quite clear that when temporary protection is accorded an industry it is in the nature of emergency first-aid. It is essentially a holding action pending a full inquiry by the Tariff Board. It must not, in any circumstance, be accepted as indicating the longterm possibilities for protection of the particular industry. That will come out of the board’s full inquiry, when the normal criteria that an industry should be economic and efficient are taken fully into account.
The bill contains also a machinery amendment designed to give better advance publicity to the board’s intention to hold inquiries. It is proposed that in future advance notice will be given in one newspaper circulating in each State or mainland territory of the Commonwealth and in the “ Gazette “. This amendment covers also the intention, now that the board has moved its head-quarters to Canberra, that at least some of the board’s inquiries should be held in the Australian Capital Territory.
This bill is the forerunner of the changes which are to be made to carry out the Government’s decision, made clear in earlier announcements by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade, to strengthen and to speed up the protection machinery available to Australian industry against imports. It has been introduced in advance of other measures so that the additional temporary protection - needed in meeting urgent situations facing some industries - may be available as quickly as possible.
The overall tariff-making machinery and the operation of the Tariff Board are now under study. Some of the proposed changes have already been indicated in broad outline by the Minister for Trade. Further improvements can be expected from the review now going on. The results will be implemented at the earliest practicable time. In the interim, the changes embodied in this bill will give an industry being seriously affected by imports a means of seeking effective protection, and will enable the Government to give that protection where it is warranted. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section thirteen of the Customs Tariff 1933-1961.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Tariff Board Bill which has recently been introduced. The amendments proposed in the bill are consequent upon the amendments proposed in the Tariff Board Bill. No changes of substance are contemplated.
Two amendments are proposed. The first is a drafting change; the second amends a reference in the Customs Tariff to section 17a of the Tariff Board Act. In the Tariff Board Bill it is proposed that section 17a be repealed and replaced by new sections. Section 3 (2.) of the present bill covers the situation where deputy chairmen of the board, in response to section 17a references made before the proposed amendments, recommend temporary duties after the amendments have become effective. Temporary duties imposed in accordance with such recommendations will continue to be levied in accordance with section 17a of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960.
As I have indicated, this bill is closely associated with the bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960. When the debate is resumed, I will ask that the
House consider having a general secondreading debate covering both bills.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 521), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this bill is the first to be introduced by the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury). His speech was of commendable brevity, in ordinary circumstances, although it was of the same regrettable brevity as we usually have from Ministers introducing housing appropriations under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The bill provides that there will be £7,500,000 more available under the housing agreement than was made available in the Budget. These allocations are spent, as to 30 per cent, of the total, through building societies, which receive the money from the Commonwealth via the State governments; and as to the balance, by the State housing commissions themselves, although up to 5 per cent, of the total can be spent, at the direction of the Commonwealth, on dwellings for serving members of the forces. Therefore, all told, in this year there will now be £15,120,000 available from the Commonwealth for building societies, via the State governments, and £35,280,000 available from the Commonwealth for the State governments for the purposes of their housing commissions, to construct and then let or sell houses.
The Minister stated that one of the purposes of the bill was to provide an immediate stimulus to house building. He did not seek to substantiate that assertion in any way. Statistics which are available to honorable members seem to indicate not that the bill will stimulate home-building, but that in fact it will merely maintain the present rate of home-building under the housing agreement during this year. This view was expressed by the Premier of Victoria who, in relation to this and the other proposals for grants to the States, said -
We could not expect any spectacular gains in Government employment until after June
That is until the next financial year - - as the result of these announced grants.
Mr. Bolte said
If we hold the fort until then we will be doing well.
Statistics which seem to indicate that in fact the rate of home-building by housing commissions has increased already in this financial year can be gained from the Department of National Development’s quarterly statistics on home-building finance by government instrumentalities, the latest one being for the September quarter of last year and issued on the second day of this month. They show that in every State in the September quarter the number of houses commenced was greater than the average quarterly number of commencements in the previous year. One must make all allowances for the fact that the September quarter is usually the best quarter for housing commencements of all kinds in Australia. Nevertheless, the increase in the number of commencements last September for housing commission houses is quite significant. Furthermore, the number of houses under construction at the end of September was greater, in the case of all States except South Australia, than was the number of houses under construction at the end of June. So it would seem, from the latest figures available to honorable members, that the number of houses being built by housing commissions was already being increased before this appropriation was made.
Again, it appears from the statement of the Consolidated Revenue Fund that the rates of expenditure by the States in the first half of this financial year - the drawings hy the States from the Commonwealth for housing purposes - were significantly higher than in the first half of the previous financial year. The Budget Estimates provided for an increase of ?5,700,000 for this financial year over last financial year. But up to the end of last December the States had already drawn ?7,200,000 more than they had drawn in the corresponding half of the previous year. Therefore, the increased rate in expenditure would already have meant a total increase in expenditure this financial year at least as great as will now be ensured by this additional allocation. I draw the inference that the additional allocation which we are now making will not in fact provide any stimulus to house-building. It will not, in fact, enable the housing commissions to build at any faster rate during the remainder of this financial year than they were already building in the early part of this financial year. This allocation will merely enable the States to continue housing construction at the rate which they were already maintaining. There will be no increase, but if there had not been this allocation there would have been a catastrophic decrease. I have limited my remarks so far to the effect on housing commission houses alone, but I must also refer to the position of housing generally.
The Government, I suggest, could have taken this opportunity to make still greater allocations for housing commission houses to compensate Ihe drop in housing from other -Juices. Fewer houses were corn.menced in the year 1961, the last calendar year, than in 1958, and only 2,000 more than in 1957. Quite clearly, from the increased numbers of our population through marriages and migrating families, we should be erecting more houses now than we were erecting three or four years ago. Commencements of houses in the December quarter of last year were the lowest since the March quarter of 1958, and the number of houses under construction at the end of last December was the lowest that it has been at the end of any quarter since June, 1947.
– Are these houses only, or houses and flats?
– Houses. There is no question that residential construction in Australia has suffered a very large set-back in the last year. But this is the same thing which has happened - as I said in respect of the War Service Homes Bill yesterday - after each of the credit squeezes that we have had under the Menzies Government. A house is the largest purchase that most men or families ever make. The next largest is a motor car. Inevitably most people borrow money to purchase either a house or a motor car. When credit is cut off, as it was in 1952, 1956 and 1960, the number of houses and cars purchased drops very greatly. From the peak to the trough of construction, or from the peak to the trough of commencements, after the first horror Budget of 1951-52 there was a decline of 33 per cent, in the number of houses. From the peak to the trough after the second horror Budget in 1956 there was a drop of 17 per cent, in commencements. From the peak at the time of the last horror Budget until the end of last December - and I hope that that was the trough - there was a drop of 20 per cent, in commencements. The figures I have quoted have been taken from the Statistician’s quarterly figures on housing. I quote another indication of how construction in general, commercial as well as residential, has been affected. It appears in the Revised Index of Australian Factory Production issued by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. The latest issue shows that for the first four months of the present financial year the total production of building and construction materials was lower than it was in 1958-59, and was very much lower than it was in the two succeeding years. By every indication in the statistics available to us, there has been, Sir, a very great drop in overall building construction.
The first point I wish to make on the size of allocation under this Bill is that it will merely permit construction under the housing agreement to continue at the same rate as hitherto in this financial year. The second point I wish to make is that the allocation makes no contribution towards overcoming the terrific, or, if I may use the Prime Minister’s favourite word, the “ enormous “ fall in construction in general. The number of houses being built through private financial sources, as distinct from housing commission sources, has dropped, as we know, by one-quarter. This allocation makes no contribution towards improving that position. One hoped that the Government would provide some compensation in the public sector of housing for the reduction that its banking policies had brought about in the private sector of housing construction.
Now, Sir, I pass to a consideration of the amount of money being provided. The Minister stated that funds allocated to the States for housing in 1961-62 constituted a record. That is true, Sir, in only a very limited sense, because now the States have control of the disposal of only 65 per cent, of the money made available to them by the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. We should not describe the regulating act as the Housing Agreement Act but the States Grants (Housing) Act. The States control the disposition, through the housing commissions, of only 65 per cent, of the money made available to them. For housing commission purposes this year the States between them will have available £35,280,000. In 1953-54 the States had available for housing commission purposes £37,200,000. Two years later they still had available for such purposes £33,200,000. In nominal terms this years appropriation is not significantly different from the largest made in the past, and in value terms the amount is considerably less than has been made available in the past.
In addition, this is not all net cost to the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth will this year receive repayments from the States to the extent of £17,800,000. Therefore, the net cost to the Commonwealth of this year’s allocations to the States, for housing commissions, for service dwellings and for building societies, will not be £50,400,000 but only £32,600,000. Over the years, the amount of money made available for housing commission purposes in general has declined.
I do not propose in this speech to cover all features of the housing agreement. It has a great number of features, and when I spoke on the major allocation during the last Budget session I dealt with a greater variety of them than I will be dealing with to-day. Other honorable members on this side of the House will discuss other features of the agreement.
The position in which the building societies find themselves has been brought about by the Government’s own credit restrictions, not only on the three crisis occasions I have mentioned, but as a matter of deliberate policy over the last twelve years. Banks and insurance companies used to be the principal sources of funds for the building societies, but because this Government has at times told the banks and insurance companies to lend less to building societies; because at other times it has allowed the banks to indulge in other. forms of lending instead of lending for housing, and particularly because the Government has allowed the banks and the insurance companies to make many more direct loans, instead of loans to homepurchasers via the building societies, the building societies are getting much less money from the banks and life assurance societies than they were when this Government came to office. It is because of this result of its policies that the Government has had to bypass and sidetrack the housing commissions and insist on 30 per cent, of the States’ grants for housing going to building societies. In other words, the Government is now using taxes as funds for the building societies, instead of bank deposits and insurance premiums.
I shall confine myself to the situation of the housing commissions, the supply of housing by them and the demand for houses from them. The demand is unquestionably very great indeed. It is very great in the three most industrialized States, New South Wales, Victoria and- South Australia, and it is particularly marked in the capital cities of those three States. At the end of last June, there were 35,230 outstanding applications for houses, for rent or purchase, with the Housing Commission of New South Wales. At the end of December, this figure had increased to about 37,000. In Victoria, at the end of June, there were 14,024 outstanding applications. By the end of December, this had increased to 15,221. At the end of June, 1960, 11,800 applications were outstanding in South Australia. I have not been able to obtain from thatState the figures at the end of December, because the Ministry there is a state of suspended animation and has not got round to supplying the figures. J have no reason to think they will be gerrymandered. I just have not been able to get them.
I come now to the number of applications received during the relevant periods. Last financial year, the Housing Commission of New South Wales received 15,482 applications. During the first half of this financial year it received 8,573 applications. During last financial year the Victorian Housing Commission received 9,091 applications, and in the first half of this financial year it received 4,751 applications. Last financial year, the South Australian Housing Trust received 9,100 applications.
I have concentrated on the position in the three most highly industrialized States - the States which have the three most highly industrialized metropolitan centres in Australia. I regret to say that in debates on Loan (Housing) Bills there is a very great deal of parochialism because honorable members constantly compare the position in one State with the position in another and find political lessons in what they see. The plain fact, Sir, is that all the money which is spent by the State housing authorities in New South Wales and Victoria comes from the Commonwealth. In South Australia, the Housing Trust’s expenditure comes mainly from money provided by the Commonwealth, but the trust spends the building society allocation as well as what we regard as the ordinary housing authority allocation. Overall, the position is worse in New South Wales and South Australia than in Victoria. Since comparisons will be made between New South Wales, which is governed by Labour, and South Australia, which is under a Liberal Government - in both States the present governments have been in office for more than two decades - I point out that the number of applications outstanding and the number being received are proportionately greater in South Australia than in New South Wales.
I do not wish to become bogged down in parochial or State matters, Sir. In these affairs, all honorable members, if they are diligent enough, can get the Australia-wide picture from the Parliamentary Library or from the clerk in charge of papers in each of the State parliaments. We all can ascertain these things if we want to. Admittedly, in general, State figures are not made available as promptly as are Commonwealth statistics.
The housing position is worse in the three industrialized States, irrespective of the political complexion of their governments. The position in New South Wales is proportionately worse than is that in Victoria, and the position in South Australia is proportionately worse than is the position in either of the other two States. However all this may be, the plain fact is that the Commonwealth virtually provides all the money spent by the housing authorities in the States. There would be no contribution to housing from public sources in any State but for the initiative of the Curtin and Chifley Governments at the end of the Second World War and immediately afterwards. The national government accepted responsibility then in the way in which the national government of the United Kingdom accepted responsibility 30 years before, and just as the federal government in the United States of America has accepted responsibility since the war. This is a national, and therefore, under our political system, a federal responsibility. If the funds provided for housing are inadequate the fault lies not with the States, which spend the money, but with the Commonwealth, which makes it available. The Commonwealth, if it does not like the way in which the States are spending the money, can lay down terms and conditions on which the States will spend the funds. This is a very well recognized procedure under section 96 of the Australian Constitution in respect of all the grants which the commonwealth makes to the States for various purposes. It is sheer evasion for anybody in this Parliament to condemn the States for the way in which they spend funds provided by the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth, if it is so minded, can determine how the States shall spend those funds.
I have stated the overall situation, Sir. It is quite plain that the number of applications outstanding with the housing authorities in the various States was greater at the end of December, so far as we can get the figures, than at the end of June. It is plain, also, that the rate at which applications are coming in is greater now than the rate at which they came in during the earlier period. There is no question about the fact that the demand for State housing authority homes is rising, while the supply of these houses is not rising.
On previous occasions, I have heard quite exaggerated comments to the effect that wealthy families can obtain homes from State housing authorities. It may be that families achieve wealth after they have obtained a house from a State authority, but, in all the States, there is in fact a means test on these homes. This means test is imposed not just on the breadwinner but ob the family unit. The means of all who will occupy a house are taken into account before aa allocation is made.
– Not in Victoria.
– I am assured by the Victorian authorities that there is an order of priority in all instances and that the means are taken into account in determining the position on the priority list. The authorities do not just consider whether an applicant receives an income of £1,000 or £1,200 a year. They take into account, also, the number of persons dependent on him.
– But the application is accepted. That is the important thing. That fact inflates the figures.
– I am informed, Mr. Speaker, that an applicant is not put on the waiting list just because he has applied for a house. He is put on the waiting list only if he can establish a housing need, and he gets his house in the order of priority. His means and his family are taken into account in determining his position in the order of priority. Therefore, a man on an income of £1,200 a year who has several dependants might obtain a house before a man on an income of £1,000 a year who has no dependants. Means are not the only criterion, but they are certainly among the matters considered.
On this matter, I shall quote a statement made in the report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales for 1960-61. It is as follows: -
During 1960-61 a total of 15,482 new applications were received and of these approximately 80 per cent, either had been admitted or were likely to be admitted to the waiting lists as eligible on the basis of a definite housing need. In the Sydney Metropolitan Area analysis of the applications received supports the contention that virtually all who seek housing from the Commission have little chance of otherwise obtaining satisfactory accommodation. Examination of the past year’s new applications shows that 18.36 per cent, declared a family income of under £12 per week; 4.85 per cent, between £12-£15 per week 23.9 per cent, between £15-£18 per week; 19.51 per cent, between £18-£20 per week; 24.22 per cent, between £20-£25 per week; and 9.47 per cent, over £25 per week.
Therefore, only one-tenth of the applicants for Housing Commission houses in New South Wales were receiving more than the average Australian income. I could go through the reports of all the State housing commissions, trusts and departments in this respect. Honorable members would find that the means of the accepted applicants are indeed quite limited. If there is not a bousing need, the applicant’s name is not put on the waiting fist. If he has not a truly modest income, he will have only a remote chance of getting a housing commission house.
Since political considerations always bulk large in subsequent speeches from the Government - the standard of statesmanship declines after my contribution-
Government Supporters. - Oh!
– I am glad to note that I have general support for that proposition. I shall quote from the 1961 annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust. The report contains the following statement: - . . the Trust is only too well aware that the position as regards the availability of reasonably adequate accommodation for the less fortunate section of the community is far from satisfactory. Applications for rental houses, especiaily in the metropolitan area, continue to pour into the Trust’s office, and the waiting period for applicants is still quite considerable. Moreover, the increase in demand consequent upon continued immigration and the higher marriage-rate due to ‘the expansion of the birthrate after the end of the depression years of the 1930’s is already becoming apparent.
The Trust desires to emphasize its opinion that, at the present time, rental houses are urgently needed. The requirements of a large proportion of the families with low incomes cannot be met by even the most generous of house-purchasing schemes, and privately owned accommodation is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain at rents within the means of the lower-paid workers. More and more landlords are selling dwellings which were formerly let
– Would you blame them?
– No, I would not.
– With the State Governments’ landlord and tenant legislation, what would you expect? You must be truthful about it all.
– Everything I have said is truthful, and I resent any implication by the honorable member. I agree that this is an inevitable trend and I believe it is a desirable trend. But does the honorable member think that there should be no control of rents? Does he disagree with the New South Wales Government on that point?
– Fundamentally, yes.
– Does he disagree with the outgoing South Australian Government on that point? Rent controls in South Australia are certainly as severe as those in any other State now or in the past. The trend to home-ownership is marked and is desirable. Honorable members opposite know that none of their State colleagues will frankly or truthfully advocate a change in that position. None of their colleagues have ever frankly advocated the abandonment of rent controls.
Mr.Jess. - Would you socialize housing?
– It is scarcely socializing housing to sell houses to the people who occupy them. That is a very healthy trend. All I want to do is to ensure that every one who wants a house is able to get a house. No person in this country who marries, and no family that comes to this country, should be precluded from obtaining a house. In this bill we particularly deal with the position of people on small incomes - on modest or low incomes. Housing commissions provide the only source of housing on a low deposit and at a small rate of interest. Not only from the point of view of renting houses, but also from the point of view of buying houses, the person on a really small income can resort to housing commissions alone.
I shall now make some general references to the demand for housing that we can anticipate over the next decade. It is significant that the Department of National Development has discontinued the publication of any estimates of housing- needs. It no longer ventures the assertion that its last estimate, made about four years ago, is being borne out, and it does not venture to make a new assessment. However, we can get assessments from other sources. Dr. Hall, of the Australian National University, has recently estimated that the housing demand in Australia for the financial years of this decade will be as follows: -
Last year, the number of houses commenced was under 70,000. We are not meeting what even the Government says is the normal demand of 80,000 houses a year and we are not anticipating the demand that will be made during this decade.
We are dealing in this bill principally with the housing needs of people on quite small incomes - that is, the houses provided by the housing commissions. But 30 per cent, of the money will be made available to building societies and thus to people who may be called middle class - people on medium incomes or on quite comfortable incomes by ordinary standards. These people find it increasingly difficult to obtain bouses. They do not so much find it difficult because they cannot meet the periodic commitments; they find it difficult because they cannot accumulate the necessary deposit. The percentage of the cost of the house which must now be found by way of deposit before one can receive a loan from a building society, from the War Service Homes Division, directly from a bank or directly from a life insurance society, is greater than it has ever been in the history of this country. The percentage of the cost represented by the deposit is constantly rising. This affects even the relatively comfortable sections in the community.
Up to this stage, I have dealt with the demand for housing commission houses and the supply of housing commission houses. It is clear that the Government has not provided enough money to the State instrumentalities that supply housing. The number of houses being supplied is falling and the allocation we are making here will merely permit the present rate of construction to be maintained.
The concluding point I wish to make relates to the other housing function of a national government - that is, slum clearance or the replacement of sub-standard housing. This is a very grave problem in our big capital cities. The Housing Commissioner in Victoria has said that 1,000 acres in the inner areas of Melbourne are ready for clearance right now and that 42 acres have been re-developed by the Housing Commission of Victoria. The New South Wales Housing Commission quotes the opinion of the Cumberland County Council, the planning authority for the Sydney metropolitan area, that there are in the country something like 42,000 sub-standard dwellings requiring immediate replacement. Other authorities have given higher figures. I believe that similar conditions apply to a smaller extent in the other metropolitan centres in Australia, and in some of the large provincial centres.
It is the universal experience in the western world that sub-standard housing can be replaced only by national as well as regional action. In Australia, it can be done only by the State governments using their power of resumption and the Commonwealth using its power to make grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution. Then, either the State Housing Commissions or local government bodies can erect the houses. In the United States of America, the greatest federation of all, there is this combination of national or federal funds and State powers of resumption. Then, who carries out the construction is a subsidiary consideration. In the United States of America, it is often done through the insurance companies, and the insurance companies act under federal financial guarantee and after State resumptions. Private authorities in that country, as in this country, do not have the power of resumption. Sub-standard housing cannot be replaced unless it is resumed. It cannot be returned unless compensation is paid, and the States do not have the resources to pay it. State governments do not even have sufficient resources to pay compensation in the United States of America, where the States’ taxing powers are more varied than in Australia. In Great Britain, and in all the countries of western Europe, too, the national government takes a very large part in slum clearance. In every country in the western world it cannot be effected without using national financial resources. These national financial resources are not made available as a gift. All the funds are repaid. Everything the Parliament makes available under this act is repaid. It is repaid by the persons who occupy the houses either as purchasers or tenants. We are not being charitable. But we do provide the wherewithal for the Australian community to be housed. If we indulged, as America has done, in more deliberate slum clearance, we would ensure not only that Australian families - Australian both by birth and migration - are housed, but also that they are decently housed. We know that in most of the large capital cities of Australia, and in some of the provincial cities, there are thousands of houses which are occupied, but which do not provide a decent habitation. What are we to do about it? We must use national financial resources, combined with national guarantees for financial institutions, with the co-operation of the States in resumption. We cannot expect the States to provide the funds, and we cannot carry out the resumptions. But between us, we can carry out the resumptions, we can replace the houses, and we can guarantee any private institution which chooses to co-operate in the scheme.
I regret that so far there is still no provision for slum clearance, for metropolitan rejuvenation in housing under this bill; and our houses will not be adequate in number or condition until the Commonwealth Parliament, acting through whatever government is in power, accepts its responsibility in this matter. The overall demand is there, but the supply is not meeting the demand at this stage and, as we know from every authoritative assessment of the position, the supply will rapidly fall more and more short of the demand.
.- I must say that I believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is the only statesman on the Opposition, but if what we have just heard from him is an example of what is a statesmanlike speech, I am beginning to wonder what we can expect from the rest of the Opposition during this debate. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition feels that he has made a statesmanlike speech, I can only say that it was almost exactly the same as the speeches we heard from him in connexion with housing not only last October, but on previous occasions also. It is not difficult now to follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We have heard this speech on so many occasions, covering exactly the same ground, that we know what to expect. On every occasion he goes through the figures, he deals with the matter of slum clearance and refers to the difference between State housing and private enterprise housing. We know the lot. His speech to-day was no different from what we heard last October.
Let us deal once again with some of the ground that has been covered both in this debate and on more than one other occasion. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition started off by dealing with the way in which housing will be administered under this bill as compared with the general overall housing policy, I think we should ask him to remember that he must consider this bill not by itself, but in conjunction with all the other measures of the Government which have been enacted and foreshadowed since February last. This is part of the Government’s general economic policy. As it relates not only to loans for housing, but also to loans for other purposes in connexion with housing, we must take into consideration the debate we had last night in connexion with war service homes. We must also take into account the additional lending at this very moment by the private banks, insurance companies and other sectors of the community which influence the rate of house-building. We have always said that, fundamentally, we believe that private enterprise should be the main provider of houses in the community. We stand by that the whole time, and our policy has been so successful over the last twelve years that to-day over 75 per cent, of the people own their own homes. That is what we set out to do, and that is what we have achieved.
Again, when considering housing in relation to this bill, we must not consider it only in the light of the money we provide for State housing authorities and cooperative building societies; we must consider the overall picture of the housing being provided in Australia. Therefore, I propose that we look at the overall house-building rate. I do think it important that in this debate we should refer to the same sort of figures. Those with which I propose to deal relate to the total number of dwellings, including both houses and flats. For most of his speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to figures relating to houses and flats, but at one significant moment he suddenly referred only to houses in an endeavour to make the figure look very much worse than it actually was.
– Was that deliberate?
– lt seemed to be deliberate, because I had to ask him what he was quoting from. At one stage, he was quoting from one side of the paper he was holding and then, at a particular moment, he turned over the paper and quoted figures relating to houses, not to houses and flats. We should consider the total number of dwellings being built at any particular period. We know now that the Commonwealth Government can influence the overall rate of house-building in the community at any one particular time. We have seen that there are ways in which we can influence it. Therefore, it is necessary to have some target for the building of dwellings. We saw what happened in 1960, for instance, when the rate of housing commencements was over 97,000. At one stage, we were commencing the building of dwellings at a rate equivalent to more than 100,000 a year. At that stage, there was a shortage of bricks and housing materials generally and labourers. Because it took longer to build a house, and also because of inflation, the cost of houses rose. From a national point of view, it was desirable that the rate of homebuilding should be curtailed somewhat. On the other hand, we know that, during the past few months, the rate of home-building has been depressed more than one would have desired. [Quorum formed.] So, at present, we are trying to stimulate the rate of home-building.
But let us not be under any delusion as to the degree to which home-construction has risen or fallen at any one time. In 1961, when there was supposedly a fall in commencements from over 97,000 to just over 80,000, the rate of completions fell from 94,500 only to 88,000. There will always be a shortage of houses in Australia, in my opinion. At any rate, I hope there always will be a shortage, because it demonstrates that there is a rising standard of living. I hope there will never come a time when everybody in Australia is entirely happy with the house in which he is living. I hope he will always want a slightly better house than the house in which he is living. If Malaya or Nigeria had the number of houses there are in Australia now, then, according to the standards in those countries, there would not be a housing shortage. Even in Russia, if there were the ratio of people to houses that there is in Australia, the Russians would regard the position as so perfect that they would not build any more houses. I hope there will aways be a housing shortage, because it will reflect a rise in the standard of living.
This problem is also related to the degree to which we subsidize housing in its various forms. Once again, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has emphasized that there is a greater demand for State housing commission homes in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide than there is in any other part of Australia, but he has never answered the point I made on this very question three months ago, namely, that it is in those three capital city areas that the supply of houses in relation to the population is greatest.
For example, in Melbourne, the ratio of people to houses is 3.29; in Sydney it is 3.4 and in Adelaide 3.6. But in Brisbane it is 3.7, in Perth 3.8 and in Hobart over 4.0. In the places where the demand for houses is greatest, so also is the supply greatest. This reflects, not so much a shortage, as that the standard of living in those places is higher, and the people are able to afford and require houses of a higher standard than those they are occupying at present. It is never very easy to assess the demand, as Dr. Hall is supposed to have done, because it has never been possible to tell what the actual shortage is at any time. One can get some idea of it at the time of a census, and we hope it will not be long before the results of the census held last year, as it applied to housing, are made available to us. We can then see how home ownership in Australia compares with that in other countries. Let us not deceive ourselves that the actual waiting list for State housing commission homes reflects the actual demand for homes at any one time, because the demand for those homes is affected by means tests and subsidies, disguised or actual.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition dealt with the means test. He said that
State housing commissions - although it is doubtful whether this happens in Victoria - applied a means test at the time when a person first took over a housing commission home. What is important is that there is no means test later in life. What happens is that a subsidized rent is fixed when a man first takes over a house, but if his income thereafter doubles or trebles, he continues to pay the same rent. That is something that needs to be looked at if we are to have subsidized housing in one form or another applying to State housing commissions.
However, let me revert to the subject of a target for home-building. When we had a debate on 12th October last on housing, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) led for the Opposition. He said that the Opposition would aim at a housing target of 85,000 houses last year, rising to 90,000 in three to four years. That statement is to be found in the “ Hansard “ report of his speech of 12th October. It is interesting that at that time, the number of approvals for new housing construction, as shown in the figures for August - which were the latest then available - was getting close to 85,000. Because we were getting so near the figure at that time, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to change his target to-day. He raised the figure, because obviously he realized that he could not criticize the Government on the figures set by his own party when we last discussed this matter. The Australian Labour Party’s target for home-building in Australia last October was 85,000 houses a year.
– Why have a target for housing at all?
– I am just saying that your party fixed a target for it. Your own Deputy Leader said we should have a target for housing.
– No, he did not.
– The honorable member for Wilmot was not in the House at the time. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made that statement twenty minutes ago. The honorable member for Bass said on 12th October last that there should be a target of 85,000 houses. I am saying that we also have a target, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), of approximately 85,000 dwellings a year. It is the same as the Opposition’s target. Let us hope there is some consistency on the Opposition side. At present, the target seems to vary from member to member on that side.
What is foreshadowed in this bill shows that it is necessary for us to be flexible in our approach to a housing policy. I have already quoted the rate of completions and commencements of houses during the last two years. Because it takes some time before these figures become available, a better guide to what is happening in the housing field is provided by the rate of approvals, figures for which are made available by the Bureau of Census and Statistics every month. I think that we should examine these figures to see how they have varied over the last six months. The figure for the whole of Australia in July, 1961, was 7,015. In August the figure was 7,725, in September 7,023, in October 7,163 and in November 7,408. In December there was a significant fall to 5,928. In January the figure fell to 5,300.
This shows how the building rate can vary from month to month and how important it is to have a flexible approach to the problem of housing. The Government’s approach is flexible. As soon as it saw, from the December and January figures, which were made available only in February, that the rate of approvals had fallen it was obvious that a further stimulus was needed for housing. That stimulus has been given by way of increased encouragement to private home building and to the construction of war service homes. Now, under this measure, encouragement is being given through both State housing commissions and the co-operative building societies.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was quite right in pointing out that the States had a tendency to spend a great deal of their allocations for housing ahead of time - early in the financial year. He said that, therefore, but for this bill, there would have been a fall in housing construction in the latter six months of this year. I think that, in making this statement, he has ignored the effect of the activities of the co-operative building societies. As I have told the House before, as a director of a co-operative building society, I can see how quickly or how slowly measures designed to stimulate the building industry are taking effect.
The very great benefit of the bill that we are considering at the moment lies in the fact that there is no more rapid way in which to stimulate the rate of building than through the co-operative housing societies. When it was made known to building societies a week or two ago, that they would receive the benefits of this bill it was possible for them to proceed with arrangements for additional housing very rapidly. Not only has this bill already enabled advances by co-operative housing societies to be increased but members of these societies who have been waiting for loans have been able to get temporary finance from banks and other lending institutions.
Being closely in touch with people who want to get on with the building of homes, I can inform the House that home-building has already received a significant impetus. As I have said, last October it seemed that the rate of home-building was improving slowly but significantly and was getting near the annual target rate of 85,000 houses. When the Government saw that the rate of construction had fallen in December, 1961, and in January of this year, it took action. The Government has a flexible and effective approach which enables it to stimulate building activity as the danger signs loom up. As a result, there has already been a significant improvement in February and a continued improvement in the present month. Undoubtedly there was a deterioration in the situation, but it is now improving and will continue to improve. This shows that we on this side of the House can rapidly assess the situation and, adopting a flexible approach, do something about it. If we adopted the policies foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the result would be a static attitude which would not take into account changing economic conditions.
There are two other matters that I should like to deal with in considering, this bill. We are looking at the whole housing situation, not only that section relating to State housing commission homes and co-operative societies. As I have said in this House before, I hope that we shall not forget those sectors of the community that need more help than others. Under the Aged Persons Homes Act we have already done a great deal to help those who are in particular need. I think that there is now a need to help certain people who have reasonable savings but who are precluded from entering an aged persons’ home. The Aged Persons Homes Act should be amended so as to enable some people who have savings to contribute towards the cost of these homes while the whole group still continues to benefit under the £2-for-£l allocation.
I think that we also need more ways in which to help young people to save for a home before they are ready to buy one. We should encourage saving in the same way as it is encouraged in the United States of America. There, means are provided for people to start saving at an early age for a home which they may not want to buy for some years after they start saving for it. To my mind, that is one of the greatest needs of the community. It is not covered in this bill. We are dealing only with one particluar facet of housing. However, I think that we should look at the whole housing picture and consider the ways in which people are preparing to buy homes. We should not look merely at such figures as those cited by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Above all, as I said at the start of my speech, we want to encourage private home ownership and we also want to encourage private enterprise to build homes. In spite of anything in this bill, the greatest way in which we are stimulating housing construction is by encouraging private building. There was a reduction last year in the rate of private building but there is now a significant improvement. To honorable members on this side of the House, that must be a most encouraging sign. Under this bill, money is being provided for the States at a proper time. The money will be usefully employed and that is why I support the bill wholeheartedly.
.- During the debate we have heard a lot about the policy of the Government and the policies of the various State governments that will finally distribute the money; but we have heard nothing so far of the problems that face the people who will be the borrowers of the money - the people at the other end of the scheme. The very existence of this bill is an admission that there are people who need this kind of assistance. Nobody will deny that. There seems to be a certain amount of, shall we say, difference of opinion concerning the operation of a means test. I know something about this, because I am a director of four of those co-operative housing societies which will finally be administering some of the money supplied under the bill. Members on the Goverment side have questioned whether or not a means test exists. Actually, there is a dual means test. First, any member of this House would have very little chance of getting a dwelling under this measure. The first means test applied would be one of age, and I am afraid that most of us would be living in a tent if we were relying on getting a home under this measure.
– Speak for yourself.
– That might be right, too. The first thing that happens when anybody applies to a co-operative building society for money to build a dwelling is the application of a means test all right - not a means test as to how much money the applicant has, but as to how much money he has not. For instance, no unemployed man will have any chance in the wide world of securing a house in this way. No invalid pensioner could get one. No person already in possession of a dwelling could get one. On the face of it, that seems to be a correct attitude; but I know of one instance of a man who had been a farmer and had sold the greater portion of his land, but was left with a small piece which he could not sell, upon which was a building. It was just a building. Shall we say that a blind man on a galloping horse who had a lot of imagination might have classed it as a dwelling. However, the possession of that building was sufficient to preclude his borrowing money from a co-operative building society to finance the construction of a house in a city 250 miles from where he owned the land. So, you see, that was a means test.
– It was not one of your co-operatives, was it?
– You never know. Any one situated a long distance away from a large centre of population is also excluded from getting a house. We all want the decentralization of industry, and we talk about getting people into the country areas and into centres of population smaller than the capital cities; but a man who wants to build a home in one of these smaller centres of population has little chance of doing so under this scheme. A house in such a place would cost more, and - the allimportant thing - it would have very little resale value. The main consideration when you look at a man’s application is where he wants to put his house.
Then there are the various expenses. The prospective builder of a house has to purchase plans and specifications. He has to have land on which the house can be built and he will have to pay inspection fees. When he finally has the house he has to pay insurance. In my part of the world, not only is there insurance to provide an equity for the building society in case of fire, but most of the people who build insure their lives with a life assurance company on the basis of the shrinking balances still owed. This is to ensure that their estates will be left with the house free of debt. All those things have to be paid for. If a man borrows £3,500 to build a house he will have to pay £4 16s. 3d. a week on the house alone, without taking account of any of the other charges. That weekly payment is more than 30 per cent, of the basic wage. So you see, there are disabilities even in getting a house.
There is an aspect of this that is very important to people who get homes; that is, the amount of interest they are called upon to pay. A man who borrows £3,000 from a co-operative housing society, to be repaid over 30 years, will pay back £6,200. But he gets a house worth only £3,000. About 30 per cent, of his income goes in repayments. Of course, the burden can be eased if the man and his wife both work, but that is frowned upon in most circles on the ground that it keeps somebody else out of employment. But how else are they going to pay for the house?
Age limits apply also. Most of the people who build those houses are aged from twenty years to 35 years, and although we thoroughly appreciate the advantage of getting people settled into homes and becoming a permanent part of the community - and this is a great social advantage in any community - we must also view the disadvantages suffered by people who are forced to pay more than they can afford in order to get the home that they must have if they are to raise families.
Let us look at the effect of high interest rates on the community. A sum of £3,000 is borrowed and paid out in the course of only ten weeks for the construction of a house. This money passes into the hands of the workmen concerned and the local business community; but the amount taken out of the community over a period must be looked at also. If we build 1,000 houses in any given spot and put £3,000,000 into circulation, over the period of repayments we shall take £6,000,000 out of the community and leave it poorer than we found it. It seems to me that the Government should consider providing finance at lower rates of interest.
We should not lose sight of the fact that the money that is being used for this purpose belonged originally to the taxpayers. lt is money that costs the Government only the charges involved in collecting it, and although it may pass through the hands of State governments and other instrumentalities before it reaches home builders the cost of that distribution cannot be very great. It would not be more than H per cent, of the amount involved, yet interest at up to 6i per cent, is charged, because there are administrative charges in various fields in addition to the basic interest charge to State governments. If lower interest rates were charged, not only would we build more houses, but we would leave more money in the hands of the communities in which the houses were built. Because of the lower repayments, it would be possible for people on small incomes to build houses and that, from our point of view, is very important. It would be possible also for building societies to extend their activities. It is always difficult to get a building society operating in a small town where there is only a small number of people who wish to build houses. It is not an easy matter to go into a small country town and build one, two or three houses. Some of the societies with which I am associated have had to refuse an advance to people in small communities where only one or two houses were involved. There is not only the matter of the resale of the house, in the event of its falling back into the hands of the co-opera tive society, but also the administering of the actual construction of the home and the collection of the repayments. All these things are important. When we look at other schemes of home-building we find that the existing rates of interest range from 3i per cent, up to 7 per cent. Apparently no effort has been made to ascertain the cost of administering these advances, because, had this been done, it is reasonable to suppose that a uniform rate of interest would have been charged. It costs no more to administer home-building for war service personnel than it does for those who secure houses through a cooperative society. Indeed, co-operative societies may be able to do it more cheaply, because in those societies most of the work is done on a voluntary basis, for little or no charge at all.
– Do you not have any fulltime officials?
– One full-time official handles the whole of the society’s activities. For the first three or four years the directors receive nothing at all and pay their own expenses, and then they receive the magnificent sum of £10 per annum.
– Do you engage a legal man?
– Yes, and he works largely on an honorary basis. For the first few years he works entirely on an honorary basis. These societies should be placed on a sound footing because their adminstrative expenses, which are paid by the homeseeker and not by the Government, are comparatively low. It is easy to discuss, in the abstract, policy and the money made available to these societies. However our society applied to the Government for £150,000 to distribute to home-builders. Anticipating that we would receive that money we proceeded to accept applications. We received only £35,000 and in not one single instance did we get the money that we anticipated we would receive.
– What was the reason for that?
– The State authorities to whom we applied said there was not enough money available. The additional money being made available under this bill will possibly remedy that lack. It is much easier to sit here and discuss the matter in the abstract than to sit on the board of a society and select applicants, only to find you are short-changed by the State authorities. It is also very difficult to select the worthiest applicants.
So far as we apply these moneys to residences in provincial cities we secure a very good type of home. I do not think any one who went around the suburban areas would quibble about the way this money is being expended. There is very little to complain about in the standard and type of homes built. Our only complaint relates to the limited number of homes we are able to build and to the excessive repayments required of purchasers. Again I stress the point that as this money comes into the hands of the Government practically free it should not be loaned at exorbitant rates of interest to those who have paid it to revenue. Surely we are not going into business to make a profit out of the people who must, of necessity, purchase these houses. We should not only make it possible for people to purchase dwellings but also to do so under financial terms which do not place an undue burden on such people.
Housing is not the only cost. These people have to furnish their homes; and some of them have to have vehicles. They have to live at a reasonable standard, and their repayments on houses is the greatest financial burden they have to bear. Many difficulties arise in the collection of these repayments. Sickness or unemployment may occur in the family after a person secures his dwelling; but these contingencies are not taken into consideration when the repayments are collected. Amounts of up to £4 16s. 3d. a week are collected, irrespective of the purchaser’s circumstances I know of one family which was obliged to pay £4 a week, and when the breadwinner became unemployed and received only £7 a week he was forced to put his four children into an orphanage in order that he and his wife might subsist. The State authorities say to parents in such circumstances, “ If your children remain in the orphanage we have the right to adopt them out to other families “.
– That rarely happens in Queensland.
– It rarely happens, but it does happen. Our regulations should not be so rigid as to prevent accommodation being made available for people who find themselves in those circumstances. When a family falls on hard times through no fault of its own, its interests should be completely protected. Happenings of that kind bring our societies into disrepute, because we are held responsible for them. When people approach society officials and explain their position they are simply told, “The payments must go on “. The main cause of their plight is high interest rates. Nobody objects to paying a reasonable sum for a home, but, obviously, no person should be obliged to pay £6,200 for a home priced at £3,000, because of lack of collateral. By the time the 32 years repayment period has expired, as a colleague reminds me, the house is no longer worth the original sale price of £3,000.
I place before the House what I consider to be the urgent necessity for the Government to reconsider the terms upon which this money is made available to the people. The money should be advanced at a lower rate of interest and there should be some stipulation to provide relief for a man who, either temporarily or permanently through no fault of his own, is unable to continue repayments on the original scale. The Government should also consider paying the repayments on homes into a revolving fund, as the Government secures the finance free in the first place. This provision should apply to both capital repayments and interest charges. In this way the amount of money in the fund would increase, and more and more money would become available from time to time for housing purposes.
What I suggest is not an innovation. Similar systems have been operating successfully in Canada and New Zealand. If such a system were established here, sufficient money would eventually be available in the fund to relieve this Parliament of the necessity to provide additional money for housing. lt is assumed, quite reasonably, that we will be building houses for the population of our country for centuries. We all trust that the population has not reached its maximum. We are. always talking of the necessity to increase our population. We will always need to build houses and I think it could be to the advantage of the Government and the people to have money used for housing purposes repaid, together with interest, into a revolving fund, so that more and more money will become available as more and more people require housing.
I suggest, too, that some consideration should be given to those people living in isolated parts of the country. If we want people to take any notice of our pleadings in the cause of decentralization, we should try to make living conditions in the remote areas at least as good as those prevailing in capital and provincial cities. You will not encourage a man to go to a country area if you tell him that he will assume a liability as soon as he gets there. At the present time there is practically no chance of a person living in a small community or an isolated place securing a home as readily, or on as favorable terms, as a person living in one of the cities.
I think we can all be very pleased, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this money is being made available for housing, as money has been made available in the past. We do not oppose these grants, but I do think that the Government should make a few more stipulations as to how the authorities who are given the money will distribute it. It is not sufficient for us merely to wash our hands of all responsibility, saying, “ We have provided this money for the States; the circumstances under which they distribute it is their business “. It is not their business alone. If this Government provides the funds it has a perfect right to stipulate the terms and conditions upon which they will eventually be passed on to those who build the houses.
– Who provides the money?
– It comes from the taxpayers in the first place, and it comes by way of this Commonwealth Government. It is money that we have collected and for which we must accept responsibility.
– Collected from people living in the States!
– Yes, from people living in the States, most certainly, and it is distri buted with some regard to the population of the States in which it was raised. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth is the collecting authority and the distributing authority, and I think we should ensure not only that there is a certain amount of uniformity in the eventual use of the money, but also that there is a certain amount of humanitarianism in the way in which it is used. We should see not only that this Government makes no profit out of the distribution of tax moneys, but also that no other authority makes any undue profit out of it, and that it is given to the people by whom it is eventually required at the lowest possible charge. Then they will get their houses at the lowest prices and will have the smallest possible burden placed on them in repaying the money that they have been obliged to borrow because they can secure a house in no other way.
.- I am pleased to have the opportunity of contributing something to this debate. The bill before the House is not a very involved one. In fact, it is only a machinery measure, designed to give an extra £7,500,000 to the States for housing. But although the bill is a straightforward one, the debate has taken a rather political turn. In saying that I do not refer to the contribution of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray). I think he made a considered speech on a subject that he seemed to know something about. I must add, however, that I did not agree with many of the points that he made.
I also listened closely to the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I thought him very biased. He was trying all the time to bring political considerations into the debate. So perhaps it is only right for me to bring a little politics into it and to answer some of the points brought, forward by the honorable member. Towards the conclusion of Bis speech the honorable member said, rather modestly, that the standard of debate in this chamber usually deteriorated quite considerably after he had made his statesmanlike contribution. That is quite a statement, you know! It reflects great credit upon the honorable member. Clearly we have a new statesman arising in Australia. We can be sure of that; because all we have to do is ask the honorable member and he will tell us. There is quite a prominent race-horse in this country called New Statesman. It won a derby last year. It is interesting to note some points of similarity “between our upandcoming new statesman here and this very fine horse. The horse, New Statesman, was sired by Smokey Eyes, and I believe it was out of a dam called Love Me, so it appears to bear a close resemblance to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Of course it is not unusual to hear this kind of pedantic speech from the honorable member. He makes them quite often. He gives the impression of being an impeccable statesman. Any one who listened closely to his speech this afternoon would have gained the impression that he was talking to himself, because he seemed to be impressing himself if no one else. He makes his statements in a way that implies that everything he says is absolutely correct. 1 think he actually made such a claim during the course of his speech. Let me reply to a couple of statements that he made which were far from correct. In fact, one might almost say that the honorable member was being a little deceitful when he made them. He said, for instance, that in applying its economic measures last year the Government had directed the trading banks and insurance companies to cut down lending for home-building purposes. I can tell the House that this Government has never given a direction to the trading banks or insurance companies to cut down lending on home-building. In the directive sent out by the Reserve Bank it was clearly stated that people who wanted genuinely to engage in home-building activities should be given adequate finance to enable them to do so.
The honorable member also said that there was an increasing demand being made upon housing commissions and trusts in the various State’s, that this ‘demand ha’d been developing and was still increasing and that, therefore, we should be giving more money to these authorities. He gave certain figures to bolster his claim. He said that in the industrialized States, particularly New South Wales, the demand for Housing Commission homes was increasing. He cited figures, saying, “ Here they are; these are the facts”.. Well;:I have taken the trouble to find out what the facts are. Just listen to this:’ In Victoria- the number of outstanding applications- with the Housing Commission’ for rental homes declined from 17,233 in 1960 to 14,424 in 1961. These figures will give honorable members a chance to judge the integrity of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In New South Wales, the number of outstanding applications has increased from 27,908 to 31,487. That State, which has a Labour Government, is the one State in which there has been an increase. In South Australia, the number has declined by 800. In Queensland, it has declined by 407. Overall, the number has decreased, except in New South Wales, where there has been an increase.
Opposition members generally quote the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as if it were the Gospel. I have here an article which appeared in that newspaper less than a month ago. It bears the headline, “ Shocking Housing Record of N.S.W. Government”. lt is a shocking record, too, as one secs if one looks at it closely.
– Let us be honorable about this. At that stage, that newspaper was supporting the parlies led by Cutler and Askin in the New South Wales general election.
– The honorable member says, “ Let us be honest “. Here are the statistics. In the financial year 1960- 61, the South Australian Housing Trust completed 3,314 dwellings and the Housing Commission of New South Wales completed 3,153. About 200 fewer dwellings were completed in New South Wales than in South Australia by the expenditure of a good deal more money. In 1960-61, the South Australian Housing Trust completed the equivalent of 3.4 dwellings for every 1,000 of the population in South Australia, and in New South Wales the number completed represented only four-fifths of a dwelling for every 1,000 of the population. That shows what the New South Wales Government has been doing.
The article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ went on to point out that in 1 960- 61 management expenditure by the Housing Commission in New South Wales totalled £764,954. In South Australia, where, I repeat, more homes were completed, management expenses amounted to only £242,746. These figures indicate clearly that building lags in the State in which Labour holds office.
– What are the figures for the whole of Australia?
– Order! There are too many interjections.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also gave the impression that this Government was allocating too much money to building societies under the provision which it introduced in 1952 requiring 30 per cent, of the funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to be allocated to building societies. I do not think that the honorable member likes this money to go to building societies, because he does not like private ownership of homes. He would much rather keep control of houses in the hands of the State governments. This is a sort of socialistic tendency. We have heard of this kind of attitude in the past. I recall a notorious statement made by Mr. Dedman, who said that if you give a person a home you make him a little capitalist.
– Was he a Labour Minister?
– He was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the Labour Government.
The honorable member for Capricornia has had a lot of experience with building societies and he can see great virtue in them. He considers that the allocation to building societies of 30 per cent, of the funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is a very good thing, and 1 am sure that he, in his heart, believes that this reflects very great credit on the present Government. The honorable member, however, introduced into his speech a lot of extraneous material about complications that have arisen with cooperative building societies in Queensland. I remind him that that is not a Commonwealth matter and that the measures of which he complains were taken by the State Government, which lays down the conditions under which co-operative building societies function.
The honorable member stated that a revolving fund should be established. With respect to co-operative building societies, the money does go into a revolving fund. This Government lends them the money at 1 per cent, less than the bond rate of interest. I ask honorable members to remember that. This Government, in 1956, placed on the statute-book a provision to this effect under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Money is lent to the States for a term of 53 years. The State housing authorities receive their allocations from the funds lent to the States, and, in turn, lend the money out over a term of 32 years. As the money is paid back into a co-operative building society, it goes into a revolving fund, until, eventually, the society expires. Cooperative building societies are making bigger profits than the honorable member for Capricornia likes. Whether or not the interest charged by them is excessive, the profits are returned to the members of the societies. That is a significant point about cooperative building societies.
– They make no profits at all.
– Then there is something wrong with the four societies in which the honorable member is interested. I know that the co-operative building societies in my electorate have been receiving bonuses after a few years because of their efficient management.
As I said before, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this bill will increase by £7,500,000 the allocation for housing made by the Australian Loan Council to the States. It is estimated that this extra money will enable 2,400 additional homes to be completed and thereby increase employment in the building industry and the industries which supply materials for it. All in this House will admit that there has been a decline in building, but this has not been due to a failure by this Government to contribute finance for home building. It has been due to the failure of the private sector of the economy to provide for building as much money as it provided in the past.
In 1960, when boom and speculation were prevalent in the community, speculators were building blocks of home units and other kinds of expensive dwellings in the hope of making big profits. I think every member of this House will agree that that sort of situation was no good. Expensive homes of that kind were of no use to young married couples who wanted homes but could not get them. Therefore, we had to damp down home-building, but at no timedid we want to inhibit’ genuine building. We have made a determined effort to stimulate the construction of houses by public authorities. In 1960-61, the Australian Loan Council allocated £37,200,000 for housing. I ask honorable members to remember that that council consists of the Premiers or Treasurers of the States as well as representatives of the Commonwealth. At a meeting of the Australian Loan Council last year, the Commonwealth offered to increase its provision by £5,000,000, and in February of this year we offered yet another £7,500,000. So, within a year, we have increased the Commonwealth’s allocation to the States by 35 per cent. That represents a very considerable increase. The Government did this because it realizes that there is an obligation on governments to try to increase home-building. However, we do not want to stimulate only building by State housing authorities. We want to increase construction by co-operative building societies, also.
I mentioned earlier that a decline had occurred in the private sector. What was the reason for this? The cause was some hesitation on the part of the private sector, which became a little doubtful about what the future would bring. Why did it become doubtful? The doubts were caused by the Jeremiahs in Labour’s ranks who go about spreading gloom and making the people jittery instead of expressing their confidence in Australia and its future. They would rather go about spreading all the time the story that we are on the road to ruin. This is the reason why the private sector of the economy has not been engaging in homebuilding as much as it did previously.
I mentioned earlier that the Australian Loan Council allocates the funds supplied to the States for housing. The Commonwealth, however, has taken on its own shoulders the responsibility to see that the loan market is supported. Over the past eleven years, this Government has supported the loan market from its own revenue by a total of £865,000,000. This means that 38 per cent, of the total loan allocation to the States for housing and public works has come from Commonwealth revenue. Never before in the history of this Parliament has a government underwritten the loan market in this fashion in order to’ provide funds for the States. The Government took this course because it realized that public works and housing had to continue on a major scale. So it has provided £865,000,000 over the past eleven years for use by the States.
It is all very well for the Premiers, at Premiers’ Conferences or meetings of the Australian Loan Council, to say, “ The Commonwealth has not given us enough money “. But this is the cry that they raise in relation to almost everything, including education, housing and roads. I do not think this approach can be maintained for ever. The States must accept some responsibility, and I think the time must come when the taxation system, and possibly the Australian Loan Council system, will be altered so that responsibility for raising money will be placed directly on the States. If the States are to have the benefit of spending the money, why should this Government bear all the odium of collecting it?
I particularly favour this bill. I hope it will stimulate the timber industry a little. I have a sizeable timber industry in my electorate and it has suffered as a consequence of the decline in home building. But the provision of sufficient finance to build an additional 2,400 homes must have some effect on the timber industry and on other industries allied to home building, such as the steel industry and the furniture industry. I believe that the gentle priming of the economy with this amount of money will soon bring our economy back to a fairly level state.
Representatives of the Australian Timber Association are to-day in Canberra. They are presenting a case to the Department of Trade and hope that they will be allowed to approach the special advisory authority for quantitative restrictions on the import of timber. I do not think that imported timbers have a tremendous effect on the Australian timber industry at present, but if the home building rate is increased, the imported timbers will benefit to the detriment of local timbers. R is all very well to say that the timber industry could be protected by the imposition of higher duties. The industry has been to the Tariff Board on three occasions and on each occasion the board has refused to increase the duty. I think this is wise. It is true that there is a demand for Oregon, which is imported. It is a good timber to work; it is easy to handle and light, and people are prepared to pay a high price for it. So, the only effect of increasing the duty on it would be to push up the cost of home building. We do not want to do this; we want to give young people an opportunity to obtain a home as cheaply as possible.
Labour has a peculiar attitude to housing. It talks about cheap homes for young people, but I wonder what effect the reduction of the 44-hour week to a 40-hour week had on the cost of a home. There would have been an immediate increase of 10 per cent. As working time is decreased, the cost of home construction must increase. We all know what the policy of the Labour Party is. It is that there must be a 35-hour week as soon as possible. But a 35-hour week would immediately increase the cost of home building by 12i per cent. It is difficult enough now for young people to get a home without having this additional cost imposed on them.
Australia’s house-building record during the regime of this Government is one of which we can be proud. Payments to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have increased by 300 per cent, since Labour went out of office, and that is quite a sizeable increase. In 1949-50, the last year in which Labour had the opportunity to bring in a budget, the Commonwealth’s allocation was £17,250,000. This year, under this Government, it will be £50,400,000. During the last five years that Labour was in office it contributed £63,000,000 to housing. In the last five years under this Government, we have spent £198,000,000. Over a period of five years, the Commonwealth’s contribution has increased by 300 per cent. This is a very proud record. Since this Government has been in office, 32 per cent, of all homes in Australia have been built. Many of them have resulted from Government assistance - through the War Service Homes “Division, contributions under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, con tributions to homes for the aged, funds for homes for members of the armed services and for homes in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The rate of home construction has increased more rapidly than the increase in marriage and the increase in population through immigration. So we have a record of which we can be genuinely proud.
If we want to look a little further for facts and figures, it is interesting to examine the report of the United Nations on housing in various countries. The latest report, that for 1960, is available in the Library. It shows that the average number of persons per room per home in Australia is .7, and this is as low as the average in any other country. We can in this way make a comparison of housing standards throughout the world. The only countries that can compare with us on this basis are Switzerland, which has the same figure, and the urban areas of Canada and the United States. The country areas of Australia have a much higher rate than the country areas of Canada and the United States. Other interesting statistics concern the percentage of houses connected to water and electricity supplies. Although we are a vast nation with a widely spread population, the percentage of houses provided with water and electricity in Australia is as good as that in any other country. Some honorable gentlemen opposite who are so keen about cleanliness will be interested to learn that Australia has more bathrooms per home than has any other country. Indeed, Australia has a far better figure in this respect than either the United States or Canada.
This is evidence that the standard of homes and the rate of home construction in Australia over the past eleven years have been outstanding. There has never been a period in Australian history that can equal it. The reason for this is the progressive and determined effort of the Government to ensure that people are given an opportunity to obtain a home. Many young people have great difficulty in obtaining a home because of the cost. But I challenge Opposition members to tell me of any country where a young person has a better opportunity to get a home than in Australia. This may not be a very good criterion, but I challenge the Opposition to name a country where the young people have a better chance of obtaining a home than they have in Australia. Of course, Opposition members cannot name such a country. We want to see that the opportunities available to young people are increased. During the last election campaign in New South Wales, the party led by Mr. Askin offered to make available to young people in New South Wales loans of up to 95 per cent, of the cost of a home. But, of course, the Labour Party in New South Wales would not do this.
– Which party was elected?
– Other issues than housing may have been involved. Here was a determined effort by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in New South Wales to ease the difficulties confronting young people in their efforts to obtain a home. New South Wales has the worst housing record in Australia. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published an article headed, “ Shocking Housing Record of N.S.W. Government “. Do honorable members opposite disagree with the “ Sydney Morning Herald “? I know the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may do so, but the remaining members of the Opposition would not. I suggest that they read the article; it is an exposure of the housing conditions in New South Wales. In Victoria, the demand for housing has dropped. In Queensland, the demand for rented homes has dropped. It has dropped also in South Australia. The only State in which there has been an increase of any size is New South Wales. It has been a pleasure to be able to support this bill without being too political. After all, it is only a machinery measure having for its purpose an increase in the allocation of money to the States.
– It was a statesman-like speech.
– I do not put myself in that category. Although I would like to try to be a statesman, I certainly do not intend to look into a mirror and say, “ There is a statesman “, as did one honorable member on the front bench of the Opposition, that new statesman, that very fine horse, as I said earlier, by Smoky Eyes out of Love Me. I think that description aptly fits the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- Sometimes the order of speakers has to be changed owing to the indisposition of an honorable member, and on this occasion I have to fill the breach. I hope that the honorable member concerned will have a speedy recovery and will be with us later to-night.
I support this measure officially because it does propose to make another £7,500,000 available to the States for expenditure by housing commissions and co-operative building societies. I do not know why the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had to wax so intense about this bill. To hear him, one would almost think we of the Opposition were opposing the measure. He does not have to scream to the nation like he did to-day. When the honorable member first entered this Parliament he was a quietly spoken man, but in recent years he has developed a habit of shouting when making a speech. I remind him that noise does not win arguments, and I am sorry he has developed that tendency. I repeat that we support the measure, and I am afraid that the real reason why the honorable member for Richmond got so upset was that the Government has a sick conscience about housing. Perhaps the honorable member thought that the louder he shouted the more chance he would have of soothing the Government’s conscience about the way it has mishandled the housing situation. We do appreciate the allocation of this extra money in accordance with a decision of the Loan Council last February.
This extra £7,500,000 will bring the total amount to be allocated to the States this year to £50,400,000. Of this £7,500,000, New South Wales is to get £2,403,000, Victoria £1,927,000, South Australia £1,036,000, Queensland £900,000, Western Australia £706,000 and Tasmania £528,000. All States will appreciate the extra money, but it is amazing that this and the other measures we have been debating over recent weeks have been introduced only since the last election.
This measure is another illustration of the new look taken on by the Government since the people gave it such a mauling on 9th December last. One of the most astounding things about the present political scene is this change of front on the part of the Government within a matter of six [ weeks between 9th December and the middle of January. Things that the Government ! said were financially impossible or fantastic j ‘in December, suddenly become both accept- : able and possible in January. It is obvious I that the Government panicked, that it was i frightened into introducing these measures in an endeavour to revive its stocks, which had slumped so badly during last year. One wonders what the people must think about this change of front on the part of the Prime Minister. They must feel that he misled them in November last when he said that the proposals advocated by the Labour Party could not be carried out in any circumstances, that they were fantastic and could not be financed. Within a few weeks of that date, he brings down many of the measures that we advocated during the election campaign. This is a clear illustration of the sheer political humbug indulged in by the present Prime Minister.
This bill is just another illustration of the type of thing we are up against. This Government, which has suddenly become a lily-white government, ignored the people’s requests prior to December and condemned Labour’s analysis of the housing situation during the Budget debate last year, when we emphasized the stresses and strains being suffered in all industries connected with housing, when we pointed out that the Government’s credit squeeze had reduced the number of houses and flats being built from 105,000 to 80,000 in the year. The Government that faced the people in December was an arrogant government, far above the rank and file, as it were, a government living in an ivory tower, ignoring the requests of organizations and the people generally, and treating the Opposition in this Parliament with contempt. To my mind, this fantastic change of front on the part of the Government is absolutely discreditable even though the legislation we are asked to support is good.
Certainly, the bill should help the economy to revive. It is a step in the right direction, but we would have gone about it in a different way. For instance, we would have tried to correct the unemployment situation much sooner than this Government has done, and we would have adopted dif ferent methods from those proposed by the Government. The Government’s proposals are short-term proposals, and the term is too short. Its method is a hit and miss one, even yet.
The Prime Minister announced that he proposed to interview various organizations and seek their views - and very conflicting views they were, too - but, to my mind, his action in having those interviews was nothing more than a bit of shadow sparring, or a bit of window dressing. I doubt whether the Government took much notice of the advice given at those interviews by the organizations which had become so upset about the state of the economy. This Prime Minister, who was not concerned about what the various organizations said or did, has suddenly come down to earth and is interviewing them. In my view, this change of front is only synthetic. I am confident that we shall see the iron fist again any old time now, if the economy picks up too quickly.
On this question of housing, I remind the House of what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said to me after I had been keeping at him about the Government’s attitude as to what would be a reasonable number of houses to build, and whether he thought 100,000 houses a year would constitute boom conditions. I remind honorable members that he said -
Housing will not be allowed to return to the boom conditions of 1960.
I suppose that was the first time in the history of this National Parliament that a Commonwealth Treasurer admitted that a limit would be put on the number of houses to be built in any one year. In effect, his statement means that if the number of houses being built creeps up again to about 90,000 a year, another credit squeeze will be suddenly applied to prevent it from rising any higher. It is criminal in an economy like ours to put a limit on the number of houses built in any one year. I condemn that in no uncertain terms. The Opposition is astounded that the Government should plan to limit the number of houses built.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said to-day that your party would do that.
– He said nothing of the sort. He spoke about a target for this year and next year. We intend to increase the target each year and would not leave the target at 80,000 houses year after year as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) would do. That is the difference between the Government’s intentions, as explained by the Treasurer last year in answer to my question, and what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said to-day. We intend to have a progressive target each year. As the demand grows, more finance will be made available.
The housing industry has 21 ancillary industries supplying it. If you interfere with housing at any time, the effect is felt throughout the 21 ancillary industries. One of the most important of them is the timber industry. This Government is entirely to blame for the slump in housing last year. We cannot afford such a decline. This bill will not overcome all the difficulties and it will not convince those who were hit hard by the credit squeeze. It will not help those who make furniture, blinds, kitchen equipment, tiles, bricks, carpets, and glass. When the housing industry was hit by the credit squeeze, they had to curb production and dismiss employees and they will not forget that in a hurry.
The bill is to provide £7,500,000 for housing. I hope that the States will spend this money wisely and well. Tasmania is to receive £528,000 and all of it will be spent by the State housing authority. It will not go to co-operative organizations because they receive a maximum of about £300,000 a year. This money will go to the housing department which builds individual homes for applicants, who are mainly young couples. We have a waiting list of 900 and I believe that the provision of this additional money will enable the housing department to reduce the waiting list by 250 to 270 houses. We are grateful for that assistance, but it should have been given last year. Housing should not have been allowed to reach such a drastically low ebb as it did. The Opposition is agreeing to much of the Government’s legislation because chunks of it have been lifted from our policy. This measure would not have been necessary if something had been done half-way through 1961 when we saw the economy sliding. We would not have allowed the housing industry to get into such a depressed state. The assistance proposed in this measure is helpful, but when an industry gets right down, a lot of finance and effort are needed to raise it out of the depression.
As I have said, in Tasmania we will spend all this £528,000 on housing department homes. I have been a supporter of co-operative organizations in all fields, and especially in primary production, but some co-operative organizations are being established in Tasmania by Democratic Labour Party officials, without using their party’s name. I do not know whether they are being established in the mainland States, but that is what the D.L.P. is doing in Tasmania. These organizations have their own selected lawyers and there is something about them that I do not like, but I do not propose to raise that matter in this Parliament. I feel that these co-operatives are not in the best interests of Australia. Neither the Australian Labour Party nor the Liberal Party has co-operative organizations. I do not think the Country Party has ever had them.
– You are not like the Labour Party in Great Britain where they finance co-operatives.
– That is true. We have not gone into co-operatives as they have done in Great Britain. I am speaking of Australian conditions and the political parties in Australia do not usually go into co-operatives although the D.L.P. has done so. Of course, the Liberal Party would say that that is all right. Its attitude would be, “ The members of the D.L.P. are our blood brothers. We would not be here without them “.
– Do not be vicious.
– I am not vicious. I am telling you the political facts of life.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Wilmot to confine his speech to the bill before the House.
– I have spoken of the purposes of the bill and have referred to the limitation that will be placed on construction of homes while this Government is in office. If there were no other reasons, that is one good reason why we should be rid of this Government. I cannot stress too much the fact that the Government intends to limit the number of houses to be built. It is providing money for home construction, but once the level of home building reaches about 80,000 a year, the Government will introduce another credit squeeze to keep the housing industry in line. It must not build too many houses. According to the Government, that would be terrible for Australia although Professor Copland, in an excellent review of housing two years ago, said we would have to build 120,000 houses a year for ten years to catch up with the housing lag in Australia.
– Do you regard Professor Copland an authority?
– I certainly do. I do not say that he knows more about the Army than you do as Minister for the Army, but he knows a lot more about housing. I take him as my authority and he put a lot of work into this report. That was Professor Copland’s finding yet this Government talks about limiting construction of houses to 80,000 a year. That is about the most wicked policy I have heard.
– Was not that Labour policy at the last elections?
– No, our policy is an unlimited number of homes. We would provide as many as the need demanded. The honorable member for Gippsland is a new member of this Parliament and possibly he did not read Labour’s policy speech carefully. He might have put the wrong interpretation on it, but we have no intention of limiting the number of houses to be built each year when we become the Government.
Finally, I wish to refer to the timber industry which was mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I am glad he is concerned about it. He had many timber mills in his electorate, and many of them closed down in northern New South Wales last year. The timber industry is vitally affected by any reduction in homebuilding. I want to let honorable members know how slowly the timber industry is recovering from its depression of last year. I have received a letter from Mr. Tom Brabin, manager of the Tasmanian Timber
Association in Launceston, a copy of which he has also sent to the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) in whose electorate the timber-milling industry is in a worse condition than anywhere else in Tasmania. This letter which was written at the end of February reads as follows: -
The position of the industry is still one of acute depression. Since Christmas, the p reChristmas pick-up in business has not continued and January and February have been bad trading months.
We are still carrying approximately 30,000,000 super, feet of surplus stocks but, due to the highly specialized demand over the last twelve months, this stock is dangerously unbalanced and includes a far higher proportion of shorter lengths and lower grades than is healthy.
It appears that, due to our present (and third post-war) experience of a recession and the general degree of instability of the industry created by these ups and downs, we will have permanently lost 500 to 600 skilled employees from the industry. This means we will again have to train many new operators or offer very big inducements to encourage skilled timber workers, now in other jobs, to return to this industry - either way a burden on our costs.
There is no evidence as yet of any increased demand - in fact, as stated earlier - it has deteriorated in 1962. The latest evidence of our weak position is that a very large mainland furniture manufacturer who has used Tasmanian Myrtle exclusively for years, has advised us that he is now considering changing to imported timbers (despite the reduced import volumes!) because they are cheaper.
That letter is from the top man in the timber industry in Tasmania. The honorable member for Braddon and I have not yet put this matter before the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) because he is overseas. I have read the letter to indicate how bad conditions are in Tasmania, which is one of the best timber States in Australia, lt has between 3,000 and 4,000 employees in the industry. Hardwood is our main timber for export.
– Why has the timber industry in Victoria picked up?
– I do not/know the reason for that. Perhaps the Government wanted to get you into Parliament and arranged for a special grant to help the poor old timber millers of Gippsland. That is the only reason that I can think of. Why they-
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Wilmot that he might think of the bill before the House.
– The bill before the House is intended to revive the timber industry by making grants to the States. The assistance is decentralized. That is one good thing about it. However, it is the States, not the Commonwealth, which will spend this money. The States will decide how and where it will be spent. Most of it will be spent by housing commissions and co-operative building societies. The Opposition feels that the measure may help slightly to revive the timber industry. It will stimulate furniture manufacture and encourage the building of a few more homes, but it will not solve all the problems of a depressed housing industry.
For the whole of the financial year 1961-62, the Government will have given the States for housing purposes £50,400,000 including this £7,500,000 which has to be spent by the end of the financial year. That means that it will have to be spent quickly. Houses will have to go up quickly in order to get rid of the money. That may not be good, because some houses are built too fast now. The timber is not permitted to dry out. Walls crack later on and repairs have to be made. That state of affairs will be forced upon home-builders by this legislation because the money must be spent in the next four or five months. The industry needs something more than this as a blood transfusion to pull it out of its depression. I say again that we are grateful for this money, but that it is too little too late. The bill is typical of the short-term measures which the Government has been adopting for so long.
We accept the money for what it is worth and we trust that it will give some small impetus to this lagging and languishing home-building industry - perhaps the greatest industry in the Commonwealth. The Labour movement is not satisfied with what the Government has done, is doing, or has decided to do, to promote homebuilding. Our plans are more elaborate. They are wider in range and are designed to enable the industry to recover more quickly. I hope that the Australian people, at the next opportunity, will give the Labour Party a chance, on the treasury bench, to put its election policy into practice. With those few words, I will hand the debate over to the other side.
.- Until the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) spoke I felt that we all knew what bill we were discussing and that there was no need to explain its purpose. But before I proceed I would like to say that I admired the debating ability of the honorable member for Wilmot, who said that he had been pulled in as an emergency speaker for the Opposition. However, he was obviously unprepared for the occasion. I should like to say that we hope there is no serious illness among honorable members opposite. We trust that the Opposition will look after its members and send them home for a week.
With respect to the bill under discussion, I should like to compliment the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), who spoke earlier in the afternoon. It was a pleasure to listen to somebody from the other side discuss this bill, and the housing problem as a whole, objectively and with a view to assisting in the solution of the problem.
I cannot say the same thing for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and some other Opposition speakers who, year by year, use this debate as an opportunity for political exercise and, in my opinion, have no desire to assist the community. The bill is the Loan (Housing) Bill 1-962. Its purpose is to authorize the raising of further loan moneys totalling £7,500,000 which will be advanced to the States in 1961-62 for expenditure on housing in accordance with the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Both sides of the House agree that that should be done. Nobody will vote against the bill. The voting of money for such purposes has the unanimous approval of the House. The sum of £7,500,000 is additional to the sum of £42,900,000 which has already been allocated for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for 1961-62. As the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Bury), who presented the bill in this House, said, this is part of the programme announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to give an impetus to the building industry. The Australian Loan Council, which comprises the State Treasurers and representatives of the Commonwealth Government, apportioned the additional £7,500,000 as follows: -
This makes a total of £50,400,000 allocated for housing in 1962. This is an increase of £13,200,000, or 35 per cent., over the aggregate of actual advances to the States in 1960-61, which was £37,200,000. It is quite clear that this additional money which is going to the States during a period of four months must give an impetus to home-building. It will benefit not only people seeking State housing accommodation but also private home-builders who, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, are allocated not less than 30 per cent, of the money, which in this case will amount to an extra £2,250,000. The minimum total amount in 1961-62 for private home-building, mainly through building societies, will become £15,120,000.
This additional £7,500,000, and the consequent supplementary advances for service housing, will permit the State housing authorities, co-operative building societies and other institutions to provide approximately an additional 2,400 dwellings over the number already provided from funds allocated by the Commonwealth for 1961- 62. I do not know how the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite can reconcile with the facts their statements that this money will achieve nothing, and I do not think that the public will know either.
The Housing Agreement Act of 1961, as most honorable members will know - though some of those on the other side of the House will not know - authorized the Commonwealth to enter into a housing agreement with the various States. It had certain objectives: The extension of the housing agreement of 1956 for a further period of five years and the amendment of the provisions of the 1956 agreement in certain respects. These were, chiefly, that 30 per cent, of housing moneys were to be set aside to the Home Builders’ Account in each year of the new agreement, and that 5 per cent, of a State’s housing programme was to be for service dwellings tor which the Commonwealth would make a supplementary advance to match the State’s contribution. The other amendment made by that legislation concerns the interest payable by the States. This, I suggest, does assist with the immediate problem of housing to-day, but I do not think that it wholly solves the problem. Honorable members on both sides have mentioned the difficulties associated with housing in Australia. Those difficulties will continue to exist, and we, as the Parliament, must investigate them in order to see what action is necessary to overcome them, and to assist the various organizations and people affected by them. The volume of housing provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is comparatively small in relation to the total of housing provided in this country. Indeed, I think that the total is somewhat less than 10 per cent, of the overall figure.
The difference between the Government’s policy and the Opposition’s policy, a difference that came out in to-day’s debate, is that we wish to stimulate the use of timber, and to stimulate the building industry as a whole, so as to increase employment, not necessarily by increasing the volume of government housing, but by encouraging greater private investment in housing. I think that the speeches by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and some other speakers have proved that the Opposition would like to see everybody regimented in housing commission areas with no choice of house, and with very little pride in his home. In every debate on housing that we have had here the proposition from honorable members opposite has been that the Government should supply almost exclusively to the State housing commissions what money it provides for housing.
According to honorable members opposite, we should ignore the co-operative building societies. This is surely indicative of the political outlook of our friends on the other side. I can see no reason why, if somebody in the lower-income group wishes to build or buy a house, he should not be entitled to borrow the money to do so and to procure a block of land and build his house where he wants to build it; but under the circumstances of to-day such a man is forced to go into a colony. He has no choice. This situation has almost come to the point of being degrading.’
This is something which, I think, the Commonwealth and the States should discuss, because we may well ask whether in such circumstances the housing agreement is having the desired effect. In my opinion it is not. It has done a lot of good over the years. It has helped many people, but in itself it is creating a problem which this country will have to face some time. Is the present system encouraging private investment in housing, particularly housing for rental purposes? It is not. There is little or no provision, for people in the lowerincome groups, of rental houses except through the State housing commissions. This, I believe, is mainly the fault of the Labour Party’s policy on rent control. Such control was no doubt necessary during the war, but it was retained by the Labour Party far too long afterwards. I think it has been proved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that the Victorian Government, which abolished rent control some time ago, has a lesser housing problem than the other States have.
The fact is that few people to-day will build houses for renting while there is the possibility of the election of a government which may re-impose rent control and impose restrictions on what they may do with their own property. This has had the effect of drastically reducing private investment in housing. Ask almost any investor to-day whether he would put his money into building houses for rental for people in the lower-income groups and he will say: “ Not likely. I suffered after the war when the Labour Government was still in and rent control was kept on for an unnecessarily long time.” As far as I can see, rent control has now become a political weapon which suits the socialists down to the ground, but it is against the best interests of the individual and the country. We talk about helping young people to obtain houses, but rent control and other controls have forced many of them to live in housing commission areas. There are people in such areas to-day who should not be there, but should be living in suburbs of their choice. There are always people who are not able to advance in this world. They are in the lower-income groups and will stay there, and provision must be made for them by housing commissions; but I think that it is a scandal that young people to-day, because of the action of past governments, and possibly because of some faults on our part, are put into what I regard as little better than compounds.
In previous debates the Labour Party has made much of the argument that housing commissions should get the full benefit of money provided under this kind of measure, and that building societies should get nothing. They are not interested in what a former Minister in the Labour Government, Mr. Dedman, described as creating little capitalists. If they were interested in trying to provide homes for as many people as possible they would be doing the best that they could in this direction instead of trying to force people into housing commission areas.
We have heard a lot from the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about the rate of building in Australia. I do not mind whether an honorable member opposite quotes Professor Sir Douglas Copland, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), did, or Professor Hall, as somebody else on the other side did. The two lots of figures given did not seem to agree. I do not mind whether it is Professor Copland, who was quoted by the honorable member for Wilmot, or Professor Hall who was quoted by somebody else on the other side of the House as an authority. Their figures do not seem to agree. One said we should work out a target date for the homebuilding programme and the other said we should not have any target. So there is a little confusion among honorable members opposite. But when the census figures come out we can have an up-to-date assessment of the housing problem. This is vital and urgent to any one who is going to plan for the needs of the housing industry in the future. The lack of accurate figures is a great impediment to the making of a true assessment of the yearly requirements in the building of homes. Honorable members opposite should understand that if we ever reach saturation point in homebuilding there will be greater unemployment and greater trouble than we have ever seen before. I think it is to the advantage of the industry and of the people of this country to work out a target for the building industry. Until we get the figures from the census we will be largely guessing.
However, we do know that the problem to-day is one of finance. Knowing that this debate was coming up, on Friday last I rang many estate agents in my area and in Melbourne and asked what their opinion of the situation was - whether the trouble was a shortage of housing or a shortage of finance. The majority of them said it was a shortage of finance. They said that there were homes available but that people could not get the long-term mortgages on low interest which they needed to buy their homes. One of the greatest needs at present to rectify the trouble is to encourage a greater volume of private investment in housing finance. In the years before the war such finance was available from the private sector of investment, but since then the lack of private investment in housing has become an impediment. To illustrate that point and the requirements to meet the shortage of housing, I was interested to see in this morning’s press that according to the census recently taken there were 4,555 houses vacant in Melbourne as at 30th June last - that is, houses vacant, for sale or rental. The houses were there ready for people to buy, but the money was not available. You will find houses available in my area, but the people cannot get the long-term finance they require. To-day housing requires long-term lending. Many people in the private sector would be prepared to lend if they could be assured that they could put their money into mortgages and be able to recover it, if necessary in some emergency, under a government guarantee similar to that introduced in respect of special bonds. People would put their money into housing if such a policy were introduced.
I am sure that before long this Government will review housing administration as a whole throughout Australia in conjunction with the States, so that some system like this can be implemented. The need is for long-term low interest finance. This, except for really needy cases for whom the housing commissions would still have to cater, woull enable people to buy or build homes in areas where they want to live instead of being drafted into housing commission areas which are sometimes unattractive or being compelled to go to a certain area.’ Such circumstances are used by ourfriends, on the. other side of the House for party political purposes. The average home-buyer to-day, particularly, in the lower-income groups, has been forced by the rising cost of building and the cost of land to seek a housing commission home. This is the inflationary side of it. I do not think anybody can deny that. Once upon a time you could borrow money and buy a house, but the gap between what you can borrow now and the cost under the inflationary trend of housing and land forces these people into housing commission homes. I do not think that is right. The gap between the price required to buy a home and the amount that can be raised from the various lending authorities, such as banks, insurance companies and so on, has steadily increased.
To-day a young couple buying a bouse has to save between two and three times the amount of the deposit that was required ten years ago. The period of saving has been doubled and in some cases trebled. The time taken by a person on average weekly earnings to save the deposit necessary to buy an average priced home has increased substantially. I have taken figures from a survey made by the various industries in Victoria concerned with home building. They are enlightening and prove what I have said. I will take the years 1952 and 1961 as examples. In that period the upsurge of inflation on land and building and various other costs occurred, and such increases far exceeded the increase in the volume of money available by way of loan. Whereas under the war service homes scheme in 1952 the person on average weekly earnings had to save for one and three-quarter years to get the deposit on a home, in 1961 he had to save for six and one-quarter years. In the case of cooperative building societies, in 1952 it took the average person two years to save the deposit and it now takes him six and a- half years. Under the State Savings Bank scheme, in 1952 the period was four and one-quarter years and it is now seven and one-half years. Under the Commonwealth Savings Bank scheme the period was five and a half years in 1952, and, in 1961, eight and a half years. These changes have occurred throughout the building industry and are responsible for the difficulty young people face in getting homes.
There is no doubt that there has been inflation; but I think that some of the Government’s actions which honorable members opposite have criticized and made hay about have controlled the situation to some extent. The low-income home buyer to-day usually has to raise a second mortgage at high interest rates in order to bridge the gap between the loan he obtains from the lending authority and the price asked for the property. This causes great strain and hardship and I think honorable members on both sides of the House are aware of these factors. There are three main factors involved in buying a house and they also affect the number of houses built. They are the amount of the deposit the borrower has to raise to qualify for a home, the amount of interest he has to pay on the loan, and the repayment period of the loan. Since 1954, the gap between the actual cost of the house and land and the maximum loan available from the main lending institutions has substantially increased. This has created a market for secondary money supplied mainly by the hire-purchase interests - but also by others - at high interest rates. The low cost home buyer to-day has to commit himself to financial arrangements in excess of his capacity to pay.
It is necessary that the Commonwealth should review the housing situation and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and implement a policy which will allow these new factors that have arisen to be taken into account. I am sure that the agreements which we have entered into in the past have done a lot of good. But the time has come when the Federal Parliament, in conjunction with the States, must evolve a new agreement and arrive at a new policy which will help the people who require homes, help the building industry and also help the timber industry and all industries associated with housing. I say that the best thing that could happen from the point of view of the young people in our community is for the Government to implement a policy which will encourage private investment in the field of housing. Our young people will then have a chance to buy houses wherever they wish to get them, on long-term mortgages and at low interest rates. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should study tha American system of guaranteed mortgages and establish something like a federal housing administration to guarantee loans granted to individuals, co-operatives and like organizations.
I commend the bill.
.- The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) said that we need a new housing policy in Australia. With this I fully agree. I believe that all honorable members in this place, and certainly those on this side who think progressively about this matter, realize that the only way that we can solve the housing problem is through suitable action taken by this National Parliament. The Commonwealth Government, which has the taxing power, is the only government in Australia that can tackle the problem.
The honorable member contended that we must encourage a greater amount of private investment in the housing field, and that this would result in houses being available on long-term mortgages at low interest rates. We all know that private investors charge interest rates that are as high as possible and lend money for periods that are as short as possible. We know that the Menzies Government is a high-interest-rate government. On 15th November last year the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that he was alarmed at the raising of money by speculators within the community. He was referring to firms such as the Hooker and Lend Lease organizations in Sydney - I am not familiar with names of company organizations that operate in Melbourne. These firms were issuing debentures on the Sydney market at 8 per cent. The Treasurer is reported in “ Hansard “ as having said -
With the general rate of company tax at 8s. in the £1, the net cost to a company of a 5 per cent, loan is only 3 per cent., and an 8 per cent loan only 4.8 per cent.
In other words, these firms were paying only 4.8 per cent, for their money, while public authorities providing water, sewerage and electricity for the public had to pay 5i per cent, for the money they raised. Yet the honorable member for La Trobe tells us that our housing problem can be solved by private investment, which will allow long-term mortgages at low interest rates! Let us be frank about this. When private capital is involved, a high return is insisted upon, and investment is made wherever the return is highest. Therefore, the approach suggested by the honorable member is a negative one.
There is only one way in which we can solve this problem, and it is through this National Parliament. Strange as it may seem, this progressive legislation that is now before us is one of the ways in which the Parliament can tackle the problem. For this reason we on this side of the House support the legislation. The only criticism we make is that it does not go far enough.
I want to reply to those honorable gentlemen opposite who have referred to the £7,500,000 involved in this legislation as a loan. Let us consider the measure a little more closely. Clause 3 of the bill says -
The Treasurer may, from time to time, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1946, or in accordance with the provisions of any Act authorizing the issue of Treasury Bills, borrow moneys not exceeding in the whole Seven million five hundred thousand pounds.
There is the loan. The Government is going to print treasury-bills to the amount of £7,500,000. The Labour Party contends that using the Commonwealth Bank, the people’s bank, is a progressive and positive way to provide houses for the people. Treasury-bills are issued, and as the people pay off their loans the money comes back to the Treasury, whence it originated. Many arguments have centred on this method of providing finance. We say that this is a progressive way, that it is a positive way, of making money work in the best interests of the people.
Why has the Menzies Government found it necessary to bring down this progressive and radical legislation? The measures announced by the Government on 15 th November, 1960, including credit restrictions and an increase of the bank overdraft rate, created widespread depression and ultimately resulted in 131,000 people being unemployed. A further result is that between 50,000 and 100,000 married women, who previously worked, are no longer employed, and that people who worked overtime because of economic necessity are now working reduced hours. The Government, therefore, had to produce this kind of radical legislation in order to stimulate the economy and try to get people back into employment. As I have said, we support the legislation, but we think it does not go far enough.
Let me say a few words about some of the problems of housing. We know that there are problems in every State. Without pointing the finger at other States I shall talk about the State in which I reside, New South Wales. In passing I remind the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that at the recent election the people of New South Wales supported the Heffron Labour Government which had promised to .increase building society loans from £3,000 to £3,500. This undertaking will be honoured, but we all know that the resources of a State government are limited. No matter how much we may try to pass the buck, we come back to the fact that the housing problems of New South Wales or of any State can be solved only by this National Parliament.
We know that the housing shortage has been serious ever since the last war. It has gradually become worse from year to year. I have members of the New South Wales Parliament, of the same political complexion as I, in my electorate. One of them is the former Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, who recently retired. He was ill for some twelve months before his retirement, and I naturally had to accept greater responsibilities in connexion with housing problems. Housing, of course, as honorable members opposite have so often told us, is a matter of State responsibility. However, I can tell this House that it would make a person cry to see the conditions under which some people have to live. I have seen many pathetic cases, but I have been able to give but little assistance, because the State governments are starved of finance, as they have been starved ever since the Menzies Government assumed office in 1949.
– lt has deliberately starved the State governments of finance.
– Yes. The cat was let out of the bag by the honorable member for
La Trobe. I do not propose to try to use his exact words, but any one who examines “Hansard” will find that he stated, in essence, that if we solve the housing problem we shall create unemployment. In effect, he asked: Where would we employ the people now engaged in the building industry if we solved the problem of housing? Apparently, he does not know that a great programme of slum clearance is needed. In all the great capital cities, slums present a huge problem. When I visit the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), I see that a great deal of slum clearance is necessary in the Richmond area of Melbourne and elsewhere in his constituency. A great deal of slum clearance is needed also in Redfern, in Sydney, in the electorate of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). In the great capital cities many thousands of homes that are not fit for people to live in ought to be demolished. Yet we have the sort of negative thinking that this young honorable member for La Trobe indulges in. We can employ people on the slum clearance and the national development that need to be undertaken.
We must solve the housing problem. We ought not to force young couples into drudgery in order to get houses. Houses are their basic right and we ought to provide them with homes in which to raise the babies that we need to populate this country. Our young people ought not to be subjected to a great deal of worry about the problem of obtaining housing.
Let me now give some figures which illustrate the record of this Government. 1 want to touch briefly on the question of priorities. Great problems of priorities are involved in housing. Many thousands of luxury home units stand vacant in the areas around Sydney Harbour.
– Many of them are in the electorate represented by the Minister. The prices of these luxury home units range from about £10,000 to about £20,000. 1 have seen many of them. One has only to go through the areas from North Sydney to Mosman to see many thousands of home units standing vacant.
What is the situation under the administration of the Menzies Government? The number of individual new flats built throughout Australia increased from 2,627 in 1952-53 to 13,690 in 1960-61. In the statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician, these are described as flats, but most of them are really home units. The increase in construction in this field has been tremendous. Public housing authorities are to some degree changing from the construction of houses to the construction of flats, but the number of flats constructed by them represents only a very small percentage of the total number of flats and home units constructed. This trend towards flats has been most apparent in Sydney, where the Housing Commission of New South Wales undertakes most of its construction. For every flat built by that organization, ten or twenty luxury home units are built by the great private speculators on sites where advantage may be taken of magnificent views over Sydney Harbour.
The increase in luxury building, under the administration of the Menzies Government, has been about sixfold.’ With respect to houses, however, the position is markedly different. In the financial year 1952-53, 77,581 houses were built throughout Australia. In 1960-61, 80,775 were constructed. There has been hardly any increase at all. This shows the lack of progress by the Menzies Government towards overtaking the lag in housing. Despite the increasing demand for homes as a result of our largescale immigration programme in recent years and the increase in the number of young married couples seeking accommodation, the number of houses built last financial year was only about 3,000 more than had been built in 1952-53. Yet the construction of luxury home units has increased sixfold over the same period.
This Government has a charge to answer in respect of its approach to priorities in building. On 15th November, 1960, I thought that at last it had found the courage to face up to the issue of priorities and to try to divert the great wealth of this nation where it was most needed. But no! We were disappointed. What happened? The Government merely adopted temporary measures which it abandoned by June, 1961.
Big business decided that the temporary measures were not in its best interests, and its pressure forced this Government to remove the restrictions on its activities. The Government, apparently, is content to allow more and more people to remain in need of housing. The waiting lists of the State housing authorities are increasing year by year, and this is a blot on the record of the Menzies Government.
Let the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who is to follow me in this debate, answer the challenge. The Bradfield Park housing settlement is in his electorate, and he wants to get rid of it. But he knows that one of the reasons why he cannot get rid of it is this Government’s refusal to give the New South Wales Government sufficient money to enable the Housing Commission of New South Wales to reduce the waiting list of applicants seeking assistance from it. We know that migrants are now able to register with the Housing Commission in New South Wales after they have been in Australia for twelve months. Many migrants are accommodated in migrant hostels when they first come to this country. Normally, they remain in that accommodation for two years, and throughout that time they are able to live only from week to week. Unless they bring considerable financial resources with them when they come here, they have little hope of saving money to put a deposit on a block of land and undertake the construction of a home. The policy of the Menzies Government has thrown more and more responsibility on the State governments’. This Government is not facing up to the great challenge to solve the housing problem. I repeat that it can be solved only in one place - in this National Parliament!
In conclusion, I support the Government again on this progressive measure, which will permit the issuing of treasury-bills to a total of £7,500,000 so that grants may be made to the States for housing without increasing the interest burden on them. This will enable the States to get on with the positive work of appraising the problem and alleviating hardships, not only in New South Wales, but also in all the other States.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turner) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Whenever there has been an appropriate occasion the Government has given the House the opportunity to consider fully the state of the dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands over the territory of West New Guinea, and Australia’s attitude towards it. The visit to Australia, in April, 1961, by General Nasution, was the last such occasion. Following that visit, our attitude was stated comprehensively by the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Menzies).
It might be helpful to remind the House of the main elements of Australian policy as then conveyed by the Prime Minister to General Nasution. In essence -
Before proceeding further, it is as well that I suggest to the House some fundamentals which should be kept in mind when Australia’s policies are in discussion.
Australia has no territorial claims to the territory of West New Guinea; nor has it any right or claim to dictate or to compel the manner in which those having the administration of that territory should govern or administer it. Australia, of course, has views as to how its own best interests could be served by or in that territory and also as to what ought there to be done for the benefit of the indigenous inhabitants. But the achievement of these views, however strongly held and however closely they touch Australian interests, may only be pursued by diplomatic activity through the ordinary channels of international intercourse and in the United Nations.
The Commonwealth of Australia has itself no land boundaries with its neighbours. Consequently the need to accept the outcome of history in the distribution of territories amongst its neighbours has not to be considered by Australians with any frequency, if at all. But we are mindful, I am sure, of the course enjoined by the preamble to the charter, and intend, in conformity with it, “ to practice tolerance and live together in peace with “ our neighbours, as ourselves, good neighbours. This we have done and will do in our Territories of Papua and New Guinea, where we do share a land frontier. As to those territories, we have territorial rights which we will defend to the utmost, in which proper task we would expect, and have no reason to doubt, that we will receive the full assistance and support of our great allies. The quite different situation which exists in respect of West New Guinea will be obvious to honorable members.
Sovereignty and its recognition are the very essence of international relationships and particularly of the United Nations organization, a circumstance which article 2 (1) of the charter underlines by stating, “The organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.” To Australia, as to all others of the smaller powers, including Indonesia, the maintenance of sovereignty is of the utmost national importance. No doubt, increasing areas of international agreement may call increasingly for some surrender of sovereignty in particular respects, but, if it does, that surrender will itself be by an exercise of sovereignty, by the free will of sovereign peoples. Of course, the possession of sovereignty does not preclude, indeed in these days it involves, due consideration of the rights and aspirations of dependent peoples.
The policies with respect to the NetherlandsIndonesian dispute, of which I have reminded the House, were adopted against the background of a- intention on the part of the Netherlands to apply the principle of self-determination to its territory of West New Guinea and to remain in administration until the indigenous people had advanced to the point where they were fully able to govern themselves and to choose for themselves their international associations. Indeed, the jointly agreed principles adopted by the Netherlands and Australian Governments, in November, 1957, and announced to the House at that time, contain the following three clauses: -
Our interest in the Papuan inhabitants of the territory thus found satisfaction in the recognition of the sovereignty of the Netherlands and in that country’s assurances as to the treatment of the indigenous population.
Much discussion in this dispute has turned upon the application of the “principle of self-determination”. I should perhaps remind honorable members of what the charter has to say on this matter and on the obligations of nations towards the people of their dependent territories.
The second of the purposes of the United Nations, as set out in article 1, is - to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.
But West New Guinea is a nonselfgoverning territory; and it is to the chapter of the charter directed specifically to such territories to which we must turn in order to find the charter obligation of the Netherlands towards the people of West New Guinea. It is provided in article 73 (b) that administering states “accept as a sacred trust the obligation “… to develop self-government (not, it may be observed independence), to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.
These are the obligations which the Netherlands assumed towards the people of West New Guinea so far as the United Nations charter is concerned. Of course the Netherlands may choose to accept for itself a greater obligation to the dependent people if it considers it right to do so. And, indeed, by its actions and declarations to which I have already referred, it has done so.
By way of comparison I should say that the obligation of the administering power in respect of a trust territory such as Australian New Guinea is, as might be expected, more definitely stated in the United Nations charter. The basic objective of the trusteeship system is to promote the progressive development of the inhabitants “ towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and of the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and of the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement “. I may remark in passing that even in this case the grant of independence is not made obligatory by the charter.
In the case of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the United Nations Charter provides one set of obligations in respect of Papua and another in respect of the Trust Territory of New Guinea: The Government’s general policy in respect of both is, as the Prime Minister told the House last year, “ to promote the advancement of the people so that ultimately they will choose for themselves their own constitution and their future relationship with us”. A full presentation of Australian policy objectives was made by my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in this House on 23rd August, 1960.
Thus, we have a situation under which the Netherlands Government is subjected to one definition of obligations in the United Nations Charter but has voluntarily entered on a wider programme; the Australian Government is subjected to the same obligation in respect of Papua and to a different and more specific obligation in respect of the Trust Territory of New Guinea - territories which we administer under the Administrative Union with a policy and an objective common to both - to bring the people as soon as we can to the point where they are able to make a free choice of their future, both in form of government and in international relationship.
What I think is important to point out is that there is no simple definition of the meaning of self-determination: For its precise meaning in relation to any dependent territory one must look to article 73 (b) of the charter and to any statements which the responsible administering power has made in explanation of the way in which it intends to put this obligation into effect.
I referred earlier to the main elements of Australian policy as recapitulated by the
Prime Minister in April, 1961. Since April last several changes of the utmost importance have taken place in the attitudes of the parties principal - Indonesia and the Netherlands. These changes of attitude have been so fundamental that the situation itself has undergone a radical change. No discussion of the present situation or consideration of Australia’s attitude in the matter can properly take place without these events in mind and without observing the implications they involve.
In September, 1961, the Netherlands presented to the United Nations the dramatic proposal to pass to an international administration its declared role of preparing the 800,000 Papuan inhabitants for the exercise of self-determination, and to transfer the sovereignty of the territory to those inhabitants. The proposal, no doubt, resulted from the very great pressure which the very existence, but particularly the increasing intensity of the dispute with Indonesia, placed upon the Netherlands and from its desire to ensure, notwithstanding the growing pressure for early Netherlands withdrawal, that the inhabitants would have the opportunity to choose their own future.
The Netherlands had already entered upon a ten-year plan, to end in 1970, for stimulating the economic, social and cultural development of the territory; and had offered in 1960 to have the United Nations scrutinize Netherlands administration of the territory. Legislation was passed in November, 1960, by the States General of the Netherlands- No. 5970 of 1960- which recited the adoption of policies “ to accelerate the political development of West New Guinea aimed at self-government “ and which provided for the creation of the Netherlands New Guinea Council. The council was, in fact, established in April, 1961, with a large majority of Papuan members. Immediately upon its establishment, the council was charged with making known to the Netherlands Government within twelve months its views as to the manner in which, and the possible desirability of fixing a term within which, selfgovernment was to be realized. These views were to be formulated against the background of the ten-year plan which was to end in 1970.
I might mention that the council reported on 16th February, 1962, that “ it was of the opinion that the year 1970 was the limit of the term within which self-determination could be exercised by the population of the Territory “.
The Netherlands had indicated that the adoption of the ten-year plan did not mean that the Netherlands would necessarily retire from the territory upon its accomplishment. The Netherlands still asserted that it would remain until the process of bringing the indigenous people to a sufficient state of development to fit them for selfgovernment and, if they chose it, for independence, was complete.
The proposal of September, 1961, however, to “ internationalize “ the administration of the Territory of New Guinea was of a different order. It appeared to presage a shorter period of preparation of the population for self-government and the attainment of independence. It seemed that it might well represent notice that the Netherlands was preparing to quit the territory at a much earlier date than had theretofore been envisaged.
I pause, if I might, to observe that the Netherlands programme of November, 1960, however suitable in West New Guinea, involved an accelerated time-table which we would not feel justified in applying in our own New Guinea territory where we aim to endow the people with a reasonably developed economy and unified society when they take political control of their affairs. But the implications of the Netherlands proposal of September, 1961, by which West New Guinea might be set on its feet and depend on its own resources even earlier, were wider than those of the accelerated programme which had preceded it - the more so if Indonesian goodwill and concurrence were not to be forthcoming. The full implications of a defenceless and economically unstable state of West New Guinea in such circumstances could not be left out of account.
Before continuing my recital of events since April, 1961, it might not be out of place for me to say that Australia intends to fulfil its voluntarily assumed obligation to the people of East New Guinea. Although, as the House is fully aware, that is a course which is now, and will increasingly be, burdensomely costly and devoid of any prospect of material gain, we shall carry on until the people are themselves fully capable of self-government and able to choose their future associations. In the midst of this dispute between the Netherlands and the Indonesians, it is right to reassure the people of our own territories of Papua-New Guinea that we shall stand by them and shall remain so long as they as a people wish that we should.
However, although aware of the potential difficulties to which I have called attention, the Government recognized that the proposal of the Netherlands to the United Nations was conceived as a means of giving the Papuans of West New Guinea a prospect of self-government and of freedom of choice, and did suggest a solution of the Dutch-Indonesian dispute which might well be accepted.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Government had strongly opposed these several developments. It took the view that the Indonesian people alone had the authority to form a national government in the territory. It claimed to see in the self-determination policy an attempt by the Netherlands to create a “ Katanga “ situation by separating from Indonesia a territory which it claimed should be Indonesian, an attempt at dismemberment. It saw the promotion of self-determination as the promotion of a separatist movement; it said that pursuit of the policy would “lead only to trouble in the future” and that the policy must be opposed no matter by what means this was done. The Indonesian Government vowed its attachment to a policy described as economic, political, and military confrontation of the Netherlands. This policy has intended to achieve Indonesia’s demand for the incorporation in Indonesia of West New Guinea as portion of the former Dutch possessions, a portion which had not been included in the agreed transfer of sovereignty in 1949. In the United Nations discussion the Indonesian Government took the view that the Netherlands proposal completely ignored Indonesia’s claims, and it rejected the Netherlands proposal in emphatic terms.
The debate in the United Nations arising out of the Netherlands proposal was inconclusive. Competing resolutions unacceptable respectively to the Netherlands and to Indonesia failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority. It is worth recalling to the House the terms of the respective resolutions and the numbers, and the iden-tity of the members of the United Nations who voted for or against then.
Three resolutions were introduced in the General Assembly. The texts of these, and the voting on them, were as follows: -
Recalling its resolution 1514 (XV) declaring, inter aiia, that immediate steps shall be taken in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet obtained independence to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
Considering the important role of the United Nations in assisting the development towards independence in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories,
Noting that Western New Guinea is administered under the terms of Chapter XI of the Charter and that the Administering Authority has declared that self-determination for the people of Western New Guinea in accordance with the principles of the Charter is the sole purpose of its policy,
Recognizing the paramount importance of respect for the principle of self-determination in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Noting also the statement that the Netherlands is prepared to inplement resolution 1514 (XV) as promptly as possible, under the supervision and with the assistance of the United Nations, and for this purpose is prepared to transfer sovereignty to the people of the Territory,
Recognizing that the Territory concerned will for some time to come require international technical and economic assistance and guidance,
Noting further that the Netherlands is prepared to agree that its present powers should, to the extent required for the above purpose, be exercised by an international organization or authority, with executive power, established by and operating under the United Nations,
Noting also that the Netherlands is prepared to continue its contribution to the development of the Territory on the basis of its present contribution until such time as may be decided upon in the future,
Recognizing that the future status of the Territory should be determined in accordance with the wishes of the population,
Recognizing the need for a full and- impartial report on the present conditions in the Territory and on the possibilities of an early implementation of resolution 1514 (XV.) with regard to the Territory,
Requests the Commission to investigate the possibilities of an early implementation of resolution 1514 (XV.) in respect of Netherlands New Guinea and more specifically to this end to enquire into:
During the debate the United States representative stated that the Netherlands proposals were imaginative and constructive, and that the United States could see no valid reason why self-determination should be denied the inhabitants of West New Guinea. On the other hand the Netherlands draft resolution did not sufficiently recognize the existence of Indonesia’s interest in the territory. The Assembly should not be asked to accept either the Netherlands or the Indonesian claim to sovereignty. The proper course was to ensure that the people of the area had an opportunity to express their own choice as to their political future under the aegis of the United Nations. During an interim period under United Nations administration, every reasonable opportunity should be provided to Indonesia to pursue its objective of achieving the integration of West New Guinea with Indonesia. The United States assumed that under such an administration Indonesia would have access to the area.
The Netherlands did not press for a vote after the resolution sponsored by a number of African countries failed to receive a two-thirds majority. The second of the resolutions to which I have referred reads -
Recalling the principles set forth in its resolution 1514 (XV.) adopted on 14th December, I960,
Recognizing that the territory of West New Guinea is the subject of a dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands,
Believing that unless a satisfactory solution to this problem is found the situation created by this dispute is likely to endanger international peace and security.
Considering that a dispute of this nature can best be ended by a negotiated solution,
Believing that, failing an agreement between the parties, it is for the United Nations to implement measures calculated to bring about an equitable solution which will safeguard international peace and security.
Convinced furthermore, that any solution which affects the final destiny of a NonSelfGoverning Territory must be based on the principle of self-determination of peoples in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,
Instructs the Commission, if the parties have not reached a negotiated agreement by 1 March, 1962:
A separate vote was first taken on the final preambular paragraph -
Convinced, furthermore, that any solution which affects the final destiny of a non-self-governing territory must be based on the principle of selfdetermination of peoples in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
The voting was 53 for, 36 against, fourteen abstentions, which was short of the twothirds majority required for adoption. Voting on the resolution as a whole amended by the deletion of the final preambular paragraph, was as follows: -
In favour: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroun, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Dahomey, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Gabon, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Togo, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela.
The result of the vote was 53 in favour, 41 against and nine abstentions. The resolution was not adopted, having failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority. The third resolution was -
Having considered the question of West Irian (West New Guinea) in the general context of item 88, the situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples,
Having regard to the history of this question,
Considering that there is an unresolved dispute concerning West Irian between the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia,
Having heard the statements of the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia,
Being concerned that the continuance of this dispute may result in further worsening the relations between the two countries,
Bearing in mind the desirability of restoring normal friendly relations between the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia,
Believing that a peaceful and agreed solution of this problem is essential,
Voting on the resolution was as follows:-
In favour: Albania, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burma, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Cambodia, Ceylon, Congo (Leopoldville), Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Federation of Malaya, Ghana, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Rumania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, Yemen, Yugoslavia.
Abstaining: Afghanistan, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Japan, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Somalia, Togo, Turkey, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela. Liberia did not participate in the voting.)
The result of the vote was 41 in favour, 40 against and 21 abstentions.
The resolution was not adopted, having failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority.
Thus, in the result the Netherlands withdrew its proposal in the face of flat Indonesian opposition to it - opposition which persisted even when the United States suggested the qualification that Indonesia should have access to the Papuans during the period of international administration.
Perhaps the most significant circumstance of the debate was that no Asian country supported the Netherlands, only two voted for the “French” African resolution, and almost all supported Indonesia. It was thus made quite clear that, matters remaining as they were, no resolution in connexion with the dispute in any sense in opposition to the Indonesian point of view was likely to receive the support of the Asian members. Without that support no effective resolution could be carried.
Notwithstanding the impasse thus reached, the Netherlands indicated that it would continue to work for an international settlement of the dispute. At the same time the movement towards self-determination proceeded at a further accelerated pace. On 1st December, 1961, following a decision of the Netherlands New Guinea Council, a flag for the territory was flown and a territorial anthem sung publicly for the first time. The Indonesian Government for its part reiterated its demand that the territory be passed to Indonesian control and set forth in increasingly uncompromising terms its intention of enforcing compliance with that demand. It saw in the Netherlands Government permitting a Papuan flag and a Papuan anthem an attempt to forestall the possibility of Indonesian success by any means, peaceful or otherwise, in obtaining administration of the territory and an attempt to present Indonesia with an independent State of West New Guinea as a fait accompli. It thus felt that it had less time in which to pursue its demand.
On 19th December President Soekarno issued what was officially termed a people’s tri-command calling for readiness foi general Indonesian mobilization, for the unfurling in West New Guinea of the Indonesian flag, and for the defeat of the formation of what the President called “ the puppet state of Papua “. The President’s statements indicated that a military enterprise against the Netherlands would be regarded as an exercise to “ liberate “ West Irian, as Indonesia consistently styles West New Guinea. It is not without significance that the Soviet leaders, in formulating their more recent views as to the possibility of co-existence between the Communist and the non-Communist world, have excepted from the proposition that war is not inevitable and should be avoided, wars of “ liberation “, which they applaud and are willing to encourage. Statements of the Communist bloc, both by the Soviet and by the Communist Chinese, have consistently indicated support for Indonesia, with promises of military aid, in any attempt to incorporate West New Guinea in the
Republic of Indonesia by armed conflict, a course which both members of the bloc would regard as a war of liberation.
The President’s statement of December, 1961, and subsequent statements of other Indonesian leaders were received by the Australian Government with the greatest disquiet. The Government entertained, and still entertains, the view that armed conflict in the areas to the immediate north of Australia in connexion with this dispute would be more detrimental to the best interests of Australia - and that whether or not the conflict extended to involve the Communist powers, but particularly if it did, such conflict would, both in the short and in the long run, more, likely than not enure for the benefit of those powers and result in the spread of communism in the areas close to our shores. The Government was thus most concerned with Indonesia’s declarations of intention to resort to armed force and, in addition, was shocked and dismayed that the President should make these threats, having regard to the numerous solemn assurances given to Australia, and also to the United Nations, that there would be no resort to force to enforce Indonesia’s claims to the territory of West New Guinea. Australia was the more concerned since the matter had so recently been the subject of consideration in the United Nations itself.
Having in mind the considerations that I have already mentioned, the Government on 30th December, 1961, publicly commended to both parties a negotiated settlement and took the opportunity not only to express its condemnation of any use of armed force but also to remind the Indonesian leaders of the solemn assurances which had been given to and accepted by Australia. It would be as well if the House had before it the statement which I then issued, and with the consent of the House I incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
STATEMENT MADE BY THE MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ON SATURDAY, 30TH DECEMBER, 1961.
The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, said to-day that he fully realized the concern with which the Australian public viewed the present state of the controversy between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West New Guinea. Australians had welcomed and indeed relied upon the reiterated and unqualified declaration by Indonesian leaders that Indonesia would not resort to force in an endeavour to achieve its aims in West New Guinea. These declarations were made at times when the opportunities for and the prospects of negotiation of the rival points of view of Indonesia and of the Netherlands were not as favorable as they are at the present time. Australia had indicated that there should be no armed conflict between two nations with both of whom it was friendly and that it regarded the issue between them as susceptible of a peaceful solution.
Consequently Australians were shocked and dismayed that Indonesia should openly declare its intention to resort to force as a means of concluding the issue in its own favour. For any country to resort deliberately to bloodshed to gain such an objective could not fail to lose respect and sympathy within the international community. Further to introduce warfare and the abiding animosities which it was prone to generate into this hitherto peaceful region, could create intolerable burdens for all the peoples of the area and for their descendants for generations to come. And not only was the threat or use of force expressly forbidden by the U.N. Charter but in this case the use of force would be a direct breach of faith with Australia having regard to the assurances which had been given at the highest level.
The Minister said that along with all Australians he hoped that Indonesia and the Netherlands would enter such negotiations, preferably under the aegis of the United Nations in one form or another, and that they would both pursue these negotiations patiently to a conclusion satisfactory to themselves and to the community of nations.
The Minister pointed out that Australia was not a party principal in the dispute, but had, nonetheless, a great interest in the ability of the indigenous people of West New Guinea to have the ultimate choice of their own future whether it be for integration with Indonesia or for independence, with or without any relationship with the people of East New Guinea. Australia intended to lead the peoples for which it was at present responsible in East New Guinea to the point of exercising their own choice. It found it difficult to believe, particularly in the present state of world opinion, that Indonesia would wish ultimately to deny the people of West New Guinea a like opportunity for national choice.
So far the Australian Government had not sought to interfere in the course pursued by either of the parties to the dispute. But the inescapable fact was that there was a threat of armed conflict between the disputants and possibly between others who would come to their support. The Minister said he had taken steps to convey to the Indonesian and Netherlands Governments respectively the Australian view that there should be no resort to force and that both governments should open negotiations without any preconditions but with neither party unmindful of the Charter principle that the indigenous people should ultimately be afforded an opportunity of choosing for themselves their future government and their international relationships.
While the path to negotiation was open, as he believed it still was, the Minister thought it neither helpful nor appropriate to publicly canvass those courses of action which Australia might pursue in other eventualities. Apart from all else, Australians would recognize that in some, at least, of those eventualities, the interest and course of action of the Governments of countries outside the immediate region would have great significance.
The Minister said that the Indonesian Ambassador had asked to see the Prime Minister personally and had done so this Saturday afternoon. The Prime Minister had conveyed to General Suadi the substance of the views set out in the Minister’s statement.
I would like to point out to the House that the action thus taken by the Government was wholly in accord with our frequently enunciated policy in the West New Guinea dispute. It was wholly consistent with the Government’s statement of April, 1961. On both occasions we said we opposed force; on both occasions we said that we had a great interest that the people of West New Guinea should ultimately choose their own future; and on both occasions we said that we stood for peaceful negotiation, though in April we recognized that it was for the Netherlands as the sovereign power to decide whether to negotiate or not, whereas in December we knew that the Netherlands was prepared to do so. We have reason to believe that the Government’s commendation of negotiations on 30th December, 1961, was welcomed by both parties and was not without consequence.
On 2nd January, 1962, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands indicated that his Government sought “ negotiation in a wider framework “; that it did not set the principle of self-determination as a pre-condition of negotiations, but that in any discussions it had to consider the interests of the population in the first place.
Arising out of the Government’s action of 30th December, 1961, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, appealed to us for understanding of the Indonesian position. I pointed out on 4th January, 1962, in a statement directed to that appeal, and plainly not a recapitulation of the total position of the Government, that the Australian Government’s commendation of a peaceful and patient negotiation sprang from an understanding of the Indonesian and of the Netherlands point of view, and that our attitude in the dispute, including our disapproval of the use of armed force and the threat of it, did not derive from any hostility towards Indonesia. The precise terms of my statement might be incorporated in “Hansard”.
Shortly thereafter, Cabinet undertook a most exhaustive review of the situation. Following that meeting, the Prime Minister set out on behalf of the Government once more the firm principles guiding our approach to the dispute, and the consistent manner in which these principles were being applied to the developing situation. On 25th January, I declared publicly that the Government’s policy as stated by the Prime Minister on 12th January was unchanged. That declaration stands. The statements that were issued on 4th, 12th and 25th January were as follows: -
The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, said to-day that he had no official confirmation of a published report that Indonesia had modified its claims to West New Guinea so as to make room for the eventual choice by Papuans of their own future.
He said he hoped that the report had a sufficient foundation to indicate that the two parties would proceed to the conference table as he had suggested in his earlier statement.
Referring to the hope expressed by Dr. Subandrio that Australia would understand Indonesia’s position, the Minister said that the Australian Government’s commendation of peaceful and patient negotiation to harmonise the respective views of Indonesia and of the Netherlands sprang, not from any misunderstanding of the Indonesian position, but rather from an understanding both of the Indonesian and of the Netherlands points of view.
As long ago as the occasion of Dr. Subandrio’s visit to Australia, the Australian Government told the Indonesian Government that it would respect an agreement in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter made by Indonesia with the Netherlands in their dispute over West New Guinea provided that agreement was arrived at freely, not under duress or the threat of force.
Sir Garfield said that Australia had demonstrated in many ways its desire to promote and maintain the friendliest relations with the people of Indonesia and the Government did not underestimate the value of Indonesian friendship or of the continuance of peaceful relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands.
He said he desired to make it clear that neither his comment on the declared intention to resort to force nor the commendation of negotiation without pre-conditions was made in any spirit of hostility towards Indonesia.
Australia was unquestionably opposed to the use of force to settle international issues and was devoted to the peaceful solution of international problems. Indeed, it was with respect to the us* of force that the Indonesian Government had sought from the Prime Minister and had received Australia’s views.
Australia was anxious that the real opportunities and prospects for successful negotiation which now exist should not be lost.
The Minister emphasised that there was no present occasion for inflammatory or exaggerated statements as to the effect of the dispute on Australia. In particular, Sir Garfield said that he saw no evidence whatever of any present threat to Australia or to any Australian territorial interest.
He felt sure that Australians realised the great importance of inducing a calm atmosphere in which both nations, with each of whom Australia was frierdly, should be able to pursue thennegotiations.
Indonesia explicit assurancesthat arms would not be employed to enforce territorial claims to West New Guinea, and that Indonesia did not and would not make any claim to that portion of Papua and New Guinea for which we have direct responsibility. We feel that we are entitled to rely upon the performance of those assurances, to which we have attached and still attach the greatest importance.
The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, referred to-day to reports claiming that the Australian Government was due to change its attitude on the West New Guinea issue. “ These reports, acknowledged to be unofficial, are speculative”, Sir Garfield said. “The Government’s position in respect of the dispute was set out in a statement made in Canberra by the Prime Minister on January 12th after Cabinet had discussed the matter. That statement makes it clear that the Government desires settlement of the dispute by peaceful means and not under duress or threat of war. The Prime Minister’s statement also makes it clear that Australia preeminently desires that the Papuans of West New
Guinea should, in due course, be given the right to choose their own future. The Government has made no other decision.
In conformity with this unchanged policy, on the one hand steps have been taken to persuade the parties to go to the conference table, and on the other the Government has expressed its disapproval of resort to war or threats of war. However, the ultimate resolution of the matter is one for the parties themselves with the assistance, the Australian Government hopes, of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. Australia, not being a party principal to the dispute, is not itself involved in these negotiations. It has made it abundantly clear that it will respect the voluntary agreement of the parties in conformity with the principles of the Charter.”
I should like at this point to invite the attention of honorable members to suggestions made in some quarters that Australia should initiate action in the United Nations to ensure the application of Charter principles in the case of West New Guinea. The House will be aware of important changes in the composition and complexion of the United Nations, resulting from its greatly expanded membership in recent years. In 1945 there were 51 members. By 1957 the number had grown to 82. To-day the United Nations numbers 104 sovereign states. The great majority of the new membership is made up of countries which have newly achieved independence. Australia has welcomed their accession to independence and has voted consistently in favour of their admission to the United Nations. Australia believes that the new members have it in their hands to make important contributions to the work of the world organization and to strengthen the purposes and principles for which it stands.
At the same time, it is a simple fact of international life to-day that many of the new nations which have lately emerged from colonial rule quite understandably bring to the consideration of problems which have colonial aspects attitudes strongly influenced by past experience. In this they are under constant pressure and incitement from the Communist powers who see in the colonial question an instrument for the advancement of their own interests. In the presence of strong anticolonial attitudes and the desire to maintain the territorial integrity of newly independent nations, the principles of selfdetermination are apt to receive less emphasis and indeed to be regarded as merely competitive with, and certainly not paramount to, what are considered to be the necessities and urgencies of anticolonialism.
This is not the place to discuss the apparent trends in the interpretation of the charter, but it will not have escaped the notice of honorable members that there is a growing tendency to argue that sanctions may be imposed in the name of anticolonialism - even resort to armed force for the purpose of “ liberation “ - that word of glorious history with which some countries try to justify acts of conquest or dispossession.
In such a situation, Australia must view the political realities clearly, without selfdelusion that the organization is the same as it was in 1945. The relevance of the voting upon the Netherlands proposal will not escape the House.
There seems to be little point in courting the exercise of a veto by the Soviet Union in the Security Council, and whilst other possibilities of peacefully resolving the dispute remain open, we might well avoid presenting the Assembly with risks of a failure to resolve, or of an unsatisfactory resolution of, the dispute. It is not without significance that neither of the parties, nor any member of the organization, has seen fit to refer this dispute either to the Security Council or to the Assembly. Nonetheless, the desirability or otherwise of a reference to the United Nations has been considered carefully by the Government at each stage of the developing situation, and it has maintained regular diplomatic contact with our allies and friends in the United Nations in relation to the suitability and timing of a reference of the dispute to the organization.
I have felt compelled to say these things lest there may be a too facile belief in the efficacy of a reference of the West New Guinea dispute to the United Nations, but this does not mean that we should take a too tragic view of the effectiveness of the United Nations in the long term. We believe - and the record of the sixteenth Session gives a firm foundation for this belief - in the basic good sense and good faith of the great majority of the nonCommunist members of the United Nations, and we believe that in general, policies which combine patience and moderation, with a firm attachment to principle, will come to command the support of the great majority of the members of the organization.
Australia’s support of the United Nations has never been in question. We have taken, and will always take, our Charter responsibilities seriously. We have shown and will continue to show in practical ways the high importance we attach to maintaining it as an effective instrument for the preservation of international peace and security, and for the economic and social advance of mankind.
I take leave now to refer to another matter. At one stage there were suggestions in certain quarters that this Government should not only publicly address itself to the situation which would arise in the event of hostilities but also make public commitments about what it would do in that event. In addition to what I have already said, there are two observations here to be made:
There can be no mistake about where we stand on this issue of force. No country has emphasized so consistently or so often in public statement and in private diplomacy the paramount need of removing any danger of a breach of the peace in our area. To this end we have addressed ourselves to the parties to the dispute, and in particular to Indonesia, and to our allies in this region.
I have traced for the House some of the events which have occurred since the visit of General Nasution last year. I have indicated to the House some of the considerations which must be in mind in the discussion of the dispute and of our attitude to it.
The Government has continued to press upon the parties that the paramount interest of all the people concerned is that there should be a just and peaceful settlement. It has continued to press very strongly, through diplomatic channels, that the parties negotiate and that force be not resorted to, nor threat of it preclude or prejudice negotiations. For too long war-like threats were employed. Not the least of the dangers of such a course is that in arousing great emotion an atmosphere may be created in which negotiation becomes impossible. The deliberate parading of military potential in support of a political and diplomatic objective, even where that objective is sought urgently and with great emotion and conviction of its justice and justification, is not to be condoned. This Government condemns it.
But at the same time such a parade is not to be taken as a certain sign of crisis. Still less should it be taken as an occasion for bellicose statements which can only exacerbate the tensions of the moment and needlessly damage the goodwill we seek with our neighbours and with their and our friends of Asia. In all this Australians must not lose sight of our major interest in reducing the spread of communism to our north-west, in preventing hostilities in an area so proximate to our shore, and in promoting and extending our friendship with the people of Indonesia, with whom we desire to live, through the generations, in terms of good neighbourliness, both peoples, we would hope, bent on arresting the southward thrust of communism.
As I said on 4th January, what is required is a calm atmosphere in which the parties may advance peacefully to a negotiated agreement to resolve the dispute.
I would like, in making this statement to the House, to emphasize to both the parties that they should approach the negotiating table with goodwill, patience and flexibility, eschewing rigid attitudes which preclude progress. Each party, neither being excepted, carries a heavy responsibility not to remain obdurate and thus to expose the peoples of this area to hostilities, either as an incident, or as a means of the resolution, of the dispute. The enduring consequences, as well as the immediate risk of extension, of such hostilities, make imperative demands upon the parties to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour to reach a negotiated solution.
Australia, both under the prior administration, and under the present Government, has made it perfectly clear that it regards the future of West New Guinea as a matter for the determination of Indonesia and the Netherlands. I take leave, however, once more to say that Australia wants to see self-determination in New Guinea and to impress on both parties that whatever the outcome as to the immediate administration of the Territory, the course which has already been commenced towards selfgovernment and free choice of their future for the Papuan population of West New Guinea should be maintained. Indeed, the parties, both of them, might well recognize that the legitimate aspirations of the Papuans themselves have been so far aroused that, no matter how other circumstances may change their aspirations, they are likely now to persist with increasing strength until the day of their satisfaction.
The present situation is most delicate and most complicated. It is, on appearances, a paradoxical situation. On the one hand there are threats of force and apparent preparations for its use and for defence against its use. On the other hand, those activities are accompanied by avowals by the parties principal that hostilities are not desired or intended, and by expressions of optimism that a peaceful settlement will be reached and, indeed, that progress is being made towards such a settlement.
Negotiations proper have not yet begun, but there have been separate discussions with the Dutch and Indonesians by U Thant and others and! various informal contacts.
The search for a basis for negotiations is continuing and there are improved propects of the parties coming together in the reasonably near future for substantive discussions.
Public statements in the last few days by the two Governments indicate that they have now agreed to enter secret preliminary discussions. The Australian Government welcomes this agreement wholeheartedly and hopes it may constitute a significant step towards a just and peaceful settlement. For the Australian Government’s own part this development confirms it in its view of the wisdom of the policy which it has adopted1 towards the dispute and which I have just now recapitulated to honorable members. But progress will require not only goodwill but great discretion on the part of both Governments. In Indonesia and the Netherlands, national interest and public sentiment are high; and the two Governments have no diplomatic relations. The procedure they are now apparently adopting - and it seems a wise one - is to explore in private and without publicity the possibilities of agreement. In these circumstances the absence of public evidence will not necessarily mean that progress is not, in effect, being made towards a settlement. This Government will of course keep the House as fully informed as circumstances allow consistent with its obligations to preserve the confidence of the two Governments.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
West New Guinea - Netherlands-Indonesian Dispute - Ministerial Statement.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following resolutions: -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 11 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That Senators Buttfield, Cole, McCallum, Maher and Scott be members of such joint committee.
That, until such time as the two remaining vacancies for members of the Senate on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Senators Mattner and Robertson be members of the committee.
Debate resumed (vide page 896).
.- Mr. Speaker, the House now turns from foreign affairs to domestic problems. The motion before the Chair has opened up a wide debate on the housing situation in Australia at the present time. This debate was led for the Opposition by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The honorable gentleman, having concluded his speech, held his head in the air, and informed the House that his was the only speech that would be worth hearing in the course of this debate.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation. I ask those honorable members who are retiring to retire quietly.
– This reminds me of a story about the great universal genius, Michelangelo, who, contemplating his last and greatest work, sadly shook his head and said, “ Semper impar “ - always imperfect. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is either greater than Michelangelo or perhaps less humble. His speech was inconsistent, because on the one hand he indicated that the housing situation was entirely unsatisfactory and that far more homes ought to be built, and then, on the other hand, went on to say that it was absolutely essential to demolish and replace slums with new homes presumably because the building industry would otherwise be under-employed. He quoted statistics from the Government Statistician to obfuscate the distinction between the number of new houses and new flats built. He then quoted from an article which I shall also quote, written by Doctor A. R. Hall and Mr. M. R. Hill. He quoted part of it in such a way as to give a completely misleading impression of what those gentlemen said in that paper. I shall give the House the truth.
The bill before the House is of some importance, but I shall not spend a great deal of time upon it because this matter has been canvassed very largely in the debate which has already taken place. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not fair to honorable members on his own side of the House when he belittled the efforts they were going to make; because I understand that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) made a worthy contribution to the debate and I heard the excellent contributions made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) and the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). These matters have already been well canvassed in this debate, and I do not propose to spend a great deal of time on the details of the bill but to deal, rather, with the wider context in which the bill is brought forward. There are two aspects of it. One is that in the present economic situation it is important in giving employment. The other aspect is that it provides homes for the people. These are both important matters.
What does the bill do? Already in the current year, 1961-62, the Commonwealth Government has made available to the States £42,900,000 for housing through State instrumentalities - the State housing commissions, co-operative building societies and other institutions. In this bill the Government proposes to add to that £42,900,000 another £7,500,000, bringing the total to £50,400,000 for the year 1961-62. This is an increase of 35 per cent, on the allocation for the preceding year, 1960-61. This is not to be sneezed at - an increase of the order of 35 per cent. But it has to be seen also in the context that last year’s allocation was also an all-time record. So on the face of it what the Government is doing is not particularly niggardly. I leave the matter at that.
I turn now to the statistical background against which the Government proposes to take this course. The number of homes, both houses and flats - or dwellings as they are called, a rather old-fashioned word but one which includes both houses and flats - completed in Australia in the year ended 30th June, 1958, was 74,505. In the following year, ended 30th June, 1959, the figure rose by almost 10,000 to 84,021. In the year ended 30th June, 1961, it rose by more than another 10,000 to 94,465. This is not a bad record in recent years. However, let me be fair. It is true that the number of commencements in the last quarter for which there are, figures, that ending 31st December, 1961, was down to 19,083 as compared with 23,926 in the corresponding quarter of the previous year and so, excellent as the record is over recent years, because there is a drop in recent times the Government is proposing this further stimulus. Whether it is the right amount, too little or too much, I do not propose to argue; and there is no precise answer to this, anyhow. It is a matter of judgment, and time alone will give the precise answer as to whether it was just right or too much.
Since the record of the Government in this field has been impugned by the Opposition throughout the debate let us look at what the record is. It is simply magnificent; and there is no other word to describe it. Within the last decade, what is the task that this Government has accomplished? First, it started at the end of the war when there was a backlog due to the fact that there was little building during the depression years of the ‘thirties and very little during World War II. So the Government started with a backlog. Secondly,” during this decade the population of this country has increased - between 1950 and I960- by over 2,000,000 people, for whom homes have had to be found. Thirdly, there has been an improvement in living standards, including the standards people apply to the homes in which they wish to live. In prewar times a man might have been content to live in a rather shabby, terraced house in Newtown or Camperdown in the suburbs of Sydney; but his son is not prepared, to live in that kind of place and rightly so. But that creates an additional demand for housing. So, the Government in the last decade has had to deal with an enormous backlog, an increase in population and a demand for a rising standard of housing. In addition, the building industry has had to provide for factories, offices, public buildings such as schools and hospitals, and all other kinds of public and private contruction. How well the Government has done in this field I shall indicate in a moment.
What are the factors that constitute the demand for new homes? In the first place, it is necessary to consider the existing stock of houses. We all remember that in the immediate post-war years people were living in over-crowded homes, and in army camps scattered throughout the metropolitan areas. They were living in garages, sheds and under canvas. This has ceased to be. -
– It has not.
– The honorable member may know of a few isolated cases but, by and large, what I say is true, and the people have almost forgotten the conditions that existed then. The second factor is the increase in population, not only in numbers but also in types. By this I mean that what a married couple with children needs may well be different from what single people and retired people may need. It is not only a question of the number of dwellings, but also of the types of dwellings required. The third point is the standard of housing, to which I have already referred, and the fourth is one of the most important factors - that is, that demand is not just a question of the need or the desire or the ambition of a person it is also a question of effective demand - that is, whether people wanting houses have the resources to enable them to acquire what they want. Effective demand depends, obviously, on two factors. It depends, first, on what savings the people concerned may have and, therefore, what kind of deposit they can pay; secondly, it depends on the kind of income they receive, for on the amount and stability pf that income will depend the sum they can borrow. What they have saved and what they can borrow constitutes their effective demand. The importance of effective demand has been emphasized «*ure than anything else since the war, by the landlord and tenant legislation of the various States, which has resulted in people being compelled to buy, instead of rent, a home. Again, the accommodation needed may exist, but it is badly distributed on account of the distortions that result from the landlord and tenant legislation.
As to the present situation of supply and demand for houses in the sense to which I have referred, a study was ma<‘e by the Department of National Development in 1956 - the only comprehensive study that has been made up to this time. It is true that this is not entirely an accurate survey and the Minister has, I understand, hidden it away in some cupboard, no doubt with other skeletons, and we seldom see it. A« I say, however, it is the only comprehensive survey that has been made since the war. In a speech on 27th October, 1959, I said, referring to this survey, that -
The census of 1954 gives a starting point for the number of homes in existence at that time. The rate of demolition of old buildings and the erection of new buildings gives data for modification of this figure.
That statement was reported at page 2327 of “ Hansard “, in case honorable members wish to refer to the speech. Later I said -
The current needs for 1961 were estimated by the survey to be 60,900 dwellings. The current needs for later years were estimated at 65,200 dwellings in 1965; 78,600 dwellings in 1970; and so on. No doubt honorable members will relate these figures to the figures I gave earlier showing that already we are building in this country something of the order of 95,000 homes a year. For instance, in the year that ended on 30th June, 1961, we built 94,465 homes. You may say that this survey is not accurate. The only sensible commentary on the survey that I . have been able to find is one to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition misreferred - an article titled “ Housing Demand in Australia, 1959-60 “, in the “ Economic Record “ of December, 1960. lt was written by A. R. Hall and M. R. Hill, of the Australian National University. The House may be interested in the opinion they formed after examining this survey which the Minister for National Development keeps locked up. They say -
If the backlog at June, 1959, was 193,000 . . . then the 1959-60 output of 95,000 dwellings could virtually be sustained throughout the sixties. If however, as has been estimated elsewhere, the backlog at June, 1959, was of the order of 50,000 units then even if … the highest of the (our) projections were accepted as measuring demand, the current level of supply could only be sustained until the first half of 1962. Supply would then have to fall to about 75,000 if it were simply to meet currently accruing demand. As it is likely that the backlog at June, 1959, was of the order of 50,000 rather than 190,000 a substantial falling off in house building activity is to be expected before 1964.
What would be the consequence of this? Those gentlemen, who have made a very careful study of the matter, go on to say this-
As to the more immediate prospects, … it is not possible to be specific about the timing of the likely decline in house building. . . . One conclusion does, however, seem sufficiently firmly-based. It is that it would be unwise to allow house building activity to rise any higher than its present level. If it does continue to increase, the difficulties of later re-adjustment will be correspondingly greater.
That is, if you are building at the rate of 95,000 houses a year, and suddenly your backlog is overcome and you are meeting only current demand of 75,000 houses a year the building industry will run into a very grave depression. These gentlemen go on to say -
What then appears to be required is very largely preparedness by the appropriate Commonwealth, State and local government authorities. This presumably would take the form of readiness (in terms of blue prints and administrative organization) to step up the rate of slum clearance and to increase the rate of educational and other forms of building activity, … It may well be that the rate of immigration assumed . . . would not be realized. This . . . would . . . intensify the problems of readjustment within the building industry itself. . . . More or less from now on, however, housing demand is not likely to be sustained by a large backlog.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted from this same article, and gave the impression that demand was illimitable for ever. How is it, nevertheless, that the clamour about the shortage of homes continues? I have made some inquiries of various financial institutions that lend for housing purposes, and the results are quite interesting. I shall give them to the House. First, I take the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I found that this bank makes loans to a maximum of £2,750, repayable over periods ranging from 22 to 32 years, according to the kind of construction of the house, and I gather that the applicant needs to have land worth up to, say, £1,000, and perhaps some hundreds of pounds in addition, in order to make up enough money to build any kind of decent house. The repayment terms on a maximum loan of £2,750 would be £17 13s. a month. It is considered that the commitment of the applicant should not be for more than one-fifth of his income, so that a man with an income of £20 a week can afford to buy a home under these conditions. His hurdle, of course, is the finding of the initial £1,200 or so. But the important point that 1 want to make is that there is no shortage of funds for people who can comply with these conditions. For any one who can save about £1,200 there is no shortage of funds for building if application is made to the Commonwealth Bank. The bank does not say, “ Yes, you comply with all the terms, but there is a limit to the amount of funds that we have available. We have reached that limit and we have nothing left.” That is the position.
I then made inquiries of the Rural Bank of New South Wales. I found that the maximum loan available is £3,000. The majority of homes constructed are valued at between £4,000 and £6,000. The period of repayment is 25 years and the repayment terms are £18 18s. a month on the maximum loan. Again we see that a person with an income of £20 a week can afford this, but again he must have something of the order of £1 ,200 before he can borrow. In the case of this bank also, there is no shortage of funds. If an applicant can produce land and money to the value of about £1,200 there is no shortage of funds on the part of the bank. It does not turn people away.
I inquired of the general situation in respect of co-operative building societies. In that case the maximum advance is £3,410 An applicant again would need to add about £1;200 to the loan to enable him to construct a fairly decent kind of house. The period of repayment is 29 years and the repayment terms are about £4 4s. a week. Again there is no shortage of funds. The co-operative societies can provide the money if people can produce savings and land to the value of about £1,200.
– They cannot provide the money if they have not got it.
– That is the point I am coming to. If they have not got the £1,200-
– I mean that the building societies have not the money to lend.
– That is not so, according to the information given to me, and it is authentic information. I am informed that within a matter of a few months - certainly not more than six months - after making application a person can obtain a loan from a building society. That is my information. I do not want to mislead the House.
What emerges from this survey is that if people can save something like £1,200, they can get the rest of the money they require by way of a loan from one or other of these sources. Honorable members opposite will no doubt ask how people can save such an amount of money. My experience of large numbers of young people is that in most cases when a couple get married they both continue to work for a couple of years. Few girls earn less than £15 a week. They can live on the income of the husband, so that they save the girl’s income of £750 a year or so. In two years they have enough money to approach a financing authority for a loan. The people who cannot find the £1,200 that is needed are those, I suggest, who have married without saving a penny before marrying and who then have rushed in and started a family. Then, finding themselves with family obligations, the wife having to look after the children, they are unable to save this amount of money in any measureable time.
This is the real situation. I am talking factually about these matters. I am not saying that such people should be denied homes, but I do say that one expects at least some degree of foresight. If you are going to say that people who have shown no foresight are to be provided by the taxpayer, without any effort at all on their part, with a home as good as they could have got by exercising foresight and thrift, then I question whether that would be social justice. I question, on moral grounds, whether it would be right.
This is not to say, of course, that people with incomes of less than £20 a week should not be provided for. I have the utmost sympathy for people whom I would call unfortunate. I refer to older people, invalids or widows with children - people who, because of some accident in life, do not enjoy sufficient income to enable them to save enough for a deposit on a home. I submit that they also should be looked after. As to those who are receiving £20 a week or less, and who did not save before they married, something must be done about them.
I have simply tried to tell the House why we find the housing commissions with long lists of applicants. There is a certain pocket of unhoused people whose names accumulate on the housing commission lists. This is why we find that, although the housing shortage is rapidly coming to an end, members of the Opposition can use the housing commission lists to bolster their claims that the shortage is becoming worse. We have the two apparently irreconcilable statements, first that the position is getting worse, and secondly that the shortage is almost at an end, and I have tried to show how they can be reconciled. It is because the pocket of unhoused people gradually have their names concentrated on the housing commission lists.
I agree with the authors of the paper that I have quoted about the great need for planning in the removal of slums and rebuilding on slum sites. This work involves enormous administrative preparation. Land has to be acquired from a very large number of owners. Some of it may be covered under old system titles and some under new titles. Lawyers take time to effect the necessary transfers. Then questions of policy have to be decided. First, who acquires the land? Must it be done by the housing commission or is it to be done by some other authority? Then, when the land has been acquired, you must consider who will develop it. WU1 you make it available to private developers, or will the housing commission do it, or some other instrumentality? How is it to be developed? Will you build flats, terrace houses or some other kind of dwellings? Will people buy, or can you only let, flats?
The point I am making is a very simple one, namely, that if this is to be the next stage in our housing programme, as I believe it is, much detailed preparation must be undertaken, and this preparation would take a considerable time. Therefore it should be begun now.
I had hoped, in the time available to me, to say something about the kinds of people who are on the housing commission lists. I do commend the Housing Commission of New South Wales for a very full and informative report, giving an analysis of the incomes of these people and a great deal of other information of tremendous value. 1 have not reached any .firm conclusions, except as to the direction in which policy should next turn. I have looked at some of the relatively minor problems that emerge from a factual and realistic study of the situation. Let us not have all this talk about the shortage of houses and about governments not doing enough. Let us not have these suggestions that governments should be building thousands more homes than at present. Of course, that is politics, and that, perhaps, is the reality, rather than what I have been saying. I merely make the plea that in considering political realities some consideration might be given also to the genuine realities.
– I call the honorable member for Mitchell, and I - remind the House that this is a maiden speech.
.- Mr. Speaker, I should like to take the first opportunity available to me to join with other honorable members who have congratulated you on being elected again as Speaker of this House, and to say that I very greatly appreciate your impartiality. To you, Sir, I say “ impartiality “ not merely as a word. My experience since I have become a member of this House has been that, despite the political differences that may exist between us, I can say sincerely you have tried by and large to be impartial towards us’ all. I should” like to take the opportunity also to congratulate you on your receiving a knighthood in the New Year honours. Although I do not agree with the principle of these- honours, nevertheless if it must be, I think yours is a worthy instance.
I also wish to thank the electors of Mitchell, the constituency that I represent, for electing rae to this House. 1 assure you, Sir, that I feel at the same time both very humble and very proud at the trust that they have placed in me, and I shall at all times do everything in my power to carry out my duties in this House in a manner befitting the dignity of this place and in accordance with the traditions of this Parliament and of the party to which I belong.
The electorate of Mitchell, Sir, is one which is very deeply concerned with the problems of. housing. In order to explain why, perhaps I should -first of all give a very short description, of the nature of the electorate. Numerically . speaking, it is the largest in New South Wales and, so far as I know, its population has increased at a rate more rapid than the rate of increase in any other constituency in the history of New South Wales. The people of Mitchell represent a very good cross-section of the people of Australia. One may say that, within its boundaries, it embraces a middleclass group suburban district and quite a large rural area. Furthermore, a very big proportion of its people live in an area which would normally be described as the middle and lower-priced category of homes. These are the people who have the real problems. The whole key-note of the Mitchell electorate is youth. A great proportion of its population is made up of young people. Accordingly, the problem of housing, with which the bill now before the House is concerned, is vital to the electors of Mitchell.
I think it would be quite a good thing if many honorable members on the other side of the House could at times be present in my office - I hasten to add, not as the member representing the electorate - to hear the interviews that I have with people who bring very serious problems to me. These are the problems of the young married couples with families who cannot obtain housing, and of the aged people who have worked their lives out and done* their duty by this country, and who, because they have brought up big families and, as a consequence, have not been able to accumulate a great deal of money, have very serious housing problems. These are problems of a kind which many people do not always understand until they are faced directly with them. Perhaps I am a little soft still. I hope I am and that I shall always stay that way. Every time problems such as these are put before me I cannot help but feel very sorry for those who are beset by them and very humble indeed at the thought of my own good fortune. 1 think it is essential that, in this debate, we consider this Government’s record in the matter of housing. Nearly seventeen years have passed since the end of the Second World War. As the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who preceded me, has pointed out, a housing shortage developed during the war. Yet, seventeen years after the end of the war, the housing shortage in this country still has not been overcome. This in itself is an indictment of the policies being prosecuted by the present Government and of its lack of understanding of the basic needs of the people. There is still a huge waiting list of people who are seeking homes to-day. We still have policies of inertia and laissezfaire and a complete lack of planning in the field of housing. The Government’s policies are particularly at fault in their economic impact. We must keep in mind, for a start, that building is a key industry. It is a barometer of economic activity. If it is affected, the whole economy is affected. If employment in the building industry is affected, employment in all other sectors of industry is affected. The condition of the building industry has a tremendous impact on our ability to maintain our immigration scheme. There is no worse advertisement or publicity for Australia overseas than the stories told by migrants who return to their home countries and say that in Autsralia they could not find employment and could not get a house to live in.
We may say as much as we like about the State housing authorities or anything else. The problem is basically one for this Parliament which controls the nation’s purse-strings. The responsibility rests in this Parliament for the economic policies unformulated here which determine whether or not the people shall be adequately housed, and whether or not sufficient houses will be built to overtake the lag. A very important aspect of the bill now before the House is the fact that it will merely maintain existing activity until the end of June next. This has been mentioned before, but I think it should be emphasized. This measure, basically, does not represent an attempt to increase the rate of homebuilding, but merely an attempt to maintain the existing rate until the end of June.’ What will happen then, one may say, is problematical.
At this point, Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to a statement made in this House on 17th August, 1961, by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I propose to read only part df his remarks. Honorable members who wish to check will find that at page 181 of “Hansard” of that date the Treasurer is reported as having said, in part - it has been found that a level of home construction somewhere about 80,000 units over recent years has been about the size of the programme at which we should aim … we would expect from these combined influences a rate of building construction around 80,000 units.
The right honorable gentleman had mentioned various influences. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Bradfield referred earlier to-day to an estimate by Dr. A. R. Hall, of the Australian National University, which placed the annual demand for housing at 90,000 units in 1961-62 and 107,000 units in 1969-70. I consider that this is basically a conservative estimate, as is indicated by projections of population which I shall outline to the House in a moment. The honorable member for Bradfield, however, believes differently. Apparently, he doubted the accuracy of this estimate and seemed to think it was not conservative enough.
I now refer to projections of population for the period from 1960 to 1970 prepared by W. D. Borrie and Ruth Rodgers, which are based on immigration at the rate of 100,000 persons a year. These projections indicate that the number of persons in the marriageable age group, say, between 20 and 29, will increase from 1,395,058 in 1962 to 1,994,582 in 1970. Surely this establishes that an estimated requirement of 90,000 housing units in 1961-62, as suggested by Dr. A. R. Hall, is, if anything, conservative. On the basis of 90,000 migrants in 1961 and 50,000 in 1965 and thereafter annually to 1970, the number of persons in the age group between 20 and 29 will be, not 1,994,582, but 1,884,223 in 1970. The figures reveal an interesting sidelight. In 1970, there will be approximately 40,000 more men than women. Apparently the bargaining power will then rest with the ladies.
It is obvious that by 1970 the demand for housing will have increased tremendously. It will have increased greatly even by 1965 and 1966. The opportunity is available now to overcome the housing lag, and we should avail ourselves of it before we are faced with the very great increase in home-building demand that will result when those born during the war years reach marriageable age. If we are to meet that challenge, it is absolutely essential that we overcome now the tremendous backing in home building.
The policies of the Government have not encouraged home building. During the recent credit squeeze, the Government ignored the economic, the moral and the human aspects of the housing shortage and introduced policies which could only have the effect of reducing the rate of home building. This is extraordinary. Although the Government then had an opportunity to solve the problem, it chose not to do so. Ever since the Government took office, it has adopted taxation and economic policies which have tended to encourage commercial building at the expense of home building.
It is important for us to consider the impact of the Government’s attitude on interest rates and its dear money policy. Ever since it has been in office, it has continually adopted a dear money policy rather than the cheap money policy of the Chifley Government. As a result, housing commissions are obliged to charge rents that are 12s. to 16s. a week more than they would have been if the interest rates charged at the time of the Chifley Government still obtained. A family with a loan of £2,750 repayable over 45 years will pay £1,283 more than it would have paid if the lower rates of interest were charged. A man who borrows £2,500 for 30 years from the Commonwealth Savings Bank will pay £738 more, and a man who borrows £3,250 for 30 years from a building society will pay £960 more than they would have paid had those loans been obtained during the term of the Labour Government when a policy of low interest rates applied.
Many serious moral issues are involved in the housing shortage. The House should always keep in mind that the family is the most important asset that this country has. It is the very best investment for Australia, and it is sound business and economics to invest funds in the family. The housing shortage has created misery and despair which have affected both the aged and the young. This has led to broken families. Any social worker will agree that the housing shortage is the main cause of the increase in the number of broken families. Married people to-day hesitate to have families. The unhappiness in the home brought about by housing difficulties is in itself one of the main reasons for juvenile delinquency. Again social workers will confirm that this is so.
A housing shortage leads to an impairment of health, and it creates despair amongst elderly people. I hope that this House will set an example to the rest of the country and will introduce some new schemes to give aged people a better deal by providing more Darby-and-Joan-type units. People who have worked all their lives and have not been able to save for their old age because they have brought up large families deserve this consideration.
These issues invite a humane approach. My remarks are not only a criticism of the Government on economic issues; they are also a criticism of the Government’s failing to appreciate the human implications involved. The Government has failed to realize that this country must look after its people and its families if it is to achieve its destiny.
I would like to touch on one other matter, and that is the wastefulness of cooperative building societies. They have a big overhead, which is wasteful. When a person seeks to borrow money from such a society, his application must go through three authorities, not one. It has first to go to the society for evaluation of the proposition, then to the financing authority for evaluation again, and finally to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies. That is a wasteful process in itself because a person obtaining a loan must pay a management charge of one-quarter to one-half per cent, more than through other finance authorities. Over a period of 30 years, this amounts to a considerable sum. The honorable member for Bradfield said that the societies are not short of funds. In the future when many of my constituents approach me for help in obtaining finance from building societies, I hope that the honorable member will give his assistance so that we can get the necessary advance.
It is not sufficient simply to be negative in this matter. There are other aspects that I should mention. It is not sufficient merely to criticize; I believe that I should offer alternatives. Therefore, I suggest these policy revisions: The loan limits should be increased. I think that is logical. The man who has not much finance is the man who finds it very difficult to buy or build a home within the present limits. There should be lower deposits for exactly the same reason, and there should be a reversion by the Government to the low interest policies of the Chifley Labour Government. Only return to a cheap money policy as opposed to the dear money policy of this Government will enable persons with limited means to obtain funds with which to buy or build a home. I also feel that it is important that we give consideration to the statutory reserves held by the savings banks. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is very satisfied - he has good reason to be - because the recent loan floated by the Commonwealth Government was very successful. As a great proportion of the money subscribed to Commonwealth loans comes from the savings banks, this is possibly our opportunity to look at the statutory reserves of the savings banks under Commonwealth jurisdiction. At the present time, those savings banks, under Commonwealth jurisdiction, are required to retain 70 per cent, of their deposits as a reserve, in securities such as cash, government securities and so on, or on deposit with the Reserve Bank. The other 30 per cent, is available for loans for housing or for other purposes on the security of land. It is true, of course, that that 30 per cent, does not necessarily have to be lent for housing. It can be lent for commercial building and, on a strict interpretation, even for land speculation, but that is not the aspect I wish to bring before the House.
I make the submission that there is now an opportunity to provide for the statutory reserves that must be held by the savings banks to be reduced from the current 70 per cent, to, let us say, 67i per cent. - a drop of 21 per cent. This would enable the banks to release funds approximating £29,000,000, which would then be available for home-building. Admittedly, the banks might choose to lend some of that money for commercial building purposes, but the great bulk of it would be available for homebuilding. Based on a loan of £3,000 each, this would mean that somewhere in the vicinity of 9,600 extra homes could be built in this country in a year. That in itself would make up the discrepancy between the Treasurer’s estimate - he said that an annual construction of 80,000 homes was desirable - and the estimates of the various economists that the actual need of this country for this year alone is 90,000 homes. It would make up that discrepancy of approximately 10,000 homes. If 2i per cent, of the statutory reserves 0 the savings batiks were released so that the banks could lend 32i per cent, of their deposits instead of 30 per cent, as at present, that in itself would go a very long way towards overtaking the lag in home building that does exist to-day. It would also ensure that when, in the not very far distant future, we have to face up to the problem of the huge increase in the marriageable group brought about by births during the last war, we shall be able to meet the challenge and overcome it Unless we do that, this country will be in for a very serious housing shortage in the comparatively near future. Such a shortage would have a serious effect, not only on our domestic economic affairs, but also on our reputation abroad, in relation to our ability to maintain the present immigration programme.
I appeal to this Government and this Parliament to ensure the allocation of more finance for home-building, particularly for the building of homes for those in the the middle and lower income groups, because, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned earlier to-day, the people in those income groups are the people who are still suffering from the housing shortage. The problems of those in the higher income groups have been largely solved.
I also ask that this be done because it is essential if the Australian economy is to expand at the fastest possible rate and we are to maintain and expand our immigration programme. It must be done if we are to remove the serious social consequences of the housing shortage, if we are to prevent broken homes, misery and despair and if we are to give hope to the young married people who must be housed. In other words, it must be done if we are to show sound, economic common sense and a little humanity.
.- First of all, I want to congratulate the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) upon his maiden speech. He delivered it with vigour and obvious sincerity. If I had any word of criticism to offer, I would say that one of the first things he would need to do would be to travel outside the State of New South Wales and ascertain conditions elsewhere. I had either the good fortune or the misfortune - whichever way you like to put it - to be in his electorate within the last fortnight, at Richmond and at Windsor. Let me say in passing that the one thing that impressed me most in the area was the obvious great fertility in the district, as demonstrated by the number of young children running round and the obvious indications of more to come.
– How long were you there?
– I was not there long enough. If the honorable member for Mitchell has seen those same signs, I can understand why he is looking to the future with a view to overcoming the housing problems. I should like to reply to one or two of the comments he made. He, like other Opposition speakers during this debate so far, attempted to paint a picture of a serious housing position throughout the Commonwealth. I say to the honorable member for Mitchell that his biggest handicap is that of having lived in a State which has had 21 years of stagnating government. Let me tell him what happens in a State which has a progressive Liberal-Country Party government. I have heard honorable members even on this side of the House talking about the difficulties of obtaining housing finance. I have in my hand a copy of “ The West Australian “. The honorable member for Mitchell, who talks about difficulties in obtaining finance for housing, might be interested in this advertisement in it -
Only £235 Deposit
Ex-servicemen much lower.
Attractive, new, double brick/tile home, close transport and schools.
Lounge, 3 bedrooms, large kitchen, 3 plate electric stove, H.W.S. all points, fencing, paths, rotary.
That is dated Thursday, 15th March, 1962, which is to-day. That is only one advertisement. Let me read another.
– Who is selling these houses?
– The building firms who are erecting them. Let me read another advertisement to indicate the stage we have reached in Western Australia in connexion with housing. It reads -
Trade-in your old home for a complete modern style of living.
We have got to the stage where we are trading-in homes! Why does not the honorable member get a decent government in his State?
– Did not you come back on our preferences?
– And I will come back again. Too many people appear to lose sight of the fact that there has always been a housing shortage. Any one who cares to study world statistics will find that every country is facing a housing shortage. We are living in changed times. Let us go back about two and a half decades and see what the position was then. We had a serious shortage of houses in those days. Those were the days of landlord and tenant conditions, the days when few people owned their own homes. It was the usual practice for young married couples to live with their in-laws for some years until they could afford to rent a home. As a result, in those days there were two or three families in a home. To-day the circumstances are quite different. The average newly-wed couple expect to go into a house immediately they return from their honeymoon and they expect to have it well furnished.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it. That is the sort of home this Government has provided. Our experience in Western Australia shows what can be done. About three years ago, there were 9,000 waiting for houses in Western Australia. Now there is a waiting list of about 5,000.
– The others have left the State.
– You are quite wrong. From two and a half years to three years ago, people had to wait about three years for a home. Now if a person owns a block of land, he can get a home under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement within three months. The circumstances have changed simply because we have a government like this Commonwealth Government which gets things done. We in Western Australia have set the pattern for the whole Commonwealth. We have a workers’ homes scheme, subject to a means test, under which workers with a limited income can buy a home on a low deposit with repayments over a. long term. This scheme is administered by the State Government.
– Who introduced it?
– It was not a Labour Government. A person, can buy a home under that scheme with a deposit of £100 or less in special circumstances. How does the Western Australian Government finance this scheme? It provides 35 per cent, of the money from the State Treasury and a proportion is taken from the Commonwealth and State housing scheme. It is a case of the State doing something to help itself; and incidentally the people themselves are showing a similar spirit. It is futile for honorable members to blame this Government. If honorable members from either side of the House tend to blame the Commonwealth Government, I ask them to see whether the blame does not lie at the door of the State Government concerned. Is it neglecting its responsibilities? The record of this Government is unequalled and cannot be challenged in the field of’ home building.
However, I am concerned about the Commonwealth and States rental homes scheme. Some honorable members to-day referred to slum clearance. I visited the electorate of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) and I saw examples of homes under the rental scheme. Those homes are the future slums of Australia. I believe that every government should encourage people to get homes of their own despite the fact that an eminent member of the Australian Labour Party once said that if people owned their own homes, they became little capitalists and that this was undesirable. I believe that they should be encouraged just as we are encouraging them in Western Australia.
In these rental housing schemes we see a similarity of design and obvious signs of the need for maintenance. These homes are not the responsibility of the tenants. They merely pay the rent and do not worry about the condition of the homes or their surroundings. Within the next two decades we will be worrying about replacing the homes that have been built over the past two decades because they will have fallen into disrepair. Government property is anybody’s property and generally it is nobody’s. This problem has to be tackled in two ways. First, every encouragement should be given to people to own their own homes so that they will be individually responsible for their maintenance; and secondly, we must get away from the similarity of design with hundreds of houses in street after street looking like peas in a pod. Surely we have some architects with the ability to evolve individual designs.
The honorable member for Mitchell referred to the Darby and Joan scheme for housing aged persons. I agree with him. I preached the gospel of the Darby and Joan scheme instead of institutional bousing for aged men and women. We are the only race that discards its old people. Among the Chinese, old people are revered and have an honored place in the home. In our country, we put them into an institution. I think that more should be done to assist the Darby and Joan scheme, but it should be done in the private sector. One can excuse the honorable member for Mitchell for not knowing that this Government has introduced a scheme to subsidize homes for aged persons on the basis of £2 for £1. The honorable member for Mitchell might go into his electorate and see what can be done to assist the aged persons through the scheme that has been formulated by this Government. It is a question of their getting help for the people who need it.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) claimed that the Government would make a profit of £7,000,000 out of this housing money when the capital and interest were repaid. A number of speakers have used the word “ grant “ to describe the sum of £7,500,000 which this bill authorizes the Government to raise. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seemed to be under the impression that it was a grant. But this money has to be repaid. Every penny of it has to be paid back by the States to the Commonwealth and will then be paid back to whoever the Government has borrowed it from. The honorable member for Mitchell suggested that 2i per cent, of the compulsory reserves of the savings, banks should be released for lending, but that 2i per cent, already forms part of the money which the Government hands to the States for building purposes. Apparently the honorable member for Mitchell thinks that he can have his cake and eat it too. Obviously if the banks use an extra 2i per cent., that will reduce the amount of money available to the Government for the purpose for which the Government is seeking this loan. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The 2i per cent, can only be in one place or the other. This Government, by adopting its present procedure, makes sure of getting this money.
The money mentioned in the bill will be advanced to the States from a loan which the Government is seeking the authority to raise. It will have to be repaid to whoever it has been borrowed from. A suggestion for a revolving fund was made also in connexion with war service homes, but war service homes finance, too, has to be paid back to the source from which it was originally raised. I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because of his eminence, would have realized that. He advanced an illogical argument.
I hope that the Government will ask the State governments to consider the housing needs of country towns when this money is being spent. If we are to have true decentralization we need to attract people to live in country towns. I think that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) mentioned this, so apparently it is possible to get sound ideas from some members of the Opposition at least. In Western Australia generally, and certainly in my electorate, country towns are crying out for houses. The number of people in country towns who require houses is not easily ascertainable because, believing that they would not get help, they do not bother to apply to the Government for assistance under the various housing schemes. There is a spirit of discouragement abroad. The fact that the honorable member for Capricornia referred to this matter indicates that it is not a problem which is peculiar to my State.
The Government should tell the States that they are not to concentrate their attention on providing houses in suburban areas thus expanding cities which are already of uneconomic size from the point of view of transport and other facilities. Country housing is just as necessary as city housing. If government encouragement is given to the provision of housing in the country we stand a chance of decentralization. It is possible that people will then be more willing to live in country districts.
The Opposition has said that it supports the bill. In fact, Opposition members have given it their blessing. It will enable the Government to raise £7,500,000 to advance to the States for building and associated industries. I understand that this sum will provide for the building of approximately 2,400 houses. The Western Australia allocation is £706,000 which will build approximately 225 houses. But what I am concerned about is this. In the distribution of this amount of money, the formula normally applicable to the allocation of housing funds by the Australian Loan Council to the various States was departed from. Western Australia is getting less than it would have got had the formula been adhered to. That is unfortunate for Western Australia.
Although housing in Western Australia is far better than it is in other States, the departure from the formula is unfortunate for two reasons: The first is that it is wrong to penalize a State because it manages its affairs well. We have set an example in Western Australia. Ours is the most rapidly developing State in Australia because of sound government. Incidentally, if the people of Western Australia want these conditions to continue they will make sure that they vote for the present Government on 31st March. We have been penalized because of sound administration. We have a development programme which is designed to provide a balanced economy for the State. It is entirely wrong that we should receive less than our normal share of these monies. I want to say, frankly, that this is the one part of the bill with which I do not agree. I know that the Premiers, including the Premier of Western Australia, accepted the allocation. The Premier of Western Australia had no option but to accept it.
The second reason why I regret that the normal formula was departed from is that Australia is now developing so rapidly that its home building programme will have to be stepped up very considerably in the next two or three years. Western Australia is developing so rapidly that within the next two or three years its housing programme will have to be considerably enhanced; that is, if the people there have the sense to return the present Government. Otherwise the State will stagnate, like New South Wales. Therefore Western Australia will need more money for housing. Our share of this money will assist in reducing the waiting list in Western Australia - small in comparison with that in other States - so that we will be in a better position when the circumstances which I have forecast come about. I refer to the demand which will follow consequent upon the further development of Western Australia. We will be in a happy position to meet that demand for housing without having to over-strain ourselves and deprive ourselves of money which could and should be used for other purposes.
I am happy to support the bill, apart from the one or two lamentations which I have made in regard to my own State. I appeal to honorable members, when they are discussing circumstances like these, to look at the picture over the whole of the States.
We, in Western Australia, are fearful that this calamity-howling about conditions in Australia will be heard overseas and adversely affect our own happy relationship with investors and other people overseas. We do not want to be tied up with it, but would sooner get out of the Commonwealth. We are a progressive State and do not want this calamity-howling. We believe that prospects for the future are excellent. I have already pointed out that we are trading in houses in Western Australia, so excellent is our position.
– Read this.
– The honorable member for Richmond reminds me that in Western Australia a house may be obtained on a £388 2s. 6d. deposit, or at a rent of £3 Os. 6d. with no deposit, on one’s own land. I might add that land in Western Australia is available at attractive prices. I am not here to sell Western Australia, but plead for justice for that State. Other honorable members may howl about conditions in their respective States, but Western Australians are a happy and progressive people who are meeting the challenges of the times and providing for the future.
.- We have listened to an interesting and somewhat entertaining address by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). It was extremely interesting to note the way in which he set aside the serious housing position that obtains in this country. It is perfectly true that the honorable member comes from a State which probably has not felt to the same extent the housing shortages that exist in other States. That is due to several factors. First, Western Australia has not had proportionately the same increase of population from migration as has occurred in the other Stater, and secondly, Western Australia has not experienced anything like the industrial expansion that has occurred in other States.
– Nor has it had the same industrial trouble.
– That is so. The honorable member made one or two very interesting points in the course of his speech. He mentioned the need for providing additional accommodation for aged people in the country. In that respect the
Opposition believes that this Government could do a lot more than it has done in the past. We acknowledge that the Government has been instrumental in providing some finance to those organizations which are prepared to provide homes for the aged, but that assistance could be extended. The Opposition has expressed that point of view in this House on numerous occasions, but the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has been adamant that the Government is not prepared to make further money available in that respect.
The other subject to which the honorable member for Moore referred was the decentralization of housing commission homes. Of course that is a good thing, but it is largely a matter for the housing commissions in the various States. In the electorate of Moore they may not have concerned themselves with the decentralization of housing commission homes. In the other States that position does not apply. It certainly does not apply in Tasmania, where I think almost as many homes have been built outside the metropolitan areas by the commission as it has erected in those areas. I have listened to two speeches by honorable members on the Government side during this debate, the last being by the honorable member for Moore, and the other by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). I find myself in complete disagreement with many of the statements made by the member for Bradfield. He referred to the 1956 report issued by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Five years ago the Minister issued this report and made it available to the Parliament.
The honorable member for Bradfield referred to the fact that in that document the Minister said that if we were able to complete an average of 77,000 homes each year in this country the backlag in housing would be overtaken. The honorable member also referred to the housing achievement of this Government in 1961 and, I think, in 1960. I think he said that some 90,000 homes had been completed by this Government in that year. I am not disputing that figure, but he used it to indicate that the Government had far exceeded the number of homes that had been requested by the Minister for National Development in his report of 1956, in which the Minister stated that if 77,000 homes were constructed annually in this country there would be no backlag of homes in a period of five years. What the honorable member for Bradfield failed to tell this House is that only on three occasions has the Government been able to exceed its annual target of 77,000 homes.
For the information of the House I shall refer to a document issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, dated 31st January, 1962, in which certain building statistics are provided, including the number of homes completed in Australia from 1955 to 1961. I remind the House that it was in 1956 that the Minister issued his report in which he stated that 77,000 homes would be required to be built each year. In 1955, the number of homes completed was 78,289. In the year in which the Minister issued his report only 70,117 homes were completed; and in the following year, only 67,471 homes were completed. In 1958, we were still short of the Minister’s target by almost 2,000 homes. In that year 75,443 homes were completed. In 1959 we exceeded the target by almost 3,000, as 80,110 homes were completed. Again the target was exceeded in 1960, when 83,504 homes were completed. So, in only two of those years was the Minister’s target exceeded. It is all very well for the honorable member for Bradfield to refer to one year and claim that there was an excess over the Minister’s target in that year. The fact is that except for those odd years the Government has failed miserably to meet its target.
I come now to the bill, which provides for the payment of an additional £7,500,000 in this financial year to supplement the amount already made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, by the bill introduced in October, 1961. That bill made £42,000,000 available to assist State housing programmes in this financial year, and the present bill will increase the amount to £49,500,000. During the debate in October the Opposition told the Government that insufficient money was being made available for housing programmes, but that opinion was disputed by the Government and its supporters. Now, five and a half months later, the Government is providing an additional £7,500,000, which shows that the Opposition’s arguments last October were valid1.
As a result of the Government’s economic restrictions of 1960 there was naturally a serious decline in building activity as well as dislocation in most phases of our economic and industrial life. The timber industry was affected because, as my colleague the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) pointed out, an interruption of the building industry leads to interruptions in every area of our social, commercial and industrial life. The economic restrictions seriously affected the timber industry, particularly in States that normally produce timber for the building industry. I refer to New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania, in the last of which timber output was curtailed to practically half its usual level because of the decline in building.
In the immediate post-war years it was recognized that if we were to overtake the backlog in housing a forward-looking programme of home-building was necessary. The Curtin and Chifley Governments planned accordingly, and as a consequence of their planning the 1945 agreement was made. In 1949 the present Government was elected, and accepted the 1945 agreement in its entirety; yet the building industry has been severely curtailed on three occasions by the Government. The pattern has completely changed. The building industry has been subjected to a policy of fits and starts. In one year we are able to show progress in the rate of building and in the next year, as the result of some economic action by the Government, the number of homes built declines.
Following the introduction of the first horror Budget in 1951 there was a serious decline in the building industry, and on two other occasions this Government has curtailed activity in that industry. The last occasion was in November, 1960, when the Government imposed a series of economic restrictions on industrial and commercial life. The result is that in no financial year has the target set by the Minister for National Development been achieved, except for the two years to which I referred.
After the first horror Budget of August, 1951, the number of homes commenced dropped from 22,306 for the September quarter of 1951 to 15,700 for the September quarter of 1952 - a drop of almost onethird. This was largely the result of the serious effect on the building industry of economic action by the Government.
The position to-day may be stated quite simply: As the result of the last credit squeeze there has been a further serious decline in home-building throughout the Commonwealth. I shall give the figures over a period of four years to show how the building industry has been subjected to a fits-and-starts policy. In the September quarter of 1959, 19,482 houses were commenced. In the same quarter of 1960, the number rose to 21,111, but in the September quarter of 1961, as a result of the economic measures to which I have referred, the number declined to 19,087. It may be assumed that the figures for the March quarter of 1961 will be even lower.
It is true that the money for the building of the majority of homes built in Australia nowadays is made available in one way or another by this Parliament, either through loans to the States for various housing commissions or trusts or by loans to other bodies. It cannot be argued that the amounts made available in previous years for housing under the housing agreement have been excessive. Indeed, in the 1960 Budget the amount made available to the State housing authorities was little above the amount made available for the financial year that ended on 30th June, 1959. In 1960, the Government decided on its economic restrictions and last year it decided to increase interest rates. Increases of interest charges since 1945 mean that people who are renting or buying homes from the housing commissions carry considerably heavier burdens. When it is remembered that at least a large proportion of the money made available to the State instrumentalities comes from revenue, it is extremely debatable whether interest should be levied on it at all. Nevertheless, this Government has constantly increased the interest charges, and so has contributed towards an increase in the cost of homes purchased through the State instrumentalities.
In the first year of operation of the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the financial year 1945-46, interest charges levied by the Commonwealth Government amounted to only £13,000. In the financial year 1960-61 repayments of principal and interest totalled £15,961,000. For the financial year 1960-61 the Government provided to State instrumentalities and approved lending institutions in the various States, for the purpose of housing, only £26,039,000 out of the total of £42,000,000 made available under the legislation that was debated in this Parliament in October of 1961. To-day we have before us legislation to provide a further amount of £7,500,000 for the States. Out of a total of £49,500,000 made available for this financial year, the Government will receive back from the States more than £15,961,000 by way of repayment of principal and interest charges.
We find a similar position in respect of this field of housing as exists in relation to war service homes. During the debate last night on the war service homes legislation I said that although the Government claims that it is providing £35,000,000 each year for war service homes, it ignores the fact that in each year it receives a certain amount of money by way of repayments of principal and interest charges.
It is not surprising that the cost of housing commission and housing trust homes in every State has increased, and that in the years ahead the matter of deposits required for these homes may become very serious. As a result of the Government’s legislation in the field of housing, and also because of its policy of credit restrictions, more and more people have been obliged to turn to housing commissions for assistance. This field of housing, therefore, has assumed greater social significance. The housing commissions are the only authorities that can provide homes for those who require them on low deposits and at low rentals. In Tasmania no deposit at all is required on a home purchased through the State housing authority. In New South Wales the deposit is only £50, in Victoria and Western Australia it is £100, in South Australia £200 and in Queensland £250.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said during his speech this evening that it was an easy matter to get finance for a home in New South Wales, and that it was necessary only to secure £1,200 and then approach a financial institution for a loan, which would be readily available. In my opinion, it is beyond the capacity of people who urgently need homes to-day to provide an amount of £1,200, and certainly beyond people in the lowerincome brackets. Regardless of what the honorable member for Bradfield may have said, it is practically impossible for such people to obtain the amount required over and above what they can get from the various lending institutions that the honorable member enumerated. For this reason, more and more people have been obliged to turn to the housing commissions for assistance. This is substantiated in reports issued by the directors of some of the housing authorities. In his annual report for the year 1960-61, the Director of the Victorian Housing Commission had this to say -
The demand for the purchase of Commission houses on low deposits continues, 2,728 were sold for the year. Although good work is dene by the Co-operative Building Societies and other institutions to meet the requirements of families anxious to purchase their own homes, the Commission stresses that the need of the low income group is not satisfied by these institutions as the deposits required are far beyond the potential of the average low income family in Victoria whose maximum available deposit lies in the £100 to £200 bracket.
The Director of the Victorian Housing Commission offers the opinion that the great majority of people in the lowerincome bracket are unable to provide a deposit greater than £100. Similar considerations would apply in respect of rental homes. Whenever the matter of housing has been debated in this Parliament Opposition members have contended that it is vitally necessary that more homes be built in Australia for rental purposes.
Let me also refer to the annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust for the year ended 30th June, 1961, in which the following remarks appear: -
The Trust desires to emphasize its opinion that, at the present time, rental houses are urgently needed. The requirements of a large proportion of the families with low incomes cannot be met by even the most generous of house-purchasing schemes, and privately owned accommodation is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain at rents within the means of the lower-paid workers. More and more landlords are selling dwellings which were formerly let.
The people who prepare these reports have considerable knowledge of housing problems in Australia. The Opposition is emphatic that the Government should make more money available to the various State housing instrumentalities. We have never agreed with the proposition that 30 per cent, of the money made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should be set aside for approved lending institutions, because we contend that the margin of profit required in such cases makes it impracticable for people to seek loans from those institutions.
It is perfectly true, of course, that the £7,500,000 being provided by the Government under the terms of this legislation will materially assist in raising the level of employment in Australia. But, as has already been asked, will the amount being provided for the financial year 1961-62 be matched in the financial year 1962-63? If the Government intends that this shall be so, then quite obviously a decided improvement will be effected. It is obvious .that if we wish to overtake the lag and satisfy the demand for homes in this country a more determined effort will have to be made by the Government, not merely by making money available to approved lending institutions, but also by providing additional finance for the various State instrumentalities which are making homes available on a low deposit basis. This Government has, as a matter of policy, curtailed the activities of the Commonwealth Bank and other banking institutions which previously gave material assistance to the building industry. As a result of this Government’s policies, the maximum advance obtainable to-day from the Commonwealth Bank is £2,500 for the construction of a brick home and £2,250 for the construction of a weatherboard home. The balance required by a prospective home-builder is far beyond his resources. Surely it should be possible for the Commonwealth Bank, which is an instrumentality of the Parliament and the nation, to provide finance on more reasonable terms.
It is true, Mr. Speaker, that for many people in this country there may not be any housing shortage. Those who are themselves adequately housed may not recognize this as an immediate problem, although perhaps they appreciate the significance of a shortage of housing as a social problem. However, the fact remains that there are in Australia many thousands of newly married couples and couples contemplating marriage who wish to purchase homes. This Government has a responsibility to those people as well as to -those who come here from other countries. Naturally, all these people have the same aspirations that we all have to be decently housed. There is also the neglected section of our community - the aged people who number almost 10 per cent, of our population. Many of them live in circumstances which should not be tolerated by any enlightened community. Often they share accommodation and pay from their inadequate pensions rents which they cannot afford.
This Government has a responsibility to all these sections of the community and not just to the people who, because of their economic circumstances, are able to find the difference between the cost of a home and the advance obtainable from the Commonwealth Bank and other approved lending institutions. Indeed, this Government has a special responsibility to the less fortunate people in our community in this matter of housing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whittorn) adjourned.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on certain newspaper reports of proceedings at a meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party held yesterday. My attention has been drawn to reports appearing in to-day’s issues of the two Sydney morning newspapers alone of the Australian daily metropolitan press. The reports purport to be accounts of proceedings at yesterday’s meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party in a discussion concerning television. These reports are mutually contradictory and therefore cannot both be accurate. In many respects, both are inaccurate, and, where the names of some of my colleagues are mentioned, are at times false and grossly unfair.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for
Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and Senator Ormonde are quoted as having expressed certain opinions. Other honorable members are quoted also. Certain motives are ascribed to those honorable members whose names I have mentioned for what they are stated to have said. An attempt was made to create the impression that a state of friction and rivalry existed and that the debate took place in an atmosphere full of tension. This is certainly not even remotely true. The Parliament will know how these things happen. I think, however, that the public should know something of the nature of press reports of caucus proceedings.
As honorable members know, representatives of the press are never admitted to party meetings. No official reports of proceedings are issued, though, in the case of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, the leader may communicate to the press such information as he thinks appropriate. This ordinarily consists of caucus decisions but never of the contributions of individual members. However, over many years, the practice has grown up for garbled reports to appear from time to time. On what evidence these garbled reports are based can never be discovered. When I say “ garbled “, I do not necessarily ascribe incompetence or malice to all the journalists concerned. Considering the circumstances in which the reports are written, they must, and do, vary in degrees of accuracy. In the nature of things, they can never be fair or adequate accounts of what actually transpired.
All newspapers try to obtain what information they can from what sources they can tap; so the reports must always be a compound of gossip, speculation - whether well or ill informed - and imaginative writing, impregnated in some cases with personal prejudices and dislikes, and in other instances reflecting editorial policy. I say this because an uninformed reader, seeing this morning’s reports in all their detail - or what purports to be detail - might assume that the reports were as accurate as are those which record the public debates in this chamber.
Because certain motives have been imputed and words falsely ascribed to certain members, honorable members on this side of the House have reason to feel aggrieved at certain parts of this morning’s reports. Senator Ormonde is aggrieved because he is represented by the “ Daily Telegraph “ as speaking on behalf of the executive of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour Party. Words that he certainly never used in caucus are ascribed to him. The “ Daily Telegraph “ reports are consistently bitter and ill founded. The honorable member for Barton is aggrieved because an opinion about the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ is ascribed to him in the “ Daily Telegraph “ report - an opinion which he certainly did not express in caucus. The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Lang have every reason to protest against the misrepresentation of their views and motives. They. like all other speakers at yesterday’s meeting, made constructive, helpful speeches.
– Even your own boys are laughing.
– I am making a serious contribution. If I have tickled the risible nerves of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, that is their business. At least I am entitled, by leave of the House, to make a statement on behalf of the Opposition on a very serious matter.
– The attitude of Government supporters indicates the degree to which they are responsible people.
– I thank, the honorable member for that observation.
Lastly, Sir, I come to the honorable member for East Sydney. Like myself, he has been the target for much press criticism over the last twenty years. The honorable member for East Sydney is aggrieved, and he stated this morning his reasons for his feelings. He has been subjected to press criticism of a particularly malicious nature probably more than has any other member in this House over the years.
Sir, this Parliament allows great privileges to the press. It is good, for the sake of democracy, that this is so. But these privileges bring equally great responsibilities.
The public relies on the press, to a very great extent, for its knowledge of what we do here. The Parliament and the people have a right to expect fairness and accuracy in all reports of what members do in this place. TheL abour Party has never been favoured by the Australian press. We may not like it, but we try to place the role of the press in a proper perspective.
I do not pretend that there is always complete agreement in the Labour Party. I would not want to lead that sort of party. Our party is not a one-man band. It consists of a group of men and women with a common ideal - men and women who are united both by great traditions and by great hopes for the future of this nation. The whole purpose of our party meetings is to discuss ways and means of making of our great ideals realities in our time. We are very human and we sometimes err. We are Australians and, therefore, at times we differ, and being Australians we voice our differences as forcibly as we can. But it is this kind of democracy within the party that makes the Labour Party strong, just as democracy makes Australia strong. Not all the misrepresentations and malice nor all the distortions and the slanted reports, whether in print or otherwise, will alter this fact.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick)- by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. England, Mr. Failes, Mr. Fairbairn, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Howson, Mr. Mackinnon, Mr. Snedden and Mr. Turner be members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as the five remaining vacancies for members of the House of Representatives on this Committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. J. M. Fraser, Mr. Haworth, Mr. Holten and Mr. Jess be members of the committee.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Unemployment - Scrap Metal: H.M.A.S. “ Hob art “ - Atomic Energy - Homes for Disabled Persons - Defence Equipment - Electoral - Employment.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The most serious and important problem of our domestic economy to-day is that of unemployment. Therefore, any news of a growth of unemployment must be of serious concern to all those who have the well-being of Australia . at heart. I have in my hand a memorandum that has been issued to the employees of the weaving section of the Alexandria Spinning Mills. I will read it to honorable members so that they will appreciate the seriousness of it. It states -
Following the announcement that our weaving section is to be closed down forthwith, some of you will be wondering about your future, and therefore you may like to know the company’s plans for the close down.
All orders on hand will be completed and mill employees wilt be paid off in each section as the work in hand goes through and is completed. Staff personnel generally will be kept on for a week or two later to clean up matters outstanding in each section - but of course will be paid off as their work is finished. Mr. McLoughlin will be able to tell each one of you the probable date to which you are assured of work, and we would like the weaving staff to stay with us during closing down to the dates indicated. Where possible new positions should be arranged from the time indicated by Mr. McLoughlin-
That does not mean new positions with the Alexandria Spinning Mills; it means new positions obtained elsewhere by employees- who will himself be staying as weaving manager until all work in hand is completed and stocks are cleared.
Those male members who have been admitted to the Staff Retirement Fund should consider their position in relation to the clause in the trust deed headed “ Voluntary resignation, dismissal, etc.”. Generally speaking, members who leave the fund because the weaving section is closed down will receive the full amount to their credit in the fund; but there may be cases where an early resignation would alter the trustees’ ideas and the member could perhaps then receive only his own contributions to the fund.
Naturally we are sorry, etc.
I do not know the circumstances of the Alexandria Spinning Mills or the number of employees affected. But I do know that the management has told the employees that if they are able to obtain another position before the date on which the management wants them to leave, they will lose certain benefits from the staff retirement fund. I think this action of the Alexandria Spinning Mills would be deplored and condemned by any reasonable member of the community.
But. let me turn to another aspect of employment. In the Lithgow district there is a small organization known as the Lithgow Smelters Proprietary Limited, which was established with the co-operation of the Lithgow City Council, lt built a furnace and handling plant designed to smelt scrap iron and steel and a percentage of iron ore. It is only a small plant, but, fully occupied, it could employ 24 persons. It applied to the Department of Trade for an export licence. After some delay, the export licence was granted with the proviso that in no circumstances was the company to use scrap iron and steel in its smelting process. The company was informed that only iron ore was to be used.
This killed the project because the plant was not designed to use iron ore exclusively. Here is the reason for the embargo given by the Department of Trade: The embargo on the use of scrap metal and scrap iron by this firm is to conserve scrap iron supplies for the iron and steel industry. Everybody knows that the iron and steel industry in Australia is the great monopolistic Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Let us see how it benefits from the embargo on the use of scrap metal by the smaller organization. The B.H.P., which is the only firm to which collectors can sell, pays £3 10s. to £5 a ton for scrap metal delivered on rail. If a permit to export the scrap metal was available, overseas buyers would be prepared to pay £17 to £19 a ton at the wharf. The Government’s decision means that the B.H.P. has a monopoly control of scrap metal in Australia and is preventing the smaller organizations from establishing themselves and giving employment to unemployed Australian workmen.
In the township of Lithgow, there are 24 married men who are unemployed and who are receiving approximately £160 a week in unemployment benefit. Mr. A. V. Barker, the principal of the Lithgow Smelters Proprietary Limited published a letter in the Lithgow “Mercury”, of 28th February last. He set out the position very fully. He said that the metropolitan press would not publish the facts of this case. This, no doubt, is because the B.H.P. with its interlocking directorates and interests in other organizations has great power and can influence the press because of its expenditure on advertisements and can thus prevent the metropolitan press from revealing the facts to the Australian community.
Small Australian industries are being denied the opportunity to establish themselves and to give employment to Australian workmen. They are not permitted to use scrap metal. But H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ was recently sold overseas for scrap, so we are told. However, I am informed by some of the employees who were engaged in the loading of the vessel that it was loaded with spare gear as cargo. It was loaded at the Captain Cook Graving Dock. Let me tell honorable members of some of the items that were loaded into H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ before it left for overseas. The cargo included thirteen main propellors made of naval bronze, each weighing 5 tons 7 cwt.; five main propellor shafts made of steel, each weighing 12 tons and complete with bronze sleeves and bearings; hundreds of tons of machinery spares for turbines, electrical motors, pumps, engines, generators and so on. These goods were packed in boxes and crates and Garden Island employees were kept working on overtime until 11.30 at night before the despatch of the vessel. What 1 would like to know from any Minister who is able to answer is whether “ Hobart “ is really to be destroyed and used for scrap metal. The inclusion of all these spare parts as cargo gives rise to the suspicion that the vessel is not to be scrapped but is to be used for some other purpose. Might we also ask whether any additional payment was made by the purchasers of the vessel for this extra equipment? What amount, if any, was paid to the Australian Government for the very valuable equipment that was loaded into “ Hobart “ before it departed for overseas? The only firm allowed to purchase so-called scrap inside Australia is the Broken Hill organization. Small organizations such as the one to which I have referred are not permitted to establish themselves.
Therefore, there should be no need to produce further facts to establish the claim we have made repeatedly in this Parliament and elsewhere, which is that this Government, which always claims to represent free enterprise, does not represent the small businessman, the man who, by his own efforts, is struggling to advance and to give employment to Australian workmen. It represents the big business interests of this country, the big wealthy monopolists. It is the political mouthpiece of those interests, and the sooner the Australian public realizes that, casts, out this Government and restores Labour to control of the treasury bench, the better it will be for all concerned.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To-night, I wish to renew and continue an advocacy 1 commenced on 6th October, 1960, during the debate on the Estimates for 1960-61. At that time, we were discussing the proposed votes for the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. To-night, it will be necessary for me to depart from my usual practice when making speeches, and to read one or two paragraphs from the speech I made on that occasion. On that night, I said -
This group of estimates covers the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Very little reference has been made to this commission, and in the three minutes left to me I cannot say much about it. However, I should like to refer to the part that the commission could play in making full use of the waters of the great Murray River, Australia’s largest waterway. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory said, we cannot afford to let our water resources flow uselessly into the sea, but none the less millions upon millions of gallons each year are lost in this way. It may be a strange coincidence that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is covered by the group of estimates we are now discussing, because I believe that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the commission may, in the future, through the use of atomic energy, be able to provide large water storages without the great expense that is now involved. Large water storages could be provided along the Murray River so that in flood time, and perhaps even with the normal flow of the river, water could be stored for irrigation and for use in dry seasons. This would bring into production thousands of acres of the most fertile land.
The reason why I want to continue that advocacy to-night is that I now have some very strong support. In the intervening eighteen months I did not have any support. In to-day’s Melbourne “ Sun “, under the heading “ A-bombs can ‘ dig huge water dams ‘ “ appears this article -
Canberra, Wednesday. - Cheap nuclear explosions could help solve Australia’s water shortage problems, the secretary of the Department of National Development, Dr. H. G. Raggatt, said to-night.
Dr. Raggatt suggested the use of nuclear explosives to blast huge craters in the earth to serve as reservoirs in water starved areas.
Dr. Raggatt was speaking at the Academy of Science on a vote of thanks to the guest speaker, the visiting U.S. Nuclear Physicist Dr. Gary Higgins.
Dr. Higgins, director of the Atoms for Peace project, “ Operation Plowshare “, at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, California, had described how underground nuclear explosions could be used to blast great holes in the earth.
He said that a one-megaton explosion, costing one million dollars (?450,000), could create a crater more than a quarter-mile across and 3,000 feet deep.
Dr. Raggatt said that with the “ very great economies in moving earth, these techniques give us the prospect of doing things we have rejected in the past because of the cost”. “These cheap, big craters described by Dr. Raggatt could be used to store great quantities of water from the River Murray which at present cause flood damage and run to waste in the sea.”
Dr. Raggatt proposed that the storage craters should be blasted out of the Murray flood plains where land was cheap and where no one lived.
He said that it would take two to four years for the necessary techniques to be developed.
And it would take about the same time to break down conservatism towards such a project.
It would be necessary to convince the public that there was no need to worry about radioactivity from the nuclear explosions used to create the craters.
– You said that years ago.
– I said it just over eighteen months ago in this House, and at that time I did not even get a line in the press. But when a visiting nuclear physicist speaks on this subject, the secretary of the Department of National Development immediately takes it up and says it is a possibility, that it is a possible means of saving water for Australia. As every one knows, on many occasions I have advocated the conservation of water. The conservation of water means everything to this country. I am getting many interjections, but surely those honorable members of the Opposition, those who are interjecting, realize that we must have more water conservation in this country if we are to grow the products necessary to keep our overseas balances at a high level and ensure prosperity and progress.
I appeal to-night to the Minister for National Development to look into this matter. I appealed to him eighteen months ago, and I renew my advocacy to-night, supported by the evidence I have from men who should know. I thought it was possible to do what is suggested in this newspaper article. The men whom I have quoted say it is possible. 1 do not want to confine the proposal to the Murray River. This can be carried out on the Burdekin, or anywhere else, so long as it is put into operation in Australia. 1 believe that it will be successful, and for that reason I have taken the opportunity to renew this advocacy, in spite of the jeering of the Opposition. I hope I have not bored honorable members.
– We are not jeering.
– You are not, but some honorable members opposite are. I pay the new honorable members opposite the tribute of saying that they have not got into that technique yet, but other honorable members of the Opposition are jeering. This could be a great national asset if we could only get it operating correctly. Instead of having millions of gallons of water running into the sea, that water could be conserved in great craters along the river Murray. At flood times, water could be run into the craters from the river. As I said in my previous speech, some of the normal flow of the river could be directed into these great craters, which could be provided so cheaply. They could be the very saviours of this country, which requires so much water. Honorable members from Queensland and New South Wales talk about their rivers. The proposal I have advocated could be put into operation in their States also. In our State, we have a great waterway, the Murray River.
– What State is that?
– The State of Victoria, if the honorable member does not know it already. In Victoria, we have fertile stretches of land on the river Murray, as a matter of fact, they stretch into New South Wales and also along the reaches in South Australia. I appeal to the Minister for National Development to-night to take my suggestion seriously and to co-operate with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with a view to seeing what can be done, because I believe that what I have advocated will provide the answer to many of Australia’s troubles.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Government to several matters. First, I want to make an appeal on behalf of the organizations which have adopted as their objective “ Housing for the Handicapped “. Probably most honorable members have met the organizing secretary of this movement and her husband. They came to Parliament House about two years ago on a charitable mission, and they invited me to see the factory they have established and the work that is being done there. On one occasion, I was there with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and I am sure he is familiar with the project. Later in the year, the Budget will be submitted and I hope that something can be done for these good people. Their work extends beyond New South Wales. Every State has an interest in their work through various organizations.
These people have put 220 persons into employment, and it is interesting to note that the people so placed were pensioners. Now, there are 68 in full employment. I give credit to the Government for having given tax concessions on motor cars for handicapped persons who need a car to go to work. Probably I am making a case similar to that which the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) had in mind when he put the following motion on the notice-paper: -
That this House is of the opinion that legislation should be enacted to make available to disabled persons benefits similar to those available to aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
We on the Opposition side have heard, not from our own caucus but from the Government caucus, that the honorable member for Mackellar has been told that there will be another election if he forces this resolution on the House. However, I feel that something should be done for -unfortunate handicapped persons, and I am sure the Opposition would support the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar. I promised that I would bring this matter before the House and I want to honour that promise.
We have heard much to-night about housing, These people have at least £15,000 in hand and they are prepared to build units for the people who work for them if the Government will give them assistance on the basis of £2 for £1, just as it does in the case of aged persons. The organization has already taken about 150 persons off the pension and has thus saved the Government quite a lot of money. They are not asking very much when they seek a subsidy from the Government, and I hope that honorable members will support their claim.
I wish to refer now to the plight of pensioners who come from the Glebe week after week to interview me about various aspects of social services. Many of them are particularly concerned about the medical cards. A pensioner who has a separate income of more than £2 a week is not entitled now to a medical card. In my experience, the medical card is more valuable to age pensioners than the right to earn £2 or £3. I know of a couple who are directly affected. The man is in receipt of an invalid pension but will receive an age pension next month. The wife is getting the age pension. Their income is £10 10s. a week from the pensions. They also receive £3 2s. a week in superannuation and are unable to get a medical card. Since 1956, if a pensioner earns more than £2 a week, he does not qualify for a medical card. The former Minister for Health, Dr. Donald Cameron, told me that he would never have agreed to the reduction in the amount a pensioner could earn from £3 10s. to £2 a week but he had been compelled by the Government to do so.
The two people to whom I refer cannot get a medical card because they receive £3 2s. a week in superannuation. They need a doctor two or three times a week. If the husband visits a doctor, it costs him £1 5s. If he is too ill to go to the surgery and the doctor calls on him, the fee is £1 10s., and if the doctor calls at night, the fee is £2 2s. In addition, when they go to a chemist, they have to pay 5s. for each prescription and from 10s. to 15s. for the medicine. Admittedly, this Government benefited 40 per cent, of pensioners when it introduced the merged means test, but the other 60 per cent, of pensioners are not so well off. At present, a pensioner has to calculate whether it is worth while earning more than £2 a Week in view of the fact that this will prevent him from getting a medical card. Why not allow a pensioner to earn at least £3 10s. a week?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sure that members on both sides of the House appreciated the explanation which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) gave in relation to a press report of a Labour Party meeting. I feel that the sincerity of his remarks will impress all members. Therefore, it is my purpose to bring before the House a matter which was raised last week when the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) made a very strong attack on the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). I think that this attack was quite unfair because a little research shows that they had done little homework into the subject that they were discussing. With the numbers so close in this House, I feel that both these gentlemen are making a bid for inclusion in the Opposition’s shadow Cabinet as Minister for Defence and Minister for the Army. Judging from their proportions, neither of them seems to be doing 5BX exercises. One can well imagine either of them in a Goering-like uniform, striding to the table, putting his baton down, and addressing the House. Neither of them seemed to treat the matter seriously. Neither seemed to have much consideration for the effect of his words on recruiting, or on the morale of the Army and those connected with it.
The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Wills followed a line which was in keeping with Labour’s policy over many years of deriding and attacking the services and of lowering public confidence in those services. The honorable member for Grayndler was honest enough to say he had obtained his information from a newspaper. That may be the basis of his authority on tanks, but in the meantime, I have done a bit of research and I am delighted to be able to support the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) who has had a little practical experience with tanks in situations which were most uncomfortable and dangerous.
I have checked with various senior people in the Australian Army concerning the Centurion tank and I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite will be able to contain themselves and listen to this. The philosophy behind the Government’s defence policy, as was explained by the honorable member for Barker, is that the most likely type of war involving Australian forces is a limited war, and that the most probable theatre of operations is South-East Asia. Possibly honorable gentlemen opposite who are interjecting do not like this subject. It is obvious that they did not want to discuss defence this morning. It was obvious they did not want to discuss foreign affairs yesterday and it was obvious that the Leader of the Opposition got into rather a flurry this evening. So these subjects are taboo to Labour supporters.
There is no doubt that in any limited war situation in South-East Asia our forces could well be considerably outnumbered. It is therefore essential that we should have the most up-to-date equipment that we can get. The honorable member for Barker said that the Centurion tank had proved itself in Korea and was considered by the American forces there to be a better tank than the N48 which they were operating at that time. The British Army is still using Centurion tanks. I did a little homework in the library, as I think the honorable member for Wills should have done, and I shall read some extracts which will show that the Centurion tank is not out of date. The book from which I shall quote is called “ Tank “. It was published in 1960. There is reference to the lack of research by the United States into overseas tanks, and reasons are given why America should have bought tanks elsewhere instead of using N48’s and others of their own. The book says that regardless of the respect with which the British Centurion is held by recognized tank experts - it is completely written off on the point that it may be under-powered, ignoring the fact that it was considered the finest United Nations tank in Korea, that it is powerfully armed and easier to repair and maintain than any other tank in its class.
Another book called “ Armour “, which also was published in 1960, says about Sweden’s STRV M/42 tank-
But because of its armament it became obsolete almost as soon as it was introduced and was not succeeded by a more powerful model until 19S3 when the Swedish Army purchased its first 80 Centurion III. tanks from Britain.
It is most interesting that the honorable member for Grayndler said that the Centurion tank was almost outdated. The honorable member for Wills supported him. In a booklet entitled “ The British Army in the Nuclear Age “ we have, I hope, a higher authority on matters military than the honorable member for Wills. It is a report which was the outcome of meetings held under the auspices of the Council of the Army League, the vice-president of which is Sir Edward Beddington-Behrens. The council includes Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, Lieutenant-General Sir Terence Airey, General Sir Richard Gale, General Sir William Morgan and General Sir Richard O’Connor. I think and I hope that they are better authorities than the honorable member for Wills. They discussed tanks. I have not the time to quote details of their findings now, but they concluded that the tank was still effective and was still something that conventional forces must have.
What the honorable member for Grayndler said last week has some relation to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition to-night about honesty and responsibility in this House. The honorable member for Grayndler said -
When we look at the administration of the Army, we realize that the Minister is completely out of touch with modern requirements, does not know what is needed and is wastefully spending countless millions of pounds of Australia’s money . . .
That statement is disproved by the authorities whom I have quoted. I will take their word for it rather than that of the honorable member for Grayndler. He went on to say that the Minister had squandered £9,000,000 of the people’s money on these tanks. He obviously believed that. Then he went on with the most utter buffoonery, as the honorable member for Barker said. The honorable member for Grayndler was then supported by the honorable member for Wills who made the extraordinary statement that the Minister for the Army had to accept the blame, just as- the people of Australia would have to accept the result of the faulty defence appreciation of this Government over the last twelve years.
I did a little homework again, and found that the first Centurion tank arrived in Australia in 1951. We all know how long it takes for a recommendation from any service to be given effect. By the time a proposal has been discussed here, and the
Opposition has argued that it is not necessary and that we should cut defence expenditure, some years have passed. So I endeavoured, through the Treasury, the Department of Defence and the Department of the Army, to find out who had placed the initial order for the Centurion tanks. It was most interesting to find out that the purchase of these tanks was authorized and they were ordered by the Chifley Government in September, 1949. The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Wills have made a gaffe. The honorable member for Wills made another one this morning. I support the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that when honorable gentlemen speak in this House they should make sure that the facts that they give are right.
.- The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) stated that the Opposition had criticized the usefulness and worthiness of the Centurion tanks. The Opposition did nothing of the kind. We criticized the fact that they could not be taken anywhere because there were no bridges to take them. There are only two bridges in Australia that will take them - the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Story Bridge, and if the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) was in one I doubt whether they would get over those bridges.
Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) directed a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and mentioned a certain percentage of Communist Party preference votes which he alleged had been received by the Labour candidate for the electorate of Moreton. I will read the question and answer, which are as follows: -
– 1 direct to the Prime Minister a question which is, to some extent, supplementary to one that was asked earlier by the honorable member for East Sydney. Is it a fact that the Australian Labour Party confidently expected to receive 100 per cent, of the second preferences of the Communist candidate in Moreton? . . . Is it a fact that the Labour Party received approximately only 86.2 per cent, of the Communist second preferences in Moreton, causing concern to the honorable member for East Sydney and other honorable members?
– There was a good deal of noise and I could not hear all the question, but I gathered that my friend was directing attention to the fact that the Australian Labour Party gets the bulk of the Communist preferences.
– It received 86.2 per cent, in this case.
– Of course, I would take that for granted.
I shall now give the facts of the case. There were four candidates. There was Hagen, the Queensland Labour Party candidate; Julius, the Communist Party candidate; Killen, the Liberal Party candidate; and O’Donnell, the Labour Party candidate. Julius, the Communist Party candidate, received 676 votes. When he was eliminated 93, or 13.75 per cent, of his preferences went to Killen, 193 or 28.55 per cent, to Hagen, the Q.L.P. candidate, and O’Donnell, the Labour Party candidate, received 390 or 57.7 per cent. When Hagen was eliminated the Government naturally looked for the No. 3’s - the 193 preferences from Julius of the Communist Party. Of that number, 139 went to Killen and 54 to O’Donnell. In all 323, or 34.32 per cent., were received by Killen as against 444, or 65.68 per cent., received by the Labour Party’s candidate.
– Quote all the figures!
– I have just quoted the second preferences. I will quote the figures again for the edification of the honorable member for Mallee. Of Julius’s second preferences 193 or 28.55 per cent, went to the Q.L.P. candidate, and 93 or 13.75 per cent., went to Killen. The Labour Party received 390 or 57.7 per cent., and not 86.2 per cent, as the honorable member for Mallee stated. I suggest that unless the honorable member was misinformed he should try a simple exercise in simple arithmetic. I commend that exercise to other honorable members opposite.
I come back to the question. The honorable member for Mallee said that the Australian Labour Party received 86.2 per cent, of the preferences in that case and the Prime Minister said, “ Of course, I would take that for granted “. So the Prime Minister takes it as a fact that whatever the honorable member for Mallee said in this instance is correct. But the Prime Minister, like the honorable member for Mallee, is wrong again.
The Communist Party put fourteen candidates in the field in the recent New South Wales election, thirteen of them against sitting Labour men and only one against a sitting Liberal. They were nearly successful in winning a seat for the anti-Labour party candidate in Hartley, where the Communist Party candidate obtained 658 votes. Of those, 336 or 51 per cent, went to the anti-Labour Party candidate as against 322 or 49 per cent, to the Labour candidate.
To give a further illustration, let me. refer the House to 1955 when, in a Commonwealth election, the Communist Party entered 29 candidates in the whole of Australia, 24 against sitting Labour members and five against sitting Liberals. Again, in 1958, the Communist Party entered nineteen candidates, fourteen against sitting Labour members and only five against sitting Liberals. Surely this record indicates to some members opposite who try to tell people outside of Parliament, the newspapers and even members of this House that the Communist Party wants to see the Labour Party elected, that nothing is further from the truth. And the honorable member for Moreton knows that better than any one in this House! The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), Senator McCallum and Mrs. Breen know it. All those people know it, yet members of the Government have the audacity and cheek to say that the Communist Party leans towards the Labour Party.
It has always been the endeavour of the Communists to keep the Labour Party out of office and the present Government in office because they know that while it is there with a policy for a permanent army of unemployed and with poverty and distress in the community, the Communist Party thrives.
, - During the debate on the motion for the adjournment the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to unemployment in a smelting undertaking at Lithgow. I wish to refer to a smelting undertaking at Port Kembla, known as the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and, at the same time, to the Closing down of the mine at Captain’s Flat. The company at Port Kembla employs 500 men there and a staff of about 170. It is an old concern which was started to take in copper concentrates from various places in Australia and smelt and refine them. Because of the great changes which have taken place this company is now unable to get the ores that it requires. Mount Isa will now be doing its own concentrating and refining and Peko in the Northern Territory and Ravensthorpe are selling their ores to Japan. The company at Port Kembla is unable to get enough of those ores from the smaller concerns to keep it going. This may mean that for about three years, until Cobar comes into operation the shortage will make a big difference to the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company and some of its men will lose their employment. At the same time the mine at Captain’s Flat has closed down. This mine has a fairly large amount of tailings which contain some residues which would be valuable to the company at Port Kembla. I am suggesting to the Government that Professors Marshall and Hunter have a look at this possibility on Monday. If they find that the tailings at Captain’s Flat contain enough sulphur to help the company in the production of copper matt, which is then used for picking up precious metals like gold in the. refining process, the Government might subsidize the movement of the tailings from Captain’s Flat to the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company and the New South Wales Government, through freight concessions could also assist the moving of the tailings from Captain’s Flat to Port Kembla.
This would have two effects. Men are being put off at Captain’s Flat. Some of them have homes there and might get employment in moving these tailings from Captain’s Flat - in loading them and possibly in concentrating or refining them and getting them away on to the rail and down through Moss Vale and Unanderra to Port Kembla. At the same time, many of the men now working in the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company Limited at Port Kembla may also be retained in employment. It will be most important to preserve the jobs of the technical members of the staff, like metallurgists, whose services could not be replaced once they were lost.
The Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company is the kind of firm that is known as a custom refinery. It takes in for refining small amounts of materials from gougers. It would be a bad thing for Australia if that firm were to close’ down. lt should be kept going because, by taking the produce of the gougers, it will be supporting these men, who will therefore be able to do more prospecting. They are the sort of men who move out into the rough country and find new deposits of ores, and this can lead to the establishment of more industries.
I shall go over this matter again briefly. There are two things to be attended to. First, there are the dumps at Captain’s Flat, which can be used to preserve the jobs of some of the men at Captain’s Flat who have lost their employment because the lode has just about given out and the mine is closing. Some of those men could be used for the work I have mentioned. At the same time, the jobs of people in the Electrolytic’ Refining and Smelting Company could be preserved. This scheme would be of great benefit to the people of Captain’s Flat and to the men working at Port Kembla. It would preserve a company which should be kept going. It is a very efficient refining and smelting outfit - much more efficient, I believe, than those run by the Japanese who are purchasing much of our copper ores. Another reason for it to be kept going is that it would be there in readiness for the big job it has to do when the Cobar ores come into production in three or four years. The gougers will have a place to which to sell their ore and will have the incentive to find new deposits of metal.
– I Wish to make a personal explanation, Mr.. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Sir.
– Is it in relation to something you are stated to have said?
– It is in relation to something that happened to-night. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said to-night that figures which I had given to the House last Tuesday in a question regarding the preferences obtained by the honorable member for Moreton were incorrect. If that is so. then I am very sorry. I want to tell how I got the figures.
– Order! I think that the honorable member is out of order. He is engaging in debate.
– I want to explain just what happened.
– Order! The honorable member would hot be in order in continuing on that line. He will resume his seat.
– I ask permission of the House to tell you-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The honorable member claims to have been misrepresented in a statement made here to-night. The correct procedure is for the honorable member to state in what way he has been misrepresented, but he must not debate the matter.
– I will ask-
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put - That the question be now put. The House divided.. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.) Ayes . . . . . . 59
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Australian Government reports to the Trusteeship Council annually in detail on its administration of the Trust Territory, at the Council’s Summer Session. This Session is scheduled to begin this year on 31st May. Information regarding the situation will then be placed before the Council by the Australian Special Representative.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 5. The payments referred to were in respect of leave with full pay for members of the Commonwealth Public Service attending Citizen Military Forces annual continuous training and .courses of instruction. The circumstances in which these Public Service Regulations were delayed were made known to the Senate. Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. Steps have been taken to ensure that in future payments to Commonwealth public servants will be made only when the enabling regulations or amendments to regulations, as the case may be, have been put into effect.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. As part of the measures introduced by the Government to stimulate employment, special funds were made available to the Post Office for the purpose of commencing additional projects quickly. When determining where the most benefit would be achieved from the additional funds, the existing demand for telephones in particular areas together with the employment situation in those areas was considered. Much of the work which has been performed by the additional staff has necessarily been of a relatively unskilled nature and at this stage it is too soon to expect to see the full effects of the new work reflected in the number of additional telephone services installed since the measures were introduced. However, it is expected that the additional works will result in 2,500 more subscribers’ services being connected than were provided for in the department’s original .1961-62 programme.
b asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What applications did he receive in the last two years from (a) Trans-Australia Airlines and
What decision did he give on each application and when did he give it?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: - 1 and 2. The information sought is set out in the following table: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
Ansett-A.N.A.-£A 1,627,000 per aircraft.
T.A.A.- £A1,586,000 per aircraft.
Qantas- £A1,592,000 per aircraft.
T.E.A.L.- £A1,667,000 per aircraft
The cost of the third Electra to Ansett-A.N.A. was £A1,295,000 and to T.A.A. £A1,284,000. These later prices included less for spares than included in the initial orders.
son asked the Minister for Immigration -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Royal Australian Air Force.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon, notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The Royal Australian Air Force maintains a marine section at Townsville primarily for the carriage of range parties and the supervision of the range area during bombing exercises on Cordelia Rocks in Halifax Bay, north of Townsville. The Halifax Bay range is the only highexplosive range for bomber aircraft in eastern Australia and is used by aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force’s bomber wing at Amberley, Queensland. It also meets a variety of other Service requirements such as the landing of survival parties on uninhabited islands and the transport to deep water of bombs, ammunition and other items declared unusable. Rescue work of an emergency character has also been undertaken on occasions at the request of civil authorities. In addition, in the same way as all other Royal Australian Air Force Units the section carries out a variety of training exercises in the waters around Townsville. From time to time, Ministers, members of Parliament and other appropriate official guests have been invited to see the Royal Australian Air Force’s marine activities at Townsville as elsewhere. This also applies to many other activities of the Royal Australian Air Force when no security considerations are involved.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620315_reps_24_hor34/>.