24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Has Sir Leslie Melville resigned as chairman of the Tariff Board because he disagrees with the present tariff policy of the Government? If so, when and on what issues did such disagreement commence?
- Sir Leslie Melville has not resigned because of disagreement with myself or the Department of Trade. I have Sir Leslie’s letter in which he intimates his desire to retire. There are some personal references in that letter. I would be glad to show the letter to the Leader of the Opposition, and that might be an occasion for him, if he wishes, to discuss with me what might arise. He could bring the matter again into the Parliament if he desires.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Referring to the right now introduced in Papua and New Guinea for indigenous inhabitants to drink alcoholic liquor, can the Minister inform the House whether any authoritative report has been received by the Government on which members can form an opinion as to the reaction of the native and European communities of the Territory to the lifting of the prohibition?
– I think the House will know that I am not fully conversant with the details of legislation relating to the liquor laws of Papua and New Guinea, but knowing that the House would be interested and because there was some unnecesary and, I think, frivolous criticism in some United Kingdom newspapers, I did ask the department to obtain telephonic advice for me as to how the law was being administered and as to what the results were. I think I can say that the natives regard what has been done as a very desirable social change, and I am very glad to be able to add that the change has been completely successful. It is true that there was one case of drunkenness in Port Moresby, but no one can really regard that as a significant incident. That was one case that might easily have occurred had the liquor laws not been changed. There was a requirement in some hotels that the indigenous people should wear shoes when they went into the bars, but that was taken up by the Administration with the various hotel interests and it has now been agreed that shoes need not be worn if the people do not want to wear them. Finally, there was some difficulty about different prices being charged at various hotels. As a result of voluntary agreement between the hotel-keepers, and after discussion with the law officers, uniform prices are now being charged in Port Moresby. So I can say that this has been a very successful reform, and I think it is true to say that little that could be regarded as eventful happened as a result of this important social change.
– As the statement issued by the Minister for Trade outside the House last night gave no reasons for Sir Leslie Melville’s preferring an appointment with the world bank to the chairmanship of the Tariff Board, and for the Government’s agreeing to his retirement after he had served only a third of his term, will the Minister make a considered statement to the House on this important issue, setting out the reasons for, and the events leading up to, and associated with Sir Leslie’s retirement? Since, presumably, not only Sir Leslie’s desire to resign, but also the board’s case for an independent staff and the offer of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development were not all brought to the Minister’s attention solely in conversation, will he table all the correspondence that he received or sent on all these subjects?
- Sir Leslie Melville has not, either verbally or in writing, given what I would regard as a conclusive explanation of his desire to depart from his present office. Any reluctance which I exhibit to discuss this, I assure the House, arises only from a reluctance on my part to attempt publicly to interpret Sir Leslie’s views and attitudes. I hope that the House will respect that reluctance.
On the other hand, Sir Leslie himself may care to make a public statement. To that I would offer no resistance at all. I have stated that I am prepared to show to the Leader of the Opposition the letter which Sir Leslie wrote to me intimating his wish to terminate his appointment with the board in order to take up another appointment; also one other subsequent letter on the same matter which I think is not very relevant. But I will disclose both.
– Why have any favoritism?
– There is no favoritism about it.
– Why show the letter exclusively to the Leader of the Opposition?
– This is an appropriate matter for the Parliament to inquire about. But I think that every member of the House will realize that there is some line of demarcation when it is a matter of bringing a private person’s business into the Parliament.
– What are you covering up?
– I am not covering up anything, and I do not want to cover up anything. The only explicit matter in respect of which Sir Leslie Melville has, over a period, expressed discontent is the number of staff for the Tariff Board and the pace at which the staff has been increased. In respect of that matter, I am prepared now or at any time to disclose in full the staffing position of the Tariff Board since Sir Leslie Melville has been chairman, and prior to that.
– Does that mean that the staff has been inadequate to deal with the work of the board?
– I think it means that Sir Leslie Melville has regarded the staff as inadequate. This is the one, single, explicit issue on which Sir Leslie Melville has expressed discontent. I could express, and Doctor Westerman could express, exactly the same discontent about inadequacy of staff in the Department of Trade.
– Why do you not fix it up?
– This is a real problem of procuring in sufficient numbers people who are qualified to perform highly specialized services. It can be shown that the staff of the Department of Trade is more inadequate in certain critical categories than is the staff of the Tariff Board in its critical categories.
– I wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he received from the Australian High Commissioner in Canada any advice that the British and Indian High Commissioners in that country are critical of Canada for continuing to ship grain to red China for consumption by the services while red China is pressing her demands on India by force of arms? At what stage do our moral obligations to a fellow member of the Commonwealth of Nations that is subjected to aggression cause trade with the aggressor to be classified as trading with the enemy? Will the Minister, in replying, consider the situation from the point of view of those who are on the receiving end of the results of such trade, as some of us were in Singapore with respect to scrap iron exported in the late 1930’s?
– The answer to the first question is, “ No “. The answer to the second question is that a question of -policy such as that raised is no doubt a matter for government consideration in due course, and not a matter to be dealt with in answer to a question. The answer to the third question is that there is, in the circumstances instanced, no similarity to the other matter that the honorable gentleman mentioned.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he received any reports of congestion and delays at the motor vehicle testing station to which all motor vehicles -in the Australian Capital Territory must be taken for testing and registration? In view of the increasing spread of the suburbs of Canberra, will the Minister consider as a matter of urgency the establishment of a second testing station on the southern side of the city? In the meantime, will he ascertain whether it would be possible, without imposing on the staff, to have the motor vehicle testing station opened perhaps on two or three nights a week and on Saturday mornings to cope with the present congestion?
– I have had some complaints about congestion at the motor vehicle testing station. The congestion, as I understand it, occurs mainly during peak periods. Not unnaturally, public servants go to the station for the testing and registration of their vehicles in the lunch hour, when they finish work for the day, or before they begin work in the morning. Some additional staff has been taken on, but I do not think that the situation would justify the expense of establishing another motor vehicle testing station at the present stage. However, I shall examine the honorable member’s suggestion that the present station be opened for some hours outside normal business hours to enable people to have readier access to it.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question as head of the Government. Is it a fact that, approximately twelve months ago, Ansett-A.N.A. sought from the High Court of Australia an injunction to restrain the State of New South Wales from a rationalization of intra-state air services in favour of East-West Airlines Limited? Is it a fact that, approximately six weeks ago, the Commonwealth gave notice of intervention in this case but has not yet stated to the High Court its pleas or grounds for intervention? In view of the long period which has elapsed since the High Court granted the injunction to Ansett-A.N.A., can the Prime Minister assure the House that a decision will no longer be delayed by the Comonwealth’s failure to proceed?
– This matter does not fall within my administration, but I will refer it to the two Ministers who are concerned.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he agrees with
Mr. R. J. McAuley, a member of the executive of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, that South Australian Liberal members of Parliament had not sufficiently emphasized South Australia’s claims for assistance for roads for the transport of beef cattle and appeared to be indifferent to the requirements of the South Australian beef cattle industry. If South Australia’s case has been sufficiently emphasized, why has it not succeeded?
– I have not had brought to my attention the full statements made on this matter by Mr. McAuley, I can say, however, that representation of South Australia in this place, at least by South Australian members on the Government side, lacks nothing in devotion, ability and conscientiousness. Anybody who has had any experience of the veteran Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, will hardly be impressed by an argument that the cause of South Australia has suffered during his period of office.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation make available to the House by Tuesday next a summary of the performances of the Trident, the Caravelle and the Boeing 727, including details of speed, payload, range and aerodrome requirements? Then, or as soon thereafter as possible, will the Minister also make available information as to the capital cost and estimated running cost of each aircraft? Then, or as soon thereafter as possible, will the Minister further make available information as to why one of these aircraft should be preferred over the others in the re-equipment of Australia’s internal airlines?
– I will be pleased to convey the honorable gentleman’s question to my colleague in another place and obtain an answer from him as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I preface my question by pointing out that men over 50 years of age are experiencing extreme difficulty in finding employment. They are compelled by the Commonwealth Employment Service to produce evidence that they have made attempts to find employment for themselves, notwithstanding the fact that they have no money for fares. Is the Minister aware that many of these men are ex-servicemen and that they are compelled to rely on the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Sydney City Mission and other charitable organizations for food and shelter? Will the Minister instruct his officers to do everything possible to find work for these unfortunate men before Christmas or grant them an extra week’s benefit in the same way as additional payments are made to pensioners at Christmas time by the Lord Mayor and aldermen of the Labour-controlled Sydney City Council?
– I have heard it said that men over the age of 50 years have difficulty in obtaining employment. The statistics and information available to me and to my department do not support that claim.
– You should try to find a job.
– Order! If honorable members continue to interject I will have to take some action. Interjections disrupt proceedings and are not fair either to honorable members who are seeking information or to Ministers who are answering questions.
– This matter has been examined carefully. The available facts do not support the contention that it is very much more difficult for people over the age of 50 years to obtain employment than for people under that age. It becomes a little sickening to listen to the humbug from honorable members opposite.
Opposition members. - Shame!
– Mr. Speaker, the word “ humbug” is listed as unparliamentary and I think the Minister should be asked to withdraw it.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the remark. Time and again in this House I have stated that the Government’s economic policies are working out and that the number of persons registered for employment is being gradually reduced. I emphasize that the problem now is not one of the general level of demand with its effect upon employment, but rather of two groups of people - the unskilled and people in country areas, particularly young women. They have a special problem, and we are trying to help them to solve that special problem by looking at such matters as apprenticeship and technical training. Rather than continue to complain and to raise political issues, honorable gentlemen opposite would do much better to get down to the real job of persuading people to take apprenticeships. Honorable gentlemen would thereby be doing something to help people to obtain skills, and by this means to obtain ready employment. ,
– My question to the Treasurer concerns second loans on war service homes. By way of preface I refer to the hardship of ex-servicemen who, by reason of the increasing number of transfers and re-appointments, lose the concession of a war service loan on their homes, because there is no second loan. In order to pave the way for the making of a second loan will the Treasurer consider an amendment of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act, which act requires war service homes first loan repayments to be sunk in the fund? When this is done, if there are still insufficient funds for war service homes second loans will he consider whether loan funds can be secured to augment the £35,000,000 from revenue this year for the purpose of meeting second loan requirements?
– Although the honorable gentleman has put his question in a particular way he is, in effect, asking the Government to increase the provision for war service homes above the £35,000,000 which is provided in the Budget. That amount was fixed by the Government having regard to what it could see of its financial requirements and obligations at the time the Budget was being prepared. To increase that sum at this time would involve a further policy determination. I point out to the honorable gentleman not only that our examination suggests that the level of home construction is being maintained at a high level, but information available to me suggests that funds for home construction are now more readily forthcoming from a variety of financial institutions including banks, insurance companies and the like. So, while the Government gives continuing consideration to matters of thu kind referred to by the honorable gentleman, I do not see, in present circumstances, a justification for reviewing a policy so recently determined.
– Will the Minister for Trade deny that he or the Department of Trade has ever exercised pressure on, or otherwise tried to influence, the decisions of the Tariff Board? Will he deny that reports of the Tariff Board are often withheld by the Government from the Parliament and the public for long periods?
– I will give a most unequivocal and final denial by saying that neither I nor the Department of Trade has ever attempted to impose any influence on the Tariff Board as to how it should make its findings or what its findings should be. I could give no more complete and unequivocal denial than that. To make that denial even more forceful I point out that since 1956 - since when I have been responsible for policy in regard to the Tariff Board - I have met members of the board on only two occasions, and on their invitation. On both occasions I have explained to the Tariff Board that I was so anxious that the board should not only be free and independent, but that it should be seen to be free and independent, that I had abstained from seeking to see members of the board. I have done so not only because I did not want to exercise any influence on the board, but also because I did not want there to be any superficial evidence that would lead any one to think that there was any exercise of influence on it. When I met the Tariff Board for the second time, which was on Monday last, on the invitation of the board, I spent two hours talking to the members and being talked to by them. I invited the Tariff Board members to discuss with me their policy and their problems. I can say that there was not one critical word from one member of the Tariff Board.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by reminding the Minister that all wheat delivered to the No. 24 pool has been sold, and that delivery has been taken by the various purchasing countries. I remind him also that wheat was sold by the Australian Wheat Board to mainland China on credit, with no guarantee of payment given by the Australian Government, and that this means that growers will have no certainty of receiving payment, and also that final payment from that pool will be delayed. I ask the Minister: Has the Government met its obligations under the stabilization plan by paying into the pool the amount required to make up the guaranteed price for the 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported? If so, when was this payment made?
– The No. 24 pool has not been finalized, because certain payments are still awaited from China. However, all payments have been made on the due dates. As to the Government’s guarantee, as soon as sales were made and an assessment could be made of the amount required, the Government met its obligations under the stabilization legislation and made the necessary payment to the Australian Wheat Board in March of this year. The amount paid was, I think, about £8,900,000. Because the Government met its responsibilities promptly the board was able to make a further interim payment.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that during his attack yesterday on a member of one of the Government parties, the honorable member for Wentworth cried, “ Shame, shame! “ to the Minister? Is there any relation between the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville from the Tariff Board and the resignation of the honorable member for Wentworth from the Ministry? Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade was responsible for both resignations?
– Certainly not. The honorable member knows as well as I do what went on yesterday. Perhaps he knows better than I do, because I have not eyes in the back of my head.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to recent good news about the new use that has been discovered in the United States of America for minerals extracted from sand from Australian beaches. Is it true, as reported, that already orders for 460,000 tons of rutile-bearing sands have been received? Does the Minister consider that this discovery of a new use for these sands will mean a significant increase in our export income?
– I am aware of the new orders that have been placed, and I am delighted because this means not only immediate new business, but also a likelihood of continuing and substantial increases in sales to the dollar area. Australian beach sands have been found useful not only in the manufacture of heat-resistant alloy metals, but also for pigmentation purposes in the manufacture of paints, and for other uses. There are vast deposits of beach sands around the Australian coast, and the enterprise of Australians in attracting American commercial interests is very much to the benefit of this country. I believe that a constant large volume of trade will develop from it.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Has Sir Leslie Melville resigned from the Reserve Bank Board? Has there been any suggestion that he has not been satisfied with the manner in which he has been permitted to carry out his duties as a member of that board?
– I have no information to that effect, but I shall find out what I can for the honorable member.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Now that a decision has been taken on the type of jet aeroplanes to be used by domestic airlines, and it has been announced that Melbourne will be included in the schedules only in respect of restricted loading, will immediate steps be taken to get the longdelayed programming of work on the Tullamarine airport under way, thus allowing both domestic and overseas airlines to provide a service fitting to the importance of Melbourne in both passenger and cargo traffic?
– I shall be very pleased to convey the question to my colleague in another place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he use his influence with his colleagues representing the various services, who will be enlisting trainee apprentices, to ensure that some preference is given to applicants living outside the metropolitan and industrial areas? The reason for my request is obvious; youths in metropolitan and industrial areas have a much better chance of obtaining an apprenticeship than have country people in areas where no industries are established.
– I am sure the honorable gentleman will be glad to know that at least three months ago I had discussions with all of my colleagues whose departments may be invoved in the training of apprentices, and I have had a remarkably good response from them as to the increased number of apprentices they will be able to take and train. I had not taken up the specific matter raised by the honorable member, of trying to engage as trainee apprentices youths from outlying areas. I think this suggestion is well worthy of consideration. I will convey it to my department, and we will have consultations with the various other departments concerned.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the last period when a subsidy was paid to exporters of lamb. Has the Minister any evidence of improvement in prices paid to producers as a result of this subsidy? Will he make investigations with a view to deciding whether future payments direct to producers would be more advantageous than payments to exporters?
– I am not in a position to give the average number of payments made in recent months. I can say that prices have been firmer than they were twelve months ago. That is the position, of course, with lamb prices in the United Kingdom. Deficiency payments may not be required to meet the guarantee, because prices overseas are approximately 3d. per lb. higher than they were twelve months ago. I will see whether I can obtain some information in regard to local payments on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Air. As the Canberra bombers are now obsolete and no announcement was made by either the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Air during the debate on the defence estimates of any intention on the part of the Government to replace them durng the term of the three-year defence plan, will the Minister advise the House whether the Government has any intention of replacing them with uptodate bombers? If so, what action has been taken up to the present? If not, does the Government consider that bombers are no longer an essential part of Australia’s defence framework? On the other hand, if the Government does consider that bombers are essential for Australia’s defence, will the Minister give an undertaking to the House that an urgent decision will be made on the question of replacement of the Canberra bombers, keeping in mind that, even if an order were placed now, it would be some considerable time before delivery of the new aircraft would be effected?
– If the honorable member had listened to my speech during the debate on the Estimates he would have obtained all the answers he seeks. First of all, I did not say that the Canberra bomber is obsolete. I said it was obsolescent and that there are undoubtedly in operation aircraft with better performance. I also said that the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force are still operating Canberras and are likely to continue to operate them for at least three or four years. In fact, the United States Air Force has only recently had modifications done on Can berras to keep them operational for another three or four years. The three-year defence programme is a flexible one, and if the time should arrive when we see being made abroad a suitable aircraft which will fit into our needs we will reconsider our decision about replacing the Canberras.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that Australia is producing record harvests of wheat and has done so for the past three years? If so, does this mean that we shall have to export more wheat to dispose of surpluses and that generally our potential future markets for increased production will be in Communist China and other Communist countries? Is the Minister aware that Communist countries have in the past practised a form of infiltration by means of trade and that this could happen to Australia?
– It is a fact that in recent years, I think due to a combination of overall good seasons, better farming methods and lower prices for wool, very big crops of wheat have been harvested. It is also a fact that in Europe and, to an extent, in Asia, some markets that hitherto had been substantial have been tending to close against us. The Government has been busy searching the world for markets for wheat, everywhere other than in Communist countries. Our trade negotiations are well known to have produced contractual arrangements with the United Kingdom, which is bound to buy 750,000 tons of wheat per year from Australia. India has committed herself subject to a satisfactory balance of payments and the absence of unusual circumstances, to buy commercially 400,000 tons of wheat a year. These are markets that have been opened to Australia. Ceylon is another market in which 100,000 tons of flour a year have been contractually sold by Australia.
These are all markets where our sales of wheat and flour had been diminishing. The Japanese trade treaty has allowed the contractual purchase of 8,000,000 and then 11,000,000 bushels of wheat a year. These sales are the outcome of the Government’s own direction. The Australian
Wheat Board alone would have been left with the problem of selling surpluses that it could not sell for obvious reasons. The United Kingdom was buying subsidized wheat from France; and poorer countries, like India, were accepting wheat from the United States of America and other generous countries. The Australian Wheat Board has had the job of selling the produce of the Australian farmer and, on its own initiative and without any aid from the Government - without any support, credit or other aid from the Government - has made its sales where it could find them. In this respect Australia is not different from any other country except the United States of America, which is the only wheat exporting country, so far as I am aware, that is unwilling to sell wheat to Communist China.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: Is it not a fact that at the moment neither Cockatoo Dockyard nor the Williamstown Dockyard has any naval ships under construction? Would it be correct to say that as a result of the Government’s plans for naval development there does not appear to be any chance of shipbuilding orders being placed with the Australian naval shipyards in the immediate future? Does the Minister believe that it is in the national interest that our naval shipyards should remain without shipbuilding orders for so long?
– I would have to go into this with my colleague, the Minister for the Navy, to get the exact position with regard to orders for naval work in the shipbuilding yards, but the last time I discussed it with him he told me that the work force had been increased at Cockatoo and that there had been a general decrease of about 40 at Williamstown and an increase of some hundreds at Garden Island.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the report of the Australian
Stevedoring Industry Authority wherein the authority said at page 19 -
In particular the authority hopes to announce the establishment of a productivity index during the coming year.
Will the Minister direct the attention of the authority to the difficulties experienced everywhere in the world in constructing such an index and the danger of confusing a measure of man-hour production with productivity?
– The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority did give me a special note of its intention to establish a productivity index, and it directed attention to the difficulties associated with it, particularly the fact that man-hour production on the waterfront might be confused with productivity over the whole of the waterfront industry. So I do not think it is necessary to direct the attention of the authority to the matter the honorable gentleman has mentioned. I think this is a really worthwhile innovation by the authority. The authority will seek the widest possible advice as to the best method of tackling the problem, and I hope that at the end of a year, or whatever other period is necessary, we shall be able to get some very worthwhile information about what is in fact happening on the waterfront and shall know whether there is a continuing growth of efficiency on the waterfront.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Has the honorable gentleman received a letter from the general secretary of the Professional Musicians Union of Australia asking that vises be not granted to entertainment groups from overseas without first submitting any proposal for such entry to the union and ascertaining whether the union could supply musicians necessary for the adequate presentation of the particular type of entertainment? If such a letter has been received, is it the intention of the Minister to co-operate with the Musicians Union of Australia in protecting the interests of local musicians, as is done in Great Britain where the union is first consulted before the entry of overseas musicians is approved? I should like to add that in April this year a British ballet company headed by Dame Margo Fonteyn toured Australia. A local orchestra of 30 musicians was engaged for that tour and their work was highly praised by the promoters and the ballet group.
– Mr. Speaker, I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman and let him know the result as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that the honorable gentleman visited Western Australia on Monday last for a history-making occasion? Will he inform the House what is involved in the first section of the standardization of rail gauge between Northam and Kwinana, work on which has now commenced?
- Mr. Speaker, it was a history-making event in Western Australia on Monday last, although I do not want to imply that it was history-making because of my visit. However, the event marked the beginning of the first two phases of the standardization of the railway through the Avon valley. The amount that has been contributed by the Commonwealth Government has been discussed in this House. The Premier of Western Australia and Mr. Court, the Minister for Railways, were most eulogistic of the co-operation of the Commonwealth which made the scheme possible. That line will link up with Northam, which is the first stage of the standardization, and will carry the ironstone from Koolyanobbing. This will add £2,000,000 annually to Western Australia railway revenues, and will also, within six years, enable passengers to travel from Perth to Kalgoorlie and then to Port Pirie in the one train. This is regarded as the most forward step and the biggest thing that has happened in Western Australia for 50 years.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The need to investigate complaints that hire purchase companies are exploiting the Australian Capital Territory Hire-purchase Ordinance to deal unconscionably with residents in several States and are publishing misleading advertisements on television and radio to further this purpose.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- Mr. Speaker, the facts which I possess on this subject, which I am prepared to make available to the Government, and as many of which as time allows I shall give to honorable members this morning, are such as to shock this House. They will demonstrate the need for an investigation, which I think the Government can no longer refuse. I believe also that honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that amendment of the Commonwealth law is urgently required to put an end to the large-scale robbery - I can use no softer word - of ordinary people which is now being carried on in the shadow and under the protection of Commonwealth law.
Some weeks ago in this place I sought a governmental inquiry into certain trading practices alleged against the firm of Goodwins Limited. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) gave the House further evidence of the need for such an inquiry. The present motion arises because, since then, both of us have received so many letters from people in various States alleging malpractice by this company as to indicate a very serious state of affairs indeed. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has a further amount of supporting information, which I think makes the case both for an inquiry and for amendment of the law overwhelming.
I wrote back to all my correspondents, and there were scores of them, asking them to send me documents supporting their allegations and also to state whether they were prepared to have their names and addresses made public. To-day I have these supporting documents and, what I think is more remarkable, the permission of every person making a complaint against this company to publish his name and address in support of his statements. That is how strongly they feel about it. Because people in private life are often apprehensive of publicity, this unanimous willingness to come forward indicates the height of indignation that these people feel and is also substantial evidence of their good faith in the matter. They are prepared to give their names and addresses and are prepared to come forward and assist the Government by taking part in this inquiry. I do not propose to give the names and addresses at this stage for reasons that I think will be understood. These people could be pilloried. Nor will I have time to present to the House more than a very short selection of the number of cases I have received. But because some of these allegations, if true, reveal truly shocking business misconduct, I now again ask the Government to establish a full investigation. I undertake, if the Government will agree to de this, to provide it with all the documents in my possession and with the names and addresses of the complainants.
I raised this matter in the House originally on 30th August. Mr. Goodwin then issued through the press a so-called challenge to me to prove ‘ certain things within seven days before a panel of journalists and radio and television representatives. He said that if I could prove these things he would pay £10,000 to charity. As legal advice to me was that the terms of the so-called challenge would in no way bind the firm to pay £10,000 to charity, no matter what evidence I brought forward, I replied publicly that if Mr. Goodwin was prepared to put his offer in legal and binding form in writing, and was prepared to hand the £10,000 cheque in advance to an independent arbitrator, I would submit the substantial evidence in my possession to that arbitrator and abide by his decision. Since then, Mr. Goodwin has made no further effort to accept that offer. Instead, intermediaries have come to me claiming to represent Mr. Goodwin and wanting to talk the matter over. When I declined to do that, I received a message that Mr. Goodwin himself would like to come to Canberra and discuss the matter with me personally. I replied that I thought it better that ali our dealings should be in writing.
In brief, the allegations against this company are, first, that it persistently uses false advertising to attract customers and that its dealings are never in accord with any of the various “come-on” offers that it advertises. Secondly, in contradiction of its advertising, it charges interest rates of 10 per cent, flat, equal to about 18 per cent, simple interest, and robs customers by charging such interest from the beginning on maintenance and insurance contracts, the charges for which do not become due for years afterwards.
Thirdly, it has inserted charges for interest in contracts after they have been signed. Alternatively, it has had contracts signed in blank, on an assurance to customers that everything would be all right, and then has filled in terms and conditions contrary to those offered to the customers. Fourthly, it has ignored requests to correct these contracts, and it has refused to remedy defects in sets. Instead, it has employed threats and intimidation against those who have sought from it a rectification of the position. Fifthly, unbeknown to the purchasers, it has made its contracts with people in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia enforceable in Canberra. Then, in demanding payment, it has warned them of the heavy expense that they would incur if they try to defend the case. The company has added that it has plenty of money and has never lost a case.
– Have they actually said that?
– Yes. I have it in letters. Sixthly, the company has obtained very many - probably hundreds - of default judgments against such persons, some of whom live hundreds of miles from Canberra. It has obtained these judgments against as many as 47 defendants from Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia on one day - 11th October. Many such defendants have contested the claims with the company, but could not afford to fight them in court.
– Are the orders ofthe Canberra court enforceable in other States?
– Yes. I am willing to make all the information I have on this subject available to the AttorneyGeneral to support my charges. In the first case that I shall cite, the people concerned read a Goodwin’s advertisement offering a free gift of a washing machine, an air-cooler or a record player to the purchaser of a television set. The advertisement stated that no deposit was required, but when the prospective purchasers inquired they were told that they must pay a deposit. The washing machine was satisfactory in every respect, but the television set was defective in many ways. It gave every impression of being a second-hand set. Despite every attempt they made by letter, by personal call and by telephone call to Sydney, they received absolutely no remedy and they still were left wilh the defective set.
In another case a man was attracted by the advertising of Goodwins Limited, which stated that no deposit was required and offered a substantial discount. He said, “ I was nearly trapped, but I woke up in time to clear myself “. He found that the contract offered was completely different from the terms of the advertisement. The document showed that instead of receiving any discount he would have had to pay £228 for the set, £146 in interest, and £10 10s. a year for insurance for five years and £53 lis. for maintenance for three years, making a total of £438 10s., and of that total no less than £210 represented interest and other charges.
– He did not sign the contract?
– He was sensible.
– That is right. But a great many people are not so sensible, and they would be assisted if the Government would give them the protection of the law. It is not doing that.
Although I have dozens of cases in my possession I have time to cite only one more. This man wrote to Mr. Goodwin in Canberra on 17th September by registered post, but up to 15th October he had not even received an acknowledgment. People complain repeatedly that they get no acknowledgment from Goodwins Limited. All that they get is a default summons which has to be defended in Canberra. In his let ter this man stated that he had recently purchased a General Electric three-in-one set from the Parramatta branch, and had just received a copy of the hire purchase agreement. The agreement stated the trade-in as a Healing televison set whereas, in fact, he had traded in a Healing television set, plus a cocktail radiogram. The agreement showed that he was to be allowed £142 for the trade-in, whereas he had been offered a total of £180. He said to Mr. Goodwin in his registered letter -
Your representative has either accepted trade-in items from me and not informed your branch, or he has tried to trick me. Kindly go into the matter and send me an amended agreement covering the original trade-in items and figure.
No acknowledgment! No remedy! No rectification! But in due course he is also liable to get a summons which he will have to come to Canberra to answer.
The indictment of the Government in this matter is that, although aware of this company’s methods, it has allowed it to operate under the shelter of Commonwealth law and has failed to investigate charges against the company’s dealings or to strengthen Commonwealth law to prevent the malpractices. If I have time I shall give further examples. I have scores of them.
When I originally raised this matter I did not doubt that once it was exposed the Government would act. That was on 30th August, and nothing has been done. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has completely ignored the complaint of false and misleading broadcasting advertising, which it is certainly within the Government’s power to control. He has treated the matter so contemptuously that he has not even bothered to make one word of reply. To him, such prostitution of the broadcasting service, leading to the tricking of thousands of citizens, is obviously a matter of no importance whatsoever.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), although the matter has been referred to him, has failed to make the necessary regulations under the Australian Capital Territory hire purchase ordinance to prevent these abuses. He has indicated that he sees no reason to do so.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has taken an extraordinarily evasive attitude. When first asked by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for information about this company, he told him to search the records for himself. When further asked to what extent this company had used the device of obtaining default judgments in the Canberra court against persons in various States who could not afford to make the journey of many ; hundreds of miles to defend themsleves he j replied on 25th October that this would involve the examination of a large number of files, and the amount of work involved would not be justified. Would not be justified! The Attorney-General gives the appearance of complete unconcern about how the law is abused, about how many little people are robbed in the process, or about whether any amendment of the law is needed. He is not prepared even to have the files examined to see what the situation is.
When further asked by the honorable member for Grayndler a series of direct questions about the exploitation of people under the Australian Capital Territory Hire Purchase Ordinance, and when particularly asked to consider legislation to remedy the situation and ensure that people could be sued only in a court near to their home, the Attorney-General replied -
I am not able to answer this question without expressing opinions on questions of law, and, in particular, on the construction cf both Federal and State statutory provisions in addition to those in the Australian Capital Territory.
There might be some difficulty in preventing injustice and in protecting the rights of ordinary people, but the Attorney-General just brushed the whole thing aside.
Yesterday, we had the most extraordinary spectacle of all. The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) when he learned that this subject was to be raised to-day as a matter of urgency, delivered a tirade, in reply to an inspired question, in an endeavour to prevent the matter from being ventilated in the House to-day, on the excuse that this would interfere with the rights of private members - as though this Government had ever shown the least concern for private members’ rights.
This robbery is occurring under the protection of Commonwealth law and is being promoted through Commonwealth agencies. The matter bears an even more serious aspect when the directorate of the company is examined. The directors are Mr. William J. Smith, who is chairman, Mr. S. W. Goodwin, who is managing director, the Honorable Arthur D. Bridges, M.L.C., Mr. Morris W. Apps and Mr. Roland J. Ryan. Government supporters will recognize the names of prominent fellow members of the Liberal Party of Australia in ±at directorate. Mr. Bridges was last week elected leader of the Liberal Party forces in the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
I say that the Government’s extraordinary inaction bears the implication that it is unwilling to interfere with the profiteering of its friends.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I never cease to admire the spurious ire that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) can get into a speech. It is amusing. It would be appropriate for the Yarra Bank, but it is not appropriate here. The honorable member has raised an ageold problem, which is becoming perhaps a little more acute and which arises when people who have had nothing to do with business come to enter into financial transactions. They very often are so anxious to get something and to pay for it later as to be careless about what they sign and what they agree to. That is a very common human failing. As we become more and more able to finance transactions on hirepurchase or credit, the risk of people being foolish, as the honorable member seems to concede, and entering into transactions blindly increases.
The whole point of the honorable member’s speech, if it is taken calmly, is whether the Government has done anything at all to see whether people can be further protected - against themselves largely - and to ensure that they do not enter unwittingly into foolish transactions. The Government has a very complete and honorable record in this field. It participated in a series of conferences over many months with representatives of the State governments, including the Labour governments, and, as a result of a most painstaking examination, a very modern and up-to-date hire-purchase model bill was drafted. This bill went to the full extent to which all the governments, including two Labour governments, thought you could go at that time in protecting people against themselves. Its provisions are very drastic. They require people to be given the fullest particulars of price, charges and so on. The Canberra law is in line with the law which was settled by all the governments in Australia, including the two Labour governments, and notably the New South Wales Government.
– But you have made no regulations under the Canberra ordinance to give it teeth.
– None of the States, including the two with Labour governments, has felt it necessary to make the regulations of which the honorable member speaks. The reason, of course, is that they realize that there is often more danger of doing harm by this means than there is virtue in remedying odd anomalies that occur. It must be borne in mind that, if you make the financing of these transactions so onerous as to be impossible, a lot of people who want goods will not be able to get them. So a sensible balance has to be found. The governments of Australia thought that they had found a sensible balance in this uniform law.
It is remarkable how the honorable member for Eden-Monaro thinks that he is a prophet and that he has found something new. However, many, many months ago, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and I noticed that there was a tendency to utilize Canberra as a place in which the hiring company could sue although the transaction had occurred elsewhere. When the bill was being drafted, we thought that we would try to cover this to some degree by providing that people could return the goods, terminate the hiring and avoid the charges. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and other honorable members care to study section 17 of the ordinance, they will see a very elaborate and very just provision for the return of goods which can operate where people buy them in one State under an agreement which stipulates that they return them somewhere else. We have made provision under which a hirer can ensure that he is not bound to return the goods in some place where he is not located. For example, it may be impracticable to return the goods in Canberra when the hirer of the goods is in Sydney. In such a case, the hirer can return the goods in the place in which he is located or in a place fixed by a court. So we have covered this difficulty of the returning of goods.
Then, as I have said, we noticed that there was a tendency to sue in Canberra, as the honorable member for Eden-Mcnaro has said. Let me say that I have no brief whatever for the company concerned; do not think for a moment that I have. Let me say quite openly that I have seen the letters that have been written and to which the honorable member referred, and I do not like them either.
– Do something.
– Just a moment. The honorable member will hear what I have done. I am not talking about what I shall do. I intend to tell the House about what I have done. As I have said, the honorable member thinks that he has discovered something new, but, in truth, he is out of date.
The Minister for the Interior and I met the committee of Attorneys-General to see whether we could amend the hire-purchase legislation to prevent hire-purchase firms from letting a contract in one State and suing in another, causing great inconvenience and putting the debtor at a disadvantage. This occurs not only between Canberra and the States. It occurs between Victoria and southern New South Wales, and so on. After a great deal of work, the draftsmen and the officers found that they could not devise a practical scheme by way of amendment of the hire-purchase Jaw. In Canberra, I then took a hand separately and gave instructions for the drafting of an ordinance dealing with the courts of petty sessions so as to take away from those courts jurisdiction to hear these cases where the goods were not actually bought in Canberra or where the hiring party was not in Canberra. That ordinance is now being drafted and has been in course of preparation for some time.
– For how many years?
– It is a matter, not of years, but of some time. All these things have to be worked out steadily, and I hope that, so far as Canberra is concerned, this ordinance will prevent the practice of letting such a contract in New South Wales and afterwards threatening to sue in Canberra.
I have outlined the steps that I have already taken. They will become effective. I turn now to the charge’ that I have been indifferent to the welfare of little people. I throw that charge back as fast as.it can go. In truth, instead of shouting in this place, bouncing my fist on the table and attacking private people in speeches made here, I have been busy, actually at work on the protection of the people concerned. That goes also for the Minister for the Interior. These contracts confer many rights on people. It is not possible to devise a scheme under which a man cannot make a goat of himself, cannot be foolish or cannot be greedy for the possession of something to the point where he is reckless in what he agrees to do. That is beyond the wit of man. All through time we have endeavoured to do that but it cannot be done to perfection. I do not claim that the present hire-purchase law is perfect, but from the point of view of the people who hire out goods it is the most up-to-date and most drastic that has yet appeared. It has the approval of all governments, including the two Labour governments in this country.
.- I listened with interest to the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick). I was amazed to hear of the steps that he has taken in response to charges made in this House regarding hire-purchase transactions because his statements to-day are in direct contrast to the evasive answers that he gave to me in the Parliament not more than a few days ago. I am forced to the conclusion that the honorable member for Ed’enMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has, by his statements in this place, compelled the Attorney-General to alter his attitude and to give to this Parliament some indication that he and the Government are waking up. Fancy the Attorney-General telling the people that they must be protected against themselves! People do not need to be protected against themselves when they are being robbed. It is the Government’s responsibility to protect the people from robbers. The evidence given to this Parliament to-day by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro shows clearly that Goodwins Limited, which the Attorney-General has protected by his evasive answers, is in the class of downright robbers. I do not believe that the law in the Australian Capital Territory is on all fours with the New South Wales hirepurchase legislation. The New South Wales Minister for Justice is at present drafting amendments to the New South Wales law. The New South Wales law is in many respects different from the law that applies in the Territory. I cannot help being suspicious of the Government’s motives when I find that the Leader of the Liberal Party in the New South Wales Legislative Council, Honorable A. D. Bridges, M.L.C., is a director of Goodwins and of its finance company. I wonder whether the Attorney-General was aware of that fact when he told me, in answer to a question seeking the names of the directors of Television and General Finance Company (Australia) Limited, that I could obtain the information from the Registrar of Companies in the Australian Capital Territory. Probably the AttorneyGeneral did not want to reveal in this Parliament the fact that a political colleague - a fellow member of the Liberal Party - was a party to the exploitation of the people.
I first raised this matter following a statement made in the House by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Certain letters were sent to me by constituents. I produced evidence in the House to show that some age and invalid pensioners in my electorate were being exploited by Goodwins Limited. I referred to the case of two invalid pen.soners - a husband and his wife. The husband was bedridden and unable to move from his house. The couple traded in an old television set for another set valued at £198 9s. Ultimately they found that they were called upon to pay £386. This sum was made up as follows: -
In addition, the couple were promised certain gifts, such as a Mixmaster, conditional upon their purchase of the set. Furthermore, I understand that they were told that adequate service would be available at all times on the set. Goodwins did not reply to me when I raised this matter in the House, but they issued a statement in the press in which they said that they were challenging the statements that had been made on this matter. Goodwins said that a discount agreement had been given to the people concerned, entitling them to a rebate of the full interest if they kept up their instalments on the set. As regards service, Goodwins state that it is not correct to claim that service is not given at the week-ends. Listen to what this robbing company claims! It claims that the only days during which service is not available are Good Friday, Christmas Day and Sundays. This does not leave much of the week-end. The company claims that it gives service on the rest of the week-end. It says that no member of the public who has purchased a set from it was denied a free gift because he had not paid sufficient deposit; that purchasers of sets obtain either a completely interest-free contract or a free gift.
I contacted the pensioner couple to whom I have referred. They told me that they have not received any contract other than the first one into which they entered. They have no reason to think that they will be given a rebate of £122, as has been claimed by the company. Regarding service, the set has broken down on nine occasions since last February. At times these people have telephoned for service on a Saturday afternoon, but the set has not been serviced until the following Monday. These people were definitely refused a free gift and in every other way the advertisement inserted in the newspapers has been repudiated by the company. This pensioner couple are now wondering whether they received a second-hand set and when I read the next letter that I have before me I am sure many honorable members will feel that perhaps they did receive a secondhand set.
Let me deal for a moment with the unscrupulous advertising campaigns of this robbing company. The Postmaster-General will not take action against these people who advertise misleadingly. I have before me a letter from a solicitor. Referring to a gentleman who lives in Surry Hills and has a business in another suburb of Sydney, the solicitor writes -
On about Thursday, 9th August last, he heard over a radio station, which he thinks was 2UE, an advertisement relating to a television set offered for sale by A. E. Goodwin Pty. Ltd. of . . . The advertisement was to the effect that if any listener could give the correct name of a tune which was then to be played he would be entitled to purchase a television set from that company at the cash retail price less £100 discount. ifr….. who does not speak fluent English, had a friend ring the station and name the tune. The tune was the well-known tune “ Moon River “ and it was named correctly.
The following Monday Mr. . . . called, on Mr. … at his shoe shop. Some discussion followed and Mr. . . . understood that the price of the set would be 219 guineas plus antennae 5 guineas, in all £235 4s. Mr. . . . said that the set would be sold on terms over a period of five years but that when the stage was reached that the purchaser owed £100 then the set would become his and the outstanding £100 would be waived. Mr. . . . does not remember anything being said about insurance maintenance or interest charges.
Then . . . presented him with certain papers, showed him where to sign and said everything would be all right At the same time Mr. . . paid Mr. … a deposit of £18 (receipt attached to papers).
About two days later a used set was delivered to Mr. … at his shop. He refused delivery. Later a new set was delivered to his residence. Later still the papers which I forward herewith came by mail. For the first time Mr. . . . learned that instead of the total price payable being £135 4s. it was £393 with provision for a discount not of £100 but of £98 when the balance outstanding was £98 but only if all instalments had been paid on time all the time.
That letter is from a man in the same profession as is followed by the AttorneyGeneral. The Postmaster-General will not take action against companies that engage in misleading advertising. This company advertises - £160 off the purchase price.
In small letters that you would need a magnifying glass to read the advertisement continues - for good regular payers.
Those few words have been inserted in the advertisement since the honorable member for Eden-Monaro drew attention in this House to the actions of this company. Thousands of people are being robbed by the actions of these companies but the Postmaster-General refuses to do anything about their advertisements. I have dozens of letters from people in my electorate complaining about the actions of this company. I have questioned the AttorneyGeneral about court cases heard in Canberra involving breaches of hire-purchase contracts and the only information that I can obtain from the Attorney-General is the number of cases that have been heard in the Territory. People from New South Wales and other parts of the Commonwealth are being summoned to attend court here in Canberra. Because they cannot afford the expense of travelling to Canberra to defend the cases, this unscrupulous robbing firm is able to take advantage of the law and take down people by the thousands.
I have received a complaint that Goodwins will not take back a television set once sold. One case that has come to my notice concerns a woman who paid a deposit of £10 for a set. When she received the set the price was £145, not £70 as the woman had been led to believe. Notwithstanding the fact that she immediately rang Goodwins, the firm would not call and collect the set. Sooner or later this woman will be summoned to appear in the court in Canberra. If she cannot afford to travel to Canberra to defend her case, judgment will be entered against her and she will have to pay up.
The facts presented by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro should make the Attorney-General aware that his evasive statements on this matter are not acceptable and that the matter requires drastic and immediate action. Something must be done to prevent people from being robbed by unscrupulous companies such as Goodwins. I cite Goodwins as a classic case. These people are responsible for confidence tricks on the community. They are using unscrupulous advertising tactics, and people have been robbed, deceived and deprived of their money under agreements which they entered into in good faith with the company. The Government has the responsibility to provide a remedy, particularly in this day and age when hire purchase is so extensively used. It has the responsibility to protect people from snide and unscrupulous operators. Goodwins Limited is a case in point. Their actions cast a reflection on the integrity of every other section of the business community.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– One of the difficulties in the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is that in every case where harsh treatment is complained of the person concerned has voluntarily signed a contract. I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro: What does he expect the Government to do? Does he expect the Government to look at every hire-purchase contract and the circumstances surrounding it, to examine the means by which every individual was induced to enter into a contract? This is an age of salesmanship, advertising gimmicks, persuasion and intense competition.
– But this is a matter of fraud.
– I ask the honorable member to bear with me, because I am only trying to make the point exactly as he has put it. The honorable gentleman says that this is a matter of fraud. Surely if our legislation gives the purchaser a remedy, if he has been defrauded, then we have cornplied with what the honorable gentleman wants.
– A remedy in Canberra for a Brisbane resident?
– I ask the honorable member to remember that in the first instance a contract has been signed - we presume, voluntarily. The legislation provides that before a hire-purchase agreement is entered into the salesman must give the hirer a written offer in which he sets out separately the cash price, the deposit, the terms and the various other items which are set out in the schedule to the act. Attached to that also is a list of advices to hirers as to what they are entitled to under the act. That has to be done before the agreement is entered into. When the agreement is entered into the hirer must be furnished with a copy of the agreement which sets out separately all the matters mentioned in the schedule, including the cash price, interest, insurance and maintenance charges and all other terms. The question then is this : Whether at the point of sale, where the contract was entered into voluntarily, anything unfair was done. I am not saying that salesmanship does not often merge into fraud and misrepresentation; but what more can a government do than provide that where the person concerned can prove there has been misrepresentation, fraud or breach of an undertaking he shall have a remedy? That is set out at great length in clause 11 of the Australian Capital Territory ordinance relating to hirepurchase agreements which reads, in part -
A representation, warranty or statement made to the hirer or prospective hirer, whether orally or in writing, by the owner or dealer, or a person acting on behalf of the owner or dealer, in connexion with or in the course of negotiations leading to the entering into of a hire-purchase agreement shall confer on the hirer -
as against the owner - the same right to rescind the agreement as the hirer would have had if the representation, warranty or statement had been made by an agent of the owner;
The hirer can rescind the agreement and claim damages. He can rescind the agreement and return the goods. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has already outlined that where it is impracticable to return the goods to a particular place - as in this case, to the Australian Capital Territory - the hirer can return them to a reasonable place. As we could not cover all contingencies in the act, it is also provided in the ordinance, in clause 29 -
Where, in any proceedings under this Ordinance or arising out of a hire-purchase agreement or instituted pursuant to sub-section (4.) of this section, it appears to the court before which the proceedings are being heard that the transaction is harsh and unconscionable-
That is a fairly wide dragnet clause with which to give protection - or is otherwise such that the Supreme Court would give relief on an equitable ground the court may re-open the transaction and take an account between the parties to the transaction.
Proceedings may be instituted in a court of petty sessions by the hirer or a guarantor. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggested that the Government has been at fault in these things. He suggested that we could give protection to people by prescribing a maximum interest rate. As the Attorney-General has said, the Attorneys-
General of the States and the Commonwealth conferred for a long time about this act, and so far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned the uniform legislation came into force in June, 1961. The honorable member complains that there has been no fixing- of maximum interest rates. The particular contracts about which he complains are valid contracts under the law of New South Wales, where there is a prescribed maximum interest rate of 10 per cent. flat. The honorable member quite overlooked that point. That is the kind of protection that has been provided by a State which apparently gave some thought to the matter, and decided that that might be of assistance.
– It is of no assistance when the case is in Canberra.
– The honorable member says it is of no assistance. What interest rate does he want us to fix? Does he say that 10 per cent, flat is too high?
– That is interesting, because when Mr. Chifley sat on a royal commission into hire-purchase interest rates in 1941 he said that that was a fair thing. Now the honorable member for EdenMonaro thinks that the rate should be 8 per cent., 7 per cent, or 5 per cent. flat. That is an arbitrary conclusion reached by the honorable member.
I must remind the House again that the people concerned voluntarily enter into a contract, and they know when entering into it what the terms are. I venture to suggest that if any one in any State capital in Australia had attacked any hire-purchase company in the way in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has attacked one he would find scores of people who regretted the bargain they had made because after a time they had found the burden a little onerous. He would get scores of letters. As I am reminded by the AttorneyGeneral, where a person enters into an agreement in New South Wales the obligations under’ the agreement are fixed by the law of New South Wales and not by the law of the Australian Capital Territory.
That is the situation. Like the AttorneyGeneral, I do not defend any improper practices; but I do say that the remedies are here in the act. If a fraud or misrepresentation takes place there is a remedy. If a term is harsh and unconscionable so that the Supreme Court would normally give relief, there is a remedy. Some time ago, the Attorney-General agreed to introduce restrictions on the jurisdiction of a court of petty sessions in the Australian Capital Territory to deal with cases where the hirer resides away from the Australian Capital Territory.
– This is the first announcement of that. A week ago in his answer he refused to do it.
– This is the first announcement of it because it is the first appropriate occasion on which it could be announced in the House. It has been in process of drafting for some time. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro need not think that just because he raised this matter this was not already in train.
– It started nearly twelve months ago.
– That is correct. I must say that the honorable member tears a passion to tatters over this matter, when really, as the Attorney-General has said, this is a situation in which people need protection against themselves; and as much protection as possible has been afforded in the legislation. I suggest that the honorable member has been quite unable to show that even if what he alleges is true there is not adequate protection in the ordinance.
– I want to commend the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on the magnificent fight they have put up on behalf of ordinary people against the sharp practices of this firm known as Goodwins Limited. I want to congratulate both those honorable members also for the excellent results they have been able to achieve since first raising this matter in the Parliament; because there is no shadow of doubt that the action belatedly taken by the Government, and announced to-day for the very first time, was not taken or even thought of until these two honorable gentlemen stood up in this chamber and directed attention to what was going on. Hitherto, this action was not taken, as I said, or even conceived, even though the Government and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) must have known that these practices had been indulged in for many years.
We are pleased to hear that some action at least has been taken to prevent people who enter into agreements in these circumstances being compelled to come to Canberra to answer summonses. All that we are asking, in addition - and surely it is a reasonable request - is that the Government should conduct a full-scale inquiry into the activities of this company, so that we can ascertain the facts and see what can be done to deal with the situation, and so protect ordinary people. The position of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) should be examined. Why does he continue to turn a blind eye to misleading advertising by medium of television and radio? Only the other day the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) heard a broadcast on behalf of Goodwins Limited, saying that the firm was prepared to pay £10,000 to charity if anybody could prove that he would not save £160 over a five-year period if he bought an article from Goodwins and paid his instalments regularly. All that announcement meant, taken conversely, was that if you did not pay your instalments regularly you would lose £160 and would be robbed to that extent. We know very well that if you pay your instalments regularly, and so allegedly save this £160, the firm still makes a handsome profit. So what must they make out of the poor devil who is one day late in one of his instalments during the five-year period?
It is pleasing to note that the Government has at least shrunk from trying to defend the sharp practices to which we have referred, but not one member on the Government side has stood up and said that what we have stated is not true, or that, if it is true, there is nothing wrong with what is going on. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) is, of course, a very skilful debater, and when it comes to a question of law he is in his element. He is always trying to demonstrate, in matters involving questions of law, that we do not know anything about the subjects, or that there is some other law that we have not considered which destroys our arguments and makes us look a lot of dills. He described people who enter into these agreements as being simply careless. How can he suggest that the ordinary man in the street, who has not had the university education that the honorable gentleman has enjoyed, is careless because he does not understand the legal implications of some agreement that he makes with a hire-purchase company? The Attorney-General says, in effect, that you cannot save a fool from his folly, or that you cannot protect a person who wants an article so badly from one of these firms that he is prepared to sign anything in order to get it. You might as well say that there should be no law against suicide, because such a law is only an attempt to save fools from their folly. You might as well say that it is not the business of governments to protect ordinary people against thieves. You might as well say that the government has no responsibility to protect citizens of Australia against murderers. What the Attorney-General has contended is just silly.
The honorable gentleman went on to say that we have a marvellous provision in the Australian Capital Territory ordinance. He said that the Government has provided that if a person is not satisfied with his hirepurchase agreement he can return the goods in question and everything will then be all right. Mr. Gil Langley, M.P., a member of the South Australian Parliament, has had occasion to deal with the case of a pensioner in South Australia who bought goods from Goodwins Limited. This person signed a hire-purchase agreement, the hirer being Goodwins Limited, of Canberra. The agreement was registered in Canberra and was to be accepted in Canberra, and one of the conditions of the agreement was that it was to be deemed to be made in Canberra and to be subject to the Australian Capital Territory ordinances and laws. This was nothing more or less than a legal fiction, but the poor unfortunate soul signed the agreement. The reason why the firm adopts these tactics is that the hire-purchase law in South Australia provides that a deposit of 10 per cent, must be paid, and that if the purchaser is married, the spouse must also sign the agreement. These are provisions that do not appear in the Canberra laws. By this means the firm can sell goods in South Australia without accepting any deposit, although this is clearly in breach of South Australian law.
The Attorney-General now says, by way of interjection, that they cannot get away with that. Of course they cannot, but how can the matter be tested? How can these purchasers - pensioners, if you please - afford to come all the way to Canberra and brief a solicitor here when in most cases they have not enough money even to go into the city of Adelaide from the suburbs in which they live? What is more, there is no public defender in Canberra. Goodwins do not take action in the South Australian courts, because the agreements specifically state that they are to be deemed to have been made in Canberra, and to be subject to the ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory. This means that any legal action must be taken in Canberra.
– You are quite wrong.
– Goodwins Limited has been having summonses issued out of the Canberra courts. The AttorneyGeneral agrees with what I have said, so I suggest you should get your line straight. Now the Attorney-General tells me he will close up that loophole, and I am pleased to hear it.
But let me proceed with this particular case. This unfortunate person wrote a letter to Goodwins and said, “ I would like to return the set”, in accordance, presumably, with the ordinance that the AttorneyGeneral mentioned a moment ago. But could the purchaser return it, as the AttorneyGeneral suggested was legally possible? What happened was that Goodwins in Canberra wrote a letter in reply, saying - and I quote the exact words - “Stop squealing and pay up “. This, surely, is a 1962 version of Ned Kelly’s methods - money or your life! The poor unfortunate soul had no alternative but to meet the payments to Goodwins, because she knew she had not the money to engage a solicitor in Canberra or to appear here in person.
The Attorney-General referred to the right to return the goods and terminate the agreement, and said that the hirer then has no right to make a claim for the moneys owing. It appears that although you have the right to return the goods, Goodwins have the right at law to sue you for the balance of the money owing.
– That is not so.
– Now I want that on record. The Attorney-General says that that is not true. I hope that is published in every newspaper in Australia. The reason I repeat your statement is to extract from you an assurance-
– You want free advice.
– I know it is free advice, and I am prepared to concede that advice from you on legal matters is good advice. I hope the people of Australia will realize that the meaning of your interjection is that they have a right to return goods without having to pay any more money on them.
– That is not so.
– The honorable gentleman says that is not so. Here we have another lawyer. What is the correct position?
The honorable member for Grayndler told us of the occasion on which the salesman called on this unfortunate soul who was caught by these people in Sydney. He said that at the time, a radio was operating, and a tune was being broadcast which was identified as “ Moon River “. I believe that instead of “ Moon River “, the tune should have been “ Darling, I have Deceived You “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. It has been said that I have said that if a person returns the goods, he need not pay anything more. The position is that when goods are returned the contract not only determines but, in substance, an account is taken. The person returning the goods may be in arrears; there may be something to be paid or there may not, but future obligations under the contract are determined. Whether that involves some payment or none depends upon the circumstances of the case.
.- After the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) several weeks ago had made a statement on the adjournment on this matter-
– On 30th August.
– Yes. I certainly had a look at the charges he made, because he made some reference to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and what it should be doing. When I received the wording of the matter to be raised by the honorable member to-day, I had a look at it to see whether there was anything to which I, as the Postmaster-General, should reply, and frankly I do not think there is. Nevertheless, I rise to deal with the charges that I have completely ignored the complaints and have failed to take any action. In doing so, I do not in any way support practices that may or may not be improper. I am not going into that aspect at all. What I am dealing with is the charge that I and some instrumentality under my control have failed to take action.
It was immediately apparent to me that if the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had some truth behind it - I do not say that it had not - it was not a matter that came within my jurisdiction or within the jurisdiction of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, except perhaps very indirectly. Nevertheless, I had discussions with my friends, and the statements made this morning by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) should show every one very clearly that this matter was being pursued long before the honorable member for EdenMonaro made his statement. The result is that the Attorney-General was able to tell the House this morning just exactly what the Government proposes to do. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) a few minutes ago said this was belated action. Surely any one with a knowledge of parliamentary procedure, who knows the time taken in drafting regulations, will realize that to have been able to say this morning what action the Government is taking means that this matter has not been dealt with belatedly as a result of the statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but has been under consideration for some time by both of my colleagues. That is what I found when I started to make some inquiries.
Some remedy was available, but it was obvious that certain gaps needed stopping, and the Attorney-General set out to stop them. This is a matter to be dealt with under the State law or under the ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory. That being so, it is not directly within the control of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and I want to make that clear.
– What about false radio advertising?
– Just a moment, I am continuing with my speech. I say this matter is not directly within the control of the board. Certainly section 100 subsection (4.) of the act lays down that a licensee shall comply with such standards as the board determines in relation to the broadcasting or televising of advertisements. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that this is simply a requirement that a licensee shall conform to certain standards. In carrying out its function, the board several years ago advised on all aspects of programmes and referred to section 100 of the act. Licensees are required to observe certain standards in accepting advertising matter and the sponsoring of programmes. One requirement is that all advertising matter shall comply with the laws of the Commonwealth and the States. In order to ensure that these standards are met, the board has a monitoring system which enables it to keep constant check on both broadcasting and television programmes. It deals not only with advertising but with other forms of programming. I say deliberately that the board has always found that on the rare occasions when there seems to be some infringement of the general programme standards, the licensees have always been prepared to make any adjustments that the board requires.
It is erroneous to suggest that under this requirement the board should set itself up as a body outside its statutory authority to inquire into the business practices of some firm that has nothing whatever to do with television or broadcasting. The board simply has not the power to make such inquiries. It has power to suggest to licensees, if they appear to be moving outside the standards laid down, that they should make some adjustment, and the licensees do so. But no facts have as yet been advanced to justify the board going any further than this. Unless it was given power to hold some inquiry outside its present scope into the every-day business of some organization, there is nothing further it could do. I repeat that the board monitors programmes and has found that licensees do all within their power to ensure that the programme standards are met. I say that particularly because I think the honorable member for EdenMonaro will agree that the stations being referred to in this matter are stations of very high probity and present very good programmes.
– I made a specific complaint in the House and I have not received an answer.
– No, you did not make a complaint to me.
– In the House. The Attorney-General referred it to you.
– I also point out that the board and the licensees are governed by the provisions of the Broadcasting anil Television Act. The plain fact of the matter, is that there is no provision in the act covering the prosecution of persons or firms guilty of presenting misleading advertisements on television. However, if misleading advertisements are presented, there is provision in the State laws and the ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory to deal with the matter. That is the remedy, if there is any basis whatever for the charges that have been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and those who follow him.
– Can prosecutions be made for radio advertising under the State law?
– There could be prosecutions for improper advertising.
– On radio?
– No matter where it is.
– On radio?
– I think so.
-Are you sure? I think the Commonwealth covers it.
– I presume so, but that would be a general matter and would depend on whether the advertisements could be shown to be more than misleading, as you say they are. Those arc the points that I wanted to make. There was no failure on my part to look into this matter; there has been no failure on the part of the Government. The debate has shown that this matter was under consideration by the Government before it was introduced into this House. The complete explanation of the legal side given by my two colleagues should serve to let all people listening know that no charges can properly be levelled against the Government in this matter.
.- I move -
That this House recognizes the desirability of the early establishment of an international airport at Tullamarine in order to promote tourism and to ensure the satisfactory development of international air services for the State of Victoria and the City of Melbourne.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel certain that this motion will be supported by all Victorian members in this House - not only those supporting the Government but also those among the Opposition. I am grateful to see how many Victorian representatives are here to support me to-day. I am grateful to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) who will second the motion and also to the honorable members for Deakin (Mr. Davis), McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and Flinders (Mr. Lindsay), who are all here to support the motion. I am sure, also, that I will have the support of the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Holten) and Wimmera (Mr. King). It is all right for some honorable members to label the subject of this motion as a parochial matter but, after all, every capital city in the Commonwealth, apart from Melbourne and Hobart, already has a jet airport. There is therefore no reason for Victorian representatives to be criticized for stressing the need for a jet airport for Melbourne.
The honorable member for McMillan has already told us this morning that it is likely that our domestic airlines will be re-equipped with jet aircraft by the middle of 1964, which is not very far in the future. It is certain that such aircraft cannot operate effectively at the present airport at Essendon. If Melbourne is to have an efficient domestic air service after the middle of 1964 it is imperative that it should have a new airport at Tullamarine. Already there exists the report of a committee of inquiry on this important matter prepared for the Government of Victoria. In this comprehensive report that committee stressed the need for this airport to be established at an early date. It is clear that cities throughout trie world, the size of Melbourne to-day, need, for efficient operation, to be in communication with each other by jet aircraft. Therefore, if Victoria and the city of Melbourne are to grow and develop as they should and need to, they require an airport capable of handling such aircraft.
The other important matter stressed in the report to which I refer is the degree of inconvenience that is experienced by overseas visitors who wish to go direct to Melbourne by jet aircraft but at present have to change planes at Sydney. Most of them do not want to go to Sydney. It is certain that 40 per cent, of our international passenger air traffic is generated by the city of Melbourne. With such a large percentage of overseas tourists wanting to go direct to Melbourne by jet aircraft, the degree of inconvenience that they now experience is something which should not be tolerated in this Commonwealth.
– They have the opportunity to go to a lovelier city than Melbourne.
– It is amazing to learn how many of them want to go direct to Melbourne. The report of the committee of inquiry, to which I have referred, states -
The Committee believes that the lack of an international airport is the biggest single physical factor impeding the continued progress of Victoria.
It is considered that any further delay in the provision of these facilities can only re-act adversely upon the future progressive development of the City and State. If world aviation standards are used as a yardstick then Melbourne’s need is a fundamental one.
I believe this is a matter the urgency of which should be recognized by this House. 1 hope that honorable members generally will realize the importance of establishing this airport at an early date.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I second the motion. More than three years have now passed since the Government decided to establish Tullamarine as a jet airport. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is reported as having stated in March, 1960 -
The decision to proceed with a new airport at Melbourne has been made with the realization that the present airport could reach saturation point by 197a
He is also reported as having said -
The development of a new jet airport is necessary, apart from any consideration of international aviation, to provide for the development and expansion of domestic air traffic.
Mr. R. R. Walker, the Executive Aviation Director of Ansett-A.N.A, is reported as having said -
Until Tullamarine is completed there will be no domestic jet aircraft operation in Australia.
As recently as September last Mr. Leigh Fisher, a leading American airport consultant, who is airport adviser to the governments of Sweden and New Zealand and has been associated with the development of more than 200 airports in the United States of America, said -
Melbourne cannot survive as a major community without an adequate airport.
It is a fact that approximately 100 overseas cities with populations no greater than that of Melbourne - and in many cases far less important than Melbourne - have modern jet airports. The aircraft of the future are all going to be jet aircraft, and the fact that Melbourne, at present the leading commercial centre of Australia, is without a jet airport may influence overseas companies contemplating the establishment of factories in Australia against building them in Victoria. Melbourne is alreadly losing millions of pounds each year in tourist revenue. Overseas visitors who have been interviewed have stated that they were inconvenienced and upset by having to change aircraft when tired after long overseas flights. Surely it is reasonable to provide facilities which will enable overseas airliners to land passengers in Melbourne without putting them to the inconvenience of changing aircraft. I am not speaking of inconvenience to a few hundred or even a few thousand air passengers. At present approximately 3,000 international flights are made in and out of Australia each year, and more than 100,000 passengers are carried each way. Melbourne, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has said, is the only mainland capital city in Australia without a jet airport capable of handling the largest overseas jet aircraft.
Australia will shortly be re-equipping its airlines with jet aircraft and I have been told that it will not be possible to operate them between Melbourne and Perth with full loads. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia. At its present rate of progress it will not be many years before it is the No. 1 city of the Commonwealth. However, the decision to proceed with the construction of a jet airport at Melbourne should not be based on interstate rivalry. It should be based on practical and business considerations. Melbourne is undoubtedly the commercial centre of Australia. Approximately one-third of the nation’s manufactured output is produced in Victoria. Melbourne handles 50 per cent, more domestic freight traffic than does Sydney and is the largest air cargo centre in Australia. The development of a jet airport at Tullamarine, capable of handling the largest types of jet aircraft, must result in a reduction of freight charges on both imports and exports which are consigned by air, as double handling charges will be eliminated; and surely this is desirable. The pattern of air travel is changing rapidly. During the past ten years the number of hours flown in Australia has increased by 70 per cent.
– 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. Whitlam) agreed to -
That the time for the discussion of motions Iri extended until 12.45 p.m.
– Do not make any illogical statements.
– I am not making any illogical statements.
– What is this about Melbourne being the No. 1 city of Australia?
– I think Sydney is a beautiful city, but let us face facts. Statistics show that nearly one-third of the output of manufactures for the whole of Australia is produced in Victoria, and it is a fact that at the present time Melbourne handles more freight cargo than any other city in Australia. Also, it handles SO per cent, more-
– Where is your authority for that?
– My authority for that is the Department of Civil Aviation. If the honorable member is not prepared to take my word for it, I suggest that he should examine the latest report of the department. Melbourne does not handle as much overseas cargo as Sydney purely because the jet airport facilities are not available at Melbourne.
When the debate was interrupted I was pointing out that the pattern of air travel is changing very rapidly in Australia. During the past ten years the number of hours flown in Australia has increased by 70 per cent., in spite of the fact that to-day’s aircraft are so much faster than they were ten years ago. As a matter of fact, our aircraft fleet and the number of passenger miles flown has doubled. It will probably take at least three years to build an airport at Tullamarine, and I have heard it said that after the all-clear has been given for the work to commence it will take from five to seven years to develop properly a jet port. It is my opinion that, in the interests of Melbourne, in the interests of Victoria and in the interests of Australia, we should be making a start on the development of Tullamarine now.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has raised a matter which is of great importance to Australia, internationally and internally. I shall not underwrite the parochial considerations which he and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) urged for modernizing air terminals in the city of my birth. The simple fact is that Melbourne, at present, cannot participate in the international air traffic which it would otherwise receive, because of the inadequacies of Essendon airport. It is also clear that Melbourne will soon not be able to participate as fully as it should in internal air traffic in Australia, or as fully as we know it would be able to participate if it had a jet airport.
It is a matter of general knowledge now that the jet planes which will be bought by the two chosen instruments in interstate air transport, and which they will receive within two or three years, will not be able to use Essendon fully loaded, although they will be able to use all the other mainland State capital airports and Darwin airport. They will not, however, be able to use Canberra or Melbourne. This is obviously a limiting factor in the amount of trade and commerce which can take place with other nations and among the States. It means that Australia will not be able to receive the full return which otherwise it would receive on the very considerable investment which Australia’s international airline and the two chosen interstate airlines are now making. There can be no disputing that Melbourne does require a larger airport, a modern airport, a jet airport. Essendon cannot become such; Tullamarine can.
This is not a matter which can be put off interminably, because it will take longer, even if work starts now, to construct anr) equip the jet airport at Tullamarine than it will require to put into operation the interstate jet aircraft which are being ordered this very month.
Accordingly, Sir, the Opposition supports this resolution. It is a matter to which one hopes the Government also will give support and upon which it will permit a prompt vote. In order to enable that prompt vote to be taken the Opposition will not speak further on this motion, but will vote in favour of the motion as soon as the Government members put it to the vote.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson). I am sure that all honorable members on this side of the House agree that the jet airport at Tullamarine in Victoria should- be established as early as possible. It is interesting to listen to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) coming in to support this project at this time. The fact that only he on the Opposition side seems to be interested in putting forward any argument in favour of the jet airport suggests that his approach is a matter of political tactics. It has been suggested frequently that the Labour Party has not been interested in this project, but in fairness I must add that there has also been a suggestion that members of the Liberal Party “have not pressed this matter to the point of a vote or a decision by the Government. I think that is a fair assessment of the attitude of both sides of the House.
Victorian members realize the desire and need for a jet airport in Victoria, but we realize also that we have a responsibility to see that in the spending of money throughout Australia certain priorities should obtain. Therefore, whilst we have, naturally, to keep on with this matter, we must not let it swamp consideration of other civil aviation requirements throughout Australia.
I think the honorable member for Fawkner has done a great service in bringing this matter before the House in the way he has. There is no possibility of success in the move by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to force a vote to-day, because I do not think it is desirable at this stage. This is a political manoeuvre and, frankly, I do not think we will have that vote.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth has already acquired land at Tullamarine for the establishment of an airport, which can be of an international standard and capable of meeting civil aviation needs now and in the foreseeable future. The area acquired is considered to be one of the best airport sites in the world. It has, of course, a problem that is common to most airports. Whilst a traveller may take only a relatively short time to fly between one point and another, unfortunately, he takes just about the same time to travel from the airport to the city by car or other means. However, Tullamarine has been decided on for the site, and we certainly think it is a very good one.
This area is either in or adjoining the electorate of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and it is rather noticeable that at all times he has been very quiet on this matter. He has not come out in the open and made any suggestion as to what should be done or should not be done about Tullamarine. I do not think that he is opposed to the proposition as my friend has suggested by interjection. I think he agrees with me that there are priorities in civil aviation, and we have to look at this matter sensibly and scientifically. On the present indications, some years could pass before the airport is completed. A great deal of planning has to be undertaken. It will be necessary to design the buildings, and the planning of various other matters connected with a jet airport will take some years. We suggest that the Department of Civil Aviation should commence to plan now. It should not wait for a number of years before it starts putting the project on the drawing board. It should proceed with the operation as far as it possibly can. We are interested to see that there have been some decisions - whether they are final or not I do not know - on the type of aircraft that will be purchased by the two airlines concerned.
I feel fairly confident that the department has made progress in its planning, and has gone a certain way. Unfortunately, this has not been revealed to us, and I should like to have a little more information on this point. On 9th August, 1961, I understand, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) informed the Victoria Promotion Committee that more than £2,000,000 had been spent on the acquisition of land in the Tullamarine area. I do not known whether the land that has been obtained represents the complete requirements or whether the Department of Civil Aviation will require further land in the surrounding area. I understand that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) thinks that the land already acquired is sufficient. But I also understand that the purchase of further land is being negotiated, and that a little hard bargaining is going on at the present time. However, the Minister went on to say -
We must phase our airport expenditure to match available resources and also to give priority to urgent safety needs.
I do not think that anybody would disagree with that. This expenditure has to be met from the money that is available. We have to establish priorities. We have to see that the money that is now expended does not reduce expenditure on things that should have a higher priority. We have great national development projects in front of us. I think some of us have to realize that money is required, perhaps, in some of the larger and less developed States. Possibly those States should have some priority in development so that they can get the things that we in Victoria and New South Wales have been able to obtain. Concerning expenditure, as I have mentioned, the Minister said, “ We must phase our airport expenditure to match available resources “. We all know that there is only so much money in the economy. The amount required for each project has to be found. If you spend it at one point you may have to take it away from another. I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation has stated that a statement on this subject will be made this month so that the people of Victoria and of Australia may know the plan for Tullamarine airport. The conclusions which were reached by the committee set up by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Maurice Nathan, are worthy of the attention of this House. At page 21, under the heading of “Summary and Conclusion”, the report of the committee stated -
The attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the new Melbourne Airport project -
Motion (by Mr. Whitlam) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! As the time allotted for general business has expired, the honorable member for La Trobe will be allowed to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be an order of the day for general business for the next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m..
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant financial assistance to the State of Western Australia for works in connexion with certain roads to be used for the transport of beef cattle.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek the approval of Parliament for the granting df additional financial assistance to the State of Western Australia for the construction and improvement of roads in the north of the State which will facilitate the transport of beef cattle. As I mentioned in my Budget speech last August, the Government has in recent years agreed to assist State governments with a number of special developmental projects which are designed to increase export earnings, and which will contribute to the development of outlying areas of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the north and the north-west of Australia. Roads to facilitate the transport of beef cattle in northern areas have a prominent place in these special assistance measures.
Transport by road is undoubtedly an economic and efficient way of moving cattle from the beef cattle producing areas in the north to fattening grounds, to railheads, and to export points. As compared with droving, it avoids the losses, often substantial, involved in the movement of cattle on the hoof over long distances and inhospitable country, and enables cattle to be delivered in better condition. It also enables cattle to be turned off from the producing areas at younger ages. Moreover, the availability of good roads and reliable road transport in the beef-producing areas encourages the further development of cattle properties and thus an increase in their carrying capacity and production. Since beef is an important and growing source of export earnings, the provision of beef cattle roads should produce significant national benefits from the balance-of-payments viewpoint. In addition, development of the beef cattle industry in northern areas by the provision of roads contributes in an obvious and important way to the general development of those areas. The roads, although constructed primarily for the transport of beef cattle, serve other developmental purposes. The importance of adequate transport facilities to the general development of our sparsely populated and widespread northern areas is, I think, fully recognized.
With these considerations in mind, the Commonwealth made a grant to Western Australia in 1961-62, over and above the regular Commonwealth aid roads assistance, of £500,000 for the improvement of certain beef cattle roads in the Kimberley area of Western Australia. The State itself also in 1961-62 spent considerable sums on other roads in the area. Conscious of the need to further this important work, the Government decided to make a further grant in the current financial year of an increased amount, for the same purpose, and provision was made in the 1962-63 Budget for a further grant of £700,000 to Western Australia in 1962-63 for beef road purposes. This decision was subsequently the subject of close discussion between the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments, lt became clear from these discussions that it would be highly desirable, to assist in efficient long-term planning of the State’s beef roads programme, for the scheme of Commonwealth assistance to be extended beyond the current financial year. In response to the State’s request, therefore, we agreed to make further grants to the State, in addition to the £700,000 in 1962-63, of £750,000 in each of the three succeeding years for beef road purposes. .
In summary, therefore, the Commonwealth will be making grants to the State totalling £3,450,000 for beef road works over the five-year period 1961-62 to 1965-66 inclusive. For its part the State has undertaken to spend over the same period from its own resources at least an equal amount on roads in the north of the State. This means that a total roads programme involving some £7,000,000 will be carried out over the five-year period in the north of the State. The undertaking of this programme will have a tremendously beneficial effect on the development of the area in general, and of the beef cattle industry in particular.
The State’s overall programme contemplates the improvement of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Wyndham - including the section between Hall’s Creek and Wyndham, on which part of the Commonwealth’s grant of £500,000 in 1961-62 was spent; the improvement of the road between Wyndham and Nicholson, to which portion of the Commonwealth’s grant in 1961-62 was also devoted; and the construction of a new road from Derby through the King Leopold Ranges to the northern part of the West Kimberleys - an area which is not served by roads at present. The latter imaginative undertaking will result in the opening up of country which has so far been virtually untapped. It is proposed that the Commonwealth’s grant of £700,000 in the current financial year will be spent on further improvements to the roads from Wyndham to Hall’s Creek and Nicholson, where, I understand, there has already been a remarkable increase in the number of cattle carried by road, following the improvement of the road made possible by the Commonwealth’s grant of £500,000 in 1961-62. The particular roads on which the Commonwealth’s grant is to be spent in future years will be subject to the Commonwealth’s approval from year to year.
I mentioned earlier the State’s undertaking to match the Commonwealth grants by the expenditure of an equal amount from its own resources on roads in the area. The bill contains a provision - clause 6 (3.) - to reflect this arrangement.
The requirement for matching expenditure by the State is expressed in the bill in relation to the four-year period as a whole, and not in relation to each individual year; and it is in relation to all or any roads in the area, and not necessarily only in relation to roads on which the CommonWealth’s grant is to be spent. There is thus abundant flexibility in regard to the matching arrangement.
Other provisions in the bill are similar to corresponding provisions that were included in the legislation approving the grant of £500,000 in 1961-62, and relate to such matters as the standards of road construction, the submission of returns by the State, the provision of working advances to the State, and the exclusion from State expenditure, for the purposes of Commonwealth aid roads matching arrangements, of expenditure reimbursed by the Commonwealth under this legislation.
The provision of this further assistance for Western Australia, and the provision of an additional £3,300,000 for Queensland for the sealing of beef cattle roads in that State, which was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently, and in respect of which legislation is to be introduced shortly, means that the Commonwealth will be engaged on a scheme of financial assistance for beef road development in the north of Australia - in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland - amounting to no less than £16,000,000 over the next few years. This is tangible and substantial evidence of the importance the Government attaches to beef cattle roads as a means of developing our northern areas and of increasing Australia’s export earnings by the development of beef production from those areas.
I commend the bill to the House.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned, I ask the Treasurer, so that the bill may be debated intelligibly at a later stage, to intimate the approximate cost of a mile of road in the area concerned and the number of miles which it is imagined will have to be provided for if the programme is to be completed successfully. The sum of £7,000,000 sounds very impressive, but if a road costs £20,000 a mile and there are several thousands of miles to be covered, the amount is not nearly as impressive as it appears to be.
– I will see how much information I can supply before the resumption of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a sum not exceeding one hundred and eighteen million three hundred and twenty-eight thousand pounds for defence purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Swartz do prepare and bring in. a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
As I explained in my Budget speech, the Government has budgeted for an overall deficiency of £118,300,000 in this financial year. I mentioned then that legislation to authorize such borrowings as may be necessary to meet the deficiency would later be submitted to Parliament. The purpose of this bill is to obtain loan authority for this purpose and to provide authority to expend the proceeds of the borrowing. It is proposed that the proceeds of the borrowing, which will be made from the Reserve Bank, be applied to finance expenditure on defence services up to the amount of £98,283,000 and to finance the redemption of maturing securities up to the extent of £20,045,000. The maturing securities, redemptions of which it is proposed to finance from the proceeds of the borrowing, are Commonwealth securities which were issued for war purposes. The borrowing, therefore, will be wholly for defence purposes of the Commonwealth.
Total expenditure on defence services in 1962-63 is estimated at £210,000,000. Details of this estimated expenditure are set out in Part I. of the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Bill 1962-63. Of the total estimated expenditure of £210,000,000, an amount estimated at £98,283,000 is to be charged to loan fund where it will be financed from the funds raised under the authority of this bill. Provision for charging part of defence expenditure to loan fund was made in 1958-59, 1959-60, 1961-62 and in some of the war and early post-war years, when total receipts were estimated to fall short of total expenditure.
As I indicated in my Budget speech, so far as redemptions of debt exceed the amount available to meet them in the National Debt Sinking Fund, it is proposed that they be met from the resources of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve which are now invested. It will therefore be necessary to realize some of these investments and the proposed borrowing of £20,045,000 to finance redemptions of Commonwealth securities issued for war purposes will provide cash to enable this realization of investments to be made. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– You said that provision for charging part of defence expenditure to Loan Fund was made in 1958-59, 1959-60, 1961- 62 and in some of the war and early postwar years. Will you indicate at a later stage, for the benefit of the House, what those amounts were in the relevant years?
– I shall see whether I can meet the honorable member’s wishes.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Repayments of Amounts out of the Commonwealth Public Account.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the House seeks minor amendments to two sections of the Audit Act relating to refunds of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Trust Fund. Honorable members will recall that in the Budget session last year, section 37a was inserted in the Audit Act, with the support of the Public Accounts Committee, to provide a special appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for refunds of revenue not covered by other acts, provision for which had previously been made in the annual Appropriation Act. Similarly, section 62a was amended to provide authority for refunds from the Trust Fund.
Most refunds of revenue are made in consequence of a clear liability on the part of the Commonwealth, for example, excess taxation payments, but some also arise from the exercise of discretionary authority vested in Ministers under legislation, for example, section 164b of the Customs Act and Telegraph Regulation 69.
The Attorney-General’s Department has expressed the opinion that the appropriation made by section 37a of the Audit Act does not authorize the charging of this class of refund to the special appropriation made by the section. The authority in sub-section (7.) of section 62a for refunds from the Trust Fund is similarly deficient.
Clauses 3 and 4 of the bill therefore propose to amend sections 37a and 62a to correct limitations which were not intended and which were not apparent when the clauses were drafted. Clause 2 makes the proposed amendments retrospective to 1st July, 1962 to sanction the charging of refunds of revenue under discretionary authority to the special appropriation under section 37a and to the Trust Fund, from the beginning of the current financial year. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) agreed to.
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of copper or brass strip for use in Australia.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Fairhall and Mr. Swartz do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairhall, and read a first time.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson - Minister for
Supply) [2.38].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
When tabling the Tariff Board’s report on copper and brass in sheets or strips on 4th October I said that the Government had adopted the board’s recommendation for a bounty on copper strip and brass strip of specified dimensions. The bill now before the House is designed to put into effect this decision of the Government.
Following the board’s recommendation, bounty at the rate of £45 per ton will be paid to producers of copper strip or brass strip not exceeding 15 inches in width and not exceeding twelve thousandths of an inch in thickness, produced in Australia, and sold for use in Australia. An annual limitation of £190,000 is specified, and the bounty will operate for two years from 1st October, 1962. A profit limitation of 10 per cent, per annum, which is common to most other bounty legislation, will apply.
Three companies are at present engaged in the production of brass strip and copper strip, including strip of thicker gauge than that covered by the proposed bounty. There is a total investment of approximately £5,000,000 in the industry and a total employment of about 800 persons.
The Tariff Board considers that the industry is an important consumer of locally produced base metals, and that the substantial levels of employment and investment in the industry render assistance to the production of copper and brass strip justified. A bounty is recommended to prevent adverse effects on user industries, particularly motor vehicle radiator manufacturers.
Bounty at the flat rate of £45 per ton on all strip of the dimensions specified should provide producers with the opportunity to adjust their selling prices to meet competitive market conditions. The principal uses of copper and brass strip are in heating and cooling systems, internal combustion engine radiators, and electrical equipment. Before the expiration of the bounty the Tariff Board will examine the question whether further assistance to the manufacturers is necessary. 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 sections twenty-nine and seventyeight of the Repatriation Act 1920-1961.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Second Reading. : Mr. SWARTZ (Darling Downs- Minister for Repatriation) [2.42]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes amendments to the Repatriation Act which will give a desirable uniformity to the operative date of a decision of a determining authority allowing a claim for war pension, irrespective of whether the claim is allowed in the first instance by a repatriation board or subsequently on appeal by either the Repatriation Commission or a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal.
It might be well, Mr. Speaker, to remind honorable members of the system which operates for the determination of claims for war pension. A claim may be made in the case of disability at any time after the termination of the period of qualifying service, and in the case of death at any time after the death of the ex-serviceman. There is no time limit for the acceptance of claims.
When a claim is made it is submitted, after appropriate investigation, to a repatriation board in the State where the claimant resides for determination. Under the act the Repatriation Commission may exercise the powers of a board - and sometimes it does - but normally the board is the initial determining authority.
In the event of a claim not being allowed by a board the claimant may appeal to the Repatriation Commission, and if his appeal is unsuccessful he may appeal further to a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal. As there are no time limits within which these appeals may be lodged the Repatriation Act imposes some limits on the liability of the Commonwealth to pay pension where the claimant has delayed his claim or the lodgment of an appeal. The limitations which the act imposes are these: A board may not grant a pension from a date earlier than three months prior to the claim; the commission may not grant a pension from a date earlier than six months prior to the lodgment of the appeal to it, and an entitlement appeal tribunal may not grant a pension from a date earlier than six months prior to the date of the appeal to it. In principle, these limitations seem reasonable. In practice they are, however, resulting in some hardship to claimants, and the Government has decided to remove what it regards as an anomaly.
It is necessary both for the determination of the claim and in the interest of the exservicemen’s future treatment that claims be fully investigated. This necessarily takes some time, which varies according to the circumstances of the case. Consideration by a repatriation board also takes some time. At this point no hardship is suffered, as it is the date of lodgment of the claim which, as I have pointed out, is the determining factor in fixing the date of operation of a board’s decision. However, when this time is added to the time reasonably taken by an appellant to lodge an appeal either to the commission or to an entitlement appeal tribunal the commission, if it allows an appeal, can rarely fix as the operative date of its decision a date as early as the board could have fixed had it allowed the claim in the first instance. In practically no case is it possible for an entitlement tribunal to do so.
The effect of the amendments proposed in this bill is that where an appellant does not unduly delay in lodging his appeal he will not be at a disadvantage because of the factors I have mentioned. Every effort has been, and is being made, to reduce the time taken to process claims and appeals to a minimum, but the stage cannot be reached where the disadvantage can be entirely avoided.
The bill, therefore, provides that where a claimant succeeds on appeal to either the commission or an entitlement appeal tribunal, the appellate body will be able to grant him benefits from the same date as the Repatriation Board could have done, provided he has not delayed longer than three months in lodging his appeal to the commission, and where a further appeal to the tribunal has been necessary for longer than a further three months from the date of the commission’s decision.
The bill will be of substantial benefit to ex-servicemen and dependants. Not only is the amount of their pension affected, but the Repatriation Department also accepts responsibility for medical benefits for which they are eligible from the date from which the war pension is payable. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th April (vide page 166S), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Patents Act is one of the most complicated and technical acts that the Parliament has passed. The present bill amends the act in respect of some of its most complicated and technical aspects. The most significant feature of the bill is that dealing with the time that should elapse between lodging a complete specification in the Patents Office and laying it open to public inspection. This time has been the subject of three previous acts since the war, and of a considerable number of statements, both in the House and outside it, by the present AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick).
The scope for differences of view on the time involved will sufficiently emerge from a history of these acts and statements. Until the end of the war a complete specification was published when the application was accepted. In 1946 an amending act was passed, section 2 of which inserted a new section 38a in the principal act. Sub-section (1.) of that section was in the following terms: -
After a complete specification has been lodged, the Commissioner shall publish in The Australian Official Journal of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection and thereupon the application, complete specification and provisional specification (if any) shall be open to public inspection.
A new code, the Patents Act 1952, made this provision as regards time in section 43, sub-section (1.) -
At the expiration of six months after a complete specification has been lodged, the Commissioner shall publish in the Official Journal a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection and, upon publication of the notification, the application, complete specification and provisional specification (if any) shall, subject to this Act, be open to public inspection.
On 18th May, 1960, the AttorneyGeneral presented to the House an amending bill, clause 7 of which provided for the repeal of section 43, in accordance with the recommendation of the Patent Law Review Committee, which had been appointed by the Minister’s predecessor, the then Senator O’sullivan. The result would have been that the complete specification would once again have been published immediately after acceptance of the application. The Attorney-General made his second-reading speech on 2nd June, but the debate was not resumed during that sessional period. On 8th September he made a statement to the House in the following terms: -
Since I presented the bill to the House I have received several representations asking for the withdrawal of the provision in the bill repealing section 43 . . . the scheme that has been evolved would provide that where acceptance of the application was likely to be unduly delayed the Commissioner of Patents would determine the date of publication, but that he could not publish before twelve months had elapsed from the date of lodging the complete specification, and in the case of a convention application, not before the date on which it was expected that the invention would be published in the convention country. He could be required by the applicant to publish after the expiration of the twelve-month period.
On the same day he circulated what he called a somewhat fuller and more technical statement of the proposed permanent scheme to interested parties. On 1st December, however, he made a further statement to the House, of which the relevant passages are as follows: -
In the statement I made to the House on the Patents Bill, on 8th September, which is at present before the House, I outlined a scheme for amendment of the Patents Act as a substitute for the repeal of section 43 of the act . . . . . Details of the proposed scheme were circulated to interested parties, and I have received various comments and suggestions in relation to the scheme. It was clear from these communications that it would not be possible to settle the proposed scheme in time to incorporate the necessary amendments in the present bill in this session. It was also clear that the amendments which I envisaged in my previous statement as an interim measure needed some modification . . .
I intend, therefore, to propose as an interim measure an amendment of the bill, by which the documents accompanying a patent application would become open to public inspection at acceptance of the application or at the expiration of two years from the lodgment of the complete specification, whichever is the earlier . . .
. As this proposed amendment is an interim measure, the result is that there will, in effect, be a holding period on publication until a further bill ‘is introduced next session. The same result could, of course, be achieved by the stipulation of a shorter period than 24 months.
On 8th December amendments were accordingly circulated which now constitute subsection 5 of section 52 of the principal act and are in these terms - 52.- (5.) Where-
Official Journal a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection.
On that occasion the Opposition voted against the amendment. The view we expressed was that this was an interim measure, that it was to be replaced by a permanent measure less than six months later, and that in those circumstances the existing provision for six months to elapse should continue. If the permanent bill had come in at the time forecast, that is within six months, there would have been no necessity to make a temporary extension from six months to two years. At all events, the permanent bill did not come within six months.
On 9th March, 1961, the AttorneyGeneral issued a statement outside the House in the following terms: -
The Attorney-General has considered oral and written representations made in respect of a scheme for the amendment of the Patents Act which he proposed in a statement made in the House of Representatives on 8th September, I960. In the light of submissions made, he considers that certain alterations to the previously announced scheme should be made . . .
It is proposed that the documents would be open to public inspection after acceptance or after the expiration of twenty-one months from the date at lodgment of the complete specification, whichever is the earlier. However, the Commissioner would be required to publish after the expiration of twelve months from the lodgment of the complete specification, if so requested by the applicant. Where the applicant does not request earlier publication, the period of twenty-one months is favoured as, even in the ideal situation, where an application was examined immediately on lodgment of the complete specification, acceptance might not take place for twenty-one months. . . .
No further bill was introduced, amendments circulated or statements made inside or outside the House until the present bill was introduced on 12th April this year. Honorable members will note that it provides, by clause 9, for a new section 54a to be inserted in the principal act in these terms - 54a. - (1.) The Commissioner shall, at the request of the applicant, in respect of a complete specification that has not become open to public inspection -
Honorable members will be relieved to note that the amendments circulated on 23rd August last do not affect this crucial question of publication. It will be seen that there has been a very great amount of change in the permissive or compulsory periods which may or must elapse between lodgment and publication. There has been, if I may use the jargon, a considerable disconformity between the provisional specification for the bill and the bill which the House is asked to accept. The Attorney-General has exercised every conceivable right to make amendments to his provisional specification. It appears to us that his proposals represent a sensible compromise between competing interests. There are very many reasons, which the Attorney-General stated in 1960 and on subsequent occasions, why some interests would like an early publication and some would like a delayed publication. There are conflicting interests between inventors, manufacturers, investors, the Patent Office and patent attorneys. But it is very much a toss-up as between a few months this way or that. We do not oppose the time-table the Attorney-General has at last devised. We support the ingenious and useful ancillary provisions which he has made to moderate any disadvantages to the various conflicting interests.
The ideal would be for the lapse of time to be the same by law and practice in all countries. It is, however, a matter of notoriety that the time allowed or required between lodging and publishing specifications in the various industrial countries varies greatly. The Attorney-General gave me an answer on 8th December, 1960, to a question I asked him in these terms -
What period elapses by law or in practice between lodgment and publication of a complete specification in countries proclaimed to be Convention countries for the purposes of the Patents Act?
To quote the time in the two principal countries with which Australia is concerned as regards patents, in Great Britain the average period was two years and six months, and in the United States the average was three years. In the countries of the Common Market, there was also a very great variation. In France, the period was one to two years, in Western Germany one to five years, in Belgium at that time an average of one year. In The Netherlands publication took place after an examiner’s clear report; in Italy, three months after grant; and in Luxembourg, on grant; in those three cases, the Attorney was not able to say how long elapsed between lodgment and grant.
It will be seen that there is a great variety of times in this matter. One hopeful sign is that the countries of the European Common Market will soon be dealing with it. The Treaty of Rome does not cover industrial and commercial property. Last year, however, the European Economic Community set up a working party to deal with the approximation of legislation in the sphere of industrial property rights. There are several proposals with which that working party is now dealing and from which we can expect The Six will be in fact approximating, harmonizing and probably codifying their patents laws.
This becomes relevant to Australia because a majority of our industrial processes are patented by companies resident in Western Europe, Great Britain and North America. Probably we can expect that the proportion of our patents which are in fact granted to overseas companies or their subsidiaries will not diminish in our country at all. It is, therefore, becoming of more importance to us and to them that the time which would elapse between the lodgment and the publication of specifications should be as near as possible the same in all the countries concerned.
There is one concluding aspect to which I wish to refer. Patents, of course, are legalized monopolies. In respect of some quite crucial, perhaps predominant, sectors of our economy patents have been granted to overseas companies. Therefore, two vital aspects of our present economy - that of monopolies and restrictive practices and that of foreign control or foreign investment - do come within the general subject of Australia’s patents law. The Attorney-General has with marked success in a long and distinguished legal career secured a degree of immunity for corporate activity in Australia such as is enjoyed by corporations in no other Western country. For some time now, honorable members and the public in general have been speculating on whether it will be possible in his case for the leopard to change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin. That is, is it possible for the Attorney-General ever to devise legislation that will in fact deal with monopolies and restrictive practices and with foreign control and foreign investment in our country to the extent that every other Western country has devised and operated such legislation? It is clear that the patent law is one of the constitutional toe-holds available to a Commonwealth Attorney-General on this subject. He does not have to rely solely on the constitutional power to pass laws with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. He can also rely quite largely on the Parliament’s power with respect to supervision of legalized monopolies and applications by foreign companies under the patents legislation. I hope that, in less than the time which has been taken to deal with the crucial aspect of the lapse of time between lodgment and publication of complete specifications, the Attorney-General will be able to introduce and publish legislation dealing with these vital aspects of our industrial economy.
.- As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said during his opening remarks, the patent law is indeed one of the most difficult and technical branches of the law with which this Parliament has been called upon to deal in recent years. In a series of bills and amendments the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has sought to make the Patents Act more equitable to the various interested parties and more practical in its application. I believe he has succeeded in doing that. As in the case of the 1960 bill, he and his officers have gone to infinite trouble on this occasion in an endeavour to meet and reconcile, as far as is humanly possible, the conflicting viewpoints and interests involved. I believe they have now attained the maximum possible in that direction, and I offer the AttorneyGeneral my warmest congratulations on achieving such a high degree of reconciliation of divergent views.
I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition summed the position up very well when he described the bill before us as a sensible compromise between conflicting interests. In his second-reading speech, and in the explanatory memorandum accompanying it, the Attorney-General dealt in clear and precise terms with the provisions of the bill and the main purposes that he set out to accomplish. I do not propose to attempt to deal with the technicalities of the measure, because I believe they have already been adequately dealt with. Every effort has been made to minimize, in this measure, the disadvantages flowing from the early publication of specifications. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition elaborated on that point a few moments ago. The Attorney-General pointed out, in his secondreading speech, that the bill will have farreaching effects on the development and expansion of Australia’s secondary industries. That is an important point. He also stressed the importance, in a young and rapidly developing nation like Australia, of encouraging and protecting Australian inventors and of protecting overseas inventors who apply for protection in this country. He explained in detail how the proposed amendment will operate for the benefit of the Australian community in general. I regard the bill as a triumph of patience, skill and perseverance and have much pleasure in supporting it.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are one or two matters which I would like to deal with. Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), I do not oppose the measure. But I think it is relevant to examine this question as a social problem. I believe the layman is still disposed sometimes to think of the patent law as something which protects the relatively small man who suddenly discovers something which in itself is epoch making. That is scarcely a true assessment of the patents position in most countries of the world; it is certainly not a true assessment of the patents field in Australia. I found it rather difficult to get information on this matter, and I agree with the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), that this is truly a highly technical measure. I do not propose to traverse the technicalities involved. It seems to be a dispute between the two sides who are interested in the question - those interested from the point of view of getting the maximum protection for a new invention or process, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who may feel impeded if some invention, for which a patent is being sought, is along the lines that they are pursuing. They feel that the sooner the matter is revealed the better it is for them. Reading the AttorneyGeneral’s arguments, I think he has compromised between people who want two years as the time for disclosure and those who desire a period of twelve months, by fixing the period at eighteen months.
It is difficult to get an assessment of the role which patent law plays in the Australian economy. Officials of the Library have supplied me with some information concerning applications for patents lodged during 1961. I do not know whether the period to which the figures apply is that ended in June, 1961, or whether it is the calendar year, 1961; but I do not think that matters greatly. According to the Official Journal of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, of 8th March, 1962, there were 12,898 applications for patents lodged in the period with which I am dealing. Of those 3,595 came from the United States of America, 2,170 from Great Britain, 4,312 from Australia, 601 from Holland, 395 from Switzerland, 235 from France, 573 from West Germany, 135 from Sweden, 175 from Canada, 199 from Italy, and 110 came from New Zealand, whilst other countries made up the remaining 400-odd applications in the total of 12,898. Taking that as a typical year, Australian patents sought to be protected in that period numbered only one-third of the total applications.
It is difficult to assess the relative importance of one patent as against another. Many patents are simply lodged to prevent somebody else from exploiting a similar process. They are lodged more as a protective device than as an exploiting device. I would have hoped that the AttorneyGeneral in examining this question would have given consideration to the social role whch the patents system plays. Patent law was laid down in the early days and I think Australia’s patent law dates back to 1903. It was part of the earliest legislation that the Federal Parliament enacted and, broadly, it followed the patent law of Great Britain, the parent country. As with many other laws, one does not get the whole picture by merely going to the relevant statute. One has to go to wider fields and get into the realms of litigation; and it is sometimes difficult to know what it is sought to protect. Originally the idea was to give a kind of monopoly to a person who had discovered something. The penalty he paid was that he had to disclose what he had discovered, but at least the law protected him for a varying period of years in the exploitation of his invention. There may have been a certain degree of justice in the law in 1903 or thereabout, but at least in 1962, although it is extremely difficult in Australia to examine the field, a person should be able to do so. Apparently the Patent Office is not obliged, as are other departments, to publish anything in the nature of an annual report. I think that that is a serious deficiency. I would have thought that a department of this kind, handling something like 13,000 applications a year, one-third of them being Australian and twothirds in respect of foreign corporations, should give much more publicity to its activities. Much more information should be published about the specific fees that are paid. There should be information about the categories of fields in which patents are sought to be lodged.
If one reads about the patent law as it operates in the United States of America one finds that it covers something like 3,000,000 separate inventions over the period of its history and that those inventions are divided into a substantial number of categories and then into various sub-categories. It is not so easy in Australia, unless you happen to be an expert in this field, to find any information of that kind. I suspect that if 13,000 applications are lodged per annum - about 1,000 a month - some of them tend to be rather trivial. Of course, utility is one of the grounds upon which the validity of a patent is ultimately determined. Very few of the applications would relate to inventions of great social significance. I think it should be possible to determine, in respect of those that are significant, what are the kinds of interests that lodge them. If we were able to do that we would begin to get down to the question of the structure of corporate industry as it operates not only in Australia but as it operates internationally and indirectly affects the Australian economy.
I should think the majority of patents sought each year are not new or revolutionary, although that is always possible, but are variations or extensions of processes that are already in operation. There tends to be a highly intricate game played between very big forces, some wishing to get something new in the field and others wishing to get disclosure as quickly as possible about what is likely to be new in the field. I suggest that that kind of picture is very difficult to ascertain in Australia. I noticed in reading an article in the “ Economist “ of 19th May, 1962, on patents in Europe a reference to the sort of thing that was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - the likelihood that one of the developments in the European Economic Community will be a systemization of the patent law as it operates among The Six. The article in the “ Economist “ states -
In one major respect the proposals of the Six would conflict with British practice.
I think that it is relevant to know how the proposals accord with Australian practice -
The intention is to publish specifications before examination, so that competitors will get a sight of the. rabbit much earlier than under the British system. Details would be published within 18 months of filing an application for a patent-
Eighteen months is the time specified in the present proposal - whereas in Britain they may be withheld for up to 3 years longer.
These, I would suggest, are relevant matters and I ask the Attorney-General to consider them in the light of the Australian law. The article continues -
The British Patents Act is replete with safeguards for consumers.
I would like to know whether the Australian law gives much protection to the consumer. I believe that it is very difficult for the consumer to get access to information upon which he could make a proper assessment. The article further states -
For example, an inventor applying for a patent in Britain must write a specification that can be readily understood by people of ordinary proficiency in the affected trade.
I do not know that that is necessarily true in Australia, but if it is I hope that the Attorney-General will indicate that that is the position. The article then says -
He must even state the best method of performing the invention known to him, and he has to define the scope of the invention claimed so that when others widen the field he cannot retrospectively become much more ambitious for his discovery.
I think that is covered in the bill by what is called “ disconformity “, or a similar piece of jargon. I believe the Attorney-General used that term in his second-reading speech. The article asks -
Would the European legislation be so considerate?
I think the Attorney-General has intimated across the table that the Australian law is as considerate to the consumer. I would join issue with him and say that although that may be the intention, the law, the administration of the law, particularly with regard to publication by the Patent Office, makes it difficult for the consumer. Unfortunately this tends to be a field in which only the occult are proficient. Under our present system we have what could be called “ go-betweens “. I think it is very dangerous in any democratic system for consumer protection to depend upon gobetweens. In saying that I am not reflecting upon the quality of the patent attorney or the patent searcher, but simply indicating that for the ordinary person this is a very expensive process. Probably not much inventing is done by the ordinary person, but even so it is still a relatively expensive course for him to tread. Equally, I would think that in Australia the general public, in the sense of the consumer, is really ignorant of the things that are sought to be patented and of their likely impact.
I suggest that there is a great need in Australia for more publications about the activities of the Patent Office. I make no reflection upon any individual in this matter, but I do ask why the Patent Office, which is part of the administration of the AttorneyGeneral, is not obliged, as are other government departments, to lodge something in the nature of an annual report. At least that would specify the number of applications and would enable people to ascertain how many applications were successful or were simply left to lie in that office as a protective device. It would be an indication of how many applications are finally granted, in what fields they are granted, and perhaps of their likely significance to the economy as a whole.
I have never known any other legislation to be introduced into this Parliament on which it is so difficult for members to speak with surety. If, for instance, we are amending the income tax legislation, which is a complicated enough piece of machinery, there is always a handful or more of members on each side of the House who are proficient in the subject. If we are amending, as we were yesterday, arbitration law about individual industries or industry as a whole there are plenty of people on both sides competent to argue the intricacies of it. I have intruded in the debate, not because I have any special knowledge in this field, but because I feel that, as a consumer and a member of the public, I have some interest in what is patented or what is not patented, and in what the patent law allows to emerge or does not allow to emerge.
I have done what I can to find out from interested parties what they thought about this legislation. Mostly, they seem to regard it as an improvement on the existing legislation, except that there is a body called the Australian Manufacturers Patents, Industrial Design, Copyright and Trademark Association which feels that the period of eighteen months mentioned in the bill ought to have been twelve months. The name of this association is long enough to indicate the diversity of the interests involved. They have circulated some honorable members with views about the legislation. It seems to me that their only objection concerns this period of time. I am prepared to think that the Attorney-General has compromised between a period of two years and a period of twelve months, and has made it eighteen months. But again I would say that there are serious limitations in my capacity - and I am sure that that may be said of many other members - to assess whether this bill represents an improvement of the law.
I am sure that this will not be the last occasion on which the patent law is investigated. I hope that the Attorney-General, who has devoted himself to making some fundamental alterations to the law, will sometimes remember that knowledge of those alterations should not be confined to those who are proficient in limited fields of the law, but rather should be available to the general public. I am not quite sure of the machinery that you would use if, for instance, you decided basically to re-write the patent law. The things that the patent law of 1962 is designed to cover are very different from those covered by the law of 1902. In fact, in some significant schools of thought, not only in this country but also in the United States of America and Great Britain, there is a belief that, because of the nature of research and of inventive processes in 1962 a patent law is not necessary at all.
That is one extreme view, and I think it has some validity. It indicates the kind of technical and sociological problems involved. While they ultimately have to be solved in terms of written law, the interests that they contemplate are not properly adumbrated by the mere words of the statute itself. When this Parliament legislates, of course, it decides about the words of statutes as such. But I think it is very dangerous and unhealthy for a parliamentary system of government when it is difficult to get members to talk upon legislation with such far-reaching impact as this. When members do speak to it they do not go into the merits of the legislation, j I am in the same boat. I cannot go into j the merits of the legislation. I have i endeavoured to skirt around what might be called the sociological background of the : problem. At least I am interested in it, as are members generally on this side of the , House and, I think, on the other side. If this bill represents an improvement on the : existing legislation I congratulate the , Attorney-General that at least progress is j being made. I
.- -Mr. : Deputy Speaker, first of all I should like to congratulate the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) on the introduction of this : complicated bill. Of course, this is more of a field day for lawyers than for laymen. However, some of us step in where angels fear to tread. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I rise to put some views forward. They do not relate to matters covered specifically in the bill but, because the whole pattern of legislation is open for discussion, I see no reason why my thoughts should not be acceptable. I also want to pay a tribute to the staff of the Patent, Trade Marks, Design and Copyright Offices, with whom I have had a lot of dealings when I have brought to them patents from my constituents. I found the staff a very courteous and capable body of men. I think the Minister should be proud of that staff, which handles a vast number of patents amounting to about 20,000 a year.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is an urgent need for the Government to give more direct assistance to the little inventor - the man who has no great financial background or backing, but many qualities of genius. I do not know what governments are doing in this respect on the other side of the world, apart from Russia, but I know that in Australia we are not doing very much for the small inventor, nor for any inventor for that matter. About 20,000 patents are brought forward in this country every year from people in all walks of life. They relate to almost every conceivable subject. But many of these inventions cannot be proceeded with because of lack of funds. The patent is accepted. It is original and fulfils all the qualifications laid down by the Patents Act, but that is where it finishes. The problem of getting the article produced, and the problem of getting a model built, which is sometimes an expensive matter, are problems which are too big for the ordinary inventor who is not backed by big companies or by a surplus of funds, but has only his own brains to offer. It is not necessary to have a university education to invent something of great value to this country. The men whose names I am going to mention in a moment did not have a university education. During their times education was hard to come by. Yet see what the world would have lost if they had not persevered and won through against almost insurmountable obstacles. I refer to Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, Nikolai Telsa, James Watt, Heinrich Herts, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Henry Ford and hundreds of others.
The cost of transforming the conception behind an invention into a practical reality is frightening to many men who have a genius for inventing. On the credit side, however, is the fact that about 20,000 Australians are thinking in terms of inventing. Much that would be of great value to the nation is being forged in the minds of these men and women. Not all inventionsare of equal value. Hundreds are very minor indeed. If this huge output of mental energy could be sifted, a large reservoir of vitally important patent material would remain. One could point to the analogy with mining, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With certain ores, vast quantities of material have to be treated in order to find the precious metals contained in the ore body. If we turned our backs on these mountains of ore, we could overlook a vast amount of wealth buried in them. So it is with inventors.
It is possible that, because of lack of finance, many wonderful inventions lie for ever buried among the 20,000 patents applied for each year that do not get beyond the Patent Office and do not become practical realities. It will be necessary in the near future, in my opinion, for this Government or its successor to assist the most likely inventors who have brilliant ideas but no money to put them into practice. I have ascertained from the Budget Papers that the income received by the Patent Office in Canberra from fees for patents, designs and so on totals £501,000 a year. That goes into Consolidated Revenue. I suggest that, in order to encourage inventive genius in Australia, this money be put into a government fund so that it could be used to subsidize those possessed of inventive genius but who are financially embarrassed. Every one who invents something is in a sense a genius.
If my suggestion were adopted, this money would be put to practical use instead of being dissipated in Consolidated Revenue. We would be doing something practical with the revenue derived from patent fees paid on the lodging of patents at the Patent Office. The cost of lodging a patent is about £6. The total of these fees, as I have said, is £501,000 a year. Why not use that revenue derived from .inventors to finance those inventors who are needy? That is the essence of the proposal which I put to the Attorney-General this afternoon. Such a thing has not been done before. Indeed, I do not think that it has even been suggested before. This proposal would help the little man who has brilliant ideas and no money. This is a practical suggestion and not one that is impossible to implement.
As I proceed, the House will hear how important it is for this Government to do something such as I have suggested. Throughout history, so often, the man responsible for a wonderful invention has finished up in poverty because some one else-
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that this bill deals not with the promotion of inventions but with the protection of them.
– With due respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that, at the second-reading stage of a bill which has opened up-
– Within limits, other matters may be mentioned in passing.
– I submit that we always are permitted to speak on any matter opened up by the measure before us.
– I suggest that the honorable member confine his remarks to the protection of patents.
– If I may, I want to make a special point of the fact that many of the men who submit patents to the Patent Office are poor. I believe that, for this reason, much of their genius is not utilized. In Russia, on the other hand, great stress is laid on inventive genius, and people who have the genius but no money are always assisted. That is why that country is so far ahead of us in many respects to-day. We have available the Patent Office, ministerial staff, technicallyqualified staff and many necessary facilities at the Patent Office. But all this is at the end of the inventive process rather than at the beginning. What we want is assistance for the men who submit the patents - assistance at the grass-roots level, as it were.
We have some very able inventors in Australia. One man whom I should like to mention particularly is Mr. Vivian Ebsray, a pump engineer, of Sydney, who developed a remarkable circulation unit for use in heart operations. Mr. Ebsray had the backing of a firm and no doubt he had no trouble in financing this splendid invention which has done so much in heart surgery in Australia since 1956. In 1957, Mr. Ebsray developed what he has called a hypo-thermia machine. It has brought Australia to the top rank in the field of heart surgery. With the help of this machine nearly 300 life-saving operations have been performed in Sydney at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children alone. An improved model of the machine has been used at the Prince Henry Hospital in Sydney. This unit has a pumping system and chilling and warming chambers. It circulates the patient’s bloodstream through its chilling chambers until the blood temperature is lowered and the patient goes into a state of hibernation. In this condition, both his circulation and his heart stop. The heart can then be removed and operated on for anything up to an hour, after which it can be replaced, the blood temperature returned to normal and “ life “ restored to the body. Mr. Ebsray has built eight of these machines and is now building a ninth for use in Brisbane.
This is an instance in which a genius was backed by a private firm and, as a result, has brought Australia abreast of the rest of the world in the field of open-heart surgery. This is a magnificent achievement. But there are hundreds of other inventors who have never had the finance needed to bring their inventions to fruition. This is where the Commonwealth Government could help.
Mr. Ebsray has also perfected another invention which has helped to put Australia in the very forefront in the field of research into and treatment of poliomyelitis. This brilliant invention has enabled sufferers from poliomyelitis to be treated in hospital without the usual clumsy apparatus of oxygen tanks and so on. We are very proud of this man who has done so much in two very important fields of research and medical treatment. However, leading doctors believe that this country could make even greater contributions to medical knowledge if research work received greater Government support. Doctor D. F. J. Halmagyi, senior fellow in the Department of Medicine at the University of Sydney, has said -
In America the money annually available for medical research works out at £2/10/- a head. In Australia it’s 6d.
– Order! This bill is not concerned with research.
– I mention that only in passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I submit that it is most difficult to limit one’s remarks to the narrow confines of a bill such as this. This is the first time during the sixteen years for which I have been a member of this Parliament that we have not been allowed to discuss in general terms a bill that has opened up a wide subject such as this. I cannot understand why this measure has been selected for such treatment compared with other measures that I can recall.
As I am not allowed to continue along those lines I shall discuss the bill itself in precise terms. Clause 9 is the key clause of the bill. It provides that at the request of the applicant the Commissioner of Patents may open an inventor’s complete specification to public inspection at any time after three months from the date on which it has been lodged. This may be done even though the application has not been accepted. This will enable the inventor to obtain the benefit of his invention while it holds its attraction and novelty. The bill also will enable the inventor who is willing to accept all the disadvantages that earlier publication may involve to require such publication and thus to accelerate the date from which he will have the full benefit of his monopoly when letters patent are issued. These two proposed changes are very important. Boiled down, the bill means that an invention will be open to the public at any time after three months after the complete specification has been lodged and not later than eighteen months after that date. That is the crux of the bill.
The Minister also stated in the speech which he delivered several months ago that three other important steps will be taken to implement the main purpose of the bill. In all of them the procedure will be of benefit to the inventor. My general comment is that this measure will benefit inventors in Australia. It will give them greater security and greater protection. One interesting feature is that the possibility of invalidity is removed.
– Why not say something important about the bill?
– I intended to shorten my speech but because you are so smart in reducing the time which is allotted to honorable members during debates, thus preventing Opposition members from par ticipating in the debates to the extent that they might wish, I shall continue speaking now until I feel like stopping. If you wish, you can move that I be no longer heard.
– I would not deprive Australia of the pleasure of hearing you.
– There is no need for sarcasm or cynicism.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Wilmot address the Chair.
– That is not very much use to me, either. As I was saying, the possibility of invalidity has been removed. The Minister said -
The last of the matters to which I referred is the complete removal, by more than one provision of this bill, of any possibility, perhaps years after the grant of his Letters Patent, of the Letters Patent being held to be invalid because of changes the applicant caused to be made in his documents, by way of amendment, while they were in the Patents Office.
This new feature in the Australian legislation is based on British practice. I commend the Minister for its introduction. Though it is very difficult for a layman to understand every detail in the legislation, throughout the bill and the explanatory memorandum we can see the move to give greater protection to what I might call rejected inventors - the ordinary inventors who usually are the poorest because they make the least out of their inventions when they are taken up and employed in industry. These men are the grass roots of invention and it is to them that this aspect of the bill is directed. The protection afforded them is improved.
Industry, which apparently has been responsible for some of the features of this bill, on which the Minister has been working for so long, should be satisfied too. When a patent is released to the public industry can obtain it from the Patents Office. The time during which challenges may be lodged has been reduced. So, industry, particularly secondary industry, will be assisted in introducing new features. That is one of the problems which confront industry. A particular industry may wish to introduce some new process, but it must learn first whether this process has been covered by some inventor who has lodged a provisional specification at the Patents Office. Industry has been concerned because of the lengthy delay before it could learn the true position. This legislation will assist the industrialist, who intends to set up a new factory or to introduce a new process, to learn more quickly whether by doing so he would be violating any patent which has been registered. This bill will be very helpful to all concerned and the Opposition wholeheartedly supports it.
Once again I commend the officers of the Patents Office for their courtesy at all times and for the way in which they handle such a huge number of patents during the year. I understand that the number is about 20,000. I only hope that the office space and the number of staff engaged will be sufficient to cope with future applications. The office may have to be extended, because, with the growth of Australia and the inflow of migrants with inventive genius, the number of applications lodged in years to come will climb far in excess of 20,000 and the present staff in the present office space may not be able to handle them.
.- I should like to make one or two points about the bill before the discussion is completed. For some time interested persons in the community have been concerned with the existing legislation relating to inventions and patents. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out, the substance of this amending bill is- a compromise between two interests. From my experience, those concerned with the law in this matter have been in the main only one of those two interests.
The most important provision of this bill concerns the length of time that an application for a patent must lie in the Patents Office after it has been lodged to allow a search to be made to see whether a patent can be granted or whether the matter already has been the subject of a patent. Under the provisions of the 1960 act a patent could lie at the office for up to two years while a search was being made. The people who were most concerned with the state of the law considered that these applications were lying in the office for far too long and they wanted a reduction in the period. In some ways the proposed amend ment is the answer to their requirement. But, as far as I am aware, no other persons - those who wanted the applications, if any existed, to remain in the Patents Office for any lengthier period - have been concerned enough to make any representations on this aspect.
Certainly the amending bill is a compromise. Instead of a two years period, an application may remain in the office for as short a period as three months, if the applicant consents to that, or for as long as eighteen months if the search takes that length of time. This period, then, is the essence of the matter, and it is in this period that some protection is given to the applicant and some handicap might be imposed upon those concerned with the use of processes in industry and production. They might find, after they have proceeded with a certain process, that it eventually becomes the subject of a patent granted to somebody else who has applied during the time in which the process has been in use in industry, and during which time the application for the patent would have been lying at the Patent Office.
Of course, this amendment does meet a little more closely the needs of the people who have actually been concerned to make representation to the Government and to others on this matter. Whether it meets their needs fully, or meets what they think should be the case with the law, I am not too sure. I know some who are not satisfied, and who do not think that this adequately clears up the position. I do not know to what extent the Minister and his advisers have weighed up those points, and to what extent they are satisfied that the present amendment meets the needs, but I think that we have a right to expect that a bill of this kind, which has taken some time to produce, will be such as to satisfy the people concerned and that there will be no immediate or early need for a further revision of the act.
In relation to this method of dealing with the problem there is just one other thing I want to say. I think that you will agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that as a passing reference this is at least relevant to this bill. I think that some time or other we will have to ask ourselves whether this method of giving protection to the inventor by a patent is the best method. It seems to me that this kind of method was more appropriate in the old days when the individual inventor, if he were successful in getting a patent, could himself become the producer - the entrepreneur of the development. I do not think that that was ever as common as has been assumed. I think that even in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that was never quite as true as the idealists believe it to have been. I think that always the inventor became the instrument of the man who could organize - the entrepreneur - rather than the man who actually conducted the business himself. But certainly, whatever it was in the past it is not so to-day. I think that to-day invention is a social and industrial process, and that by far the greater proportion of inventions - and the most significant ones - come out of research laboratories, come out of big industry, and stay there.
The significance of this method as a way of putting the inventor on the path to some economic progress is now thoroughly outdated, and I think that sooner or later we will have to consider some other method. This is where some of the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) are relevant to the subject, although in the narrower sense they may not be strictly relevant to the bill. Sooner or later we will have to consider making monetary awards to some inventors. We could consider giving them specific assistance perhaps where they do not possess the means themselves to apply their inventions to productive processes.
This bill seems to make some progress towards meeting the requests or the needs of some people, and I hope that it satisfies them; but it must not be pretended that the methods that we have in this community of providing for inventions and for patents is any longer relevant, if it ever was, to the situation from the community’s point of view or from the point of view of what is necessary for industrial and economic progress. A great deal more thinking has to be given to it yet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. .
After section fifty-four of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “ 54a.-
Section eighty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the word “ publication “ and inserting in its stead the words “ the specification became open to public inspection “.
Section proposed to be amended.
After section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “159a.-…..
Clause 28. (1.) Where, before the commencement of this section, an Examiner has reported adversely to an application or specification under section fortyseven or forty-eight of the Patents Act 1952, or of that Act as amended, and -
– I ask for leave, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to move at the same time the four amendments which have been circulated in my name.
Amendments (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
At the end of proposed section fifty-four a add the following sub-section: - “ ‘ (5.) Where an order is in force under section one hundred and thirty-one of this Act in relation to an application at a time when, but for this sub-section, a notification that the complete specification lodged in respect of the application is open to public inspection would be published under this section, the notification shall not be published until the order is revoked.’.”.
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: - “ 17. Section eighty-seven of the Principal Act is repealed.”.
Clause 26 -
At the end of the clause add the following proposed section: - “ ‘ 159b. Where an amendment is made under this Act to a complete specification after the specification became open to public inspection, damages shall not be awarded, and an order shall not be made for an account of profits, in an action for an infringement of the patent occurring before the date of the decision or order allowing or directing the amendment -
Clause 28- -.
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: - “28.- (1.) Where, before the commencement of this section, an Examiner has reported adversely to an application or specification under section forty-seven or section forty-eight of the Patents Act 1952, or of that Act as amended, and -
Proposed new clause 24a.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 24a. Section one hundred and forty-six of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words High Court ‘ (twice occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Commonwealth Industrial Court 1 “.
The consequence of adopting my amendment would be that the appeal tribunal provided under the principal act, and referred to in many parts of the bill, would be the Commonwealth Industrial Court instead of the High Court. I hoped that the opportunity would have been taken to make the substitution. On the last occasion that a Patents Bill was being debated, on 8th December, 1960, I pointed out the very great variety of appeals provided under our different industrial property laws. I said then -
Under the Copyright Act, Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court of any State may order the rectification of any register; an appeal lies to the High Court. Under the Designs Act, there is an appeal, if the Registrar of Designs refuses to register a design, to the Attorney-General or to the Crown Solicitor. If either of them, in turn, refuses the application, there is an appeal to the Supreme Court of a State. After registration, any interested person may apply to the High Court for its cancellation or for a compulsory licence. The Supreme Court of a State may order the rectification of the register. An appeal lies to the High Court. Finally, under the Trade Marks Act, appeals lie to the Appeal Tribunal constituted by a single justice of the High Court and thence to a Full Court of the High Court.
The last procedure also applies under the Patents Act. Under the present bill there are slightly more varied forms of appeal. I went on to say on 8th December, 1960 -
While this bill is going through, and whenever these other bills to which I have referred are being amended, the opportunity might well be taken to co-ordinate the methods of appeal by providing an appeal from a Registrar or Com< missioner to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Sometimes appeals lie to the law officers of the
Crown - the Attorney-General or the Crown Solicitor - sometimes to the Supreme Court of a State but not it seems to the Supreme Court of a Territory, and sometimes to the High Court. These various means of appeal are provided and, in fact, they sometimes occur in the one act.
I made this suggestion, I pointed out, the last time one of these bills was being debated 23 months ago, but the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) brushed me off by saying that I had - no reason to suppose that he had overlooked the question of trying not only to make the appellate provisions in industrial property law uniform but perhaps to change their venue.
He said, referring to me -
He knows very well that that has been in my mind (or some time, but this is not the appropriate bill in which to give effect to such a change if it should be desired.
The Attorney-General presumably has had it in his mind for two more years, and has not come up with any alternative way of dealing with it.
I had the temerity to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question about this in the first sessional period of this year. 1 asked him -
Has he yet decided to introduce legislation which he mentioned on 8th December, 1960, for uniform appellate provisions in industrial property law?
On 5th April last he answered -
The answer to this question would involve a statement of Government policy and the honorable member will appreciate that an answer to a question is not a suitable means of making an announcement on Government policy.
I am not easily deterred, Sir, and I asked another perfectly permissible and unexceptionable question some weeks ago in these terms -
On how many occasions and to what tribunals have appeals been made in the last five years under the Copyright Act, Designs Act, Patents Act and Trade Marks Act?
The reply given by the Minister showed that under the Patents Act there had been appeals to a single justice of the High Court on three occasions in 1958, three in 1959, with one to the Full High Court in that year, another three to single justices in I960, one last year and two this year. The High Court is busy enough with matters of an appellate or constitutional nature to be relieved of the necessity of taking appeals in matters such as this. I think it is well known that the High Court in general is not pleased to take appeals of this nature in the first instance, and that it takes some time for the appeals to come on for hearing.
The Commonwealth Industrial Court, however, has now been functioning for a few years. Its chief justice is a former Attorney-General who probably did as much as anybody who has held that office to co-ordinate the Commonwealth’s laws in respect of industrial property. It has some other members who have as much experience in matters involving industrial property as any other judges in Australia. The Parliament has already given the Commonwealth Industrial Court the function of determining appeals in two instances under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Section 29 of the 1960 act inserted section 87a in the principal act, providing for appeals against revocations of licences to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Section 31 of the 1960 act inserted section 105a in the principal act to permit appeals from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to the Commonwealth Industrial Court against orders to share television programmes. Thus the court can already deal with one type of appeal other than matters arising under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is well equipped, under its own or some other name, to deal with appeals under our industrial laws. There is a need to co-ordinate our appeal procedures under our industrial laws. Quite some time has elapsed during which the Attorney-General, as he has assured us, has been considering this matter. I submit that this is now a proper occasion to deal with the subject, and I move the amendment accordingly.
– I have, indeed, great sympathy with the proposition that the High Court has more work than it ought to be asked to do. I also have sympathy with the point of view that industrial property work - not merely these appeals but also original jurisdiction work in connexion with suits between parties - could probably very well be removed from the jurisdiction of the High Court. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has said, I have had this matter under examination. I have not merely had it in my mind; concrete work has been done in the department in connexion with it. Many constitutional and practical problems are connected with the task of moving over not merely one small item of jurisdiction but a great deal of jurisdiction, into, perhaps, some court added to the federal judicature. The work has been progressing, and I hope that it will very soon come to finality. I cannot accept the proposition that this should be attempted piecemeal. The matter we are now concerned with is only one very small facet of the larger problem. It affects very few cases in itself. I would prefer to treat it as part of a wider problem, as I propose to do when I ultimately launch a broader piece of legislation, perhaps in the next sessional period.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th November (vide page 2100), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before us provides assistance for only two States, Western Australia and Tasmania. This follows the agreement that was entered into in 1959. Queensland and then Victoria threatened to become mendicant or claimant States, seeking assistance from the Commonwealth through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. As a result of the new agreement, only two States are now mendicant or claimant States. Under the bill they receive a total of £11,251,000. Western Australia receives £6,210,000 and Tasmania receives £5,041,000. These are not the amounts that the commission recommended, but they come pretty close to them.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in opening the debate for the Opposition, gave an excellent review of the position of South Australia, which has now ceased to be a claimant State. The Parliament, the nation generally and South Australia particularly should be indebted to this indefatigable worker from South Australia for the very good expose of the position that he gave. His speech was a gem; it showed the continued need for the Commonwealth to make grants to the States. Both South Australia and Queensland have lost under the new agreement. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in his excellent speech on Tuesday night, made clear that the people of South Australia are suffering considerably, particularly in relation to social services, because of the new agreement. The agreement has a term of six years; so in 1965 there will be either a continuation of this agreement or a new agreement will be framed by, I hope, a new government of the Commonwealth. I hope that if there is a new government - it would be the alternative government - there will be a greater spirit of generosity displayed in a practical way to the States that are struggling against adversity or are experiencing considerable difficulties in their efforts to develop.
My own State of Queensland, as I said, has suffered considerably under the new agreement. I believe that it was the threat of the Premier of Quensland that that State would become a claimant State and seek increased grants from the Commonwealth that caused the new agreement to be concluded. Queensland at that time had claims, as it has now, for considerably more assistance than it was receiving. As all honorable members know, and as you know most of all, Mr. Speaker, Queensland has an area of 670,000 square miles and has been trying since its inception to develop all parts of the State reasonably. The large States of South Australia and Western Australia have not done this. In those States development has been mainly in a very small area. In South Australia development has been around the southeastern portion and around the city of Adelaide, and in Western Australia, in the south-western corner. The other States of Victoria and New South Wales, of course, are well developed and well populated States which have a major share of the secondary industry of the Commonwealth. The other mainland State, Queensland, faces many difficulties. Considerable development work is needed. Development up to the present has not taken place in any one sector of the State, but rather it has been spread over the whole of the State. Consequently, the need for added funds is most apparent to those who make a study of conditions in the State.
I regret that Queensland does not receive assistance in this bill. It is true that under the 1959 agreement slightly increased sums were made available to all the States in tax reimbursements, but at the same time the charges on the States have increased amazingly. The main benefit of the increased productivity of industry has gone to the Commonwealth Treasury. Whilst this Government has been receiving increasingly large sums of money through taxation and other avenues, because of Australia’s development, the States have not been receiving anything like a commensurate sum, although their responsibilities have been increasing all the time. The financial position of Queensland, particularly since the agreement of 1959 came into being, has caused the Government of that State to search for fresh fields and pastures new in the financial sphere. I do not agree with some of the means which it has adopted in its search for more revenue. I am not one who likes to restrict any one’s entertainment or mode of living, but I regret that the Government of Queensland has seen fit to indulge in an orgy of establishment of starting-price betting shops throughout the State.
– Order! The honorable member is getting rather wide of the subject-matter before the Chair. This bill deals with Western Australia and Tasmania.
– I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I was merely making the point that had Queensland been a beneficiary State under this legislation it would not have been necessary for its Government to adopt these fantastic and shocking means of raising revenue. I know that the majority of honorable members of this House do not approve of widespread establishment of betting shops as has happened in Queensland.
– There are betting shops in Western Australia.
– The Government Whip says that there are betting shops in Western Australia; but that is not a reason why they should be established in other States.
– The Government of Queensland must want to raise more revenue.
– Yes, but I regret the means that have been used to that end. I have been provoked by honorable members to get away from the subject-matter before the Chair, Mr. Speaker. I do not think it reasonable that the need for more revenue should be used as an excuse for the establishment of starting-price betting shops, the raising of liquor licensing fees which virtually amounts to a beer tax, and the raising of car registration fees. All these measures have been made necessary because Queensland is not a claimant State and is not a beneficiary under this legislation.
– Has the Queensland Government increased the beer tax?
– That tax has been raised by the Queensland Government and is imposing hardship on the people. I am not an excessive beer drinker and consequently do not contribute considerably to that form of revenue in Queensland, but I have a lot of sympathy with those who are being mulcted in this exceptionally heavy tax.
– How would you like a tax on fruit cup?
– I ask the honorable member not to make such suggestions in a loud voice, because the Ministers of the Liberal-Country Party Government in Queensland may hear him and may impose a tax on fruit cup in due course.
These grants are restricted to two States, which are very fortunate in receiving these considerable sums of money. South Australia and Queensland are in an unfortunate position because they are excluded from such grants, and their governments will find it difficult to carry on under existing conditions.
– Do you think South Australia made a mistake in ceasing to be a claimant State?
– I believe the Government of South Australia made a grave mistake in ceasing to be a claimant State. I go further and say that Queensland made a grave mistake in not persisting in its representations to this Government to be treated as a claimant State.
– I hope that eventually Western Australia will cease to be a claimant State.
– I hope that when a new arrangement is made after 1965 greater consideration will be given to Queensland and South Australia, which are trying to develop under difficult conditions. I am not pleading for the Government of Queensland, but for the people of that State irrespective of their party political affiliations. At present the Governments of Queensland and South Australia are not very partial to those who are responsible for my being in this Parliament, but those who do support the Labour Party are paying the penalty, in the main, under the legislation of those Governments because those States are not claimant States.
– Is hospitalization still free in Queensland?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will keep order. He has already spoken.
– I was just helping the honorable member for Griffith.
– Order! If the honorable member needs help, he is being led astray.
– Whilst Queensland has for a long time led the Commonwealth in the matter of free hospitalization and its people have been the envy of the citizens of other States in that regard, there is a grave danger that under the present financial arrangements the great benefit which the people of Queensland are at present receiving in this field may disappear from the State’s statute book. Successful efforts have already been made by the Queensland Government to restrict the availability of free hospital treatment; and that is tragic. 1 know I am getting a little wide of the bill, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to trespass further on your generosity, but I am sorry that the bill will not benefit Queensland in any way.
.- I wholeheartedly support this bill which provides for grants for Western Australia and Tasmania. I hope that over a period of years, as the result of the help given by this Parliament to those States they will be able to arrive at the fortunate position at which South Australia has arrived, that of no longer being a claimant State. I have been moved to take part in this debate because of the speech made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He seems to delight in running down his own State. I am sure that every decent thinking South Australian was delighted when the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, was able to announce that as the result of the improved prosperity and economy of South Australia that State would cease to be a mendicant State, as it had theretofore been called. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that the Government of South Australia made a grave error when South Australia ceased to be a claimant State. All the figures and facts contravert that statement. If we examine the years during which South Australia was a claimant State we find that its Government was in the red, notwithstanding the grants made by the Commonwealth. In 1956-57, South Australia had a deficit of £49,000, in 1957-58 a deficit of £399,000, in 1958-59 a deficit of £1,027,000, and in 1959-60 a deficit of £311,000. Subsequently South Australia ceased to be a mendicant State. It stands on its own feet under the new formula, getting the grants that are common to all States. In 1960-61 South Australia had a surplus of £1,188,000 instead of a deficit, and in 1961-62 it had a surplus of £507,000. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh says that South Australia made a mistake He wants us to remain a Cinderella State, a mendicant State. He wants us to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth and say, “ Please give us the money “, to which the Commonwealth may reply, “ Well, provided you cut down on this and cut down on that you can have it “. South Australia is one of the most prosperous States in the Com monwealth, because it has been well governed. Now, it is standing on its own feet, but the honorable member for Hindmarsh said -
I believe it has been officially estimated that in one year alone the government of South Australia lost something like £200,000 on the transaction.
The honorable member does not give one word of evidence to support that statement; he does not even mention the person who is alleged to have made this so-called official estimate. He is just like the newspapers which, when they want to make up a story, say, “ We are reliably informed “. Of course the facts are abundantly clear from what I have already stated. South Australia has benefited tremendously since it ceased to be a claimant State. The honorable member for Hindmarsh criticized certain expenditure in South Australia and he referred to the table on page 71 of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. One can surely expect an honorable member of this House to quote a table honestly; but when we look at the table on page 71 we find that the honorable member for Hindmarsh, to try to make his argument, conveniently left out the whole of the first line. He left out expenditure on education and jumped to the second line, which relates to health, and then to the third line which deals with law, order and public safety. As the honorable member was praising the Labour Government of New South Wales and criticizing the Playford Government of South Australia, of course he had to leave out the first line because it shows that whereas South Australia spends £14 15s. 2d. per head on education, the Labour Government of New South Wales spends only £14 10s. 5d.
– But there is no backlag to take up in New South Wales.
– Now he tries to wriggle out of it. When an honorable member chooses to quote from a report he should do so honestly and fairly. It is true, as the honorable member stated, that South Australia spends less than New South Wales on health, but the reason for that is that South Australians are healthier and wiser, and of course our hospitals are run far more efficiently, and provide a far better and cheaper service than those in New South Wales.
Then the honorable member criticized South Australia for not spending sufficient on law and order. Of course, South Australia is known to be the most orderly State in the Commonwealth and, consequently, we do not have to spend so much money on trying criminals in the courts and on keeping law and order. Then the honorable member said, in effect, that it was a wicked thing that South Australia charged pensioners in public wards of hospitals £3 a day, whereas other States - he referred to New South Wales - did not do that. I have always regarded the honorable member for Hindmarsh as being extremely diligent in his own electorate. He handles a number of problems for pensioners. He knows perfectly well, and if he is honest he will admit it, that when pensioners who have no property and no income other than their pension go into a public ward in the Adelaide hospital they are relieved of any charge.
The honorable member then proceeded to say that this Government was trying to force the Government of New South Wales to make a charge to pensioners in public wards of hospitals. If the honorable member had read the ministerial statement delivered in this House a short time ago he would have realized the falseness of that claim, because not only is the Commonwealth Government not trying to get the States to make a charge, but it has agreed to pay 36s. a day to the States on condition that they do not charge pensioners in public wards.
– And on condition that they increase the other charges to £3 a day.
– There are no such conditions as that. The Minister’s statement reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth Government has undertaken to increase from 12s. to 36s. a day the payment it makes towards the cost of maintaining pensioners in public hospitals. A condition of the offer is that all pensioners enrolled in the Pensioner Medical Service are treated without charge in public wards.
How unfair it is for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to say in this House that the Commonwealth Government is trying to force the States to charge pensioners at least £3 a day! It is the repeated falseness of the statements of the honorable member throughout his speech - a speech that I feel sure he will regret having made - that has forced me to my feet to give to this House the facts.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh then proceeded to criticize South Australia because it spends more than other States do on public works and services. Surely South Australia should get all the pats on the back in the world because it is using its revenues and its loan moneys in providing permanent improvements for the people of South Australia.
– Building up the State’s productive capacity!
– As the honorable member for Barker so rightly says, it is building up productive capacity so as to give a permanently improved standard of living - not something that is given as an extra handout and is all gone overnight, but something that will last South Australia for all time.
I want now to refer to another table that the honorable member for Hindmarsh dealt with. This appears at page 21 of the commission’s report. The honorable member criticized South Australia not for spending too little in this instance but, being inconsistent as he always is, for spending too much on public works, according to him. When we look at Table 5, we find that on electricity South Australia is spending £55.4 per head compared with the £38.2 per head being spent by New South Wales. The honorable member for Hindmarsh condemns that. He says that South Australia should not be spending as much as that on electricity. On water supply South Australia is spending £94.3 per head compared with the £40.8 per head being spent by New South Wales. On housing South Australia is spending £50.4 per head out of its loan money, compared with the £1.7 per head being spent by New South Wales. Honorable members opposite, who pretend that they are concerned for the people who want houses, are criticizing South Australia in spite of the wonderful job that it has done in providing the best houses in Australia at the lowest cost in Australia. South Australia also has the smallest waiting list for houses of any State in the Commonwealth. That is what the honorable member for Hindmarsh chooses to criticize.
I wholeheartedly support this bill because I want to see Western Australia and Tasmania get into the fortunate position that South Australia is in as a result of receiving help from the Commonwealth over a number of years and finally building up its economy to the stage where relatively it is either as prosperous as or more prosperous than the other States. As we know, South Australia to-day has a standard of living second only to that of Victoria. We have the highest taxable capacity. We have the least number of unemployed. We are taking the greatest number of migrants taken by any State, except Victoria. In fact, South Australia is the most attractive State for migrants to come to. That happy result could not have been achieved had we not had help from the Commonwealth in the early days. As a result of that help, South Australia no longer is a claimant State. I want to see Western Australia and Tasmania, as a result of their own efforts, reach that happy state in which they will be equally prosperous. I believe that Western Australia, with the excellent government that it now has - that government is looking to the future and developing the State - will get into the position in which South Australia is to-day and will be able to say: “ Now we can stand on our own feet. No longer is Western Australia a mendicant State.” I wholeheartedly support the bill.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that I criticized South Australia for spending more than other States spend on public works.
– Would you like me to quote you?
– I will quote myself. That, of course, is a very damaging statement, especially when it refers to me, because I always believe that expenditure on public works is good. This is what I said, as reported at page 2097 of “ Hansard “ -
We find that South Australia is spending £27 15s per head of population - that is loan expenditure - on works and services, compared wilh only £15 17s. in Queensland, £16 16s. in Victoria and £15 10s. in New South Wales.
I also said -
Whereas South Australia is spending less than the other States on social services, its loan expenditure per capita on works and services is greater than in other States.
Then I quoted from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission a paragraph which makes the nature of my criticism clear. That paragraph reads -
Thus it is found that loan expenditure has been relatively heavy … in South Australia on water supplies and harbors.
This is the point I made: Whereas South Australia had to dip into revenue to meet the cost of its public works programme, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales were able to spend on public works amounts within their loan allocations, namely £15 17s., £16 16s. and £15 10s. per head respectively, instead of £27 15s. per head as in South Australia.
.- Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the bill, too. I direct attention to the fact that, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in his second-reading speech, the main purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment in 1962-63 of special grants totalling £11,251,000 to Western Australia and Tasmania. I agree with the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that it will be a great day when there are no claimant States and all the States can pay their own way. But I am afraid that that day is a long way off yet.
These grants for the two claimant States have been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its twentyninth report. Of the £11,251,000, Western Australia will receive £6,210,000 and Tasmania will receive £5,041,000. The importance of the Grants Commission is its function of adjusting, by additional financial assistance, the inferior position of Western Australia and Tasmania which is due to the unequal distribution of resources, population and wealth among the States. Because those two States are sparsely populated and less industrialized and have less wealth at their disposal than the other States, they are faced with very heavy expenditures if they are to develop their resources in order to give them anywhere near equality with the more highly developed, more densely populated and much more wealthy States of New South Wales and Victoria.
The principle governing States grants is that of financial need. It was expressed very clearly in the third report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and has been repeated at page 42 of the twentyninth report. It is as follows -
Special grants are justified when a State through financial stress from any cause is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the Federation and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States.
Because the claimant States need to have Commonwealth financial assistance, they have been forced to accept the decisions of the commission on their claims. The acceptance of those decisions is made easier because they are made by a body that is more or less non-political in character and the recommendations are made after that body has heard evidence. It is an independent body. It makes its recommendations to the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament decides whether or not those recommendations will be accepted. I do not know of any instance in which the recommendations of the Grants Commission have been rejected.
In my opinion, and I think in the opinion of the Parliament, the commission is an improvement on the Australian Loan Council, in which the States are subjected to the dictation of the Commonwealth. The method of voting in the Loan Council acts to the detriment of the States. The Commonwealth has three votes - two deliberative votes and a casting vote. So, if the Commonwealth has two States on its side, it can inflict its will on the other four States. It is extremely doubtful whether a similar system of voting could be found anywhere in the world, certainly not in democratic countries.
From time to time, this Government has attempted to force its political views on the Commonwealth Grants Commission but it has not succeeded to any great extent. For example, according to its twenty-eighth report, the commission reached a decision to adopt a standard for the year of review based on the budgetary position of New
South Wales and Victoria. The Treasurer had said that the Government was not satisfied that the adoption of a two-State standard was justified in principle and it believed that the commission should reexamine its decision. The commission, after examining the submission of the Commonwealth, refused to alter its previous decision and adhered to the two-State standard based on New South Wales and Victoria. As illustrated in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth reports of the commission, other attempts have been made by the Commonwealth to interfere with the work of the commission. The stand taken by the commission against political interference is to be applauded.
Whilst the claimant States are not completely satisfied with the deal they have received from the commission, they realize, at least, that the decisions of the commission are easier to take than the decisions of the Australian Loan Council. The report of the Grants Commission for 1962 emphasizes the special disability suffered by the claimant States. For instance, on page 17, at paragraph 17, the following statement appears: -
In its recent reports, the Commission has reviewed the amounts of special grants in relation both to other forms of Commonwealth payments to the States and to the underlying differences in resources and economic conditions among the States. These “ underlying differences “ have occasioned comparatively heavy development costs in the less well-endowed States and, in addition they increase the operating costs of their business undertakings and the administrative costs of their social-service departments. They also largely account for the relatively low taxable capacity of those States.
That points to the inequalities that exist between the States. At page 18 of its report the commission refers to an important point affecting both Western Australia and Tasmania - the natural increase in population. The commission stated -
Western Australia and Tasmania maintained the high rates of natural increase which have obtained since the war and which help to explain the relatively larger number of school children in those States.
That means that the claimant States are faced with a high proportion of school-age children and children under five years of age, which increases the social service needs of those States and the need for schools.
Naturally, this means that added finance has to be found. Roads, too, in relation to area are an important factor. For instance, Western Australia has a lower mileage of sealed roads than any other State, with the exception of Tasmania. It has also one-third of the area of the Commonwealth. That will give honorable members some idea of the disability that we suffer in Western Australia in that regard.
The commission’s report shows the per capita value of secondary production and indicates that the proportion of the population employed in factories in New South Wales and Victoria is about twice as high as in Western Australia. The average weekly earnings in Western Australia per employed male unit are lower than in any other State despite the fact that we have a higher basic wage. That is brought about by the fact that there is not as much overtime worked in Western Australia. There are very few over-award payments and bonuses. Consequently the average earnings of the workers are lower than in the other States. That accounts for the fact that we are finding it difficult to attract unemployed skilled workers to Western Australia from other States. Because over-award payments and overtime are available, unemployed persons prefer to wait in their own States to get jobs rather than go to Western Australia. The commission’s report shows that the burden of unrecovered debts is higher in Western Australia than in any other State. The report states -
Published figures for every State of unrecovered debt charges are not available, but the Commission has made the following estimate of their per capita cost in 1960-61 to each State budget: -
– What does that mean?
– It shows the disadvantage suffered in respect of debt charges by Western Australia compared with other States. The report emphasizes also that the loan expenditure items chiefly responsible for the higher burden in Western Australia are railways, harbours, land settlement, and development of agriculture and of mining. Refer ence is made to the fact that the provision of water supplies in country areas involves Western Australia in substantial operating losses. The two main schemes are the goldfields water supply and the agricultural areas water supply. The expenditure on pumping alone accounted for more than 40 per cent, of the total working expenses of £1,392,000. This gives some idea of the burden that is placed on these States in getting water to the places at which it is required. Western Australia is faced with an increasing demand for improved water supplies for country towns and farms. It is a problem because in the drier areas there is little rainfall and consequently no run-off of rain water. Therefore, bigger reservoirs have to be built or much greater pipelines have to be constructed. This means greater expenditure per million gallons than in areas where there is a comparatively high rainfall.
The decision of the Government not to continue the £1 for £1 subsidy that it was paying to Western Australia in respect of the comprehensive water scheme is to be regretted. I understand that further representations are to be made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to continue with the second part of that scheme. I raised the matter with the right honorable gentleman recently in this chamber. I sincerely hope that when the representations are made he will give them favorable consideration. According to the Prime Minister, they have not been made yet. This is very important to the agricultural areas of Western Australia. We often hear appeals for increased production, especially export production. One way to help export production is to increase the amount of water that is conserved and to get it to the areas where it is needed. Table 10 in the report of the Grants Commission shows that the percentage increases in Commonwealth financial assistance to all States between 1960-61 and 1961-62 have been lowest in the two claimant States. This resulted from the fact that instead of the amounts payable to Western Australia and Tasmania being calculated on the actual payments for the year 1961-62 they were calculated on a lower figure based on the census population figures instead of on the usual estimates of population made by the Commonwealth Statistician. Table 11 shows the percentage increase in 1960- 61 over 1958-59 in tax reimbursement and special grants as finally adjusted. Western Australia’s percentage increase was the lowest of all the States. The Commonwealth made submissions to the Commonwealth Grants Commission suggesting that Western Australia be penalized for the heavy losses incurred by the State Shipping Service. In paragraph 91, the commission makes this reply to the Commonwealth -
The Commission expressed its doubts about the validity and value of the adjustments proposed by the Treasury merely to provide an “ incentive “ to economy. It pointed out that its main difficulty in the consideration of the State Shipping Service was to find any criteria from experience elsewhere in Australia by which to test the operations of the Service. Insofar as the charges imposed on users of the Service and the facilities provided are dictated by policy considerations related to the development of the North-West of the State, and to modifying the asperities of pioneer life and economic development in the area, the normal methods of comparison by reference to areas of development outside the State do not seem applicable in measuring the appropriateness of the losses. No precise suggestions were made which might assist the Commission in the elaboration of any appropriate “yardstick “. The Commission’s inquiries indicated that in some respects these shipping operations were markedly dissimilar from shipping operations elsewhere on the Australian coast. For these reasons the Commission is glad to learn that the operations of the Service have been reported upon by an independent and experienced authority. The State Government has announced that the report contains recommendations on each of the matters referred to the authority for inquiry. In expectation of early action by the State Government to implement the recommendations, the Commission has deferred consideration of a possible adjustment.
Since then, the report of Captain Williams, the authority who made the investigation, has been received by the State Government and the State Government has announced increased freight and passenger charges on the State Shipping Service. This means that the basic freight rate will rise by an average of £1 10s. a ton with an increase of £2 a head for cattle and 2s. a head for sheep. I think it is to be regretted that this Government, through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, should threaten Western Australia with a reduced grant when it is making an effort to subsidize settlement in the north. It has always been recognized that services in the north should be subsidized to encourage people to go there, and to encourage development there. The need to open up the north is recognized by all reasonable people. We have to populate the north, and to do that concessions must be given. Cheap fares and freights on the State Shipping Service was one method of granting concessions. If the proposed increases are going to be detrimental to the development of the north, they should not be proceeded with, and the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, should not penalize the State for desiring to subsidize the development of the north.
I wish to make one other comment. I draw attention to the fact that the Western Australian Government recently imposed a £1 surcharge on third party motor vehicle insurance to bring the third party insurance premium into line with that charged in Victoria where a surcharge of £1 has been imposed. That is a heavy impost on the motorist who pays more than his share of indirect taxation. I point out that this £1 surcharge will not be used for the benefit of the motorist himself; it will be paid into general revenue. It is like the petrol tax, of which only about 75 per cent, is spent on roads. No motorist would object to these additional taxes if they were used to improve the roads, which are in urgent need of improvement, as the House is aware, and it is to be regretted that this £1 surcharge has been placed on third party motor vehicle insurance in Western Australia.
I wish now to draw attention to a statement made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) in duscussing this bill last Tuesday. At page 2100 of “ Hansard “ the honorable member is reported as having said -
There are the problems of metropolitan transport, also. Many of us here viewed with some concern the move made by the Labour Administration in Western Australia a few years ago to absorb the private bus companies and to establish a metropolitan transport trust. It is most noticeable to-day that, as we feared, there is an increasing deficit in transport.
The honorable member also said -
As a consequence, there has been an adverse adjustment in the grant.
It is true that the Labour Government introduced the legislation that led to the setting up of the Metropolitan Transport Trust, but it must not be forgotten that, whilst some of the bus companies were taken over by the Labour Administration, the incoming
Liberal Government continued with the taking over of bus companies. In fact, most of the bus companies wanted to be taken over by the Metropolitan Transport Trust because they were running at a loss. I remember that when I was a member of this Parliament on a former occasion, I was approached by representatives of some of the bus companies to see whether I could expedite their being taken over then because of the losses they were making. So I remind the honorable member for Swan that although the Labour Administration introduced the legislation, the Government now in office in Western Australia was quite satisfied with it and continued to take over bus companies.
I conclude my remarks by saying again that I sincerely hope the time will arrive when there will be no claimant States, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), and when each State will be able to meet its own obligations, but I am afraid that Western Australia, with its small population and vast area to develop, will be a claimant State for some time to come. I sincerely hope that we will continue to give that State every possible assistance not only through the Commonwealth Grants Commission but in every other way so that the development of the north may go on apace, with other important developmental works which are urgently necessary in Western Australia.
– I had not intended taking part in the debate on this bill but, after listening to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) chastising the. honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and accusing him of making incorrect statements, I felt it necessary to put the honorable member for Sturt right. The honorable member for Sturt accused the honorable member for Hindmarsh of saying that an age pensioner had to pay £3 a day for hospital treatment in public wards in South Australia. He said that the honorable member for Hindmarsh was wrong in making that statement. The honorable member for Sturt stated that a pensioner who had no other income did not have to pay anything at all. The honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned this matter to show ( that, after South Australia became a non- claimant State the Government found it necessary to raise extra revenue. Before South Australia became a non-claimant State, no pensioner in a public ward received a bill for hospital treatment if he had a pensioner’s medical entitlement card. After South Australia ceased to be a claimant State, the Government introduced legislation under which every patient in a public ward, be he pensioner or otherwise, was required to pay £3 a day. If the pensioner has no money at all apart from his pension, the charge is reduced to 10s. a day. But I emphasize that there is no provision in the legislation for making no charge. In other words, there is no provision for free hospital treatment.
When this new system was introduced twelve months or more ago, I inquired from the hospital authorities as to just what the position was. They informed me that the £3 a day had to be charged even though a pensioner had no money at all. In fact, if the honorable member for Sturt had looked at the accounts rendered by the Adelaide hospital authorities to patients in public wards he would have seen that the charge made is £3 a day less the 8s. a day paid by the Commonwealth for all hospital patients. Pensioners, if they are not able to pay that amount, can seek relief from the charge by completing the appropriate form. Only about a month ago, I visited a man whose wife had been in hospital for the removal of cataracts from her eyes. One eye was treated first and a week or two later the other eye was operated on. This man had read a statement which he understood to mean that he would not have to pay more than he was insured for. I said, “That is not correct”. He showed me a roneoed statement that he had received. Later, he told me that his wife was a pensioner and that she also was insured in a hospital fund. She was given the hospital account and was then sent a form to complete and return if she could not pay the difference between the hospital charge and the amount for which she was insured in the hospital fund.
I come back now to the reduction of the charge to 10s. if the pensioner has no income other than the pension. I told the hospital authority to whom I spoke that a charge of 10s. a day represented £3 10s. a week, at a time when the pension was £5 a week, which left the patient only 30s. a week out of which to pay rent and everything else. I asked what could be done and the hospital authority said: “ We are advising these people to pay 6d. a week to insure in a hospital fund. If they pay us the amount for which they are insured, and we add to that what we receive from the Commonwealth, we shall get 36s. a day, and we shall not worry a pensioner if he’ has insufficient means to pay more than the amount for which he is insured.” I suggest that the honorable member for Sturt, perhaps inadvertently, in his criticism of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, which has gone out over the radio to-day, has misled people. As a result, people say, “ I heard over the air that a pensioner with no money- “
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member relate his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I am only replying to what the honorable member for Sturt was allowed by the Chair to say.
– Just in passing.
– No. The honorable member for Sturt dealt entirely with the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and I am now dealing-
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Sturt did not discuss that for half an hour.
– I shall not discuss it for half an hour, either.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I shall assist the Chair, Sir. The honorable member for Sturt said that the honorable member for Hindmarsh had stated that South Australia was worse off after it ceased to be a claimant State, and went on to suggest that in fact that State was better off after it had ceased to be a claimant State. At the time when South Australia ceased to be a claimant State, I said that I believed that a mistake had been made. Under the arrangements made for the claimant States, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, if South Australia were a claimant State, would examine the State budget. This applies to Western Australia and Tasmania now. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said a few minutes ago that the Grants Commission was forcing Western Australia to increase certain charges which were lower than corresponding charges in other States. I think all of us who know how the commission has functioned throughout the years know that if the charges for services rendered by a claimant State are lower than the charges for similar services in the non-claimant States, the commission will tell the claimant State that it has to raise its charges to the level of those made in the other States. This applies to rail freights and many other charges.
Nobody wants to criticize a fair thing. Grants are made to the claimant States to compensate for their disabilities compared with the three eastern States, which are considered to be the prosperous ones. I warn Western Australia and Tasmania to guard against what has happened in South Australia. The honorable member for Sturt said that South Australia was more prosperous when it ceased to be a claimant State. However, we now find that charges imposed by the South Australian Government are being increased. In the last few weeks, pensioners have told me that their water rates have risen and, in many instances, land tax has been increased by 300 per cent. Over the whole field, State charges in South Australia are increasing because that State is no longer a claimant State.
– State charges have risen elsewhere, too. We are paying higher charges in New South Wales.
– I am pointing out that charges in South Australia have risen because it is no longer a claimant State. I know, because I, too, am paying more for many things. I am stating the facts of the situation. Both water rates and land tax have increased considerably.
The worst feature of all has been the increase in hospital charges in South Australia, particularly for pensioners. I have done my best to see that pensioners have been aware of the position. I have addressed a number of meetings of pensioners and told the pensioners that they will have to pay at least 10s. a day and that, if they are not in a hospital fund, they should contribute 6d. a week to join one in order to protect themselves. The honorable member for Sturt said that the Commonwealth pays 36s. a day in respect of pensioners and that pensioners will not have to pay anything. That will be the case only if the State makes an agreement with the Commonwealth. No such agreement is in effect yet and, even if an agreement is reached, it will not come into effect until 1st January next, according to the very statement that the honorable member for Sturt read to the House. Legislation must be enacted before any such agreement can come into force, even if the State enters into an agreement with the Commonwealth. I think that South Australia will enter into the agreement proposed, but we do not yet know definitely. I remind the House that the South Australian Premier, as he announced in a public statement, was not too happy about the idea.
I have discussed this matter because I believe that the criticism by the honorable member for Sturt of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, which has gone out over the radio, could mislead the people. I have in mind the case of a man who was worried because he believed that he would not be able to pay his hospital bill. I said to him: “ You are insured for 36s. a day. When you get your cheque from the hospital fund, take it to the hospital.” This man’s wife said, “ We cannot pay the balance, because we have only a little money that we are keeping for our burial when we die “. I told them not to worry, because the hospital would treat them decently. The man telephoned me one evening subsequently and told me that the hospital had said that it would accept the cheque written by the hospital fund in full payment of the account.
I am concerned about much more than the charge of 10s. a day that pensioners have to pay in South Australia at the present time. I was rather astonished when the honorable member for Sturt spoke as he did, because he is usually very careful about what he says. I do not think that he wanted to mislead the people deliber ately. However, I considered that I could not let his remarks go in view of the advice that I am compelled to give pensioners every week - indeed, almost every day - about the real position.
Dealing directly with the bill now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I say that I support it. I contend, as I have always contended, that Australia is a nation and not a collection of six different States all of which prosper or decline in varying measure. I contend that we should treat Australia as a whole and that if Western Australia or any other State or part of the continent is at a disadvantage compared with the rest of the country, an adjustment should be made to compensate. My attitude has always been that the purpose of taxation is not to take money from people but to try to equalize the circumstances of all as much as possible and to raise the standards of the people as a whole.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). At page 2097 of “ Hansard “, of 6th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is reported to have said -
I want to refer to the fact that South Australia charges pensioners £3 a day while in public hospitals, as against a much lower rate in New South Wales.
In my speech I said that that statement was incorrect, because if a pensioner had no income other than his pension he was not required to pay £3 a day.
– You said he would not pay anything.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide confirms what I said. He says that a pensioner would have to pay 10s. a day if he was not insured, and nothing if he was insured.
The other statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that I criticized also appears on page 2097 of “ Hansard “, and is as follows: -
Now this Commonwealth Government is trying to force the Labour-controlled State of New South Wales to charge the same amount as South Australia.
I referred to the statement by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), which was the very opposite of that contention. The Minister for Health stated that the Commonwealth Government had agreed to increased grants being made to the States on condition that they did not charge pensioners any amount for hospital treatment in public wards. What I said was correct. The honorable member for Port Adelaide referred to one condition, which I did not mention, on which, according to him, pensioners are charged 10s. a day. What I was criticizing and answering was, first, the incorrect statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that pensioners with no other income had to pay £3 a day, and secondly, the incorrect and untrue statement that the Commonwealth Government was trying to force the State governments to charge pensioners for hospital treatment. In fact, it is doing the very opposite.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker: I do not think my remarks have been correctly quoted by the honorable member for Sturt.
– Order! Will the honorable member resume his seat for a moment? I allowed the honorable member for Sturt to reply because no other member on the right of the chair rose to his feet. If the honorable member for Port Adelaide wishes to reply, he has that right.
– This is not a reply. I am merely saying that my remarks were misquoted. I said that at the present time no pensioner can receive hospital treatment for nothing. I said that if the agreement is signed, its conditions will operate from 1st January, but at the present time the position is, as it was correctly stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that a pensioner cannot get away without paying anything at all.
.- I wish to speak for a few moments from the point of view of a Tasmanian. One of the interesting features of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerns the change from the three-State budgetary standard to the two-State standard in working out the grants that should be made to Western Australia and Tasmania. For quite a number of years the grants required to boost the economy of
Tasmania and Western Australia were based on the economic standards of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Last year, there was a change and the standard was based on the economic conditions in Victoria and New South Wales. The Federal Treasury was dubious about the advisability of the change, but the commission has rejected its protest. At page 1 1 of the report, the following statement appears: -
The Commonwealth Treasury views arc discussed in Chapter III. in which the Commission states that it has decided to adhere to its decision in favour of the two-State standard based on the budget experiences of New South Wales and Victoria.
I admire the commission for having won the battle with the Treasury on this issue. When we consider the importance and power of the Treasury in the framing of Government policy, we cannot help but be delighted that at least one commission should be able to win a victory over it. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has always stood up for its beliefs. It has always been independent in its thinking, and this instance illustrates that fact.
The measure before the House provides for annual grants to be made to the two claimant States of Western Australia and Tasmania, as my colleagues have pointed out. The commission, at page 79 of its report, states that Tasmania is to receive £141,000 as the first part of the grant, by way of adjustment from the previous year, and £4,900,000 as the estimated amount that it will need for this financial year, making a total of £5,041,000. That is an increase on the grant for the same period last year. We in Tasmania are grateful for the commission’s solicitude for our State and the problems of our island.
As my colleagues have stated, the principle on which grants of this kind are based is an excellent one. Under this system, special grants are made from Commonwealth revenue each year to Western Australia and Tasmania in order to maintain their economy on a comparable level with that of the more populous States. I praise the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It9 personnel has changed from time to time because of deaths and resignations, but it never fails to make detailed investigations of every facet of the economy of Western Australia and Tasmania in assessing the needs of those States. When we read the report of the commission, we have a summary of perhaps 80 per cent, of the economic conditions throughout the Commonwealth. The figures at the back of the report relate to almost every aspect of the Australian financial and economic set-up. It is a wonderful document and is of great value to all students of the Australian economy and the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States.
In Tasmania, we have a few main difficulties which the commission has tried to overcome from time to time. In the matter of transport, all States face great difficulty. State-owned public transport systems are running at considerable losses throughout the whole of Australia. The Tasmanian transport systems are no exception. The Tasmanian railways and the Metropolitan Transport Trust, which operates passenger buses in Hobart and Launceston, have had one main purpose throughout the years. That has been to give service to the public, irrespective of profits. We subscribe to that principle. The losses incurred on the railways and the bus services are shared by the community at large. I think that is as it should be. The problems which confront the transport system are accentuated by two main factors, first, the great increase in the number of privately owned motor cars and secondly, the impact which television undoubtedly is having on the number of people who use public transport, particularly in the evening. This second aspect is not peculiar only to my own State of Tasmania. Every State transport system in the Commonwealth is feeling the effect of television.
We have had television station TNT-9 in Launceston only since April but the number of television receivers being sold in that city is increasing at a tremendous rate. Television is changing the pattern of our lives in many ways. People remain at home now rather than go out. Fewer people are attending picture theatres. In Melbourne alone 80 theatres have closed down already, and in other cities no doubt many theatres will close down as the impact of television becomes greater. Other industries, too, are being affected. Shoe manufacturing companies are experiencing a decline in trade as are manufacturers of outdoor wear, although there has been a substantial increase in sales of dressing gowns and slippers.
The transport system in Tasmania is suffering because of the advent of television. We must keep our transport services operating even though the buses run only half full. A government instrumentality has one job - to serve the people. Even though only a few people require service, a government instrumentality must provide that service. No private company is prepared to operate at a loss. Many private passenger bus services in Tasmania carry thousands of workers to our cities for distances up to 30 miles, but those companies are going bankrupt. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know that what I am saying is true. I can name five private enterprise transport services which might go out of business within the next twelve months. What will happen to the hundreds of workers who normally depend on those services to get to work? Admittedly many private cars are being used, and this is reducing the number of people using the private transport systems; but serving the people who do not use their own motor cars is the responsibility of a public transport system. The Transport Department in my own State will have to tackle this grave problem. An act of parliament will have to be passed to set up a public transport service in those areas where private services have broken down.
The commission always has been specially concerned about the transport of coal in Tasmania. Paragraphs 206 and 207 on pages 104 and 105 of the report are in these terms - 206. As mentioned in paragraph 84, Tasmania made a special submission during the year because the Commission has hitherto excluded coal traffic from its comparisons of railway charges. Tasmania contended that its freight charges for coal were higher than in the standard States and that the Commission should not exclude this traffic from its calculations. The Commission agrees that the coal freight charges actually imposed in Tasmania, and also in Western Australia for short hauls, are higher than in the standard States, New South Wales and Victoria. In previous years the Commission has excluded coal from its comparisons of freight rates because the volume of traffic and the circumstances relating to the determination of rates vary widely among the States. Nevertheless it appears that the claimant States are entitled to some credit for their higher level of coal freight charges, and some allowance has therefore been made for these higher charges in the overall result of the Commission’s comparison of railway freight rates. 207. In the light of the considerations mentioned in paragraphs 205-206, the Commission decided, so far as the Tasmanian budget for 1960-61 is concerned, that an unfavourable budget adjustment be adopted on account of railways of £30,000.
We are grateful for that. Another point relates to water conservation. Without exception, all States have problems relating to water conservation. Tasmania has two big regional schemes, the southern regional scheme and the northern regional scheme which serve Hobart and suburbs in one case, and Launceston and the Bell Bay works in the other case. We have a system of co-operation with municipalities in relation to water charges. The municipalities bordering our regional schemes buy the water from the Rivers and Water Supply Commission and pay for it from revenue which they receive from their ratepayers. The problem arises in trying to keep those charges fair and reasonable.
In paragraph 235 on page 112 of the commission’s report reference is made to forestry in this way -
The cost to the Western Australian budget was relatively small, but the cost to the budget was greater in Tasmania than in the other States. This arises from the fact that no recovery of debt charges on forestry capital is made from forestry revenue. The matter has been discussed in recent years with the Tasmanian representatives, who claim that the level of forestry revenue which can be obtained is insufficient to pay for debt services as well as for the development of the forest potential.
Due allowance is made for that factor. Turning to housing, the Tasmanian housing authority builds homes for sale on no deposit. We have had some difficulties in debt and rent recovery which have made the financing of the project sometimes difficult. The commission recognizes this fact in paragraph 238 on page 113 of the report. It states -
These losses include unrecouped debt charges and rental rebates, the cost of which, in other States, is met by the State housing authority.
A system of rental rebates for people in poor circumstances is in operation. This is an excellent concession but it costs the State a good deal of money. The commis sion is helping the State in this regard. All States could very well follow this humane step and introduce rental rebates for such members of our community.
In conclusion, let me make one or two general comments. The first relates to the non-use of coal as a fuel. This happens wherever coal-mines are located. All Tasmanian coal-mines are in my electorate and the non-use of coal is causing a great deal of concern to me. I recently led a deputation from the coal-miners federation and the railways union to the Premier to try to find a solution to this problem. My colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), by interjection, has mentioned the Savage River. I remind him that we have iron ore deposits in that area which in a few years probably will mean that we shall construct steelworks there. The plans are on the drawing board at present and I am sure that they will be put into effect. If a steelworks were established in Tasmania it would help to solve this immense problem of the lack of consumption of our coal. But that all lies in the future. By Christmas this year 50 men, representing one-quarter of the total strength of the mines, will be unemployed. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited at Burnie is converting its machines to use fuel oil. The Ovaltine factory at Devonport, and others, are doing the same thing. It is a tragic development. An industry that has been built up over 100 years is gradually withering away because the oil companies are offering industries fuel oil at fantastically low prices. When they get the industries in, up will go the prices as we all know only too well. The collapse of coal as a fuel is affecting railway employees and coal-miners. In Launceston, 50 railway men will be put off at the end of this year because less coal is being carried to industries. It will mean bigger losses to the railways.
This matter will have to be examined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission when it meets again in Tasmania. We need a direct grant from this Government. We have never had a direct grant for a specific purpose as other States have had. We need a grant to establish a small thermal power station in the Fingal valley - our coal valley. There is a scheme at Collie in Western Australia which is excellent. There is a thermal power station costing £10,000,000 and 140 men are to be employed permanently. We need something perhaps not as big but along that line. Alongside it, we need a chemical byproducts factory. The Opposition’s coalmining committee, of which I am a member, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Macquarie has been working on this angle and making investigations. It is a very live committee and, in fact, it is more alive than the coal industry itself.
Finally, in regard to irrigation we need financial help from the Commonwealth to set up an irrigation scheme in central northern Tasmania where water is to be used by the £30,000,000 power station at Poatina which will be finished within the next two years. There is a precedent for federal grants for irrigation. Western Australia has done very well in this way and we believe that perhaps £500,000 is all that would be required to initiate a scheme in my electorate in the northern part of Tasmania, utilizing the water after it has been used to produce power.
Contrary to the idea held by many folk on the mainland of Australia, there are areas of Tasmania which have a very low rainfall. They have suffered over recent years from drought or at least very dry conditions and irrigation is the answer to the problem of keeping production high. I feel that the Commonwealth Government should look south to Tasmania as it is now looking north to Queensland and west to Western Australia. I remind honorable members that Tasmania could be a bastion in the event of future trouble. If bombs fell on the mainland honorable members would want to emigrate to Tasmania because it would become the last refuge of civilization in Australia. So do not let Tasmania go down the drain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 1959), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports the bill. As the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) pointed out in his second-reading speech this is, in effect, a bill to amend further the original act of 1923. The Minister informed the House that the bill had become necessary because, in the opinion of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers, the law governing the release on licence of certain prisoners was deficient. The original bill was passed to enable prisoners to be removed legally from the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth and for their term of imprisonment to be served in prisons on the mainland. Subsequently, arrangements were made with the Queensland and New South Wales governments for prisoners from the Territories to be received into gaols in those States and to undergo the sentences imposed on them in the Territories.
The original act was amended in 1936 in regard to the provisions concerning the return of the prisoner to the Territory from which he was removed. Then in 1937, there was another amendment providing that the powers of an Administrator could be exercised in a Territory where there was no office of Administrator by a person named in the order to exercise the powers and functions of an Administrator under the act. Now, this bill repeals the last four lines of sub-section 2 in the original act of 1923, and repeals also the amendment of 1936 governing the return of a removed prisoner. A new sub-section is added to the clause, extending the powers over a prisoner who has been released in pursuance of a licence.
A new clause is also added which defines the term “ licence “ and then sets out the conditions in regard to the granting of a licence for a prisoner to be at large. A further amendment extends the terms of the act to cover criminal lunatics, their imprisonment and release. The other amendments are consequential following the insertion of the new amendments. The Opposition supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
LOAN (HOUSING) BILL (No. 2) 1962. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 8th August (vide page 90), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Each year this Parliament, by means of the Loan (Housing) Bill, makes an allocation to the States for housing. Of the amount allocated, 65 per cent, is spent by the State housing commissions, 30 per cent, is handed on to building societies, and 5 per cent, is spent in providing dwellings for serving members of the forces. The allocation is quite a large one. Ordinarily the Minister’s second-reading speech on the bill is very brief, indeed perfunctory, but this year, for the first time since the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) introduced such a bill in this chamber, the Minister who brought it down, in this case the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), has made a longer second-reading speech than usual. By a somewhat selective and superficial use of statistics, the Treasurer induced a feeling of self-satisfaction in the Government’s housing record. Accordingly, Sir, I have this year a greater opportunity and obligation than usual to examine the need for and availability of housing in Australia.
For all that the Treasurer said in his second-reading speech about how much the Commonwealth has done for housing, and how much housing conditions have improved, there remains a great social problem of providing adequate housing for our people on reasonable terms and conditions. The Government has consistently underrated housing needs in Australia. This is illustrated particularly by the faulty estimates the Government has made of housing demand. In February, 1957, Senator Spooner said that if 77,000 houses a year could be completed, the back of the housing problem would be broken in four or five years. That time has now elapsed, but the problem is more serious than ever, despite the fact that more than 77,000 dwellings a year, on an average, have been completed in the intervening period.
On an assumption of a net population increase by immigration of 1 per cent, a year, the Minister in 1957 estimated that the demand for dwellings in 1965 would be 65,000 a year, and that by 1970 it would be 79,000 a year. The most recent unofficial estimates, however, suggest that the demand in 1965 will not be 65,000, but could be 106,000, and in 1970 not 79,000 but 131,000 - that is, assuming not unreasonably, 80,000 annual net population increase by immigration. The Minister under-estimated the likely demand by more than 60 per cent. We said at the time the Minister released his estimates that the problem was under-estimated, and so it has proved. The problem has proved much greater than the Government imagined.
The only up-to-date, although unofficial, estimates of housing demand - those that I have just quoted - have themselves been revised recently by Dr. Hall, of the Australian National University. He suggests that the demand in 1965 will be 13,000 more, and in 1970 it will be 24,000 more than he estimated a year or so ago. Dr. Hall suggests three chief reasons for his earlier under-estimation for housing demand. The first is the increase in unoccupied dwellings. Whereas the 1947 census showed that 2.4 per cent, of houses were unoccupied, this figure had risen to 6.4 per cent, in 1961, largely due to an increase in holiday homes and week-enders. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, directed attention to the improvement in housing standards, and cited reductions in the number of persons per dwelling in Australia from 3.9 persons according to the 1947 census, to 3.6 persons in the 1954 census, to 3.5 persons in the 1961 census, in order to prove his point. What he did not mention was that many people, for one reason or another, have more than one house. Some have houses in different States.
The average figures cited by the Treasurer give a quite misleading picture of housing needs. The purchase of second houses by the wealthy does not help in any way persons who cannot afford even one house. It does help to show, however, that there is something wrong with an economic system in which some people have two or more houses and some have none. Last year’s census revealed that there were 80,000 families sharing private houses, and that there were 42,000 families living in sheds, huts and the like.
The second reason why Dr. Hall, after seeing last year’s census figures, upgraded his estimates was that demand had been under-estimated because of an increase in replacements. The third reason was that insufficient weight was given to the demand for improved dwellings as persons moved, for example, from shared houses to houses or flats of their own.
The revisions by Dr. Hall also suggest a much earlier bulge in housing demand than was previously estimated. The earlier estimates published by Mr. Hill and Dr. Hall suggested that there was likely to be some lull in housing demand in the next few years, and that as a result of post-war births there would be a sharp rise in demand in the late 1960’s. The re-examination by Dr. Hall indicates that in fact this sharp lift in demand will come in the next two or three years.
Overall, then, the estimates which we have of housing demand suggest that there will be a very strong demand in two or three years, rather than in 1970 as was earlier assumed, and that by 1970 the general level of demand will be about 60 per cent, higher than the Government estimated five years ago. Such increased demand will require a rapid increase in dwelling construction in the next few years. In the last three years dwelling construction has averaged about 90,000 a year. This rate will have to be lifted by almost 20 per cent, by 1965 and by at least 40 per cent, by 1970.
Mr. Speaker, I have been relying on the only figures for housing demand which have been available in recent times in this country. There are no official figures and there have not been any for five years. I therefore use unofficial figures, which have not been refuted by any statisticians or economists, let alone Government servants.
Now I come to the demand by low income groups, having dealt with the overall demand. Quite apart from the overall shortage of houses, there is the particularly acute problem of low-income groups, the members of which cannot put up the security that traditional housing lenders require. These people must look to government housing, for the State housing authorities provide almost the only source of houses -for rental and purchase on low deposits for persons of low or modest means. The State housing authorities employ a means test to ensure that the most needy are served. In its 1961 report, the South Australian Housing Trust said -
The requirements of the 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.
In its 1961 report, the New South Wales Housing Commission said -
There is every indication that future demands on the Commission will continue to be heavy, simply because a large section of the community in the low and moderate income groups cannot afford the rental or costs of housing other than that becoming available through some Government agency.
My experience in these annual debates on this legislation has been that I am usually followed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson). I may have similar good fortune on this occasion. The burden of his theme always is that the Victorian Government is too lavish in the allocation of Housing Commission houses. I do not know why he must criticize a government of his own political complexion. The fact is that 95 per cent, of the people who apply to the Victorian Housing Commission for houses are put on the waiting lists, and to be included on a waiting list for a rented house a breadwinner must have an income of less than £25 a week. To be included on the list of purchasers of houses, applicants must be on incomes of less than £30 a week. That has been established by the Victorian Liberal Government. Nobody can say that £25 or £30 a week is a lavish income for a breadwinner with dependants. I know that the honorable member for Fawkner complains that there is no adequate or continuing means test for the allocation and occupation of houses let or sold by the Victorian Housing Commission. Apparently he thinks that as one’s income rises the rent should be raised or one should be dispossessed. He never makes the same complaint, of course, about the houses which are erected with the 30 per cent, of the money we allocate through these bills to building societies. He is only concerned with the means of those who get housing commission houses, and they are modest enough in all conscience if they are to get on to waiting lists.
The latest information shows that the demand for housing from State housing authorities is increasing. In 1961-62 there were 47,000 applicants for housing commission homes in Australia. At 30th June, 1962, there were 75,000 applications outstanding, an increase of almost 4,000 on the previous year. In the face of these increased applications, the Commonwealth Government has this year reduced the allocation to the State housing authorities by £2,600,000. The demand is rising; the appropriation is declining.
The Treasurer pretends that the Premiers themselves agreed to this reduced housing allocation. But for the States to have a greater, or at least the same, housing allocation would have involved a corresponding cut in their works programmes. Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the States should cut back expenditure on school buildings to release additional money for housing?
In his second-reading speech the Treasurer also pointed with pride to the fact that largely through Commonwealth help the State governments have been able to construct about 13,000 dwellings a year. Where is his sense of proportion? To complete the story he should have mentioned that while the State governments have been building at this rate they have also been receiving housing applications at the rate of 47,000 a year. Persons who are admitted to State housing authority waiting lists are persons of limited means. There is a means test to ensure this. These persons face an acute housing problem to-day which must be faced up to.
Now I come to the need to replace substandard housing. Estimates of normal housing demand take into account a certain level of housing demolitions and replacements. They do not envisage a determined national effort to eliminate sub-standard housing. Such a national effort by increasing demolitions would add many thousands to the demand for new houses. No reliable estimate has been made of the number of sub-standard dwellings in Australia. Several States - Victoria and New South Wales particularly - have shown commendable enterprise in tackling this problem. Unfortunately, they are severely restricted by lack of finance, which can only be found by the Commonwealth Government. As the former Victorian Minister for Housing said in 1961 -
I think the enormous cost involved in slum reclamation can only be undertaken on a national basis. Slum reclamation presents a great problem in urban redevelopment. The problem has scarcely been touched at all.
Urban redevelopment, then, presents an additional demand for new housing which we must meet. In America this is accepted as a federal government responsibility. In Australia, of course, although our federal system is modelled on the United States system, it is said to be a State responsibility.
Summing up the question of demand: I have drawn attention to the demand for housing as reflected in the State housing authority waiting lists. We are given no statistics in the federal sphere by the Minister or the department. I have pointed out the need for a national plan of urban redevelopment which will add further to the demand for housing. These two particular types of demand for housing are but part of the overall demand which to date the Government has under-estimated. If this overall demand is to be met the construction rate of new dwellings will have to be increased by at least 40 per cent, by 1970.
I must say something about repayments. We are always told on these occasions how much the Commonwealth is allocating for housing. I know that repayments are supposed, for some accounting reason, to be excluded from consideration. Of course, repayments are put into a revolving fund as regards the 30 per cent, which is paid to building societies - but to suggest that that should be the principle for war service homes or for housing commission homes is irresponsible accountancy!
Whilst the Commonwealth this year will be providing almost £46,000,000 to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, net advances to the States for housing will be only £26,000,000. Almost £4,000,000 of principal will be repaid by the States to the National Debt Sinking Fund and £16,000,000 of interest will be paid by the States on earlier housing advances. With the rapidly mounting interest bill, housing is becoming less and less burdensome to the Commonwealth’s annual budget. Housing advances are proving a good investment for the Commonwealth. This is particularly so because much of the money which they lend to the States and charge interest upon has been raised in taxation on which the Commonwealth pays no interest at all.
The effect of the rapidly increasing repayments is that, year by year, housing is making a smaller demand upon the Commonwealth Budget. A revolving fund is permissible in some circumstances. Why is it taboo in others? In the case of war service homes advances the Commonwealth refuses to re-invest even the premature principal repayments of several million pounds per annum which are unexpected windfalls for the Commonwealth.
If the demands for housing were met by allocating more funds, would inflation be brought about? We have learned on three occasions now that the Government regards housing as one of the fields of finance which can be curbed in order to cut down on imports or cut back on inflation. So let us look at the state of the building industry itself. Could it build more houses? If it could, then additional finance for housing would not be inflationary.
In a survey of the building and construction materials trade in March, 1962, the Department of Trade said -
Capacity in use was at a comparatively low level for the industry. . . . and there was adequate scope for an increase in production.
The industry was then operating at only 74 per cent, of its capacity, compared with 84 per cent, capacity two years before. Finished stocks were 40 per cent, above normal. At 30th June this year there were 7,000 fewer persons working on new houses and flats than there were two years before.
Recent information suggests that there has been some minor improvement in activity in the building industry. Since March, when the building and construction industry was working at only 74 per cent, capacity, commencements of houses and -flats have risen by 6 per cent. Building approvals have also shown some lift. But there is obviously still considerable excess capacity in the building industry which can be employed to meet the rapidly increasing housing demand
The building industry and the homeseeker have been among the chief victims of the Government’s stop-go economic policies, despite the fact that the Government pretends that home-building is exempted from its periodic credit squeezes. As a result of the three successive credit squeezes in 1951, 1955-56 and 1960-61, quarterly housing commencements fell by 7,000, 3,000 and 4,500 in those years respectively.
The reduction in dwelling construction in the last credit squeeze shows the waste caused by the Government’s economic policies. In 1961-62, 86,000 houses and flats were completed in Australia, 8,000 fewer than in the previous year. Experience over the previous four years suggests that in 1961-62 there should have been an increase of about 7,000 in completions; instead, there was a fall of 8,000. In 1961-62, then, Australia lost an estimated construction of 15,000 houses and flats. The problem now is to recover as much of this lost production as possible and avoid such a wasteful repetition in future. The building industry is in a position to increase its output significantly. The problem is essentially a shortage of finance and not a shortage of men and materials.
What about finance? The provision of additional finance to meet the social problem of inadequate housing and the economic problems of the building industry must come from both government and private sources.
In the first place, the Australian Labour Party believes that the present allocation to the State governments for housing is inadequate. Further, there is no national plan for urban redevelopment. This year, the grant to the housing commissions will fall by £2,600,000. The Government does not consider that the housing authorities warrant the same assistance as last year, let alone any additional assistance. This is apparently due to the Government’s aversion to public housing. In September this year Senator Spooner said -
If attempts were made to finance large further increases in construction from government funds, there would be some risk, for the increased availability of government funds at subsidized interest rates would drive out private capital.
His fears are quite unfounded. For many years there will be a large housing field for private finance to tackle. The demand for houses is sufficient to ensure that there is adequate scope for both public and private housing funds. There is no prospect that public funds will take over too much of the housing field.
The problem is really quite the reverse - that private funds will be inadequate, not because of subsidized public finance but because of better returns offering to private finance in fields other than housing. In any case the Minister should show more concern for the homeless than the unlikely possibility that private investors might be driven out of the field.
The great deficiency at present with private housing finance, and I include the Commonwealth Savings Bank in this, is its failure to bridge what has become known as the “ deposit gap “ - that is, the gap between the cost of a house and land, on the one hand, and the maximum advance which can be obtained from recognized lenders, particularly the savings banks. This is the major factor limiting the private home builder to-day.
In the last ten to fifteen years, housing and land costs have risen alarmingly. The War Service Homes Division report reveals that the cost of a dwelling-house and land in New South Wales rose by over 400 per cent, between 1945-46 and 1960-61. In Victoria the increase was only slightly less. Between 1946 and 1962 the average price of a brick veneer house in Australia rose by 250 per cent, and the price of building blocks rose by up to 1,300 per cent. These increased costs are bad enough in themselves but there has been no corresponding increase in maximum advances available to meet them. The result is that the proportion of the total cost of land and house which the average home purchaser has to save for a deposit is between two and three times the proportion he had to save for a deposit in 1946.
In 1946, the Victorian co-operative building societies required a housing deposit of 10 per cent. By 1961, it had increased to 34 per cent. The deposit required by the Victorian Savings Bank over the same period increased from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent, and the deposit required by the Commonwealth Savings Bank from about 15 per cent, to 45 per cent. It is surely a reflection on this Government and a betrayal of the proper role which the Commonwealth Savings Bank should play in the community that this, the largest savings bank, provides the lowest maximum advance of any such bank in Australia. This is inexcusable.
In Sydney the cost of land and a modest house amounts to about £6,000. The maximum advance which can be obtained by most borrowers is £3,500. The homeseeker thus has to have either £2,500 in his bank or be prepared to pay exorbitant rates of interest on a second mortgage. The result is that if a second mortgage can be negotiated the interest rates are so high that the repayment of two loans becomes a crippling burden for families. The fortunate are able to obtain a home and then must spend worrying years repaying their second mortgage, furnishing their house and restoring their bank accounts to a safe level. The unfortunate are squeezed out of the house market altogether. The American home buyer can in many cases borrow more than 90 per cent, of the total value of house plus land, while his Australian equivalent is struggling to borrow more than 60 per cent.
Many thousands of Australians have no hope under present circumstances of bridging the “ deposit gap “ and purchasing their own homes. The Government apparently considers persons who cannot provide a sufficient deposit - somewhere about £2,000 apparently - as spendthrifts. In September this year the Minister for National Development, ascending to even greater heights of indifference towards the home-seeker, said -
The growing tendency of State housing authorities to sell houses on low deposit could, if carried too far, reduce the incentive towards personal saving.
The Labour Party rejects such sentiments as these in relation to housing. We believe that many thousands of thrifty Australian families will not be able to purchase their own homes unless they can secure them on low deposits and at reasonable rates of interest.
What can be done to persuade, or failing that to require, the main housing lenders to raise their maximum advances? First, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks are the chief institutional lenders. They are permitted to invest 30 per cent, of their deposits in “ loans for housing or other purposes on the security of land “. Thus they can lend up to this amount for commercial building and even land speculation. The savings banks should be required to lend not less than a certain proportion of their deposits in housing loans to individuals and building societies. There should be a legal minimum investment in housing rather than the low ceiling of 30 per cent, at present which the banks go nowhere near attaining.
Further, the legal minimum need not be restricted to 30 per cent. Under the banking regulations, the savings banks are required to hold at least 70 per cent, of depositors’ balances in cash, deposits with the Reserve Bank and government securities. This is designed for the protection of depositors. Surely, however, it is possible to protect the interests of depositors without requiring such a large investment in government securities. With a more sensible disposition of savings bank investments it would be possible to increase substantially advances for housing and particularly the level of maximum advances to help bridge this “ deposit gap “. The Commonwealth Savings Bank should lead and not trail the field.
Secondly, the State savings banks are not obliged to maintain a 70/30 ratio of government securities to housing finance. Although they do lend a slightly higher proportion for housing, in practice they follow fairly closely the pattern set by the interstate savings banks, under Commonwealth regulations, and would lend more for housing if given a lead by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks.
Thirdly, the other chief institutional home lenders are the life assurance companies. One serious disadvantage of borrowing from these companies is that in addition to taking out a mortgage on the property, they usually require the borrower to take out some form of life assurance. This greatly adds to the cost of borrowing - some people cannot afford assurance; others may not require it. They have superannuation funds and so on. The Government could pay some attention to this problem.
House lending by assurance companies has not increased as it should. Since 1951, there has been a transfer of their investments from building societies and home lending to Commonwealth bonds. This followed discussion between the Prime Minister, Sir Arthur Fadden and representatives of the life assurance companies at the time of the first horror budget and credit squeeze.
I have information on assurance loans to building societies only for the period 1953 to 1958 but it illustrates the point I am making. In this period, the assets of assurance companies increased by 50 per cent, but their loans to and deposits with building societies fell by 4 per cent. If assurance companies had maintained their former scale of lending to building societies, many more millions of pounds would now be available for private home-building.
Efforts should be made to persuade the life assurance companies to make investments in both government securities and building societies on their former scale. If persuasion does not suffice, the companies should be required, either by statutory prescription or by taxation advantages - wo have done this in respect of government securities - to invest a steady proportion of their premiums in both building societies and Commonwealth bonds. Companies with financial resources such as the assurance companies have a clear responsibility to provide adequate finance for housing.
The deposit gap is only part of the trouble. Interest rates are another major and increasing problem. A major cause of high housing costs in Australia is our high interest rate structure, which is generally higher than that in other comparable countries. I have said on many occasions that interest rates are higher in Australia than in any other country in the Western world. It is of no use answering this contention by referring to the interest rate on bonds alone. You must take into account also the taxation concessions obtainable by people or institutions with investments in bonds. The simple fact is that a life assurance society would have to obtain an interest rate of 7i per cent, or more from other sources before it could obtain the same net income that it gets from investing in 5 per cent, government bonds.
The last survey of interest rates in the United States of America showed that the interest rate on Federal Housing Authority and Veterans’ Administration mortgages averaged 4i per cent. About 70 per cent, of mortgages were at this rate. On conventional housing mortgages the average interest rate was 5 per cent., and about 65 per cent, of conventional mortgages were at this rate or lower. In New Zealand, in 1960, 80 per cent, of all mortgages were at 5i per cent, or less. In 1958 a scheme was introduced whereby loans with the interest rate rebated to 3 per cent, were made available to borrowers who had not owned a property within a period of five years and where the income of the breadwinner did not exceed £1,000 sterling per annum. Where applicants did not qualify for the 3 per cent, interest rate loan they could usually receive a housing loan from the State Advances Corporation at 41 per cent. In Canada 80 per cent, of housing interest rates are at 5± per cent, or less.
In Australia, however, less than 25 per cent, of Australians can finance their homes at bank interest or better. About 75 per cent, of Australian housing loans carry interest rates of more than 5i per cent. Of these 66 per cent, are above 6 per cent., of which 47 per cent, range from 7 per cent, to 20 per cent. These higher interest rates in Australia - from 7 per cent, to 20 per cent. - are paid chiefly by persons unable to bridge the deposit gap and forced to borrow on second mortgages. These exceptionally high housing interest rates in Australia - the highest housing interest rates in the English-speaking world - constitute a great financial burden for families. In the United States of America the home buyer needs to put aside only about 14 per cent, of his pay cheque to meet mortgage requirements. In Australia the average home buyer requires about 25 per cent, of his income to meet mortgage repayments. In some cases the percentage is much higher than this.
Let me illustrate by means of a fairly average Australian situation. Having saved enough to purchase a block of land, in order to erect a £4,500 house, for example, a borrower would probably obtain a £3,500 loan for 30 years at about 5i per cent, to 5i per cent, and a second mortgage of £1,000 at about 7 per cent, over ten years. The total weekly repayments on those two loans would be £8 or £400 a year. Clearly such a financial burden places a quite moderately priced home beyond the capacity of the great majority of homeseekers. A person who can afford to buy his own land, build his house and repay £400 a year and still have enough money to furnish his home and live from day to day is a very rare person to-day. This Government has priced thousands of homeseekers out of the housing market by ruinous high interest rates. Perhaps the Treasurer will take time off one day to explain the morality and justice of interest rates of 6 per cent, and 7 per cent, on housing loans. Perhaps he will explain his embarrassment in the face of the much lower interest rates on housing loans in every other English-speaking country. High and rising interest rates affect not only persons paying off their houses but also tenants renting houses. As the housing commissions provide almost the only rental accommodation at moderate rentals, the increases in interest rates have meant substantial increases in rents despite the subsidized interest rates under the housing agreements.
Just as I discussed the availability of finance and then the means which may be taken to make more finance available, now having discussed the interest rates, I must pass to a consideration of how to lower those interest rates. The Government’s dearer and dearer money policies have brought social hardship to a great many Australians. The Labour Party believes that action should be taken to ease the crippling burden of high interest rates on all sectors of the community, but particularly the rural sector and the tenant and home-owner. The Labour Party has, as a long-range objective, a policy of lower interest rates. This is so partly because of our general view of the need for an equitable distribution of income in the community. It is partly because interest rates play such an important part in the costs of housing. It is partly because high interest rates increase the cost of basic community services and contribute greatly to higher prices and costs- generally. I refer, of course, to municipal expenses, electricity expenses and the like. Whilst our long-term strategy is to achieve lower interest rates, we are aware that, in the longer term, this cannot be done overnight. It will take time to correct the high interest rate structure which has resulted from this Government’s inflexible interest rate policy. Except for two minor falls in the bond rate, the Government’s interest rate policy has been one of higher and still higher rates. Bank interest rates have increased in 1952, 1956 and 1960. They have never been lowered.
In my speech this year on the Budget I said that the Reserve Bank in consultation with the Government should put pressure on interest rates. I believe that the Government failed then to take advantage of the economic situation to get interest rates down. How much they could have been reduced cannot be precisely gauged. To defend his high interest rate policy, however, the Treasurer abused his technical knowledge and pretended that interest rates could not be pushed down without great inflation resulting. He said that the Reserve Bank would have to operate on £2,000,000,000 of government securities to get interest rates down. It is nothing like this figure, and the Treasurer and his advisers know that it is not. The figure is only one-third of that amount - £750,000,000 at the most. When the Treasurer has to resort to such phony arguments to defend high interest rates it indicates how out of touch he is with the problem. Why is it that every Englishspeaking country from time to time reduces its bond rate and its bank rate but only in Australia during the last twelve years have bank interest rates always risen and bond interest rates usually risen? What is so exceptional in our situation? Every time the interest rate rises the more difficult it is to use interest rate policy to curb inflation, because it is only half as effective to increase interest by i per cent, from a level of 6 per cent, as from a level of only 3 per cent. If we recognize the Treasurer as a representative of financial interests, however, it perhaps possible to understand why he pretends such ignorance of what is going on in the money markets, particularly the government money markets.
At the last elections the Labour Party promised that money for housing would be available at a concessional rate of 3i per cent. That is one-quarter of 1 per cent, more than has been available in New Zealand under both Conservative and Labour governments. The Labour Party promised to ensure this rate of interest by subsidizing loans on a maximum of 90,000 housing units a year at an estimated annual cost of £5,000,000. I mentioned that in 1958 the New Zealand Government introduced housing loans with interest rates rebated to 3 per cent, subject to a means test. We believe that social justice requires concessional interest rates on housing on this side of the Tasman also.
The home-owner and the home-seeker in Australia are penalized by the development of fringe financial institutions charging extortionate rates of interest, particularly on second mortgages. The Government has completely failed to tackle this problem. The word “ fringe “ is now a misnomer as far as these institutions are concerned. It suggests something peripheral and minor whereas fringe financial institutions - the high-cost lenders - are taking over an increasing part of the credit field, including the housing finance field. The Government has sacrificed the lower-cost conventional lenders to the high-cost “fly-by-night” fringe institutions. The Government has no control over the high-cost lenders. It does not seek to control them. It permits the normal low-cost lending institutions to be squeezed out of the field. I conclude my review of the housing situation, in regard to the Government sector which is financed by the Commonwealth and operated by the States, by saying that the demand for public housing from the States is increasing and the availability of housing through those sources is decreasing. I conclude in respect of the private sectors of home finance - the banks, the fringe institutions and the building societies - by saying that the proportion of the cost of a house and land which can be borrowed from them is constantly falling and the interest which one has to pay on what one borrows is constantly rising.
In debating this bill we are particularly concerned with the Commonwealth responsibility, acknowledged now ever since 1945, to provide money for the State Housing Commissions, and, acknowledged for the last eight years, to subsidize building societies and to provide, through State agencies, dwellings for serving members of the forces. Those sections of the community which depend upon Government assistance to get houses at a relatively modest rental, or for a low deposit and at a relatively low interest rate, are finding that their demands are being decreasingly met. This is a grave social problem at the present stage. The problem will increase as the demand for housing increases. That this demand will increase much more than the Government ever envisaged cannot be denied in the light of authoritative economic and statistical evidence which has now emerged from our universities and from last year’s census.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) spent so much time telling the House what he thought I was going to say that he put forward a very weak case. He could not have thought very much about his own speech, while thinking so much about mine. We, of course, had an idea of what he was going to say, because we have heard so much of it before. His analyses of statistics are well known to us. The only interesting occurrence during his speech was when some one in the gallery was thrown out for saying “ What rot! “ I am sure that many of us in the House at times thought of saying the same thing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that I would spend a great deal of time dealing with the position in Victoria. What I usually have to do is to spend some time explaining to the House his slightly deceptive - I will not use the word dishonest - manner of dealing with statistics by using only the figures that support the case he is putting forward. I might have known he would quote from the publication “ Housing Demand, a Second Look “ by Dr. Hall.
He spent some time stating what was the likely trend in demand for housing over the next few years. He also analysed parts of this document by Dr. Hall, showing that some of that gentleman’s earlier estimates had had to be revised in an upward direction. He conveniently did not analyse the parts of Dr. Hall’s estimates which had had to be revised in a downward direction. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spent some time on a revised estimate of the requirement of what are known technically as “ unoccupied dwellings “ and the increased demand for the replacement of existing homes, but failed to tell the House that there had been a much greater increase in the supply of houses than was originally estimated, owing to the conversion of houses into two or more flats - a significant difference of 2,000 a year. He also failed to point out, as appears from the figures which are beginning to become available from the census of June, 1961, that the actual supply of houses is 7.5 per cent, a year greater than the actual recorded supply. This means that there has been an annual increase of 6,500 in the effective supply of houses over the period, of the last six years.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also failed to deal with actual migration figures, which have been less than the estimated figures upon which Dr. Hall worked when preparing his document from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted in a similar speech which he made last March. I do not want to spend too much time on this aspect, but I feel the House should know the actual situation depicted in the document from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted, rather than have just the few figures which he extracted in order to make his case look better than it actually was. Reading from page 10 of the document to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, we see that the actual demand for housing - the trend demand as he called it - in 1961-62 was of the order of 94,000, whereas the supply of houses was 92,700. So, the number of houses supplied was not very far away from the demand. Dr. Hall extrapolates those figures in his appendix 3, from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also quoted. But although there are two columns there he quoted, naturally, only the highest figures. He did not realize that certain guesses had to be made and that the real figure could be either the highest in the document or the lowest, or somewhere in between. Let us take Dr. Hall’s statement that the revised demand in 1965 would be between 101,000 and 106,000. Houses are being produced at present and we must ask how far from the demand is the actual supply. lt is interesting to note that the number of houses and flats commenced in the September quarter of 1962 - the figures have just been issued - was 22,884. That would be an annual rate of about 91,000, when we multiply the quarterly figures by four, although of course, the figures are not always the same for each quarter. The actual recorded commencements, therefore, are of the order of 91,000 to which - using Dr. Hall’s figures which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition conveniently omitted - we have to add a further 7i per cent. That gives a probable total building rate of 99,000 houses a year. That is not very far from the lower of the two estimates made by Dr. Hall of the actual demand in 1965. The figure quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in an endeavour to show that the Government had consistently under-rated the demand for housing by 40 per cent., is so far from the figures contained in the document from which he quoted that it was, if not dishonest, certainly deceptive. I think it was necessary for me to spend some time on putting these figures into true perspective.
Let me get away from the rather dry figures and statistics with which I have had to deal and turn to the main fact of housing. To my mind, one of the greatest needs at the present time is stability in the building trade. We do not want to see large fluctuations in the numbers of houses and flats being built each year. There have been wide fluctuations over the last few years. A part of the reason for this is that it has been difficult to estimate the demand. I think that one result of the figures that are now becoming available from the census taken last year and of the work that is being done by the universities is that the estimates of the housing demand are getting very much closer to each other. It seems that the present recorded building rate of about 91,000 houses a year is coming very close to meeting the actual demand for housing.
– Do you not want to satisfy the shortage?
– I hope that the honorable member will be able in due course to read from the document from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition read, and
I hope also that there will be a good deal of discussion of it. What I am saying is that if we maintain the trends referred to by Dr. Hall, then the houses we will build will, in his opinion, satisfy the demand for housing of all types during the next five years.
– Are you satisfied with the figures he has given?
-I am satisfied that Dr. Hall has put up a very good case which is worthy of a good deal of consideration by honorable members on both sides of the House. It is of interest to recall that when we last had a debate of this nature six months ago, honorable members opposite were most interested in quoting Dr. Hall. They felt at that time he was the person to follow, and that he would cure all the nation’s housing ills if only we did what he said. However, now that I have used his figures honorable members opposite are trying to say that he is wrong.
– I did not say that. I asked if you were satisfied with his figures.
– I believe that if we maintain the present rate of housing commencements we will go very close to satisfying the demand for housing that is specified in this document. I think our aim should be to maintain a recorded building rate of between 91,000 and 94,000 houses and flats a year. I use the term “ recorded building rate “ because we have seen from this document that more houses are built than the number actually recorded.
In dealing with the problem of maintaining stability in the building trade, we must make certain that we do not run into shortages of skilled operatives and materials. We know from past experience that as soon as we endeavour to increase activity in the building trade too rapidly we run into shortages, and the first thing that happens then is an increase in the cost of homes. We have heard a great deal from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about some of the dangers of the high cost of housing. I could not agree with him more. One of the things that would certainly raise the cost of houses rapidly would be an attempt to increase the demand at a time when there were shortages of men and materials. The employment statistics are showing that shortages of skilled operatives in the building trade are occurring at the present time in certain States. I think it is important to realize this. I agree that there is possibly a surplus of unskilled labour, but one cannot increase the employment of unskilled labour in the building trade without the availability of skilled operatives. This brings us back to the need for training schemes to increase the number of skilled workers in the building trade and in many other trades in Australia. I am sorry that so many of the experts from the trade unions who are members of the Opposition have not co-operated more with the Government and other bodies in trying to cure the present shortage of skilled operatives in the building trade.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– As the honorable member knows, the Department of Labour and National Service called together representatives of employers and trade union organizations in order to find out the things that are preventing employment at the present time.
– It is a long-range plan.
– Of course it is a longrange plan. There were no long-range plans when the Opposition was in office. I should like a little more thought to be given by the Opposition to this important matter. What I am pointing out at the moment is that if we tend to increase the building rate in certain States above what it is at the present time, we will run into shortages, particularly of skilled labour. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) can shake his head.
– What an admission!
– We are endeavouring to solve this problem, but if we were to do all the things advocated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we would very soon run into shortages, with resultant high costs. I put it to the House that, on the basis of the opinion of the experts, the actual building rate at present will enable us to meet the demand that is likely to occur over the next four or five years.
I agree with one or two of the points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposi tion. I agree with him that the cost of homes is high. What we disagree about is the way in which these costs can be reduced. I certainly admit that the relationship between the average wage of an employee in Australia and the cost of a house he buys is of a different order to the relationship of the average wage of an employee in America and the cost of a house he buys. To an extent, therefore, the cost of housing in the two countries is out of line, but there are various ways in which the difference can be reduced. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spent some time on a digression from the subject that is before the House and on propounding a general economic theory that is so beloved by various theorists in the Opposition.
Let me deal with some of the things he said he was going to do. First of all, he said he was going to see that more money was provided for housing by the Government. That means, of course, that more money would have to come from the taxpayers for housing. Next he said that he was going to exert more pressure on the life insurance companies. It is quite certain that if a Labour government gets into office insurance companies and life companies will be directed to a very great extent. That is obvious from what was said to-night. I hope all Australians will remember that for many years. Then he is going to lower interest rates. And how is he going to do that? Quite obviously, I feel, by imposing more controls. Let there be no doubt about that.
The honorable gentleman tried to compare our interest rate structure in Australia with that in America and the United Kingdom, but there is one major difference between Australia and other countries with which he was comparing us. The difference is that Australia is a capital-hungry nation. We are trying to expand and to develop, to utilize our resources and to have a period of growth in this country such as is not being experienced by any other country in the Western World. We need capital and we have to make the very best use of what capital we have. The United States of America, however, has an over-sufficiency of capital, so investors there are trying all the time to find new avenues of investment; consequently, interest rates there are much lower than here.
If we are a capital-hungry nation and if, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, we have to force down interest rates, it is obvious that some parts of the capital market will have to go short and we will have to go back to the old system of controls that we experienced for so long in the latter part of the 1940’s. Let honorable members be quite certain where the policies advocated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to-night will take us. They will take us back to direction of investment, capital issues control and all the other controls from which we have rescued this country over the last ten or twelve years.
I believe that one of the major problems is the high interest rates charged for second mortgages. Whereas the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that he would solve this problem by direction and by higher taxes to provide more government money, I think that a very much better method has already been foreshadowed by the Liberal government in Victoria. In that State, as a result of the guarantee to the second mortgagee being increased, people are prepared to lend on second mortgages to home-owners at a lower rate of interest than they are prepared to lend at elsewhere.
– It is done in New South Wales.
– I am trying to indicate to the honorable member for Mitchell what is being done in the great State of Victoria. If he wishes to deal with any other place, such as New South Wales, I am certain that during the course of the debate he will have the opportunity to tell the House more about it. In Victoria, because of the increased guarantees to second mortgagees, it is possible to reduce the rates of interest at which the money is provided for second mortgages. By encouraging private enterprise to lend the money we are getting a better answer, I am sure, and one that is much more satisfactory to the people of Australia, than we would get under the policy of direction to which we would otherwise be subjected.
I honestly believe that at present the housing problem is not one of an overall shortage of finance; it is a question of the way in which the money is being provided and the guarantees that are necessary in the various types of lending. I think some action along the lines I have suggested would be a very much better way of solving the problems that have been discussed tonight than that suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned my earlier references to a means test for people in housing commission homes. He completely misquoted what I said on this. What I said was that people who go into housing commission homes and pay what is regarded as an uneconomic rent - a rent very much lower than the combined interest and other charges involved - should undergo a means test. People who buy homes through cooperative housing societies already pay an economic rent and, therefore, have no need to undergo a means test. All I have said is that when people have incomes which enable them to pay economic rents for the houses in which they live they should be asked to pay such rents, and not be able to live for SO or 60 years in houses that are really being financed by the rest of the taxpayers of Australia.
I conclude by coming back to the bill more closely than did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, by saying that the Government’s financial measures since February last year have improved the housing situation.
– You are not serious? You could not be serious.
– Of course I am serious. The honorable member has only to look at the number of houses and flats commenced in each quarter since June last year.
– But there is a growing shortage.
– What I have said is that the Government’s measures have improved the supply of houses - a fact which can be seen from the figures published in Treasury Information Bulletin No. 28, for October, 1962. Those figures show that in each quarter since December, 1961, the number of houses and flats commenced has risen from 19,000 to 20,000, to 21,000 and then to 22,000. There has been an increasing supply of homes. But do not let us debate that. The fact is that the situation has been improved by the Government’s economic measures, and I believe that the present measure will continue the good work already started.
.- In replying to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) and his analysis of Dr. Hall’s pamphlet, I should like to say that I accept Dr. Hall’s arguments and the arguments of other experts rather than those advanced by the honorable member who, it appears to me, has become a little confused after reading the pamphlet. The honorable member made reference also to certain statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) with regard to the prospects of a Labour government giving directions to life insurance companies. I suggest that the present Government would know more about that than a Labour government would. I also suggest that the honorable member read the Deputy Leader’s speech to-morrow morning because, again, he has not understood what was said. I would say that, from the arguments he has advanced about housing finance, he was more concerned about protecting the financial interests than about building homes for those who want them. This is at a time when there is a lack of 100,000 homes in the community.
The purpose of this measure is to authorize the raising of loans and the payment of moneys to the States to enable them to carry out the terms of the housing agreement. I support the bill because the housing industry is important to any country, particularly one with an expanding economy such as ours. After all is said and done, to people outside Australia the housing situation is a barometer which gives some indication of the economic trends within the country. I would say that never before in the history of this country has the population increased at such a rate as it has done since the end of World War II. In 1951 Australia had a population of 9.500,000, and in 1962 it is 10,250.000 and is increasing at the rate of 2i per cent, per annum. This copulation growth means a terrific housing demand in the future and, as Dr. Hall has endeavoured to indicate to those who have read his pamphlet, that demand is increasing and in the course of the next two or three years will be substantially higher than stated in his forecast of twelve months ago.
Next to unemployment, the most pressing social problem in any community is the vital question of housing. The Australian Labour Party has been very concerned about it. The rate of construction of new homes has been cut drastically as a result of the credit squeeze that this Government imposed. To-day we have a lag of 100,000 homes. According to authorities, the current demand is in the vicinity of 90,000 homes per annum. That demand arises from marriages, migrants coming to Australia and the slum clearance work that is being carried out.
Apart from the demand for houses, the amount of money available for housing should be, at the very least, an amount necessary to maintain the building industry and its ancillary industries at a reasonable level of activity. I say to the honorable member for Fawkner, who referred to employment in the building industry, that that industry and its ancillary industries are working at only 75 per cent, capacity to-day. I believe that the principle that what is physically possible is financially possible should apply to this industry. There should not be any financial restrictions on it. In time of peace the first responsibility of any government is to ensure that its people are properly housed. The demand exists; people want homes; and the materials are available. Yet the building industry and its ancillary industries are working at only 75 per cent, capacity.
I wish to deal with the question of interest rates, too. I did not know what speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition intended to deliver. I do know what people in Queensland think not only about governmental mortgages but also about the interest rates that are being charged by the bodies that are making funds available for home building. During the last election campaign the Labour Party promised that if it was returned to office it would reduce the interest rate on homes to 3i per cent, or 3£ per cent. There was a scream about inflation by the propagandists for the Government. We heard it again to-night. The honorable member for Fawkner, in trying to answer the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, squealed about inflation.
People put their money into the savings banks. Only 30 per cent, of the funds of the savings banks are made available for home building. The savings banks pay their depositors a rate of interest and they charge borrowers a rate of interest. The net return to the savings banks is not very much in excess of 3i per cent. There is nothing inflationary and nothing socialistic about that. It is also true that the Second World War was financed on loans carrying a rate of interest of 3i per cent. During the last election campaign the Labour Party promised that if it was returned to power it would cheapen interest.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, this Government is very happy about pushing interest rates up. It might have followed the United Kingdom Government in that regard, but when that government decided to reduce interest rates the Australian Government did not go with it. The Australian Government has been endeavouring to reduce the bond rate of interest, but it is not interested in interest rates generally as they affect not only home building but the whole gamut of our economic life. All that the Government is concerned about, as evidenced by the speech made by the honorable member for Fawkner to-night, is protecting the financial institutions.
The experts have estimated that about two-thirds of housing loans bear interest rates of 6 per cent, and higher, that more than 40 per cent, of them bear interest rates of 7 per cent, and more, and that 10 per cent, of them bear interest rates of 9 per cent, and higher. A comparison of the position in Australia with that in other countries with equally high living standards in the Western world shows that Australia has the worst record. To-night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the position in New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada and other countries. It is interesting to note that in New Zealand the interest rate charged on more than 90 per cent, of registered home mortgages is 6 per cent, or less and that 40 per cent, of registered home mortgages carry interest rates of less than 5 per cent. In the United States and Canada 20 per cent, of home mortgages carry interest rates of more than 5i per cent., compared with about 70 per cent, of home mortgages carrying interest rates of more than Si per cent, in Australia.
The average American home buyer requires one-sixth of his annual income to meet mortgage repayments, compared with the Australian average of just on 25 per cent. The basis of the original rent subsidy scheme, which was brought down at the conclusion of the Second World War, was that the economic rent that a family could pay was 20 per cent, of the family income. To-day the average repayment is 25 per cent, of the family income. So rising housing costs are causing a decline in our standard of living or in the purchasing power for other things because the family has to contribute a greater proportion of its income for housing than it would if it was paying an economic rental.
If a person buys a home and he has a loan of £3,000 to be repaid over 30 years at 5i per cent., as in Queensland, the Housing Commission in that State charges £16 12s. 6d. a calendar month or £4 a week. Therefore, for the repayment to be economic, the family needs an income of £20 a week or higher. When the interest rate is higher, naturally the family income must be higher if it is to pay an economic rental.
At the end of the Second World War the average Australian could buy his home on a deposit of 20 per cent, of the total value of the land and home. In most cases in the 1950’s the deposit rose to 30 per cent, and to-day it is higher. In the United States of America a prospective home buyer may borrow 85 per cent, of the total cost of his home and land. In this country the great burden that the home buyer has to carry is the interest payable on the outstanding balance. As I have said, during the last election campaign the Labour Party announced its policy of reducing interest rates to 3£ per cent, or 34 per cent. The result was a scream about heavier taxation and inflation.
It is passing strange that the savings banks receive money from their depositors and then lend money and receive a net return of about 3i per cent. That is only on the 30 per cent, of their funds that they are compelled to invest in home building. The other 70 per cent, has to be held in cash or Government securities so that in the event of an urgent demand on them they will be able to meet that demand. People who ought to know something about this matter have suggested that there is ample room for the use of the savings banks as a means of improving the rate of home construction by permitting them to use more of their funds for home building.
The Queensland Housing Commission charges 5i per cent, interest on home mortgages. The repayment over a period of 30 years is at the rate of lis. Id. per £100 per calendar month. Where the period of the loan is 45 years, repayment is at the rate of 9s. 8d. per £100 per calendar month. A 30-year loan covers 360 calendar months and repayments at the rate of lis. Id. per £100 on a loan of £3,000 work out at £199 10s. per £100. This means that £5,985 is paid back in respect of a £3,000 loan, an amount of £2,985 being payable in interest. The eventual total repayment is nearly double the amount of the original loan. In the case of a 45-year loan the repayment works out at £261 per £100. This means that in respect of a £3,000 loan the home-buyer pays back a total amount of £7,830, which includes £4,830 in interest. This is 150 per cent, more than the original amount lent at the time at which the home was purchased.
Is it any wonder that the Australian Labour Party wants a reduction in interest? Is it any wonder that the man buying a home wants a reduction in interest? He realizes that he will be all his life paying the loan off, and perhaps his son will have to continue the repayments after him. A burden of nearly £8,000 is incurred in respect of a £3,000 loan. In addition, in Queensland, most homes are built of wood and they have to be painted every four or five years. That costs about £1 a week. Furthermore, rates and taxes have to be paid. Yet two-thirds of our housing loans are made at the rate of 6 per cent, or higher. The interest burden, in conse quence, is extremely high. As I have said, repayments on a £3,000 loan over 45 years at 5i per cent, total £7,830. What about the 70 per cent, of people who are borrowing money at a rate higher than 5i per cent, and who have to pay considerably more? Is it any wonder that during the last general election campaign and since, the Labour Party has advocated a reduction in interest rates in order to lift some of this burden off the backs of those who are suffering a social injustice? The whole question of interest payments is screaming out for attention. We have asked the Government time and time again to have an examination and a re-orientation of its outlook not only on housing loans but on interest rates generally. Apparently the Government’s policy may be expressed in the words, “ Never mind who is being pinched or who is being hurt so long as financial institutions are protected “. The1 present burden of interest rates is cutting down living standards. The Labour Party is anxious to see living standards maintained and is anxious to build them up. People are also being exploited by the everincreasing prices of blocks of land for homes. The Commonwealth Government could take action in this connexion because it controls the purse strings and is associated with the State governments in housing activities under the housing agreement. While in Melbourne I ascertained that the price of a block of land in a certain position was £2,000. In Brisbane, I found that the price of a comparable block was between £850 and £900. But prices were rising, and I was informed that this block would cost well over £1,000 next year. Something has to be done by this Government if it is concerned to protect the prospective home-buyer. Not only must attention be given to interest rates but to exploiters or developers who buy land by the acre and sell it in small sections for double the price that they pay for it.
Another matter with which I wish to deal concerns the manner in which the 30 per cent, of funds loaned by savings banks can be increased. There are two types of savings bank. There are the State savings banks which do not come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament. But there are certain savings banks that do. According to the latest figures that I have been able to secure, it was estimated twelve months ago that if the banks’ holdings of 70 per cent, of their deposits in securities and cash were reduced to 65 per cent, and, in consequence, 35 per cent, of their funds were available for lending, an additional £58,000,000 would have been available for home construction. That is a lot of money. It is more than the amount involved in this bill. It is 30 per cent. more.
I have been informed that twelve months ago all savings banks including the State banks had £324,000,000 invested in housing, of which £193,000,000 was invested by Commonwealth controlled savings banks. The housing loans of the Commonwealth Savings Bank itself amounted to £136,000,000, or 16i per cent, of its deposits of £841,000,000. The housing loans of the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank amounted to £32,000,000, or 18 per cent, of its then deposits of £176,000,000. The Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank had £16,000,000 in housing loans, or 17i per cent, of its then deposits of £91,000,000. These amounts invested in housing loans most likely have risen in the last twelve months. So, here is an opportunity to catch up with the shortage of 100,000 homes. As I have said, there should be no financial restriction with regard to home building. The only restrictions, if there are to be restrictions, should be the result of shortages of material or man-power. As I have shown, there is £58,000,000 which could be made available by reducing from 70 per cent, to 65 per cent, the proportion of deposits which savings banks have to hold in securities and cash.
In 1960-61, 94,465 homes were completed; in 1961-62, 86,263 homes were completed. I have obtained these figures from the Commonwealth Statistician and the preliminary estimate for the first quarter of this financial year - that is, for the quarter ending 30th September - was 20,866. The annual demand is at least 90,000 homes, but if we multiply the 20,866 by four to get the estimated completions for the twelve months, our total falls far below the 90,000 homes required. Therefore, if the lag is not to be increased, there will have to be a substantial stepping up of home construction in the remaining nine months of this financial year.
In 1956, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in the report which he presented to Parliament that a minimum of 77,000 homes would have to be constructed to meet the demand; yet it was not until 1958-59 that that number was exceeded. Recently, Sir Douglas Copland stated that home construction should be stepped up to 95,000 or 100,000 homes per year. We know that in 1960 the building industry was one of the industries hardest hit by the credit squeeze. As I said a moment ago, the building industry is working at only 75 per cent, capacity overall. People are in need of homes, but there is a lag in home construction, and present indications are that there will be a dropping back in the number of homes erected this year, just as there was a falling off last financial year compared with the year before that.
I notice that my time has almost expired. I just want to say that the repayments of principal by the States, together with interest on moneys advanced by the Commonwealth Government for home construction, should be put into a central fund and each year new money should be injected into that fund so that it would continue to grow to meet the needs of the increase of 2i per cent, per annum in our population. In fact, if the Minister for Immigration achieves his target, the increase in our population might be even more than 2i per cent. Do not let it ever be said that money cannot be found for homes. The Government can find money for war and destruction, but it can find nothing for homes and construction.
The only other thing I want to say before resuming my seat is that the building industry is one of the best industries for offering employment opportunities. Honorable members, especially those who come from Queensland, will recall that when Mr. Forgan Smith became Premier of that State in the teeth of the depression, he said, “ We will have a building revival scheme “. Such a scheme was promoted and Queensland walked out of the depression. This was possible only because the building industry offers such excellent opportunities for employment. To-day, there are about 80,000 men and women unemployed. The sugar and meat industries are about to close for the season, and within a month or so there will be tens of thousands of young school-leavers joining the Australian work force. By the end of the year our unemployment figure will be up around 100,000. Therefore, if the Government is really interested in providing homes for the people, if it is really interested in cutting down the number of unemployed, it should do something to step up home construction with a view to overtaking the backlag. Employment must be found for the people, the lag in home construction must be overtaken and the people must be provided with homes at reasonable prices, with reasonable rates of interest and reasonable prices for the land on which the homes are built.
.- As is usual, we have just heard from the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) a speech of destruction rather than one of construction. To use a George Bernard Shaw saying, more houses were destructed than were constructed by the honorable member during his speech. Again, as is usual with him, the honorable member confused more people on his own side of the House with his figures than he confused on this side of the House.
My entry into this debate is purely because of the human interest, and not for the purpose of endeavouring to make political capital out of the issue, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Kennedy tried to do. My second reason for entering the debate is the effect the housing programme has on the timber industry in my electorate. In speaking to-night, I propose equating my figures mainly to Victoria and first I emphasize that the timber industry in Gippsland in particular has been a decisive factor in the development of that area. In the past 40 years we have seen the opening up of many areas of Gippsland that would not have been opened up but for the timber industry. Roads and bridges have been constructed, and all sorts of development has taken place. There has also been a better usage of land because of the development of this industry. Again, with the opening up of bushlands we have seen far better control of bush fires. I think it is safe to say that since 1939 there has not been a major bush fire in the Gippsland area. Certainly there have been fires, but no major bush fires since that time. One of the main reasons for this has been the development of the timber industry and the establishment of timber mills in the far-out regions of the Gippsland area.
In the electorate of Gippsland, there are now 66 mills in operation. They employ over 1,800 men. As a matter of interest I find out that the Forest Commission receives approximately £320,000 in royalties each year from the Gippsland electorate alone. That should give honorable members some idea of the value of the industry to the area. Then there are the ancillary and associated industries that run with the timber industry in the area. When we consider the number of trucks and bulldozers used in the industry, the amount of oil consumed by it and even the development of shops round the 66 timber mills, we have no difficulty in appreciating the importance of this industry to the area. As a matter of fact, in 1959-60 the production of scantlings alone, excluding kilndried hardwood, was 338,346,000 superficial feet for the whole of Victoria, and of that quantity the Gippsland area produced 103,000,000 superficial feet. Unfortunately, in 1961, as a result of certain measures taken, and because of other causes, the production for the whole of Victoria fell to 288,570,000 superficial feet and that of the Gippsland area to 85,000,000 superficial feet. It is interesting to note that the Gippsland area produces one-third of the total amount of scantling timber produced in Victoria.
This bill seeks to provide £45,900,000 by way of direct loan from the Commonwealth for housing, but I point out that the total amount provided for this year through the Budget and by way of grants for housing is £92,300,000. It is of interest to note that in 1954-55 the total amount of money made available for housing was £63,100,000. This year it will be £92,300,000. It will be seen, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government has been steadily increasing the grants for housing each year.
I suggest that there are reasons other than the curbing of the boom in 1960 for the decline in the production of timber in Victoria. Many spot mills flourished during the boom. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who is interjecting, and some other honorable members may know what a spot mill is, but there are some honorable members who do not know. For their benefit, I point out that a spot mill is a mill with one saw-bench, perhaps driven by a belt run from a diesel tractor or some stationary motor, and worked by two or three men. The disadvantage of mills of this sort is that they can handle only very young timber. This young timber, having been transported by truck to Melbourne and stored there in a merchant’s yard, twists after two or three days and is then in a form not desirable for use in building. Because a great deal of young timber of poor quality milled by these spot mills was supplied to the market, there was some loss of confidence in the timber industry.
Another reason for the falling-off in the demand for timber is the appearance in the building industry of new Australian builders. Most of these are very good builders, but in their home countries they were more used to easily worked timber such as pine, or to steel and bricks. They find great difficulty in handling Australian hardwood when they come to this country. The figures showing the swing away from timber in housing in the past ten years are very interesting. I went to the trouble of obtaining from the Commonwealth Statistician figures for the entire Commonwealth, but I shall give only those relating to Victoria for the information of the House. They illustrate a trend that has been very similar in all the States. The figures that I have obtained cover the ten-year period from 1952 to 1961 inclusive. In 1952, 14,028 wooden houses were constructed in Victoria compared with 8,661 of other types, including aluminium and prefabricated dwellings. In 1961, there was a complete reversal of the situation, 6,055 of the houses constructed being of timber and 12,685 of other materials.
– How many were brick houses? Has the honorable member those figures?
– The figures for brick, steel and aluminium construction are not given separately. Those kinds of construction are bracketed together by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. So I am not able to give the honorable member the figures for brick houses.
– There is a lot of framing and other timber used in brick houses.
– Yes, but that is not taken into account in these figures. The fact is that there has been a complete reversal of the trend in building materials over the past ten years. This has had very sad consequences for the timber industry in the electorate that I represent.
Another factor contributing to the decline in the demand for timber for housing has been the attitude of the Housing Commission of Victoria and private builders. They now favour the construction, not of singleunit dwellings or multi-unit fiats of wooden type, but of blocks of flats, say, six stories high constructed of brick or other nontimber materials. This has had serious effects on the timber industry in my electorate.
I may say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Victorian Sawmillers Association and the Australian Sawmillers Association are very much aware of this problem and have undertaken a publicity campaign in an attempt to educate the builders, and also the architects, who come into the picture even before the builders, as well as prospective house-owners in the advantages of timber. Very rightly, these two associations are trying to impress on people the fact that timber has beauty and strength that are not attainable with other materials, and most certainly an individuality that one cannot get with other materials.
One of the things about which the builders particularly are concerned is the decline in the quality of timber supplied to them. Not so much at the present time, but in previous years when boom conditions existed, the decline has been very marked. Now that the spot mills have gone out of the industry and we are down to the’ hard core of long-standing timber millers, the timber produced is much closer to the requirements of the user. I know that the millers in my electorate are very much aware of the need to produce timber that will meet the requirements of the builders. But I suggest that they could go even further than they do to-day and that they could grade, and stamp accordingly, all kinds of timber. It is a pity that the millers do not grade and stamp all timber to ensure that it meets specifications of width and length. I suppose that some honorable members have had the experience of trying to buy timber of a specified size. As an example, let us take the size known as 4 by 2. Very often the actual size, instead of being 4 inches by 2 inches, is 3J inches by H inches. This is perhaps due to the use of young timber, to bad cutting or to leaving timber lying in the open for some time. The hard core of timber millers know that they have to meet the requirements of the users, and they are now conducting a publicity campaign to convince the builders again that timber is the best material to use in Australia to-day.
I believe that the imposition of the quantitative restrictions on imports of timber recommended recently will increase the use of timber in this country. The threat of the import of large quantities of soft woods was worrying timber merchants in the cities. They would not stock their yards with Australian timber, because they were afraid that large quantities of imported timber would be put on the market at lower prices. Now that quantitative restrictions are to be imposed, the merchants know that only a certain volume of imported timber will be allowed into Australia. I believe that the volume to be allowed in is somewhat excessive, and I hope that when the matter is reviewed again the special advisory authority will consider this point closely. The volume that will be allowed in equals the volume that was imported during the boom, and I think that this is a little too much. Nevertheless, I believe that the imposition of quantitative restrictions will give the timber merchants a great incentive to stock their yards with Australian timber.
There is a solid future for the Australian timber industry. This is basically because the Commonwealth Government, despite what the honorable member for Kennedy has said, realizes the need for more home construction. I challenge the honorable member’s statement that there is a lag of 100,000 houses. He dragged that figure mystically out of the air like a magician, and I do not think that he has any basis for it. I have seen no statistical information or any authoritative statement by anybody to suggest that there is a lag of 100,000 houses. I am very well aware that there is a considerable demand for houses, of course. This Government, I know, has every intention of housing everybody in this country, and particularly young people. We know that they have special problems, and we would like to see them properly housed. Opposition members have advanced hypocritical arguments. They oppose the bill when they speak; yet they intend to support it when a vote is taken. Despite what they say, the people of this country are the best housed people in the world to-day. Let any honorable member opposite name any country where housing is better than that in Australia. I believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, with the upsurge in the Australian economy, there will be renewed confidence in the building industry. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the House having just listened to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), it is appropriate for me to remind honorable members that we are now discussing the Loan (Housing) Bill and not the timber industry. This industry is associated with housing in an important way, I admit, but surely all will concede that that relationship is only an aspect of housing.
This bill will authorize the allocation to the States of £45,900,000 for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in the financial year 1962-63. This sum is to be apportioned between the States as follows: -
The Premiers of the various States were obliged to settle for this apportionment after the Australian Loan Council had imposed a limit on the total amount to be made available for works and housing. It is futile for the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to try to convey the impression that the Premiers were happy with this limited amount of money for housing. This was the apportionment after the total had been set and after they had expressed their opposition in no uncertain manner.
It is interesting to see that last year an amount of £50,400,000 was allocated to the States, including the £7,500,000 emergency allocation which was designed to get us out of the government-created economic trough. The point I make here is that this year the amount that has been made available for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is no less than £4,500,000 below the figure made available last year. Surely even the honorable member for Gippsland, who appears to think that there is no housing crisis since he certainly did not deal with it in his speech, will agree that there is no reason to reduce the amount of money made available for housing. We of the Australian Labour Party feel that there is a great deal to be done in the housing field. We think the housing agreement is highly deficient from the stand-point of providing decent principles and standards, that it leaves a great deal to be desired and in general will not alleviate the very desperate housing shortage that prevails in this country at the present time. We took the view, back in 1945 when we initiated the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, that it was the right of every one to expect a dwelling of good standard and with good equipment. We were of the opinion that the homes which should be made available through government-sponsored rental housing projects should be the subject of a rental rebate system in order to ensure that they were within the reach of the people who needed them. We stood particularly for low interest rates. It is in respect of those several aspects that I wish to make some comments this evening, because I feel that the Government has fallen down on the application of some of the fundamental, humane principles which inspired the Labour Party in 1945.
The 1961 agreement is a lot worse than its predecessor and represents a very marked deterioration on the agreement which preceded that one. For example, I think it was in 1956 that the present Government decided that the amount of money made available to the housing commissions was to be subjected to savage inroads. That is to say, 30 per cent, of the funds made available were to be diverted from the lowincome people, who comprise substantially the applicants for housing commission homes, to the building societies. Previously, of course, the building societies had been sustained by fairly generous contributions from the insurance companies, the banks and other sources. Because of the diversion of funds to the building societies, for a substantial period there was in fact a considerable drying-up of finance for the building societies from the traditional sources such as the banks and the insurance companies. This is all a matter of degree, of course.
Other serious inroads have been made. One of the worst features is that the Government has raised the interest rates which housing commission tenants are obliged to meet. The interest rate that usually prevails under such agreements is 1 per cent, less than the long-term bond rate. The interest rate stands at 4J per cent, at present. It has risen from 3 per cent, to 4 J per cent, since 1956. I suppose that most honorable members recognize that that involves a substantial increase of rent for a large number of the low-income tenants of housing commission homes. Another large departure from the concept which the Labour Party had of housing in 1945 has been due to the fact that the Commonwealth Government has transferred to the States its obligation to provide houses for serving members of the forces. We find that 5 per cent, of the funds - I think it was 10 per cent, in the 1955-56 agreement - is diverted in order that serving members of the forces may be provided with houses. Fairly enough, and justifiably, that had been the responsibility of the Commonwealth up to that point. So we have this mutilated agreement at the present time.
In addition to the changes I have mentioned, the Government now has omitted the rental rebates which were made available particularly to low-income people so that tenants might be relieved of the obligation to pay the economic rental which had been worked out for a home over a prescribed period. It was recognized that many people could not meet such a high rental, and the Labour Government’s agreement provided for the rental rebate system. This Government, which is never concerned with the under-privileged people, has tipped that provision overboard. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) seems to be unhappy about what I have said. Will he not concede that a rental rebate system was operating, that it was initiated by the Labour Government and that this Government has tipped it overboard?
– You said that we showed no concern for the under-privileged people, which is a misstatement.
– I have now provided a fair example of the manner in which this Government denies the underprivileged people. When we discuss all the other topics which are the prerogative of this Parliament we have similar opportunities to provide examples. The honorable member for Perth cannot meet my challenge that this Government, in abandoning the rental rebate system, has forced the most under-privileged people in the community to pay rents which they cannot afford. Having quietened the honorable member, temporarily at least-
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I was doing so, Sir, and I always do so. So far as outstanding applications are concerned, it is important for the honorable member for Perth, who does not appear to be terribly interested in housing matters, to appreciate that the number is increasing at a rapid rate and has now reached what can be described as an unprecedentedly high level in contemporary years. At the present time there are 75,000 outstanding applications which have been lodged with the various governmental housing authorities in the six States. Of that number, it is interesting to note that no fewer than 47,022 applications were lodged last year. In New South Wales, there are 35,000 outstanding applications, the highest number for the last five years. There are more people lined up for houses in New South Wales at present than there have been for many years. All that the honorable member for Perth can see in that situation is the opportunity for some miserable partisan advantage. He wants to say, “ There is a Labour government in that
State “. That is the extent of his concern for the people who need houses.
In Victoria, where a Liberal-Country Party government is in office, there are 14,424 outstanding applications, which is the highest figure for some time. In Queensland there are 5,583, in South Aus- tralia 11,000, in Western Australia, the State from which the honorable member for Perth comes, there are 4,585, and in Tasmania 2,016. On the basis of those figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, with whom very few honorable members are inclined to argue, we find that there actually has been a fall in the number of homes commenced during the last three years and also a fall in the number of homes completed in that period.
Throughout Australia 82,470 homes were commenced in 1961-62 whereas in 1959-60 the number was 91,341. I remind honorable members that I am referring now to Australia as a whole, not only to New South Wales. The number of completions fell from 90,021 in 1959- 60 to 86,263 in 1961-62. There we have the position - a fall in the number of commencements and completions, a very substantial increase in the number of outstanding applications with the various housing authorities, longer waiting periods and new applications being submitted at a record rate. Very few honorable members need to be told about this position except perhaps some who occupy the opposite benches who seem to be completely disinterested in and complacent about this subject.
We have not fewer than 17,000 migrants living cheek by jowl in inferior hostels similar to the refugee camps in parts of Europe and other depressed parts of the world from which they fled. According to official figures, many of those 17,000 will have to live in those hostels for an average of 45.5 weeks. Let me turn now to applicants for war service homes. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) who knows a little about ex-servicemen could tell us that there are 13,000 applicants waiting for about twenty months for a war service homes loan; and this seventeen years after the end of the war! To be more specific, I think that is the number of applicants waiting for loans to buy
Used homes. We know that 75,000 people are queued up with the State housing authorities waiting for an advance. No one can claim that we do not have a housing problem in this year of grace 1962, but instead of an increased allocation of funds for housing the amount proposed for this year is lower than last year’s allocation.
Whatever test we apply we find the Government wanting. In 1961-62 we allocated £33,300,000 for State housing. For 1962-63 the amount will be reduced to £30,700,000. Now let me turn to what is called the home builders’ account, the amount which is transferred to building societies from State housing commission allocations. In 1961-62 we expended £17,000,000 in that direction but this year
We shall spend only £15,100,000, a reduction of about £2,000,000 in the amount made available by the States for building societies through the medium of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The total loan allocation has fallen from £50,400,000 to £45,900,000. Even the amount made available to house serving members of the forces will be reduced this year by about £500,000. I do not know whether the Government takes the view that the housing position is satisfactory enough to justify its proposals. It has the right to take that view but I am sure that it respects the contention of the Labour Party that this is not the time to reduce the allocation for housing.
In addition to the fact that the total allocation for this purpose has fallen, it is interesting and important to recognize that the average cost of building a house is increasing at a rapid rate. The figures which I shall cite were supplied to me in a letter from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who is in charge of housing matters for the Government. He pointed out that in 1951-52 a two-bedroom timber house in New South Wales cost £2,058 whereas in 1961 it cost £3,000. He pointed out also that in Victoria a three-bedroom brick veneer house cost £2,515 ten years ago whereas to-day it costs £3,521.
– Does that price include the land.
– Yes, it includes the cost of the land. In ten years the cost of a three-bedroom brick veneer house has increased by £1,000. I have indicated the position which exists in New South Wales and in Victoria. It is unnecessary to labour the point except to say that this position obtains generally. There have been substantial increases in the cost of houses throughout the Commonwealth. In his Labour Report No. 48 of 1960 the Commonwealth Statistician made the point that the housing index has risen 39 per cent, since 1952-53, ten years ago. Many experts disagree with him on this aspect, not so much in relation to his calculations but particularly because he has not taken into account many relevant factors. But even those which he has taken into account result in this statistical indication that in ten years the housing index has risen by 39 per cent, compared with a 23 per cent, increase in food costs, a 10 per cent, increase in clothing costs and an 11 per cent, increase in the cost of household supplies and equipment. The position is bad enough even though the Statistician has not taken into account the fact that rents have been pegged in various States, that the price of land has increased, and many other factors. The figures which he has given are some guide to the Government, but even an increase of 39 per cent, in the cost of housing leaves for dead the increases which have been apparent in so many of the other items which are of importance to the community.
In the short time remaining to me I want to mention particularly the very serious deposit lag which prevails. In my view, this is substantially responsible for a large number of decent, wholesome, runofthemill Australians, both old and new, being denied a home. I do not suppose that anything is more important to the average family than to have a home of its own. Whether we are Liberal, Labour or anything else we all must be concerned about this very serious position in relation to deposits on houses. Sometimes we may become a little lethargic about this but fundamentally all of us on this side of the House hope to high heaven that our brethren and fellow citizens will have an opportunity to obtain homes probably similar to those which we ourselves enjoy. But we know that this opportunity will be denied to them, I do not think that the problem is insurmountable. If the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) who is at the table were responsible for housing in this country and if he said to the Government, “ I cannot solve the housing problem “, I am sure that the Government would ask him to hand in his resignation.
This is a problem which can be overcome. In this country we have a great need for houses; we have the resources to build them; we have the timber, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) mentioned; we have the bricks at grass, the fibro, the tiles, the cement and everything else which is necessary to build a home. Further, we have the builders and the people who are prepared to advance the money. But something is wrong somewhere along the line. The initial deposit is missing. No doubt all honorable members have visits from constituents - I do very frequently - who complain that a deposit of £1,500 is necessary on a home, whereas they have only £600 or £800. Because of a deficiency of £500, £600 or £800 they are deprived of the opportunity to own a home. New Australians who have been enticed to come here by being told that housing opportunities will be available to them and that they have a great future here because ample employment will be available for them, are deprived of the opportunity to own a home, just as are our own young Australians, because of the deposit lag due to their inability to raise the necessary finance. To me, the position is completely absurd. Many figures relating to this aspect are available but I do not think that we have the time to mention them in detail. Sufficient it is to say that, in the past seven years, the deposit required for war service homes has increased from £413 to £1,506. In the case of building societies, the deposit has risen from £803 to £1,570 and in the case of savings banks from £1,200 to £1,800. In the case of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the average deposit has risen from £1,400 to £2,075. That has been the trend of increasing deposits. 1 have been particularly interested in the fact that in both New South Wales and Victoria the Minister responsible for housing has identified himself with this mo.’t important aspect of the housing problem. All the materials for home building are available and the only problem is in relation to deposits. I do not think this problem is insurmountable, and I think we should give some thought on a Commonwealth level to what is being done by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte. It is quite possible for the Commonwealth Government to make an arrangement with the State Government on the basis that it is prepared to guarantee a second mortgage organization so that if an aspirant for a home has £1,000 deposit and has to have £1,500, the second mortgage organization, guaranteed by the Government and sponsored by the Government if you like, would provide the balance on second mortgage. The losses would be infinitesimal and the Commonwealth Government would ensure housing opportunities to large numbers of people. Those people have the capacity to repay loans in the ability they have in their hands to work for decades to come. It is heartbreaking to leave them unattended. If anybody has a better idea, let us have it; but State Ministers for Housing think there is something in this proposal, and Commonwealth Ministers should aid and abet them to see that Australians, old and new, will have the housing opportunities they desperately require.
In the short time available to me, I want to refer to some of the aspects of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. New South Wales is a State that I know best of all. What makes the housing commissions in that State and in other States worth while is that they fulfil a need that no one else in the community is prepared to fill. From the annual report of the New South Wales Housing Commission, I have ascertained that last year 66 per cent, of the applicants for finance received an income of less than £20 a week. Many of them were small-income earners, such as widows, whose incomes would not attract a loan from the regular lending authorities. Last year some 3,155 aged persons applied for loans to the New South Wales Housing Commission. Most of the applicants to the housing commissions are people with a number of children. In the case of New South Wales, 59.9 per cent, of the applicants had children, 36.2 per cent, had two children of different sexes or they had more than two children of one sex. The outstanding applicants in that State now number 35,000 and, as I have emphasized, those 35,000 people mostly comprise, first of all, lowincome earners and, secondly, young Australians with children who need help desperately.
The same position prevails in Western Australia. One finds heart-breaking appeals throughout the reports of the housing commissions in the various States. In Western Australia where there is not a large population, there are still 4,500 outstanding applications. Last year, 6,199 applications were received. In that State, they are battling on bravely trying to provide rental rebates to the lower income groups who have been ignored by this Government. Throughout the country, this position prevails so far as rental rebates are concerned. The States are trying to keep these services going from their own resources. In South Australia, the number of applications received has actually increased progressively over the last four years from 7,600 in 1958 to 9,099 in 1961. The number of people who require the benefit of housing commission services is rising all the time, but unfortunately this Government is permitting a decline in the allocation of funds to take place.
In South Australia, a Liberal State, the Minister for Housing joined with the spokesmen of the Labour States in an appeal for more consideration for the housing commissions. The annual report of the trust responsible for housing in South Australia stated -
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 continue to pour into the Trust’s office, and the waiting period is still quite considerable. The increase in demand consequent upon continued immigration and the higher marriage rate due to the expansion of the birthrate is already becoming apparent.
That is the position in South Australia. It is the same in Victoria where they have a greater slum clearance problem which will cost something like £50,000,000, but only an infinitesimal sum has been made available.
I emphasize that insufficient attention is being given to these matters. Special concern should be given to the need to provide accommodation for pensioners through the housing commissions. In New South Wales last year, there were 3,071 applications from pensioners. There were 1,600 in Victoria, 700 in South Australia, 820 in Western Australia and 102 in Tasmania. But if you provide housing at an economic rental and on a rebate system to the pensioners, you find that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is such that the States have to carry the burden because the Commonwealth Government turned its back on these applications long ago. For these reasons I feel that whilst this Government has kept things moving along fairly steadily it has failed to get down to some of the most aggravating aspects of the housing problem which have been causing such great concern and anxiety to a very large section of the Australian community. I hope there will be a substantial increase in the allocation of funds as a result of the agitation we have made from the Opposition side during this debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned. ,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to refer to a speech made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on the adjournment of the House on 25th October. This related to the letting by the Reserve Bank of Australia of contracts to the firm of E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for East Sydney said that I was a personal friend of Mr. Watts. He said that Mr. Watts or his company banked with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and that the Reserve Bank of Australia had given some preferment of an improper kind to the company. The honorable member said that a contract had been let without tenders having been called.
Sir, I shall dispose of all of these matters in some detail, but at the outset I just say this: Immediately the member for East Sydney had concluded his statement, I rose to say that I had no personal knowledge of
Mr. Watts and that so far as I was aware I had never met him, but that I would study the text of the statement and see what action was to be regarded as suitable when this examination had been made. Sir, it now transpires that this company has never at any time been a client of the Commonwealth Bank. In fact, it has banked for the last 40 years with the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, far from no tenders having been called in the case to which the honorable gentleman referred, nine tenders were received, and that of E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited was the lowest tender. I shall deal with these matters in rather more detail.
Following the statement of the member for East Sydney, I received a telegram signed “ Ernest A. Watts, Managing Director, E. A. Watts Pty. Ltd.”, dated 29th October, in these terms -
Reference statement E. Ward stop Statements entirely unfounded and could do harm to our company if not refuted stop Any insinuation that our company was heavily in debt to the Commonwealth Bank totally incorrect as at no time either before obtaining contract for Reserve Bank Sydney or since obtaining it has our company ever traded with Commonwealth Bank stop In respect to the Reserve Bank Melbourne contract tenders were called and our company was awarded the contract stop Letter following.
A letter dated 30th October, 1962, from E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited, was received by me. It was signed by the secretary of the company, Mr. C. Calderwood, and was in these terms -
I wish to confirm the telegram sent to you by our Managing Director, Mr. E. A. Watts, on the 29th October reading as follows . . .
I have already given the House the text of the telegram. The letter continued -
The telegram was sent to you because my directors are most concerned about the contents of a statement said to have been made by Mr. E. J. Ward, M.H.R., in the House of Representatives on the 25th October and which was published by the following newspapers on the 26th October: “The Sydney Morning Herald”
The Sydney “Daily Telegraph”
The Melbourne “Sun”.
The purpose of this letter is to inform you of various points concerning this Company’s position in regard to matters said to have been stated by Mr. Ward without trespassing on ministerial prerogatives belonging either to yourself or your co-ministers.
Mr. Ward is alleged to have said that our Company “had obtained the contract to build the Sydney Commonwealth Reserve Bank because the Company was heavily in debt to the Bank “. This statement is entirely incorrect as at no time has our Company traded with the Commonwealth Bank, and my directors are of the opinion that the statement could have been made with a view to doing damage to our Company, particularly along the lines of perhaps attempting to interfere with negotiations with clients that follow our successful tendering on contracts. The whole of our Company’s financial structure and banking arrangements, together with guarantee arrangements, were all disclosed to the executives of the Commonwealth Reserve Bank in Sydney at the time of our negotiating that contract with them, and they are in a position to readily confirm that our Bankers are The English Scottish & Australian Bank Ltd. and, indeed, have been so for some 40 years.
The Press further reports that Mr. Ward stated our Company “ had also got the job to build the Reserve Bank in Melbourne but in this case tenders were not even invited “. This statement is also false as tenders were called for the carrying out of Stage 1 of the project and our Company was awarded the contract. I should like to mention that Stage 2 of the project has not yet been put out for tender but, of course, our Company will be interested in tendering for this new phase of the project.
I am instructed by my directors to inform you they are most concerned about the fact that Parliament should be used by any Member of it to make statements which are entirely false and which may well be construed to be malicious and slanderous. My directors recognize that they have no power to bring an action against Mr. Ward for his statements as said to have been made in the House of Representatives and as published in the Press but I would respectfully request you, Mr. Minister, on behalf of my Board of Directors, to seek the assistance of your colleagues in Cabinet to use whatever Parliamentary powers are available to you as the Government to correct the false statements made by Mr. E. J. Ward, M.H.R., and to bring him to account before the House.
You will readily appreciate my directors feel that Mr. Ward has abused Parliamentary Privilege and, whilst our Company has been the victim of his attack on this occasion, it could well be that other persons may find themselves in a similar position in the future if this situation is allowed to go unchecked by the Members of Parliament.
Now, Sir, that is the statement from the company, but I do not rest my reply on information received from that source. I have also made inquiries through the Reserve Bank and I find that the new Melbourne office has been planned for construction in two stages. Open public tenders were invited for the first stage and are to be invited for the second stage at about the end of this year. For the first stage, nine tenders were received and, after considering the advice of its architects, the Reserve
Bank let the contract to fi. A. Watts Proprietary Limited, the lowest tenderer, for £405,335. The awarding of this contract was announced by the bank on 16th February, 1962.
The member for East Sydney also referred to the proposed erection of a new Reserve Bank building in Adelaide. The detailed plans and documents for the bank’s Adelaide project are not yet completed, but I am informed that the bank has decided to call open public tenders when it is in a position to proceed.
Now, Sir, I think that the information I have given the House effectively disposes of the three main allegations made by the honorable gentleman. I repeat that I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Watts or, so far as I am aware, of any principal of his company. Secondly, it is clear that far from being a client of the Commonwealth Bank, as alleged by the member for East Sydney, this company has banked for the long period of years I have mentioned with another bank, namely the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited. Thirdly, his allegation that no tenders were called for has been refuted both by the company and by the bank.
Now, Sir, the matter should not be allowed to rest there, because the honorable gentleman has been attacking this company now for some considerable time. He raised this matter in the House on a number of occasions last year. My colleague, the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) gave a formal reply on 31st August. During September, the member for East Sydney and other Opposition speakers referred to the matter in the Parliament, in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House on 14th September and in the course of the Estimates debate on 27th September. On the latter occasion, the Minister for Works spoke. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House, Mr. Speaker. I think it should have all the material before it. On 11th October, I replied to further criticisms by the member for East Sydney and emphasized the point made by the Minister for Works that the letting of the contract for the Reserve Bank building was a matter entirely within the jurisdiction of the bank. I assured the House that in my opinion the
Governor had acted in good judgment and in good faith in arriving at the decision that was made. That was in respect of the Sydney building.
On 26th October, 1961, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave a formal reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who had asked whether the Prime Minister would supply reasons for the rejection of the two lowest tenders for the construction of the new Reserve Bank building in Sydney or alternatively whether he would give reasons for the need for secrecy. In his reply the Prime Minister referred to the statements made by me and by the Minister for Works, and emphasized that the decision on the tendering was one for the Reserve Bank. The Prime Minister stated that he completely accepted the view expressed by the Minister for Works and myself that the bank had acted in good judgment and good faith in arriving at the decision that was made. He further stated that he was satisfied the bank’s decision not to publish reasons for rejecting certain tenders had been responsible and not lightly taken.
There the matter stands on the record. I just say this by way of conclusion: We gather that the honorable member for East Sydney has recently concluded some litigation which followed a misstatement of facts appearing in relation to him. He apparently does not regard lightly published statements which reflect on his own position and one would have thought that a member of this House who bad his own sensitivity to his reputation and standing in these matters would have had some regard for the standing, the reputation and the situation of one of the prominent constructing companies of this country. The mere allegation that a company receives some preferment because the bank is seeking to protect its debt creates a grave disadvantage for that company in its public contracting in the future. Now that these facts have been made publicly known, I hope that the honorable gentleman will take the first opportunity to withdraw any allegations against the company and make full public apology to it.
.- I was unaware that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) intended to refer to this matter until he entered the chamber this evening. Therefore, 1 have had no opportunity of checking the statement he has now made to the House. All I can say is that I believed what I had been told because the gentleman who informed me about this matter was in a position to know the facts. I shall now obtain a copy of the Treasurer’s remarks. I will check them with my informant and I will have no hesitation in coming into this Parliament and withdrawing what I have said if I find there was no basis for the statement that was handed to me.
I resent the Treasurer implying that I was continually attacking this company. Such is not the case. As a matter of fact, if any suspicion has been aroused, it has been aroused by the refusal of the Ministers to supply any information about the letting of the contract for the construction of the Reserve Bank building in Sydney. No adequate explanation has yet been given as to why the third lowest tender was accepted and the two lowest tenders, submitted by reputable building contractors, were rejected. I would remind honorable members that there were some unusual circumstances associated with this transaction and they call for some explanation by the Government.
What happened was this: Firms interested in the contract were invited to indicate their intention to tender. Subsequently, fourteen of them were invited by letter to submit tenders. For six or seven weeks before they were invited to submit tenders, the whole of their financial circumstances were examined. They were asked to furnish their balance-sheets for the preceding three years and to give an authority to their bankers to submit any report that might be required by the Reserve Bank authorities. So a complete examination was made of their financial standing and their capacity to undertake the work before they were ever invited to submit tenders. I think that any reasonable member of the Australian community would naturally be suspicious if, after this close examination, the successful tenderer was the one who submitted the third lowest and not the lowest tender.
The Treasurer spoke about the injury done to the firm to which he referred tonight. But what about the injury done to the two lowest tenderers, whose tenders for the building of the Reserve Bank in Sydney were not accepted? The Treasurer has refused to tell us what was wrong with these two firms and why their tenders were not accepted. The Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) said it was not his business to give the information to the House and the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr. Coombs, refused to supply the information. So, if any suspicion has been created around this company or any of the other companies interested in this work, it has been created by the neglect and the refusal of the Government and the responsible Ministers to give us answers to the questions we have directed to them.
I have nothing further to say about this matter at the moment. I merely repeat what I said when I first rose to-night. I will obtain a copy of the remarks of the Treasurer this evening. I will submit it to my informant. If I discover that I have been wrongly informed, I will take the earliest opportunity to come into the House and withdraw any statement I have made which on examination is found to be incorrect.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has not performed with any credit to-night, but rather has added to a very long record of discreditable performances. He mentioned to-night that he had some suspicions. In the statement he made to the House recently, he made no less than three false statements about the building firm of E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited. In his speech he was not voicing a suspicion; he was stating alleged facts. He said -
It turned out that this Melbourne firm, a member of which is Mr. Watt, who I am given to understand is a very close personal friend of the Treasurer-
That is the first falsehood - had become very heavily in debt to the Commonwealth Bank.
Both the Commonwealth Bank and Mr. Watt say that he had never had an account with the bank. Yet the honorable member for East Sydney to-night persists in his false allegations. The next statement of the honorable member the other evening was this -
The Reserve Bank had to let the tender to Watt and Company to try to get it out of the difficulties m regard to the debt the company had incurred.
The company had no debt with the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank did not have to let the tender to E. A. Watts Proprietary Limited. But the honorable member for East Sydney still persists to-night in saying that he has a suspicion. He did not announce to the House the other night that this was only a suspicion; he announced this as a categorical fact.
The honorable member for East Sydney, I believe, had quite an interesting time under cross-examination when he was being questioned about people who made false and damaging statements carelessly. In any other circumstances, the litigation on which the honorable member recently embarked could have resulted only in a substantial verdict for any creditable man who brought the action. But so badly did he perform in that situation, in line with his performance now, that I believe there were twelve men on the jury who could not say he had really been defamed by the action of the Sydney newspaper.
– The jury disagreed.
– Of course it did. It could not determine that the honorable member for East Sydney had been wronged. Any other citizen would have received a verdict. The honorable member for East Sydney made some other false statements the other night. He stated as a categorical fact that Mr. Cameron, the quantity surveyor in connexion with the Reserve Bank in Sydney, had decided to go overseas only after he had been dismissed.
– That is right.
– Do you still assert that positively?
– I have a letter written by Mr. Cameron in which he said amongst other things -
These matters were first raised in Parliament by the member for East Sydney, Mr. E. J. Ward. I wish to make it very clear that Mr. Ward’s references to me and my business firm were made without my knowledge, without my approval and without reference to any person with authority to speak on my behalf. This is made amply clear from the incorrect statements-
That is putting it very mildly - made by Mr. Ward concerning me, in particular - that I was advised that I would receive no more Government work; that 90 per cent, of the work done by my office is work given to us by the Department of Works; and that I decided to go overseas only after receiving the letter of 17th August from the Department of Works terminating my services.
My decision to go overseas was made in the early months of this year-
That is in 1961- and the Department of Works was well acquainted with my intention to do so, even many months before my letter of Sth July.
I think that sufficiently disposes of the credit worthiness of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– He is concerned only with making an alibi for himself.
– The honorable member is interjecting because he has no other answer to make. He has made false statements in this House which are not worthy of any member of the House. If he had any decency he would get up and apologize for what he has said.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will answer the allegations that have been levelled against him by the two Ministers, who have been slinging a bit of mud around to-night. I wish to direct attention to a question that I asked the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) on 25th October of this year. I asked him whether he was aware of a speech made by the President of Cuba on 8th October in the United Nations General Assembly in which he proposed a meeting between the United States of America and Cuba to settle their differences. My question continued -
Is he aware that President Dorticos agreed to dismantle all military installations in Cuba if the United States of America would agree not to assist any invasion of Cuba? Was the proposal refused by the United States of America? Is the Minister aware of the decision of the 45-non-alined nations in the United Nations requesting U Thant to intervene to bring about a peace settlement? Will the Minister say whether the Australian Government will support these nations and those proposals? If not, will he explain to the House the reasons for the failure of the Australian Government to do so?
The Minister replied in this manner -
I am very sorry, but I do not think that the House has time for me to explain to the honorable member why I do not adopt Communist philosophy. I do not think that the honorable member and I can be on common ground as to what we mean by “ peace “. In his use of the word “ peace “ I see a very strong resemblance to the sort of meaning given to it by Mr. Khrushchev and the gentlemen who have been stuffing Cuba with arms.
That was the answer given by a responsible Minister at a time of crisis that could have embroiled the world in war. I repeat that that was an answer from a responsible Minister! It was mud-slinging and smearing. He did not try to answer the question.
Let us consider the background of this question. The question arose out of an article I read in the “ New Statesman “. Surely the “ New Statesman “ is not speaking for Khrushchev. This is what the *’ New Statesman “ of 12th October had to say under the heading “ Cuba. The Role of the UN”-
It was shrewd, as well as commendable, of President Dorticos to propose negotiations under UN auspices between the United States and Cuba. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of UN members (including Britain) agree with him, though not all may be prepared to say so. Mr. Adlai Stevenson’s embarrassed rejection of the Dorticos proposal underlines the diplomatic weakness of the American position - which bears a remarkable resemblance to Sir Anthony Eden’s predicament over Suez.
That is what the “ New Statesman “ had to say. I ask again: Do the members of this Government, including the Minister for External Affairs, say that the “ New Statesman” is speaking for Khrushchev? On reading that article I went to the National Library because I wanted to be informed on the matter. I see that the Minister for External Affairs has a very broad grin on his face.
I went to the National Library and I obtained a copy of the speech made by President Dorticos. Included in his speech was the question which I asked the Minister. My question was in two parts. The second part of the speech had to do with a request to support U Thant’s intervention. The leader of my party on Thursday night, 25th October, made the following statement to the press: -
The Federal Parliamentary Labour Party welcomes the intervention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, in the Cuban crisis so momentous for humanity. We believe that every possible step should be taken to obtain acceptance of his appeal because this may help to avert the holocaust of a third world war. Accordingly I have to-night on behalf of the Labour Party asked the Australian Government to use its best endeavours to persuade the United States, Russia and Cuba to accept U Thant’s proposals for a “ coolingoff” period to enable the United Nations to mediate and bring about a settlement. We believe that if the Government will do this it will be giving effect to the heartfelt wish of the Australian people as a whole. Unless a halt is called now it may be too late to prevent a disaster for mankind; no influence which might help to bring about that halt should go unused.
I think that supports the second portion of the proposal to support U Thant’s intervention and that all sane people throughout Australia will applaud the decision by the leader of my party, but not the smearing Minister for External Affairs. The first part of my question is now history.
The Minister, during a time of peace, went ahead and wanted to give a gold-stamp approval for a possible war over Cuba that could have had as a consequence the starting of third world war. That was the attitude of the man who holds the External Affairs portfolio. He smiles. His interpretation and my interpretation of peace are entirely different. Let me tell the Minister this: During the last war when we had to fight nazi Germany and fascist Japan I at least made a contribution to that struggle. I experienced conventional warfare and I have seen the horrors of nuclear warfare. I have seen men dying by hundreds and thousands - Chinese and Indians, as Well as our own men on the Burma-Siam Railway. I have seen men dying, swollen out of all proportion because of the horrors inflicted by men upon men. Of course I have a different interpretation of peace from that of the Minister.
I saw an atomic bomb dropped on the people of Nagasaki. Admittedly I did not realize the significance of it then, but two years ago I returned to Japan and I did see the scars of atomic burns, and I did see the horrors of genetic warfare. Certainly I have a different opinion about peace from that of the Minister. What did the Minister do in the last war? He represented the monopolies of this country. He was a “ brief “ man. He represented pounds, shillings and pence. On the occasion of his election to Parliament, I saw him being interviewed on television. He said, “ I can now financially afford to enter Parliament “. He could not go to war when we were fighting for freedom and democracy. Of course the Minister and I have different interpretations of “ peace “. I say to the Minister that I am a socialist, and I am proud of socialism. I know that the Minister speaks for monopolistic capitalism and leads the jackboot boys who are among the backbenchers of the Liberal Party. I should like to quote some remarks made by the late Ben Chifley-
I will not be pushed over to the right because of the whispered word “Communist”. If I think a thing is worth fighting for, I will fight.
I think world peace and my socialist ideals are worth fighting for, and no smear by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) will shake me in those ideals. It does not matter what the jeers are; I am prepared to line up my record for fighting for peace and freedom and for love of my country. I have fought before, and if freedom is in jeopardy I will fight again, because we on this side of the chamber love Australia and we want to preserve its freedom.
.- May I address myself to some aspects of the hire-purchase matters raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on 30th August and early in October. Hire purchase as we know it, and as it is known in America, has made a contribution to life in both countries and other places. It has made it possible for a great many people to obtain cars and appliances of all descriptions, such as washing machines and television sets; and whatever else one may say about it, it has created a great many new industries and a great many new jobs which are well paid.
– What company are you speaking for?
– I am not speaking for any company. I should like to make a few comments about what was said by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler about a company.
– They said Goodwins.
– I should like to reply to those remarks which can be effec- tively answered only in this House where they were made.
– Are you a director of this company?
– How stupid can one get. I have no connexion with the company whatever. But let us look at the position. This firm of Goodwins of Newtown has been traduced in this place. It has been slated and criticized very bitterly in this place.
– Do you reckon they are right?
– This firm has been able to supply goods cheaper than any other hire-purchase company in Australia, and if the honorable member who is shrieking out now has a copy of the statement that it has circulated to all honorable members he will see that this firm gave back the interest. Its last published accounts show that it gave back £200,000 in interest in the last year. No other hire-purchase company in Australia could offer goods at a price as low as that charged by this company. If this firm was able to supply goods at half the price charged by others, why was this attack made on it? There is something sinister about this attack by honorable members opposite.
The first thing that happened was that in Sydney the other hire-purchase companies started a boycott against this firm and tried to persuade the manufacturers not to supply it because those companies were being hurt in their business operations because this firm was supplying goods at £100 less, in the case of an expensive television set. Of course, the other hirepurchase companies began a vendetta and persuaded some manufacturers not to supply this firm until the New South Wales State Labour Government threatened to bring in a monopolies act to force them to abandon their restrictive trade practices. As a result, this ring of hire-purchase companies which had been trying to prevent this firm from getting its goods brought its vendetta into this Parliament. Honorable members should not forget that in the New South Wales Parliament the Labour Minister for Justice retracted previous statements he had made and said that he had made inquiries and had found that this company, which has been attacked, had never tried to get around the Hire-Purchase Act of N.S.W. or the hire-purchase ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory. That ordinance is similar to the N.S.W. HirePurchase Act and, incidentally, that act, brought in by a State Labour government, provides for a flat interest rate of 10 per cent.
– It is a maximum of 10 per cent., which means a rate of about 20 per cent. That is provided for in that Labour Government’s hire-purchase act.
– It is too much.
– This firm thought it was too much and promised that if payments were made regularly it would give back the whole of the interest, which in some cases amounted to £140. Honorable gentlemen opposite have copies of the company’s statement.
Two things about this matter need to be pointed out. There is no need to criticize this Government because this is a New South Wales Labour Government law, and it has been dealt with in that Parliament upon a question by Mr. Dalton which was replied to by Mr. Mannix, Minister for Justice in New South Wales, who said that the firm had never infringed that act. The group of hire-purchase companies in New South Wales had been hurt by the undercutting of the maximum interest, and they started this vendetta. It is a pretty bad thing when two members of this Parliament carry on that vendetta in this chamber. They have backed up this ring of companies and the rest of the sharks who were charging the maximum interest rate. Those two honorable members have come into this chamber on behalf of those companies. There is no defence to that. I feel that a particularly rotten thing has been done in this Parliament. I repeat that this firm was charging less than the other firms; but it has been attacked here. All the things that have been said against it have been published, which has given support to this ring of hire-purchase companies that tried to boycott this firm.
Two members of the Labour Party have come into this chamber and have taken sides with that ring of hire-purchase companies that tried to put this firm out of business because it was charging no interest. The Labour Party comes out of this pretty badly indeed. The honorable member for Grayndler is laughing. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not laughing because he knows that this is a pretty serious matter. He and the honorable member for Grayndler have attacked this company, which has tried to bring goods more cheaply to the people. In so doing it turns out that, perhaps unconsciously, they are acting on behalf of the sharks in the hire-purchase ring. They have made a dastardly attack upon this company. They have become the champions of the higher interest men; they have become the champions of the people who have been charging the full 10 per cent, on a flat rate, which is 20 per cent, on the whole amount owing. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler are the champions of those companies that charge this excessive interest. The truth has been set out in the statement which the firm concerned has circulated to each member of this Parliament. Everybody who cared to read it was informed that this firm offered to pay £10,000 to charity if anybody could prove the statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Nobody has proved that statement. The honorable members who made this attack were too cowardly; they sheltered here in the cowards’ castle of parliamentary privilege.
– The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) deserves credit for defending his friends.
– They are better than your friends.
– A man is entitled to choose the company that he keeps and, of course, he is equally entitled to be judged by the company that he keeps.
– I do not keep that company.
– It keeps you.
– As the Deputy Leader says, it is more likely that that company keeps you.
– You are a liar.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Macarthur to withdraw that remark. It is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw it and I say that that statement is a falsehood and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro knows it.
– I believe that the honorable member for Macarthur will be well paid, in thanks, by this company for the effort that he has put up on its behalf to-night. But the statements that he has made are ridiculously false. He has suggested that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and I have been actuated by a sinister motive.
– It would not be the first time.
– The honorable member for Wannon says that it would not be the first time. That remark is not worthy of him. The honorable member for Macarthur said that we have engaged in a dastardly attack on behalf of all other hirepurchase companies, which he claims are engaged in a wicked conspiracy against Goodwins Limited whom he pictures as the friend and helper of the poor. Of course, there is not a single word of truth in that.
All the statements that I made to the House to-day were based on letters and documents voluntarily sent to me by people in three States who had had dealings with this company, and who were so incensed by the way in which they were treated that they offered to provide their names and addresses and to give evidence at any inquiry that this Government would set up.
– What about the £10,000?
– Reference has been made to the £10,000. I explained that this morning perfectly clearly. Mr. Goodwin offered to give £10,000 to a charity if I could prove within seven days certain statements that he attributed to me. There were no means whatever, no matter what evidence I produced, by which he could be compelled to hold the claims to be proved and to pay the £10,000. He alone was to be the judge.
– Why not have a shot at it?
– The honorable member for Corangamite says, “ Why not have a shot at it?” I was quite ready to do so. Here is the answer: I publicly invited-
– Under privilege!
– No, not under privilege; outside this Parliament. I publicly invited Mr. Goodwin to put his offer to pay that £10,000 in written and legal form and to post the cheque to an independent arbitrator. I said that I would then submit all my evidence to that arbitrator and abide by his decision. After that there was silence from Mr. Goodwin on that point. That is the answer about the £10,000.
The other ridiculous statement made by the honorable member for Macarthur is that this firm has charged lower interest than other firms, has remitted interest, and in some cases has remitted all interest charges. It has never, in any case, done anything of the sort. It has always charged the utmost interest. Not only has it charged the utmost interest permissible under the law of New South Wales, but it has also charged, as I have shown, interest on maintenance charges and insurance charges right from the beginning, although those charges do not accrue and are not payable until several years afterwards. In every case in which a person responded to any one of the fraudulent advertising offers made by Goodwins Limited, if that person signed a contract he ended up finding that he had committed himself to paying not an amount less than the list price but an amount, on the average, equal to twice the list price of the set that he was buying.
While the honorable member for Macarthur weeps crocodile tears over this firm, let me quote to the House one or two illustrations of the company’s behaviour.
Mr. G. is an age pensioner aged 76 years. His son purchased a set from Goodwins Limited on terms, but became ill, lost his employment, was compelled to go to hospital, and is now living with a plastic tube joined to his stomach after an operation. The son is utterly incapable of earning any money and utterly incapable of even leaving the room in which he is living. All those facts were made known to Goodwins Limited by his father. The company was begged to recognize that he could pay no more and to take the set back. The father says: “I asked them three times to come and get the set, but received no answer “. He telephoned the company. He called at its shop. He wrote to it. But it would do nothing. All that it demanded was the continued payment of the instalments. The father also says: “ The set is still here, but is never used. For months I have left the door open when going out, but they never call for it. Instead my son, still very ill and workless, has received yet another summons from Goodwins requiring him to pay up or go to court.” Who could have sympathy for a company that will act like that? Who, except the honorable member for Macarthur, could stand up in this House and defend a company that will act like that? This matter was then referred to the Public Solicitor of New South Wales. Then this poor, sick lad and his aged father had proper legal help.
– Did you check the circumstances.
– Yes. These are the facts conveyed from the Public Solicitor, through the father, to me: The Public Solicitor took the matter up. I received a letter from the father a couple of days ago, thanking rae very much indeed and saying that, after all these months, at last Goodwins Limited had taken the set back.
Mrs. F. answered a Goodwins Limited advertisement offering television sets for £45. She rang a number quoted in the advertisement and was assured that the set would be available. She was told that her name would be placed on a set and she said that she would arrive by 12 o’clock. She travelled all the way from Maroubra to Newtown and arrived by 11 o’clock, only to be told that all the sets were sold and to have high-pressure salesmanship used on her in an endeavour to compel her or to induce her to buy another set. This lady was a fighter. She took every step to endeavour to compel the firm to live up to its advertised offer, but she could get no redress.
The same advertisement appeared that evening and again the next evening. Her mother then travelled to the Campsie branch of the firm. She arrived there before 9 o’clock in the morning to take advantage of this offer. She was inside as soon as the doors were opened, only to be told that all the sets at that price were sold. The company tried to persuade her to buy a set at a higher price. Let the honorable member for Macarthur defend such tactics if he can.
Mr. Speaker, do you know any other firm which makes contracts with people in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide in such a way that summonses cannot be defended unless the people who have entered into those contracts come to Canberra to defend them? The honorable member for Macarthur is proud to defend a firm that will engage in activities of that kind. I have shown that on one day the firm obtained default judgments against more than 40 defendants from these three States in the court in Canberra, although in most of the cases the defendants believed that they did not owe the money-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I will not keep the House terribly long. I believe that it is time that the Government got tough with some of the people in Papua and New Guinea who bring Australia into disrepute by exploitation of and discrimination against the indigenous people of that Territory. No one wants Australia to get a bad name in international affairs as a result of the activities of a handful of racketeering speculators and entrepreneurs who do a disservice even to the decent people engaged in the same sort of business in the same place. I feel it is time for the Government to take a stand wherever it finds any examples of discrimination or exploitation. I am sure that no one in this House would express the view that it is justifiable for people to indulge in these outmoded habits. We of the Opposition do not stand for this kind of thing. We know that the Australian people are hoping that they will be able to establish decent relations with the people of Papua and New Guinea, regardless of what the future of those people may be. It is towards that end that I direct my remarks this evening. I am not making an endeavour to discredit this country in the eyes of the world. I hope that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will continue to do the kind of thing that he did this year. This is the year in which, on the Minister’s own admission, thirteen ordinances were introduced for the express purpose of correcting the exploitation of the indigenous people.
I want to refer to three particular cases. The first concerns the granting of the right to drink intoxicating liquor to the indigenous people, which I think came into operation on Tuesday of this week. This is a right which is fairly and squarely conceded by most Australians and applauded by the peoples of the world. I was horrified to-night to read in a copy of the “Pacific Islands Post “ in the library that a patrol officer in a particular part of the Territory intends to ensure that the local Papuan school teacher will never be admitted to his club. This, in my view, is most undesirable.
The next matter concerns the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to some extent. In Port Moresby, I am told, there is a club called the Aviat Club which has been established for the purpose of providing club facilities for the employees of the Department of Civil Aviation who work in the Territory. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of these circumstances or not. In anticipation of the indigenous people of the Territory being given the right to drink, this club has already taken steps to amend its constitution in order that the indigenous people of the Territory, including those who are employed by the department - under a different ordinance I assume - will be excluded from membership of the club.
– Are you sure of that?
– Yes. I have this on very good authority. I feel that this matter is important enough to be examined by the Minister, particularly in view of the fact that this blatant example of racial discrimination involves public servants. I am sure that a large number of members of the club would never concede that this is a desirable proposal. It should also be taken into consideration that this club enjoys a tenancy at a peppercorn rental, at the expense of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The third case that I want to mention concerns the plight of eleven Papuan seamen who have been stranded on a ship in White’s shipyard at East Balmain. At the request of the Seamen’s Union, I went to look at this ship. To my amazement, I found eleven Papuan seamen there, who could speak English very well, living in the most shocking circumstances. They were accommodated in what seamen describe as an open forecastle. This, in effect, was a black hole of Calcutta. The seamen slept in three-tier bunks. They were deprived of amenities such as sheets and pillow slips. They had the most miserable type of blankets. There was no division in their cabin, and they had no reasonable ventilation. They had been told that they would be brought to Sydney and would stay there for not more than two weeks. I arrived after they had been there for five weeks, and I believe they are still there, which would mean that they have been there for about seven weeks. They are on a ship called the “ Vasse “.
Although these poor unfortunate seamen normally get £15 a month when serving in the waters of Papua and New Guinea, they were receiving no more than £7 a month for their service in Sydney. In other words, they are required to sustain themselves on about £1 15s. a week. The Seamen’s Union was so incensed that it sent a telegram to the United Nations, hoping to prompt some investigation into this matter. I have ascertained that these eleven seamen have 41 dependants in Hanuabada and other places around Port Moresby who depend on their £1 15s. a week. It had been arranged that the seamen would be provided with keep, but all that they were being provided with was bully beef and rice twice a day. They were provided with nothing but a billy of tea at lunchtime. They were without cooking utensils except for a two-gallon dixie. The sympathetic dock workers in the yard adjoining knocked up a frying pan for them out of some old scrap iron.
These seamen are stranded in Sydney, with no opportunity to see the Harbour Bridge or Manly or Luna Park. Here was a first-class opportunity for eleven Papuan seamen to see this country and go back as some sort of ambassadors. Instead of that, we have subjected them to an embarrassing set of circumstances, to the discredit of our country. The union worked very hard on their behalf and after a number of weeks it won a ration of tobacco for them. The company which engaged them is Civic Constructions, of Port Moresby. I would not be prepared to suggest that this company has anything to do with Civil and Civic Constructions Limited. Civic Constructions of Port Moresby purchased this ex-army ship, the “Vasse”, and intends to take it back to Papua for the purpose of indulging in the copra trade at the first opportunity. Doubtless, this organization has a lucrative business. Doubtless it is doing very well, but it is far too lousy to supply the seamen with a decent meal. Even when it was forced by the union to give them tobacco, it would not supply them with cigarette papers, and the natives may be seen smoking tobacco with newspaper wrapped around it.
I hope that this matter will receive the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) and the Minister for Territories. I am sure that the exposure of unprincipled exploiters who indulge in this kind of practice will be of great benefit to Australia and will cause a breaking down of this type of practice, which in the past has brought us into disrepute and which has been against the best interests of the people of the Territory and of the Administration there, for which this Government is responsible.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. A few minutes ago the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) implied that I spoke this morning in what was, in effect, a censure motion on Goodwin’s Limited because certain financial sharks had sponsored me to make that speech. I said what I did say for the same reason as that which actuated the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I had received numerous complaints about this matter from my constituents. I mentioned them in the Parliament and substantiated them. Like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I would be prepared to do that outside the Parliament if this Government instituted an inquiry. The honorable member for Macarthur completely misrepresented my intentions. That is understandable because, as a member of the Liberal Party executive, he was no doubt defending a principal shareholder in that company, the Honorable A. D. Bridges, M.L.C., a prominent member of the Liberal Party in New South Wales.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Article 37 of the Australia-New Zealand Agreement of 1944 provides for various methods of consultation between’ the two countries. Article 37 reads as follows: - “The two Governments agree that the methods to be used for carrying out the provisions of Clause 35 of this Agreement and of other provisions of this Agreement shall be consultation, exchange of information and, where applicable, joint planning. They further agree that such methods shall include:
The last formal Conference held under Article 37 (a) of the Agreement took place in Wellington in November, 1944. Other visits by Ministers of both countries have taken place, of course, since that time.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Book on Indonesia: Source of Weapons Supply - Recall of Author.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. No. _ -
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Instances of trade practices have been brought to my notice which indicate that there is a question for investigation whether they work a detriment to the economy. 3 and 4. I propose to make a statement during this sessional period as to the nature of the legislation which the Government contemplates.
s. - On 25th October, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) asked me whether any further approach had been made to the Commonwealth by the Government of Western Australia for sharing the cost of extending the comprehensive water scheme in that State.
The position of the scheme covered by the Western Australian Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948-1957 remains as outlined in my reply of 7th March, 1962, to an earlier question by the honorable member.
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The information sought in question No. 5 is not available to my department. The information sought in questions Nos. 1 to 4 is supplied in the following table: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621108_reps_24_hor37/>.