House of Representatives
24 September 1963

24th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

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Mr. L. R. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.

Petition received.

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Prime Minister · KooyongPrime Minister · LP

– I wish to inform the House of the ministerial arrangements to be effective during the absence from Australia of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on official business, and also during the indisposition of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). The Treasurer will be overseas from 20th September to 13th October. During that period he will attend the meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in London commencing to-day and the annual meetings of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund in Washington next week. In his absence Senator Paltridge will act as Treasurer and I, within the limits of my capacity, will represent him in this House. I shall act as chairman of the Australian Loan Council - not for the first time.

The Postmaster-General will also be absent from the House this week following an operation. All honorable members know that he has had a good deal of trouble of a bronchitic kind. It has turned out to be necessary, on medical advice, that he have a slight operation. Therefore, honorable members, whilst regretting that, will be quite prepared to observe that he will not be here this week. During his absence the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) will reply to questions which should be addressed to the Postmaster-General, either by giving answers or by asking that they be put on the notice-paper.

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– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the situation in Malaysia. When does the right honorable gentleman expect to be in a position to make a statement on that matter to the House?


– I had hoped to be in a position to make that statement to-day - or to have one made, at any rate - but, as the honorable gentleman knows, for my manifold sins I have been a little out of action for the last few days. Now, still sinful, I am healthy. This morning in Cabinet we devoted a great deal of attention to this matter. The position of Australia in relation to Malaysia is obviously a matter of first-class importance on which, first, there ought to be a completely clear and well-considered statement by the Government and, secondly, there ought to be an opportunity for honorable members to engage in debate on the situation. This being so, I would like to be in a position to make a statement at such a time as would enable the Leader of the Opposition to have some hours in which to study it and engage in consultation about it. I agree that this is a matter of great importance. I hoped that the Minister for External Affairs would be able to make this statement, because the matter is in his bailiwick, but, his departure for the United States of America having already been postponed, it is really necessary for him to leave at a later hour to-day. However, I have had the great benefit, as my colleagues have, of discussion with him, and he has given us his views. I will therefore produce in due course a statement which will represent the, I hope, unclouded, and certainly the combined, view of the Government. But this requires some writing, and as it will now be necessary for me to make this statement I hope the House will concede to me the privilege of writing my own statement.

Mr Haylen:

– It will be made this week?


– I will devote the afternoon to this task, and I expect to be able to deliver the statement to the House to-morrow afternoon, depending on the time when it is completed. Honorable members will understand that on a matter of such great importance it is necessary to advise our allies, or certain of them, what our attitude is. I may be able to give the Leader of the Opposition a copy of the statement early to-morrow. If I cannot, and if I deliver the statement after question time to-morrow by permission of the House, I will certainly agree that he should be able to resume the discussion after dinner to-morrow night. I want to make it clear that I regard this as one of the historic occasions. We have approached the matter with great gravity. We want to make a statement which will be the result of complete and careful thought. We do not want the House to be discussing the question on any false assumptions. Therefore, if it is agreeable to the honorable member, this is the kind of time-table that I propose. We do not know from -day to day what is happening in that part of” the world. We have seen some very strange events in the last few days. But nothing that I say tomorrow will be said as a result of what may or may not happen to-morrow; it will be the result of a careful examination of, and a clear determination about, the present state of affairs. I want that to be clear. I want it to be understood that the Government approaches this matter with great seriousness. It wants to make what I might call a definitive statement on the matter, but it certainly does not wish to exclude the Opposition, or, for that matter, any member of the House, from having a full opportunity to discuss the statement in an informed way.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Was a Government decision made some time ago that there should be a measure of integration of the three armed services at certain levels, such as those covering medical and transport services? If this was so, can the Minister say whether progress has been made in this direction?

Minister for Defence · DENISON, TASMANIA · LP

– Yes, a good deal of progress has been made, but it is impossible for me to recall all the details. If the honorable member will allow me, I will treat the question as on notice, and I will let him have a full report.

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Mr Don Cameron:

– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the near inhuman conditions existing at the Eventide Aged People’s Home at Sandgate, Brisbane? In view of those conditions, which I have personally observed, will the Minister appoint officers from his department to conduct an immediate inspection and investigation of the home and, if found to be necessary, recommend that a special federal financial grant be made to the Queensland Government to enable the improvements required at the home to be effected without delay so that it can be brought up to the standards recommended by modern medical authorities for the housing and medical treatment of aged people? Will the Minister advise me at the earliest possible date of the findings of any investigation carried out by his department?

Minister for Repatriation · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · LP

– This is a matter which does not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Minister for Health. However, as the question has been asked and as it involves a number of government departments, but principally departments of the Queensland Government, I will refer it to my colleague and see that a suitable answer is obtained.

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– My question, which concerns the war service land settlement scheme, is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he any recent information about the financial difficulties of a number of war service land settlers in the Rocky Gully-Perillup area of Western Australia? Are the accounts of approximately eighteen settlers being reviewed to see whether the settlers will be permitted to carry on? Does the Minister believe that there is. an abnormally high percentage of bad farmers in that area or that the farms are just not of an adequate standard? Will he consult with the State Government and offer to increase the areas under pasture and the carrying capacity of the farms, and also arrange for some reduction to be made of the enormous debt burden that these properties have accumulated? ,

Minister for Primary Industry · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · CP

– The direct administration of the farms referred to by the honorable member is in the hands of the State Government concerned. I do not have the details in my mind, but I will make investigations and try to obtain the information sought. I do not believe that there is an abnormally high percentage of bad farmers in the area. My personal inspection suggested that both the farms and the farmers are of a high standard, but that does not necessarily mean that extra areas of pasture are required in some instances. I will ask the Director of War Service Land Settlement to take the matter up for me with the State Government.

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– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. In order to prevent confusion from becoming worse confounded, will he state his, or the Government’s, precise intentions with regard to restrictive trade practices legislation? Does the honorable gentleman accept the proposition advanced last week by the Prime Minister that the proposals placed before the House on 6th December last were merely “ a general description of the kind of ideas the Government had in mind “? Does he accept also the Prime Minister’s proposition that the counter-proposals advanced this month by the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council “might well provide the basis for any legislation “? Or docs he still hold to the view he has put forward at length, in pamphlets printed at the public expense, that his own proposals will be the basis for legislation? When does the honorable gentleman propose to bring down the legislation he has been preparing for more than three years?


– I think the honorable member must have been hibernating for some time. When my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, made a speech on this subject in the House, he put forward the proposals of the Government in general terms. It was stated in that speech that they were put forward with a view to public criticism. It was also stated, of course, that it might be necessary to stage them in according to the views we took of the administrative details and other matters, when we had heard a great deal of the public reaction. I’ have con sistently said, at many public meetings which I have addressed, that this question has been approached by the Government with a flexible mind and by me, in particular, with a flexible mind, and that I have looked very closely at the criticisms and opinions offered to me, to ensure that in the long run a useful and appropriate bill is presented to the House.

I have heard a great number of criticisms, some of them springing from ignorance, some from misinformation, some from vested interests and some from blind prejudice, but some, also, that are very useful and constructive. I have heard these criticisms from a great number of quarters, and a group of Ministers, of whom I was one, presided over by the Prime Minister, heard another set of constructive criticisms the other day. They were among a great number of useful criticisms and are being considered. I have considered many proposals which I thought were worthy of acceptance. I have not taken the course from day to day of informing the public that I thought there was need for this modification or for that modification of the original proposals. There will be time enough for that when the various criticisms have been fully assessed.

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– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to his announcement that he has approved of the visit to Australia of an expert on cattle bloat problems. Because of the assured rainfall and abundant fertility of Gippsland, bloat in cattle is a serious problem there. Can the Minister ensure that the expert, Dr. Johns, will visit this important part of Australia in the course of his studies of the problem?


– The procedure which is followed in relation to beef research is that the Cattle and Beef Industry Research Committee considers all the representations made to it, reaches conclusions, and makes recommendations to me as Minister. The committee has recommended that Dr. Johns be brought from New Zealand to Australia, because of his vast experience concerning bloat in cattle. That recommendation was accepted . and Dr. Johns will visit Australia. I am very happy to say that his knowledge and experience should be of great assistance to the beef industry.

The honorable member suggests that Dr. Johns should visit certain areas in Australia. Of course, he will confer with various organizations, the universities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and State departments of agriculture, and give them the benefit of his advice. Naturally, he will visit some of the areas affected by bloat.

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– I ask the Minister for Defence a question which concerns the advice and recommendations given by service chiefs. I preface my question by quoting part of a speech by the Minister for Labour and National Service, which appears at page 311 of “Hansard” of 20th August, 1 963-

The Government is following a policy of gradually expanding the defence forces on sensible lines, as recommended by the defence chiefs. They have made their recommendations to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and he has brought the recommendations to the Government. There is little that the Government has refused. Everything that the defence chiefs have proved is necessary the Government has agreed willingly to grant.

I now ask: Did the Government disregard the advice of its principal experts in the Royal Australian Air Force to adopt the American Vigilante aircraft? Did the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Valston Hancock, after exhaustive inquiries, recommend the Vigilante? Is it a fact that this aircraft will be available by the end of this year? Finally, did the Chief of the Naval Staff or his principal officers recommend the acquisition of an aircraft carrier and was this refused by the Government?


– The honorable member has raised quite a number of policy matters and questions which are considered by Cabinet, and I am sure that he understands that Cabinet discussions are, of course, quite secret. As to the Royal Australian Air Force problem that he raises, I refer him to the Prime Minister’s statement early in the year that an Air Force team would be sent overseas to evaluate various types of aircraft which might be suitable for Australian use. That team has gone overseas and it has reported . to the Government. In due course, the.

Government will consider everything that has been put to it by its advisers.

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– I address to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the United States naval communication station in Western Australia. I ask the honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that work on this station has not yet been started because of labour difficulties. Can the honorable gentleman say what the position is with regard to those difficulties and what action the Government is taking to get this vital work under way?

Minister for Labour and National Service · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– Some work on the United States naval communication station in the north-west of Western Australia has been commenced, but it is true, as the honorable member has said, that work on the construction of the major part of the project has not begun. I have written to the trade union movement through the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The council has been informed that in time the Government will proclaim the naval communication station in the north-west of Western Australia to be a security undertaking and that security measures will be applied there. We have also pointed out to the A.C.T.U. that the Government has no wish to interfere with the normal processes of negotiation for an award as between :he employers and the employees but that it must be appreciated that the declaration of the project as a security undertaking cannot be too long delayed.

Now that the A.C.T.U. conference, which sat during the whole of last week, is over and the president and secretary of the local Trades and Labour Council have returned to Perth, I am hopeful that it will not be long before an award is cither agreed to or submitted to the industrial commission for consideration. Shortly after that has been done we should be able to issue the proclamation.

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– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is correct that, under the acts of the Commonwealth, Asian aliens may be granted .permission to enter Australia only for specific business purposes in which they or their principals have a direct interest. If so, is the permit issued then only available for a limited time, and does it also allow those aliens, while in Australia, actually to engage in any work in that business in either a managerial or supervisory capacity, or in any other manner? Finally, if applications should be made to the Minister for permission for Asians to enter Australia simply for the purpose of working in a particular industry, such as the mining industry, does his position as Minister for Immigration give him the right to grant such a permit if he sees fit to do so?

Minister for Immigration · ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– To answer fully the questions which the honorable gentleman has asked would take up more time than the House would wish at question time, but, in the broad, the position is that there is virtually no difference in the grant of vises for tourist purposes or business purposes as between European and Asian visitors to this country. People who come here for short-term purposes are naturally expected to observe the conditions for which the permit to enter has been granted. There are, of course, exceptional cases, but, again, in instances such as those mentioned by the honorable gentleman, people who are given special permits to come here are most certainly expected to abide by the conditions of their entry. That would certainly be the case in those instances which I think the honorable gentleman has in mind.

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– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he is aware that recently a record steel shipment of 17,920 tons was shipped from Port Kembla by Australian Iron and Steel Limited to Antwerp and the United Kingdom. Does the Minister recognize such a record shipment as one of importance and significance and as one which emphasizes Australia’s ability to compete on overseas markets with other great steel exporting countries, including Japan? If so, can the honorable gentleman tell the House why Australia cannot compete to advantage with Japan in the New Zealand steel trade?

Minister for Trade · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– T am aware of the shipment, of about 1S.000 tons of steel to Belgium to which the honorable member referred. This is not the first occasion on which Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and its subsidiaries have been able to show their ability to compete with other manufacturers on the European markets and other markets around the world. The type of steel sold on some of these markets is not always the type that we consume at home or sell to New Zealand. Undoubtedly, the Australian steel industry is competitive and those who manage it are vigorous in pursuing overseas markets. It would be wrong to assume that we have been beaten out of the New Zealand market by Japan. There has, of course, been some competition there and sales fluctuate. The figures I have show that in 1961 we sold to New Zealand 91,000 tons of iron and steel and that last year we sold 110,000 tons. Up to the end of August of this year, we have sold 68,000 tons. So Australia is maintaining its grip on the New Zealand market and is certainly maintaining its competitive position.

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– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Are persons interested in the frozen meat trade with the United States of America endeavouring to charter a freezer ship so that they can counter the recently announced 10 per cent, increase in freight rates? Has any approach been made to the Government requesting assistance for this project? Will the Minister favorably consider any request for a subsidy or other assistance in establishing an Australian-controlled sea link with the United States? Will the Government and its supporters, especially the members of the Australian Country Party, re-consider their attitude towards an Australian national overseas shipping line, the establishment of which would prevent Australian primary producers from being held to ransom by overseas shipping combines?


– The Australian Meat Board comes within my administration. Last week I answered a question asked by the honorable member for Petrie on this subject. The Meat Export Control Act confers powers on the board to control contracts for the shipment of meat to overseas destinations. The board intends to use those powers, and further freight increases will have to be justified before it will agree to any shipments. The board is taking action under the act to discuss freight rates with the shipping companies. The increased rates will not operate until 1st November next. This gives the board some time to discuss the matter before the increases take effect.

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– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Some days ago, the right honorable gentleman told the House that discussions had been held on action to cut the cost of drugs supplied under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Is he able to say whether the Government proposes to take action and, if so, the nature of the action?


– This matter is really not within my bailiwick. The Minister for Health has been looking after it and I will, of course, convey the honorable member’s inquiry to him. I have been rather on the receiving side of these problems in the last few days.

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– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister as the representative in this chamber of the Acting Treasurer. I ask: Has he read a statement by a representative of business machine firms complaining that unless the Government makes an early decision about compensation for the alteration of business machines to work in dollars and cents, such machines will not be available for the introduction of decimal currency by February, 1966? In view of this complaint, when is a statement about compensation likely to be made?


– The answer to that question is, “ As soon as possible “. I welcome the honorable member’s interest in this matter. However, a board is dealing with such problems at this very moment, and the matter he raises is one of its specific jobs. If the honorable member thinks that the Government is interested in prolonging a period of uncertainty, he has another guess coming. Wc have made our announcements on this matter and we wish to live up to the time-table as much as anybody else, and perhaps more than most.

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– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is consequent on the question asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay and concerns the increase in freights on shipping services to the United States of America. As I understand the situation, the Australian Meat Board has power to examine the basis of and the justification for these increased rates. Can the Minister tell the House what powers the board has to deal with the situation in the event of the board determining that in its opinion the rates being charged are unjustified?


– The Australian Meat Board has asked mc whether I have any objection to its using its powers and conferring to ensure that all increased freights provided for in contracts are justified. The board has certain powers under the terms of the act under which it functions, but I do not propose, on the basis of an assumption, to suggest to the honorable member what may happen.

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– I should like to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Docs he recall my speech on the estimates for the Department of the Interior last week in which I urged the establishment of a Commonwealth national parks authority on a joint basis with the State authorities controlling national parks, which are themselves keen on the establishment of such an organization? Will the Minister seriously consider the suggestion? There are a longstanding National Park Service in the United States of America and similar organizations in Canada, West Germany and most of the countries that have national parks. Are there any constitutional barriers to the establishment of such a federal authority in Australia?

Minister for the Interior · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I have a faint recollection of having heard the honorable member speak about this matter. I am not aware of the precise differences between the Australian Constitution and those of the United States of America, Canada and West Germany in relation to this matter. In Australia, control of the lands in each State rests with the State government except for lands that are required for Commonwealth purposes. At present, Commonwealth purposes do not include the provision of national parks, although the term would imply otherwise. However, I shall have a look at the problem that the honorable member has raised.

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– My question is directed to the Prime Minister both in his capacity as head of the Government and in his capacity as Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Is he aware that a double tax deduction similar to that allowed to manufacturers for export market development, if allowed to wool-growers for a contribution of £1 a bale for wool promotion, would cost the revenue approximately £5,000,000? As international wool promotion undoubtedly constitutes export market development, will the right honorable gentleman take this into account when making a decision on the request of the Australian Wool Industry Conference for a Government contribution to wool promotion, which, on the basis of £1 a bale, also would cost the revenue about £5,000,000?


– The Government is at present considering representations made on behalf of the wool industry to a group of Ministers concerning the whole question of wool promotion. In considering those representations I will certainly have taken into account the suggestions just made by the honorable member.

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– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that yesterday the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr. Shann, and seven members of his staff assisted the United Kingdom Ambassador to prevent Indonesians breaking into the strongroom of what remains of the United Kingdom Embassy in Djakarta. Has the honorable gentleman any information to give to the Parliament concerning that incident? Does the action taken by the Australian Ambassador come within the usual duties of the position?


– It is correct that when the British Ambassador in Djakarta had reason to believe that the safe at his chancellory was likely to be breached, no doubt to get his secret documents and ciphers, a great part of the diplomatic corps in the city rallied and assisted the British to prevent that breach of diplomatic privilege happening. I should have thought that the action taken by the Australian Ambassador would have been applauded.

Sir Robert Menzies:

– The honorable member for Kingston is apologizing for it.


– Yes. It is within our ambassador’s function to do that very thing.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is the honorable gentleman aware that recently Dr. L. A. Senseman, a leading American psychiatrist, warned that Australia faced a grave alcohol problem in Papua and New Guinea and that the problem could easily get out of hand very quickly if nothing is done to educate the natives in drinking habits? Does the Minister consider that present drinking habits in the Territory provide grounds for such a warning?

Minister for Territories · CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I am not aware of the statement to which the honorable member has referred. Undoubtedly in Papua and New Guinea to-day, following the removal of prohibition on drinking, there is a problem which I trust will be a temporary and limited problem. The problem exists because some people who previously were not accustomed to drink are now at complete liberty to drink. The Government has given attention to this matter, principally by encouraging the work of temperance organizations. I am glad to be able to report that Australian temperance organizations have formed in the Territory an organization to engage in temperance education. The Government is giving financial support as well as other encouragement to that effort. The financial support takes the form of providing air travel between Australia and the Territory for accredited workers of the organization and an annual subsidy towards the salary of every qualified temperance educator. The Government also assists with some of the organizational and printing expenses of the organization. In addition, of course, in our own schools, as in Australia, temperance education is given, not as a separate and special subject, but as part of the general science teaching given to school children.

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– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade by pointing out that Australia has had a deficit balance of payments of £1,900,000,000 since 1950 and that we have had a deficit balance of payments, including invisibles, with the United Kingdom and the United States of America of £2,800,000,000 between 1950 and 1962. As the Minister has just reviewed our trading policy with Japan, with which we have had a very favorable balance, will he also review our trading policies with the United Kingdom and the United States and try to rectify the imbalance in trade with those two countries?


– The Australian trade as well as the world trade generally of the United Kingdom and the United Stales is on the point of a world-wide review under the so-called Kennedy round. I am moderately optimistic that there will follow from the Kennedy round new arrangements which will open up opportunities for us to export our bulk products such as foodstuffs and raw materials to wider markets at better prices. This is the Government’s policy objective. If it can be achieved, it will have a far-reaching and beneficial effect on our total balance of trade.

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– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that last Wednesday there seemed to be a complete breakdown in communications between his department and the Government, with the result that no member of the Government was aware of the very important international events which were happening that night? Have steps been taken to avoid any recurrence of this breakdown, so that when the House is sitting Ministers will be able to inform us accurately of what is happening?


– I was not here on that occasion. I shall have to make inquiries to ascertain whether the honorable gentleman’s statement of the facts is correct. 1 do not know whether it is.

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– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry, ls it a fact that notwithstanding the existence of the Australian Wool Board, supposedly versed in all the intricacies of wool marketing, and the appointment of the growerdominated organization known as the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the conference chairman and executive have announced the appointment of two independent authorities to advise on the justification for the imposition of a wool promotion levy of 44s. a bale as recommended by the Wool Board? Why has not this problem been resolved by the authorities appointed by the Menzies Government? ls the recently enacted Menzies legislation a rank failure?


– The suggestion contained in the last part of the honorable member’s question is out of court. The comprehensive legislation which has been enacted by this Parliament gives the wool industry the machinery by which it can work out its own destiny. It is seeking to do that efficiently. If the Australian Wool Industry Conference decides to obtain expert advice on certain economic matters it is entitled to do so. Why should it not do so? I have no objection to that.

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Australians resident in decentralized areas regard as of paramount importance the continuance of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act in its present form. If there is a move to amend the act, before any definite action is taken will the Minister make an announcement of the Government’s intentions so that representatives of rural Australia will have a chance to present their views?

Minister for Shipping and Transport · CORIO, VICTORIA · LP

– The question of Commonwealth aid for roads will be discussed as a matter of Government policy in the new year. I have received deputations from various interested bodies, and their submissions will be considered. I understand that on one occasion my predecessor in office called a meeting of interested organizations and that this meeting was successful. 1 can assure the honorable gentleman that before any policy is formulated those concerned will have an opportunity to present their cases.

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– Has the Minister for External Affairs noticed that French officials have stated that Australia’s opposition to the conduct of nuclear tests by France in the Pacific would affect the relations that exist between that country and Australia? If that statement has been made, does Australia propose to continue opposition to such tests, or is it likely that the attitude of the Australian Government will change? If the Government’s attitude is not likely to change, exactly what does the Government propose to do to oppose the tests? Will Australia support action taken in the United Nations against them? What other form is the opposition that Australia might exhibit likely to take?


– Of course, I do not propose to answer any questions that involve matters of Government policy; but I can tell the honorable gentleman that we have continued our opposition to French testing in the Pacific. I thought - I am not sure about this - that the reply that was made to the French diplomatic approach to us was published, and that this reply made our position quite clear.

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Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


– Order! Has the honorable member been misrepresented?


– I think so. During question time, when I asked the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) a question, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), by way of interjection - I think he misunderstood my point in asking the question - implied that I was apologizing for Australia’s strong action in Indonesia. I want to make it clear that the only reference I made to whether the action came within the duties of the Australian Ambassador was to the effect that I thought the Australian Ambassador had gone far beyond what would normally be expected of an ambassador, I applaud his action. I think Australia is very fortunate that he represents us in Indonesia.


– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in debating the matter.


– I only wish to make it clear that the ambassador’s action is applauded.

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– On 8th September, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) directed my attention to an article which appeared in the Sydney “Sun” newspaper of 17th September concerning the prices charged for meals obtained in the parliamentary refreshment rooms. I have read the newspaper report which states, among other things, that “ Federal parliamentarians can now have a three-course meal for 5/- instead of 6/-“; and I repeat that such a report is completely inaccurate and unfair to members of the House.

It is true that recently the minimum charge in the dining rooms was reduced from 6s. to 5s., but a three-course meal cannot be obtained for that amount. In fact, 5s. would not purchase any main course item on the menu. There is an official price list attached to the menu and the same charges are applied to members of the press and the staffs of the House as to the members and senators themselves. Any implication that expensive dishes, such as oysters and the like, can be obtained for the minimum charge is a gross distortion.

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Assent to the following bills reported: -

Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1963.

Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1963.

Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1963.

Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Preference) Bill 1963.

Excise Tariff Bill 1963.

Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1963.

Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1963.

Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1963.

Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1963.

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LOAN (HOUSING) BILL (No. 2) 1963

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 15th August (vide page 194), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- Mr. Speaker, this bill makes the annual appropriation under the housing agreement, first, for the purposes of the State housing authorities themselves and, secondly, for the purposes of building societies. The bill makes the allocations for those purposes at much the same rate as they achieved in the last two years; that is, it maintains them at the rate which the Government has found necessary for economic reasons since the third credit squeeze, the deflationary measures of November, 1960. It will be noted that I emphasize that the Government has found these allocations necessary for economic reasons. The Government’s thinking on this matter is concerned with economic motives more than with social needs.

It is possible for any government to exercise a great deal of economic influence through housing. It is able to do so because housing construction depends on government allocations, as it has over the last twenty years, and on the amount of money made available for private housing by banks and life assurance companies, as it has for generations past. In both respects, this Government has deliberately exercised an economic influence during its term of office. It has never hitherto assessed the social need for housing in the community. It is twenty years since there was a federal inquiry into housing needs in the proper social sense. All the State housing ministers have asked for such an inquiry now. Their request has been supported by a great number of academics and banking and co-operative executives. My purpose and the Opposition’s purpose in debating this bill will be to urge the necessity for making such a survey once again. Such a survey can be made more readily in respect of housing than in respect of most other matters.

Planning in a federal system such as ours, working within a framework devised by Slate politicians ‘last century, is never easy.

But in respect of those matters which depend on the forecast of population it is relatively easy to assess needs. It is relatively easy to assess the demand for housing. It is relatively easy to assess the demand for education. We know, for ten years or so ahead, how many people are already in Australia and will be requiring various forms of education. It is possible, for say twenty years ahead, to know how many people are in Australia and will be wanting various forms of housing. The only imponderable in respect of education and housing - these great matters which depend on demographic forecasts - is the extent to which we may benefit from migration. But in respect of education and housing, fluctuations in migration that we can contemplate are still only marginal matters. Therefore, it should be possible to plan ahead in education and housing.

These are matters in which the Commonwealth should clearly take the initiative. In every matter in which Government expenditure is involved, inevitably the Commonwealth’s responsibility is paramount. There may be some dispute as to the degree of responsibility which the Commonwealth should accept in regard to education; there can be no dispute as to the degree of responsibility which the Commonwealth should accept in regard to housing. It is the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth alone, which makes public moneys available for housing. It is the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth alone, which determines how much private money, through the banks and the insurance companies, should be made available for housing.

The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his second-reading speech made some more general budgetary references. He referred to the amount of money which the Commonwealth was making available under this and associated allocations in the present financial year. It is true that the amount of money provided this year under this bill, as I have already stated, is virtually the same as the amount that was allocated in the last two financial years under bills with similar names. There has, however, this year been a reduction of £2,500,000 in the allocation for war service homes. . There has been a reduction of £90,000 in the allocations for housing in the Australian Capital Territory. It is not so easy at this stage to work out how much is being allocated for housing in the Northern Territory through various avenues.

The Treasurer also made a reference to interest rates in his second-reading speech. The Treasurer has now, for the first time under the Menzies Government, reduced interest rates. It will be remembered that interest rates on loans for housing made by savings banks and life assurance societies were increased in 1952, 1956 and 1960-61. In each case, of course, the increased interest rates had to be paid by persons who had borrowed money from those institutions on mortgage. In each case, also, the increased rates had to be paid by persons who had borrowed money from building societies which, in turn, had had loans from life assurance societies and savings banks. In 1956 and 1961 there were increases in the interest rates charged by housing commissions on allocations under the Loan (Housing) Acts, that is, under the Housing Agreements of 1956 and 1961. Following on the reduction of interest rates on Commonwealth bonds in this calendar year there has, for the first time, been a decrease in the interest rate on some housing loans. There has been a decrease in the interest rate which has to be paid by the State housing authorities for the money which they have received under the Housing Agreement. There has been a decrease in the amount which has had to be paid by borrowers from building societies which have received money under the Housing Agreement. There has been a decrease in the interest rate which has had to be paid by borrowers from the savings banks, and there has also been a decrease in the interest rate which has had to be paid by borrowers from building societies which have had loans from savings banks. However, there has still been no decrease in the interest rate which has to be paid to life societies, both by those who borrowed directly on mortgage from the societies and by those who borrowed from building societies which had had loans from the life societies.

But even with these decreases in interest under the housing agreement and in respect of savings banks, the interest rate still is as high as it was at the time of the second credit squeeze in 1956 and higher than it was at the time of the credit squeeze in 1952. There is, therefore, still room for a decrease in interest rates.

It is not inappropriate to recall, in discussing these matters of interest rates which the Treasurer introduced in his budgetary considerations in his second-reading speech, that for many months prior to this reduction in interest rates it had been argued that lower rates would help counter the November, 1960, recession by reducing costs to borrowers and thus stimulating housing and building and other business activity in general. The Government strenuously resisted this argument. It resisted it throughout 1961 and 1962. In August of last year the Opposition in this House urged a reduction in interest rates. On 29th August last year the Treasurer told the House that a reduction in interest rates would cause a sharp fall in loan raisings. In fact, the Treasurer’s failure to reduce interest rates at that time caused a very great over-subscription in loans which were opened and would have caused a still greater over-subscription if the total number of scheduled loans had been opened.

The Treasurer described our proposals last August as immoderate, inflationary and doctrinaire. About eight months after we made the proposals the Treasurer lowered interest rates. He accepted our suggestion. It later transpired that in so doing he also accepted the suggestion which had been made for many months by the Reserve Bank. With respect to the general loan situation here the Treasurer shut the stable door after the horse had bolted. With respect to housing, however, in the meantime a great number of people had to do without housing, and those that had not done without it had to continue to pay a higher rate of interest on their housing. In Australia the home owner has to pay about 25 per cent, of his earnings in mortgage repayments; in the United States he pays 14 per cent.

Now I come to the first of the general housing fields which this bill covers. I refer to the money which is made available to the States for their own housing authorities to spend in constructing dwellings. I invite honorable members to compare the answers which were given to me, emanating from the Minister’s, own, department, on 18th October last year and 29th August this, year.

It appears from those answers that the number of applications for housing still outstanding with the six housing authorities in the States at the end of last June was virtually the same as it was twelve months before. It also appears that in the last financial year there was a greater total of applications lodged with all the State housing authorities than there had been in the previous financial year. There was a drop in the number of applications lodged with the housing authorities in New South Wales and Victoria. There was an increase in the number lodged with the housing authorities in each of the other four States. There was an increase in the overall number of applications lodged with the State housing authorities.

It is clear that- in the last financial year the housing authorities were not able to meet the housing situation which it is their responsibility to meet. In fact, they fell slightly behind. This is not the only position which appears from the answers given to me in October last year and August this year, to which I have directed the attention of honorable members. The questions also dealt with the number of dwellings completed by the various State housing commissions. Honorable members will be concerned to note that the number of houses which became available from State housing commissions dropped to 10,211 in the last financial year from 11,019 in the previous financial year. Thus fewer houses were available for those families which have to rent houses or which have accumulated only nominal deposits for the purchase of houses.

The other and relatively smaller housing field which this bill pays the States to cover relates to serving members of the forces. It is not necessary for the Commonwealth to make money available to the States or to supplement money made available to the States in order to provide married quarters for serving members of the forces. It is a tribute to the efficiency of the various State housing commissions that the Commonwealth so greatly relies on them to plan and erect houses for serving members of the forces although the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, can provide such houses itself.. v «

The figures contained in the Minister’s replies show clearly that in this field - which is within the Commonwealth’s constitutional prerogative but which it has chosen to share with the States - the position has deteriorated in the last twelve months. The number of outstanding applications for dwellings for serving members of the forces increased from 3,449 at the end of June, 1962, to 4,159 at the end of last June. The number of applications lodged increased from 5,127 in the financial year 1961-62 to 5,625 in the last financial year. Taking the third test which I applied, the number of houses completed and available for serving members of the forces declined from 746 in the financial year before last to 676 in the last financial year. It will be seen that the position of -these men deteriorated more under this act in the last financial year than in the year before, especially when compared with the general position of civilians, who are catered for by the housing commissions directly.

I pass to the other great section of housing finance covered by this bill. I refer to the finance provided for building societies. When this Government came into office, building societies were receiving more money in the States where they operated - particularly in New South Wales and Victoria - than they are receiving now. They were providing with the money available to them more houses by way of construction and purchase than they are providing now. The general position of the building societies can be considered only in the context of the amount of money provided for private building.

For decades past money for public works and private housing has been drawn from the same reservoirs of credit - bank deposits and life assurance premiums. These two reservoirs are controlled by this Parliament. During the term of office of this Government more and more incentives have been given to the banks and assurance companies to devote the funds available to them to public works rather than to private housing. Sanctions have been imposed to discourage lending for private housing. There has always been an incentive for life assurance societies to lend for public works, because societies lending money for that purpose can deduct 2s. in every £1 of their income from bonds from the., taxes they would have to pay. Early in’ 1961, after the introduction of the measures of November. 1960, further amendments of the taxation laws were made which gave an incentive to life assurance companies to allot a 20/30 ratio of their premiums to public works. They were penalized under the taxation laws if they did not allot that proportion of their premiums for public worKs. The consequence was, as we said it would be, that less money was available l.rom that source for individual mortgagors and building societies.

The savings banks have been required, since the charters of the private savings banks were issued in 1956, ro allot at least 70 per cent, of their deposits for public works. They are permitted to lend up to 30 per cent, of their deposits for private housing, but in fact they never have lent more than 20 per cent. The consequence of the various taxation incentives or statutory prescriptions is that under this Government more of the money in these reservoirs has been pre-empted for public works and less for private housing.

Public works do not have to depend on loans. Under this Government - this was particularly so in the twelve years preceding last year - public works depend very greatly on taxation revenue. That may or may not be a healthy trend, but it shows that public works are not wholly dependent on savings banks deposits and life assurance premiums as a source of credit or revenue. In some cases the public authorities that provide various services can finance their extensions of those services from rates, from tariffs and from their general revenues. But private housebuilding does depend wholly on credit. It has never hitherto been financed from taxation revenue. There is clearly no intrinsic form of revenue available to it. It depends on .the two reservoirs which the Commonwealth Governnent regulates - savings bank deposits and life assurance premiums. Accordingly, insofar as the Government’ has pre-empted savings banks deposits and life assurance premiums for public works, it has reduced the flow from these reservoirs for private housing.

The Treasurer has had something to say on these matters over the years. He announced in his Budget speech that he would ease the statutory requirement that 70 per cent, of savings banks deposits be lodged in Commonwealth, semi-government and local government bonds. It was generally thought at the time that the Treasurer’s Budget had so little to offer that he had to introduce a non-budgetary issue to brighten it up.

Mr Einfeld:

– It was still dull.


– It wes indeed. Nobody is now more disappointed with the Budget than the right honorable gentleman who introduced it. The change in savings bank ratios may lead to a positive increase in the rate of lending. However, it was a recognition of the fact that, unless such changes had been authorized, various savings banks would have had to cut back their rates of lending. To the extent that this is true the change in ratios will provide very little stimulus to the growth of housing output. We said that at the time the Budget was brought down and the Treasurer confirmed it in his secondreading speech on this bill. He said -

As I have already announced in the Budget speech, the Government has decided to amend the Banking (Savings Bank) Regulations to remove the possibility of these regulations causing any savings bank to slow down, rather than steadily increase, its lending for housing.

It would seem that the easing of this ratio is more likely to enable the banks to maintain their present rate of lending than to increase it. The Treasurer’s decision to vary the ratio, though belated, is welcome, yet last August he said there was not a strong case for. altering it. The Australian Labour Party has been urging an alteration in this ratio for some time. In June, 1961, the federal conference of the party stated -

A Federal Labour Government would require the savings banks to invest not less than a certain proportion of their deposits in housing loans to individuals and to building societies.

I remember that, at that time, some honorable members opposite said, “But this is compulsion”. We advocated the same compulsion on savings banks in respect of housing loans that this Government had imposed on them in respect of public loans. We said that if there was a compulsion on the banks to lend for one of their traditional purposes there should be no less a compulsion on them to lend for their other traditional purpose. Last July, the federal conference of the Australian Labour Party stated -

Encouragement should be given to savings banks’ and assurance societies to lend more of their funds for housing.

It is therefore gratifying to us to find that the Treasurer has at last accepted the alterations in the ratios for housing in the banks’ charters which we have been advocating for some years. He has, however, still left a deposit gap of 30 to 40 per cent, in Australia compared with a deposit gap of 10 per cent, in the United States.

The Government has not yet taken any steps to correct the investment pattern of the life assurance companies, I have already referred to the effect on the life assurance societies’ housing loans as a result of the taxation measures introduced early in 1961 after the credit squeeze of November, 1960. In fact, in April, 1961, the Treasurer told me that there was little likelihood of any disturbance in the normal investment pattern of life offices because of his interference with their investment policy in introducing the 20/30 ratio in the tax laws. The Treasurer has here again been proved wrong but in the meantime homeowners have been penalized. There is less money available to them, both directly and through building societies, from the life societies than there would have been but for this ratio. We believe that it is correct that the Commonwealth should prescribe some ratio for housing loans, as well as for public loans, by life societies, whose investments this Parliament can and does regulate.

It is interesting to see the trend that there has been in loans by the life societies and banks since the measures of November, 1960. Between December, 1960, and June, 1963, the holdings of life assurance societies in Commonwealth bonds increased from £224,000,000 to £331,000,000 and in local and semi-government securities from £114,000,000 to £125,000,000. On the other hand, their holdings in housing loans on mortgages to individuals increased from £144,000,000 to £158,000,000 and their loans to building or housing societies declined from £13,600,000 to £12,100,000. It is not possible to secure figures at exactly comparable dates for the trading banks, but by combining the figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and the figures given by the Treasurer a fortnight ago to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), I find that these figures concerning trading banks emerge: Between June, 1960, and January last the amount of housing funds for individuals made available by the trading banks declined from £97,900,000 to £96,900,000 and the amount made available to building and housing societies declined from £24,900,000 to £23,300,000. It is clear that the trading banks in fact have not increased their housing loans during these periods.

The savings banks have increased their housing loans during these periods, but although a dissection of figures is not possible it does not appear that they have increased their loans to building and housing societies. Instead they have increased their loans to individuals for housing. There has been quite a sharp rise in lending for this purpose. However, from a comparison of the increase in housing loans by savings banks and the number of housing commencements as published by the Commonwealth Statistician, it appears that there has not been an increase in building commensurate with the increase in building funds which the savings banks have made available. What appears to have happened is that there has largely been a substitution process.

Loans have been made to discharge second mortgages rather than to purchase new houses. The substitution is of considerable benefit to home buyers, in enabling them to discharge expensive second mortgages, but it means that there has not been the increase in building commencements which one would expect from the increase in loans. The level of interest rates on such second mortgages can be imagined by examining the interest rates which have been charged on first mortgages for war service homes.

The Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) told me on 29th August last that a check had been made of the interest charges to purchasers of existing dwellings who had to wait twenty months for their advances from the War Service Homes Division, but _ who, were granted permission to raise money hi the meantime from other sources. He said that 61 per cent, of those prospective purchasers had been able to obtain finance at 7 per cent, or less, a further 20 per cent, had been able to obtain finance at about 7 per cent, but not exceeding 8 per cent., a further 1 1 per cent, had been able to obtain finance at between 8 per cent, and 9 per cent., a further 7 per cent, had been able to obtain finance at between 9 per cent, and 10 per cent, and the remaining 1 per cent, had to pay above 10 per cent. These are first mortgages guaranteed by the Commonwealth. That is, a person who lends money on one of these mortgages knows that be is lending it on a house which the War Service Homes Division has already accepted as a suitable security. He is lending the money for only twenty months because he knows that at the end of that time the War Service Homes Division will repay the amount of that mortgage. This position with relation to Commonwealth guarantees on first mortgages indicates how much the interest rate must be on second mortgages. It is quite plain, therefore, that the second mortgages which are being paid off now under a more generous policy by the savings banks must have been burdensome indeed to the person who had to pay that rate of interest.

Mr Howson:

– You must admit that the actions of this Government are bringing costs down.


– I do concede that, but I will not concede that it was necessary to wait for so long before allowing the savings banks to lend to this increased extent for housing. I know the honorable member’s interest in housing matters. I do not know whether he was here when I pointed out that the Commonwealth had constantly pre-empted increasing sums for public works from life assurance societies and from savings banks, and thus reduced the volume of the reservoir available for private home-building. I also pointed out that this was particularly onerous after each successive credit squeeze. That is to say, when there was less money to lend, then, quite obviously, private bousing, which involves long loans, a deal of administrative cost and relatively low interest compared with some other loans, was the form of lending which suffered most. I pointed out that in the last few years people have had to resort much more to second mortgages at high interest rates than they would have had to do if there had been money available from savings banks and life societies to the extent that has often been urged by the Australian Labour Party.

I conclude this part of my speech concerning building societies by pointing out once again that, over all, the building societies receive no more money now than they did when this Government came into office. The building societies are now receiving half their money under the annual Loan (Housing) Bill. It may be that the life assurance societies and the savings banks have lost confidence in the building societies. It may be that those institutions want to get the credit for lending for housing themselves instead of conceding the credit to the building societies. The fact is that since the 1956 Housing Agreement the building societies have come to depend more and more on the Commonwealth to provide them with money. In other words, private institutions are now spending public funds.

The final point I wish to put to the House is the necessity to have once again an inquiry into housing. As I said, it is now twenty years since the Commonwealth inquired into housing. On 19th April, 1943, it set up the Commonwealth Housing Commission, under its war-time powers. The surviving member of that commission is the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). On 19th March last, in Melbourne, the State Ministers for Housing - some of them Liberal, some Country Party and some Labour - unanimously resolved in these terms -

The conference recommends to the Commonwealth Government that a committee of inquiry should be established consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments to inquire into the anticipated increased housing requirements arising during the next five years.

If the Commonwealth agrees to the formation of such a committee, that the committee consist of five members - three from the Commonwealth and two from the States - and that the State representatives consist of a nominee of the Minister of Housing, New South Wales and a nominee of the Minister of Housing, Victoria.

The State Ministers have agreed that the fullest possible information will be forwarded on request.

It will be remembered that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir

William Spooner) has already refused to make a housing survey comparing the trend as revealed by the 1961 census with the trend as revealed by the 1954 census. He had published a housing survey comparing the trend as revealed by the 1954 census with that as revealed by the 1947 census, but he has refused to make a later one. There have been many surveys by individuals - academics, bankers and so on. Honorable members will remember Dr. A. R. Hall’s Committee for Economic Development of Australia Study No. 2, entitled, “Housing Trends and Economic Growth” and published in October, 1961. In March last I quoted from revised estimates made by Dr. Hall in the supplement to that study in October, 1962. I need not quote again the figures which he gave there. Honorable members may also know Committee for Economic Development of Australia Study No. 7 produced in July this year by Dr. Appleyard, entitled “Low Cost Housing and the Migrant Population”. Dr. Appleyard points out that migrants are in a particular difficulty for housing in Australia. They have to wait longer to rent premises and they have to wait longer to accumulate the capital to buy premises. Coming here without the necessary personal capital, they find themselves denied the same access to social capital as is available to people who have lived here longer. Migrants are unquestionably persons for whom the Commonwealth can make allocations. It has not done so, except in respect of hostels.

Again, quite recently, there has been a study by a visiting Fullbright scholar from the United States of America, Mr. Sydney Maslen, entitled “Renewing Australia’s Cities”. It deals with the need for planning the renewal of our cities or the replacement of our slum areas. I have not sufficient time left to quote from it. He points out that the housing commissions in New South Wales and Victoria have tried to deal with this problem. They have been greatly limited, however, by the fact that they have had to rely upon other State funds to cover the cost of resuming land. They can use the funds provided under this measure for building on the land which they have resumed, but they have not had from the Federal Government of Australia the assistance which the muni cipalities and States in the United States of America have received from the Federal Government of that country to compensate owners for land resumed and for clearing it or planning sites. Mr. Maslen points out that here is a very clear case in which the Commonwealth ought to set up a commission to inquire into the question of renewing what are very often, by nature, the best parts of our cities but which in fact are causing our cities to deteriorate from the point of view of social and transport conditions.

The Minister for National Development refuses to heed all these pleas in the light of the most recent census figures, and in the light of statements by Fullbright scholars, academics and State housing commissions. He does not expressly reject them, but honorable members will remember that at the end of his soliloquy on the programme “ Four Corners “ recently, when he was questioned on this matter, he said -

We have not actually rejected it - this position of housing needs. Every State government has got its own organization, every savings bank has its own organization, every insurance company has got its own organization. We all make our computations of housing needs. I think there is a bit of politics in it, you know. I think the State governments are trying to put an unwanted baby into the lap of the Federal Government.

We urge that the Commonwealth Government should take the initiative which it took twenty years ago, which all the State governments asked it to take last March and which every person interested in this field has supported. Accordingly, I move -

That all words after “That” be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “whilst not in any way opposing the passage of the bill, the House expresses the view that the Government should give effect to the recommendation of the conference of State housing ministers in Melbourne on the 19th March, 1963, that a committee of enquiry be established consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments to enquire into the anticipated increased housing requirements arising during the next five years”.


– Is the amendment seconded?

Mr L R Johnson:

– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

La Trobe

.- I had to revise part of my speech on this bill because, to my mind, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has completely reversed the position he took last year when speaking on this subject. As I listened to the rather sad speech of the Deputy Leader this afternoon, I thought of the phrase from “Hamlet”, “Alas! Poor Yorick “. It must be a sad day indeed for the Deputy Leader. Year after year he has been able to call on the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, as other Opposition members have, to support his argument about the Government’s supposed failure to meet the housing needs. One can picture the disappointment of the Deputy Leader when he picked up a copy of the “Australian Financial Review “ to-day and read the headlines -

Home Approvals Soar.

Indicators Point to Vigorous Building Boom.

But, as a typical barrister, whatever the facts he can find a way to circumvent them, and he pressed on regardless. Let it not be thought that I disagree with all he said. I agree with quite a part of his speech. However, if honorable members have not read the “Australian Financial Review”, I will read it to them. It says -

Evidence of the coming boom in housing construction in Australia continues to accumulate.

The latest indication of the good times in store for home building is the news that in the three months ended August this year the value of houses and flats approved rose to £93.6 million.

This figure is close to the £94.5 million in houses and flats approved for building during the buoyant times of the three months ended August, 1960.

Along with the rise in the value of houses and flats approved for construction has gone a continued rise in the value of non-dwelling buildings approved to new record levels,

The strongly rising trend in the value of new houses and flats approved for building is shown in the following figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician last Friday. They show the value of houses and flats approved in the three months ended August in recent years.

Further underpinning to future building and construction activity will come from the continued rise in the value of non-dwelling buildings approved.

The following figures show the value of these buildings approved for the three months ended August in recent years.

Also encouraging for those companies selling building materials and fittings is the rising trend of approvals of alterations and additions to existing buildings.

The following figures show the value of these approvals for the three months ended August in recent years:

The result of all these trends is that the total value of buildings approved has been rising strongly.

Building Figures Reflect Loans

The following figures show the value of all buildings approved for the three months ended August in recent years.

Of course, 1961 was during the credit squeeze. The article continues -

Of course, these statistics of building approvals are a reflection of loans approved some considerable time ago.

The present level of lending for housing will not be reflected in actual approvals to build for some time yet.

This means that in order to assess the likely future trend of building approvals we need to look at the trend of lending for housing.

Here we are fortunate to have the new statistics of “Lending for Housing by Savings Banks” which were released for the first time in the August, 1963, issue of the Reserve Bank “ Statistical Bulletin “.

The following figures show the amount of new loans approved, by quarters, for housing by savings banks: -

It is clear from these statistics that in the last 12 months there has been an explosive development of new lending approvals for housing.

It needs to be remembered, of course, that since the end of the June quarter, we have had the relaxations on savings bank lending made in the Budget, and, as already indicated. the effect of these relaxations should be at the least to permit a continuation, of the recent high rates of savings bank lending for housing.

Approvals Doubled

At last Budget time, the Treasurer, Mr. Holt, said in his Budget speech that “ the aggregate of (housing loan) approvals by all savings banks has lately been around £100 million per annum.” “ This is almost double the rates for 1960-61 and 1961-62.”

This view is true if we take the whole of 1962-63 and compare it wilh the whole of 1960-61 or 1961-62.

But if we take the level of new lending for housing by savings banks in the first half of 1963 we find it reached a total of £64.8 million - an annual rate of almost £130 million.

This compared with an annual rate of £65 million in the first half of 1962 and £50 million in the first half of 1961.

In fact, therefore, the Treasurer may well have understated somewhat the strong upward trend in housing loans from savings banks.

I am quite sure that honourable members opposite, if they have not already read this article in the “Australian Financial Review “, will hasten to the Library to bring themselves up to date.

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, the purpose of the ba before us is to authorize the borrowing of £49,850,000 for advances to the States in accordance wilh the provisions of the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. At the June meeting, the Australian Loan Council decided that that figure should bc allocated for housing under the agreement out of a total borrowing programme for States works and housing for 1963-64 of £272,000,000. The amount of £49,850,000 is £1,239,000 greater than that approved by the Australian Loan Council for housing last year. It is important to remember that the Premiers nominate the amount that is required for housing as advances under the housing agreement. Therefore, within the limits of the overall borrowing programme, which is fixed by the Australian Loan Council, each State decides the amount that it will receive under the housing agreement each year.

Over the last three yea, s, the proportion of their total loan funds that the States have elected to take as housing advances has moved as follows: -

It can be seen that the States themselves have nominated a lesser proportion in each of the last three financial years.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made much play on the estimating of the trend in the housing demand. He stated that it was relatively easy to assess the demand for housing. In my opinion, the estimating of the trend in the demand for housing in Australia is very difficult. One can illustrate this by mentioning the estimates made by Dr. A. R. Hall, whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted on a number of occasions. In October, 1961, Dr. Hall published a paper giving the following estimates of the trend in the demand for dwellings: - 1960-61, 89,000: 1961-62, 90,000; 1962-63, 91,000; 1963-64. 92,000; and 1964-65, 93,000. He made it clear in this paper that these estimates represented an upper limit to the likely demand and that they were meant to indicate an underlying trend only. In other words the actual demand in any year could be different because of temporary factors.

In a paper published in June, 1962, Dr. Hall revised the above estimates because immigration appeared to have been lower than he had assumed. His revised figures were:- 1961-62, 85,000; 1962-63, 86,000; 1963-64, 89,000; and 1964-65, 93,000. In a further paper which was summarized in the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 30th October, 1962, Dr. Hall again revised his estimates and put the figures as follows:- 1962-63, 97,000 to 102,000; 1963-64, 100,000 to 105,000; 1964-65, 101,000 to 106,000; 1965-66, 105,000 to 111,000; and 1966-67, 109,000 to 115,000. There was a margin of about 5,000 or 6,000 in- these calculations for each financial year. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition considers estimating of the housing demand is relatively easy, he may like to devote some of his brain power to working out the solution to the problem. All these estimates by Dr. Hall indicate a fairly wide margin for error. Until the full details of the1961 .census are available, forecasts of future demand are fairly hazardous.

The Commonwealth Government, within the limits of its constitutional powers, in recent years has consistently paid close attention to housing in Australia. We must remember that, apart from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the war service homes scheme, action that the Commonwealth can take concerning housing is restricted. The provision of finance is the main and almost the sole aspect in which the Commonwealth enters into housing policy. The States determine the policy on most factors such as housing and land prices. The problem of estimating the demand is made more difficult by some States, particularly New South Wales, still retaining rent control on sections of housing and by the subsidizing of tenants in rent-controlled houses. Until rents throughout Australia are put on an economic basis, the true demand for cheap housing can only be guessed at.

There is also the factor, which is apparent in some sectors, that many who claim cheap housing believe that this is their automatic right, and they make no effort themselves to save for a home. They expect the Australian public and the Australian taxpayer to subsidize them, irrespective of how they dispose of their income. I always wonder how some people can pay off an expensive car within two years at high rates of interest but throw up their hands in horror at the thought of saving enough to put a deposit on a home. The workings of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in my opinion, have produced a situation in which the States cannot lose and the Commonwealth cannot win. Prior to the credit squeeze in 1961, the activities of hire-purchase and finance companies in the field of housing and land subdivision, which resulted in high prices and high interest rates, were regarded by most people as due to a failure by the Commonwealth to control that form of exploitation. The fact that the States had complete legal and constitutional authority in that field was disregarded.

The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has produced a situation that in some ways is not to the advantage ,of the great mass of the Australian people. From the point of view of obtaining the most economic results for the amount of money expended, it is understandable that the States buy large areas of land, subdivide them and build homes. This does not allow a young couple who may wish to build in a district or street not chosen for building by a housing commission to take advantage of this low-cost finance. However, it brings regimentation to many. If the scheme could somehow be altered to allow young people who are in good jobs and are dependable to go to a housing commission or a similar authority from which money could be obtained at low interest over reasonable periods for the construction of an approved home, the majority of people, I am sure, would be suited.

Even with the increased funds available through the savings banks and the reduced savings bank loan interest rates, there is still a pretty wide gulf between savings bank terms and State housing authority terms. For the average young couple, there is still the problem of saving sufficient to buy a block of land, to put down a sufficient deposit to enable a house to be built with the amount of the loan available, and to provide even the basic articles of furniture. The available loans of £3,500 or £3,750 - whichever it may be - do not go very far. I believe that the average home financed by the State Savings Bank in Victoria has been costing £4,750. At to-day’s prices, £3,500 is not sufficient for much more than a basic unit. If something a little better than a basic dwelling is required, the only alternative is to obtain a second mortgage. Some banks will not approve a second mortgage. If a person does happen to do business with a bank that will approve a second mortgage, and he obtains one, he has to pay high rates of interest. This, again, presents considerable difficulties to people with young families. Surely it is possible for the Commonwealth and State governments to evolve a scheme that can effectively solve this problem.

The Victorian State Government, to its credit, has recognized the problem. In today’s “Age”, there is a report in these terms -

State Cabinet yesterday approved two proposals to enable, people on lower incomes to buy their homes through co-operative housing societies.

The State Minister for Housing is reported to have said -

Our aim is to bring home ownership within the range of the battlers - the low-income earners.

There has been too great a gap between the Housing Commission scheme, which enables tenants to buy a home on a £100 deposit and the next best method of home finance.

The Home Finance Trust’s recently introduced second mortgage plan goes a long way towards reducing this gap.

These new proposals will take things a step further.

Surely such action is required not solely in Victoria but throughout Australia. Surely we need, here in Canberra, a little ventilation, perhaps, in Commonwealth thinking. On 14th August, 1962, the “Age” stated-

Commonwealth officials today challenged building industry claims that more houses would be built if savings banks were required to hold only 65 per cent. instead of 70 per cent. of their investible funds in securities.

Who are these Commonwealth officials? Perhaps the confinement of Canberra, being divorced from what is happening in the rest of the Australian ‘capital cities, is acting to the detriment of their judgment. The report in the “ Age “ added -

Officials conceded that the lending of £60 million more for private building would increase the number of houses built by private enterprise.

But they questioned whether this would benefit the large number of people who wanted the less costly type of home built under official housing schemes.

Surely Commonwealth officials, on the subject of housing, should direct their statements to technical matters and not to the field of politics. They seem to me to be the only people in Australia who claim that there is no problem over the deposit gap. I am glad indeed that the Government ignored the advice of its officials and, at the time of the recent Budget, altered the proportion of savings bank deposits that could be advanced for housing. In my opinion, the thinking of Canberra departments on housing should be revitalized. Both sides of the House have suggested that a scheme similar to the American Federal Housing Administration should be investigated in Australia. It appears that advice given to the Labour Party is that such a scheme would work in Australia, but the advice given to the Government is that such a scheme would not be feasible. However, private industry feels that the scheme should be investigated and that it could work. Advice I have received from certain officials in Canberra seems to have a content 80 per cent. political, for which 1 have not asked, and 20 per cent. technical, for which I have asked. One gem of advice that I have received, which refers to a publication by Dr. Appleyard on low cost migrant housing, is -

In describing how a migrant would fill his deposit gap he states that a second mortgage of £500 would cost 8 per cent. to 10 per cent. flat in interest.

That was quoting Dr. Appleyard. The departmental advice is -

Interest rates such as this have in fact been charged in some cases by certain types of financial organizations but are far from typical of second mortgage interest rates in general.

I do not know where the departmental officers get their information, but that advice is not indicative of the second mortgage interest rates that operate in the majority of capital cities. I know from personal experience, and I am sure others know too, that you pay up to 7 per cent. or 71/2 per cent. on a first mortgage. That is certainly the rate I am paying. If you get a second mortgage you are lucky if you pay as little as 8 per cent. or10 per cent.

We believe that the Government should have a further look at the housing situation. We feel that more should be clone to devise a workable scheme which will give results to people in all States. Of necessity the Commonwealth must continue with war service homes. It must continue providing homes for the under-privileged and the needy. It may also have to continue in the field of slum clearance. We must do something to enable the ordinary young Australian, in a good job with a good future, to borrow money in order to build his house in the area in which he wants to live. If he does not have sufficient deposit and cannot afford to pay a high rate of interest, we should not force him to live in a Commonwealth housing area, which may not be what he wants. I am sure that something along those lines can be done. The Commonwealth should investigate the possibility of encouraging young people to save for their housing requirements. Perhaps the Government could issue bonds similar to the present special bonds that could be cashed, if necessary, at face value. I am sure that such bonds would prove popular with our young people if they knew that by subscribing to them they would obtain priority for a housing loan. If such a scheme were a success, as I am sure it would be, it would mean that ultimately the Commonwealth could reduce its direct grant to housing. This would mean that the Commonwealth could make more money available for other important undertakings.

I support the bill. I congratulate the Government on what it has done so far in the field of housing. I think the Government could, however, look further into this matter and produce a further scheme which would be of great benefit to the Australian people. I oppose the amendment.


.- The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) stated that he would oppose the Opposition’s amendment. His statement of his intentions is completely at variance with the nature of his address to the House. We thank him for his off-handed support of the proposal moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) seeking the appointment of a committee to examine the vast complexities of the housing problem, many of which were eloquently referred to by the honorable member for La Trobe.

In Australia to-day more people than ever before want houses. A record number of people is listed with the various housing authorities. Young people are hard pressed to raise sufficient money for a deposit on a home. Building societies are starved for funds. Lending authorities are lending smaller proportions of housing valuations. The waiting lists of housing commissions are longer than they have ever been. The housing commissions are building fewer houses to-day than they built in former years.

In the minds of the jury, which in this matter is the Australian people, the Government has dishonoured its preelection pledges. I refer particularly to the famous pledge made in 1949, when; in all newspapers throughout the country we saw the benign and dignified face of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) proclaiming -

We give this firm promise to young couples. The Liberal Party, when returned to office, will regard as its permanent and most vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing programme. We will not allow any public works other than those of the most extreme urgency to be given priority over home building.

I thought of those promises as I listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking of the disbursement of funds held by the various banks in this country. For a long time 70 per cent, of the banks’ funds have been devoted to public ‘works and 30 per cent, to housing. Even at this late stage only an extra 5 per cent, of bank funds will be available for housing - if the banks are inclined to direct their activities in that direction.

The bill authorizes the borrowing of £49,850,000 for housing out of a total States works and housing programme of £272,000,000. In his second-reading speech on the bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was at some pains to give the impression that the Premiers are satisfied with this allocation. Referring to the allocation he said -

That is the Premiers’ own decision.

Of course, the only prerogative that the Premiers have is to allocate from the total programme the amount that is specified for housing. They have no real say as to how much the total programme will be. One wonders on which of the under-nourished governmental services for which the States are responsible this Government would like to see expenditure reduced. Would it care to nominate education, for example, as the sphere of governmental activity in respect of which funds should be reduced so that more may be spent on housing? Would it like to see a diminution of the funds available , for water conservation, hospitals or transport? This is the real dilemma of the States. The Austraiian Loan Council in my opinion fails to fulfil even a demagogue’s conception of a democratic institution. At the Loan Council the Prime Minister or his nominee prevails. He is all powerful and he uses his veto with tremendous devastation.

In his verbose and loquacious style the Treasurer has laid it on about the Commonwealth’s role in housing. In his second-reading speech he said - at 30th June, 1964, the Commonwealth will have provided £563,820,000 to the Stales for their housing requirements.

Of course, the Commonwealth in fact gives nothing to the Slates for housing. All it does it lend money to the States. That money is repayable over a prescribed period. Here in my opinion is a very real illusion - a myth which the Government and particularly the Treasurer try hard to cultivate whenever the right honorable gentleman speaks about housing. This Government has made heavy inroads into the high principles which motivated and characterized Labour’s original housing agreement of 1945. AH of the principles associated with the first agreement are set out in clear terms in the Commonwealth Housing report which was produced under the Chifley Government in 1944. One of the first principles enunciated was that the housing scheme was designed to facilitate low rents. Low-income families, including the aged, were to have real security under Labour’s housing scheme. There was provision for a reduction of economic rentals, so much so that under the Chifley Government some people, particularly aged persons, paid rents as low as 8s. a week. But this Government, with some ruthlessness, set about to destroy the rent rebate concept, which was designed to enable a tenant to pay a rent lower than that which ordinarily would be required to cover the economic life of a home.

In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, 5,724 families were receiving rent rebates at the end of June of last year. These rebates related to homes constructed under the 1945 agreement, but surely the number of families receiving the rebate indicated the need for a continuance of the system. There was a need for rent rebates in 1945, and the States even to-day see fit to continue rebates to families in necessitous circumstances. The need to-day is as real as it was in 1945. At the Melbourne meeting in March of this year all State Housing Ministers came to the unanimous conclusion that they should repeat their request for the reintroduction of the rental rebate scheme, but it seems that the request has not met with success.

Then we think of the manner in which this Government has made inroads into the scheme by increasing interest rates. In the lifetime of this Government the bank rate has been increased on three occasions, interest rates have been increased on two occasions, tenants have been subjected to rent increases ranging from 12s. to 16s. a week and repayments by people who are paying off their home have been increased substantially. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the interest rate is 1 per cent, less than the bond rate. Before July, 1956, the interest rate was 3 per cent. After July, 1956, it rose to 4 per cent., and in February, 1961, to 44 per cent. As a result, a large number of families renting housing commission homes and people paying off their homes have suffered considerable hardship. In the last financial year interest payments under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement were £18,000,000. It is interesting to note that repayments of principal amounted to only £4,100,000. In other words, repayments of interest exceeded repayments of principal by about £12,000,000. This indicates the very heavy component that interest represents.

It is important for the House also to recall the manner in which the effectiveness of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been impaired by the obligation placed on the States to provide houses for serving members of the forces. I believe that earlier the agreement required that not less than 10 per cent, of housing loans to the States should be devoted to this purpose. This proportion has been reduced, but the Government has failed to accept its responsibility to our servicemen and has passed on this burden to the States. No fewer than 5,625 applications for houses were lodged by servicemen during the financial year 1962-63. To provide these applicants with homes each costing a modest £3,500 would require an expenditure by the States of £19,600,000. Imagine what inroads that would make into the allocation of £49,000,000 which has been made this year.

Another mutilation of the original agreement was the requirement in 1956 that State housing authorities divert 30 per cent, of their funds to building societies. Naturally we on this side of the House concede that it was imperative at that time to increase the flow of funds to the societies, but we believe that this should not have been done at the expense of the low income earners who traditionally receive assistance through the State housing authorities. Banks and insurance companies should have been prevailed upon to sustain these societies. However, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the assistance given by banks and insurance companies in this regard has deteriorated rather than improved in recent years. As a consequence of the provisions of the last Budget, they are required to devote 65 per cent, of their depositors’ funds to public works. The Government is robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is taking something from the housing authorities, which provide homes for people on low incomes, and giving it to the building societies. The Government’s real obligation is to ensure that adequate funds are available to both the State housing authorities and the building societies.

I wonder whether any real consideration has been given to the liquidity ratio system - that holy cow - under which the insurance companies and the banks are required to place 65 per cent, of their funds in Government securities for the purpose of financing public works. The position is almost the reverse of that in other parts of the world. In the United States of America, 46.7 per cent, of bank deposits can be directed to the financing of housing mortgages. The present position in Australia could be looked at to good advantage.

The incomes of applicants for housing commission homes show very clearly that very few such applicants could get accommodation from either the banks or the building societies. The housing commissions are the only authorities which can provide assistance to people in the circumstances which I shall outline. The New South Wales Housing Commission is, I believe, a typical case. In 1961-62, 60 per cent, of applications received for homes were from people with incomes of less than £20 a week; 38 per cent, of applications were from people in the £15 to £20 income bracket, and 21.7 per cent, were from people with incomes below £15 a week. Only 13.59 per cent, of the applications came from people with incomes in excess of £25 a week. Any bank manager and any official of a building society would tell you that it would be absolutely impossible for him to accommodate people in those circumstances. There are many people earning such low wages now, even though we are told that to-day the average wage is in the vicinity of £23 or £24 a week. We on this side of the House would like to see greatly increased funds from banks and insurance companies deployed to provide those unfortunate people with homes.

We doubt very strongly whether any harm would accrue to the Australian economy if the system which originally was devised to prevent a run on the banks - the liquidity ratio system - were altered to provide for a reduction in the 65 per cent, at present denoted to financing public works. That principle is in evidence almost in reverse in other parts of the world; that is to say, in other parts of the world, 65 per cent, goes, not to public works, but to housing. We commend consideration of that concept, because the problem is serious enough to justify very special attention.

How many people want houses at present? At the end of June, 1963, the number of outstanding applications with the housing authorities of the six States was 74,392. At the end of June, 1960, the figure was only 70,286. At the end of June, 1961, the figure was 71,353. At the end of June, 1962, the figure was 74,945. So we are not making very much progress. When all is said and done, the important thing is not the amount of money that is made available. The honorable member for La Trobe talked at some length about millions of pounds here and millions of pounds there. The real test of a government’s housing programme is how people finish up when everything that is available has been given.

To-day 74,392 applications are still lined up before the various State housing authorities. I know that figures often are very dull, but sometimes they illustrate a point perfectly, as I shall show. If we translate the 74,392 applications into people, according to the average family, we realize that about 256,000 persons are depending on the State housing authorities at the present time. In addition, about 3,000 or 4,000 applications for houses are outstanding in the Australian Capital Territory. The waiting period in the Territory is some years. In New South Wales the waiting period is four to five years. In the face pf all of .that, the rate, of applications is rising very rapidly. Last year” the

State housing authorities received more applications than they received in any of the preceding three years. Last year 48,113 applications were received, compared with 47,022 in the previous year, 42,637 in the year before, and 43,524 in the year before that. Applications are coming in at a faster rate; yet the number of outstanding applications is not being reduced.

There are other considerations, too. At the end of June, 1963, there were 12,965 outstanding applications for war service homes. This is the position eighteen long years after the Second World War. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, many of those people are being forced to wait twenty months for their money. Often they are forced to take temporary loans at high rates of interest. This Government’s concern for the housing of ex-servicemen is probably best demonstrated by the fact that in February of this year no fewer than 1,568 ex-servicemen in war service homes were threatened with eviction, and in March of this year another 717 ex-servicemen were threatened with eviction from their war service homes.

Apart from persons in those circumstances, thousands of people are lined up at the banks, the building societies, the insurance companies and the Starr-Bowkett societies, and 3,500 families are in migrant hostels at the present time. We are told that 887 of those families have four or more children. The average waiting period in those miserable hostels - the best of them can only be described as miserable - is in the vicinity of 40 to 44 weeks. But we know that many of those people will stay in hostels for periods of from three to four years. The experts calculate that £14,000,000 would be necessary to provide accommodation for those 3,500 families. But this Government still wallows in indifference and unconcern, and seems to indicate that no great crisis exists.

In the face of all of that, some people are out of work in the building industry. It is interesting to look at the AttorneyGeneral’s report on bankruptcy for the year 1962-63. At page 11 of that report, under the heading “ Building Industry “ there is a list of people classified as bricklayers, builders, carpenters and joiners and contractors. No fewer than 353 such people were declared bankrupt in the financial year 1962-63. We know that often this is a consequence of the stop-and-go economic policies of the Government and the economic crises that emerge every now and then, as they did in 1951, 1955-56 and 1961. Doubtless that kind of thing will be in evidence again in the not far distant future. Already the Government or its spokesmen have warned of the prospect of another tightening up or another credit squeeze, although in a fairly calm and mediocre year there were 353 bankruptcies in the building industry. There are bound to be more in the not far distant future. Every now and then we hear statements about bricks at grass, timber at grass and the way timber mills are closing down and retrenchments are taking place.

While thousands of people are in need of homes, we think also of the great crisis that besets this country in regard to slum clearance. The report of the Victorian Housing Commission makes it very clear that this is a blot on the Australian landscape. The report shows that 1,000 acres of slum clearance is required in Melbourne alone, at a cost of £50,000 an acre. One does not need to be Professor Messel to calculate that £50,000,000 is necessary for slum clearance in Melbourne alone. In the year 1961-62, the last year for which a report of the Victorian Housing Commission is available, 30 acres of land was cleared. Not 1,000 acres, but 30 miserable acres was cleared, and £500,000 instead of £50,000,000 was spent on slum clearance. A similar predicament is in evidence in Sydney. The State housing ministers, Liberal and Labour, when they met in Melbourne last March, gave attention to this matter. They carried this resolution -

  1. That continued representations be made to the Commonwealth for a money grant to the Slates with which to acquire slum properties and clear areas for development, the finance to be a grant and not a loan;
  2. That taxation deductions be allowed on investments by private enterprise in approved slum reclamation schemes.

But the Treasurer and the Government are as silent as the grave about these unanimous recommendations of Liberal and Labour housing ministers around the Commonwealth. The matter remains unattended.

We also think of the accommodation of aged people in our community. In every State there is a real problem in this regard. The States are doing what they can. In New South Wales the Housing Commission built 243 units for aged people in 1961-62. It made them available at economic rentals ranging from fi to £1 10s. a week, despite the withdrawal of the rent rebate scheme. The latest report of the Victorian Housing Commission shows the demand for accommodation for elderly people. There were 2,399 applications from lone persons and 1,053 applications from elderly married couples. When the housing ministers of the various States met, they carried this resolution - . . catering for the housing needs of the Commonwealth pensioners is one of increasing concern to the Stales. This conference therefore strongly urges the Commonwealth to re-examine proposals recently submitted for the provision of a capital sum for (he erection of pensioner units.

They added this rider -

That the Commonwealth be again approached to share the cost of rebates.

We would like the Commonwealth to extend the £2 for £1 subsidy scheme under the Aged Persons Homes Act so that the State housing authorities can become beneficiaries under that scheme and so that local government bodies, which are intent on doing something about this problem, might be assisted by Commonwealth subsidies. After all, every large home that is vacated by an aged person becomes available to a family in need of a home.

Let me now refer briefly to numbers of completions. In 1962 the housing commission in Victoria completed 24,000 homes. With the exception of the year 1961, this was the year in which the Victorian Housing Commission recorded its lowest output for a period of ten years. What has been the position in New South Wales? The housing commission in that State completed 32,349 homes in 1961-62, 36,397 in 1960-61 and 33,408 in 1959-60. There has been a fall in the output in that Slate. In South Australia there were fewer houses built by the Housing Trust in 1962 than in the previous year, and even fewer than in the years 1952-53, 1953-54 and 1955-56, and that is going back a few years. In Tasmania there were fewer houses built by the housing authority than in any year for the last six years. This information is available in “ Hansard “ for all honorable members to see.

Many problems remain unresolved. We turn to the future with great fear and great trepidation, having in mind the poor performance of this Government in the past. We are about to feel the impact of the post-war baby boom. I do not know whether honorable members are acquainted with the figures in this connexion. We have spoken about this aspect of the situation in our discussions concerning education. It is not long since education was in the hot seat in our debates. We all wanted new primary schools and new secondary schools in our electorates. Many of us still do. But it is housing that will be in the hot seat in the not-too-distant future.

During the years from 1936 to 1940 the average annual birth rate, using round thousands, was 120,000. In the period from 1941 to 1945 it was 146,000. Then, following the war, from 1945 to 1950 it was 181,000, and in the years from 1951 to 1955 the average annual birth rate was 201,000. This is something the Government must bear in mind, because the increase in the birth rate that occurred in those days will have a serious effect on housing demand in the near future. The honorable member for La Trobe can bandy figures around as he likes. What Dr. Hall said was that the demand in 1962-63 for housing would be in the vicinity of 102,000, in 1964-65 it would be about 106,000, and in 1967-70 it would rise to 131,000. As far as one can judge, the Government at present has no comprehension of the position.

What did the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) say about the housing situation? In the February issue of the “ Australian Liberal “ he said that more homes were being made available in Australia each year than the growth of Australia required. That is his idea of the position at the present lini”. But the chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Mr. Warren McDonald, expressed a different viewpoint in his annual report, as honorable members can check for themselves. All the Premiers have expressed a different viewpoint. They have asked for the appointment of a special committee so that this matter can be thoroughly examined. We on the Opposition side of the House echo their sentiments, because we are concerned about the difficulties experienced during the last decade by many thousands of Australians, and we hate to think that the unfortunate situation may be perpetuated. We hope that the Government will be sufficiently concerned to establish at our request, and indeed, at the request of all the State Premiers, a special committee to examine the plight of the homeless, so that we can get on with the job of meeting the greater demand for housing that will arise as a consequence of the post-war baby boom.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mackinnon:

– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- Even the fans of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) must have been depressed this afternoon on hearing his doleful speech. I think it could be described only as a funeral dirge. He was followed on the Opposition side by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), whose speech was along the same lines. I believe that the people of Australia have faith and confidence in this country and that they are proud of Australia’s achievements. I believe they are becoming thoroughly tired of hearing members of the Labour Party writing down and rubbishing Australia, trying to create in the minds of the people of other countries an impression that Australia is not, as I believe it is, a country of great achievements. Australia has a magnificent record in housing.

Mr Curtin:

– Get off that one.


– I am going to keep on it, whether the honorable member likes it or not. To-day 70 per cent, of the people of Australia own their homes. Is there any other country that can show such an achievement? Home ownership is the policy of Australia, and home ownership is within the reach of every young Australian. If we look at the figures obtained as the result of the census we see that the number of persons per dwelling is Tower in1 Austra- ‘

Iia than in almost any other country. This is because the people of Australia are better housed than those of other countries. It would do members of the Labour Party good to go to certain European countries and see four or five families living in the same house. In Australia it is seldom that one finds even two families living in the one house. If we consider the situation in Australia as a whole, but excluding for the moment New South Wales, which, unfortunately, has suffered under a socialist government for many years, we can say with authority that the housing position in this country is better than it is in any other country.

The Labour Party has proposed an amendment that we should establish a committee of inquiry. If honorable members opposite did their homework they could find out for themselves the relevant figures without having to depend on any committee of inquiry. I propose this afternoon to give them figures showing the actual position in South Australia. In that State there is no housing shortage. Any average Australian in South Australia can secure a home. First let me deal with the finance that is available, because this is a matter that has been raised by the two speakers for the Labour Party. I have before me official figures showing the position as at 21st May, 1963. The Commonwealth Savings Bank makes available loans of £3,500 or 75 per cent, of valuation. The interest rate is 4i per cent., calculated on monthly balances. This is surely low enough for any honorable member. The maximum repayment term is 32 years for a brick home, 26 years for brick veneer and 22 years for a timber home. The waiting period for a loan is from one to three months. If a person decides to buy a home, obviously it will be a month before he is ready to move.

We have been saying without fear of contradiction that for anybody who desires money to buy a home in South Australia there is the avenue of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, which has a waiting period not exceeding three months. The South Australian Housing Trust, under its house purchase scheme, will lend £3,500 at an interest rate of 6 per cent. The maximum term for repayment is 40 years. There is no waiting time for homes at Elizabeth. Purchasers can Walk into them to-morrow

Tn the metropolitan area, where land prices are higher, the waiting period is three months. The South Australian Superannuation Scheme will lend £3,500 or 85 per cent, of the valuation. The interest rate is 53 per cent., reducible to 5i per cent. Repayments are made over 30 years and 20 years, respectively, on brick and timber homes. The waiting time varies, but it is very short. The Savings Bank of South Australia will lend on a new brick or timber home £3,500 or 90 per cent, of the valuation. On a recently erected home it will lend £2,750 or 95 per cent, of the valuation. The interest rate is 5± per cent., the repayment period is 30 years and the waiting time is twelve months. The Australian and New Zealand Savings Bank will lend £3,500 or 70 per cent, of the valuation. Interest is payable at 5i per cent, on the daily balance, the period of repayment is 20 to 25 years and there is no waiting time. The Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank offers somewhat similar terms, and again there is no waiting time. The Commercial Savings Bank of Australia will lend £3,000 or 70 per cent, of the valuation. There is no waiting list; the loan is available immediately on approval. The same position applies to the English Scottish and Australian Savings Bank. Last week I obtained for an elector approval for a loan from that bank. The National Savings Bank Limited will lend £3,500 for a twenty-year term and there is no waiting list. Those lending institutions are prepared to make immediate loans to home purchasers on the terms I have stated.

Let us look at the prices of homes. The price range of South Australian Housing Trust homes at Elizabeth, of brick or brick veneer construction with two bedrooms, is from £3,400 to £4,150.

Mr Coutts:

– Does that include the price of the land?


– Yes. Similar homes in the metropolitan area cost from £3,750 to £4,450, including the cost of the land. At Christies Beach, the site of a new oil refinery, three-bedroom homes of brick and brick veneer construction cost from £3,500 to £4,200. At Elizabeth the price range of such homes is from £3,500 to £5,250, and in the metropolitan area it is from £4.000 to £5,550. Finance is immediately available for these homes. Let us look at the facilities provided recently by the South Australian Housing Trust. I refer to the trust’s report dated 1st August, 1963.

Mr Benson:

– Is that a government concern?


– It is a housing trust financed by the Government. The report states that the most important recent change, announced last year, provided for the construction of single unit homes of between 10 and 11 squares, to be sold under special terms and conditions on deposits as low as £50. The houses are constructed of brick or brick veneer, have five rooms and are equipped with all the usual appliances, including hot water systems and insulated ceilings. The sale prices vary between £3,400 and £3,800 and the repayments are between £3 14s. a week and £4 ls. a week, depending on the sale prices. The cost of land, fencing, roads, footpaths, kerbing and water tabling, as well as the rates and taxes for the whole of the financial year in which the houses are purchased, are included in the prices. Those houses are available at a reasonable price, are of good construction and arc obtainable on low deposits.

Let us see what can be done by private enterprise. I have here an article headed “ New Houses on £75 Deposit “.

Mr Cockle:

– Where is this?


– In South Australia, in the metropolitan area.

Mr Cockle:

– There is no Landlord and Tenant Act there.


– That is so. Two young businessmen have founded a company which is offering solidly built homes on well-established estates for only £75 deposit. Is there any worker in Australia who cannot save £75 for a deposit? There is another private enterprise concern in South Australia which has built over 1,000 houses. The name of the firm is available to honorable members. I shall not mention the name, because I am not out to advertise any private enterprise concern, or any government concern either. The full cost of one of these houses, including the cost of land and all fees, is £4,500. Purchasers obtain a bank loan of .£3,200 and either pay the balance or, arrange .to borrow it.

If they pay the balance, their weekly payments on a new home, beautifully erected in a new area, is only £3 16s. 3d.

I have shown, on the latest authentic information available, that in my State, where we have had a Liberal government for 30 years, houses erected by the Housing Trust or by private enterprise are readily available on low deposits. The people of South Australia are liberal minded, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has a socialist mind. He wants to compel people to do things. He told us this afternoon that Labour would compel the banks to lend a certain proportion of their money for housing. It is not necessary for the South Australian Government to do that. The banks are lending liberally on the basis of long-term repayment. I have given the names of six or more private banks which will make money available immediately to people who want to buy new homes.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he would compel the life assurance companies to lend a certain proportion of their premiums. I suggest that if we try to compel these companies to do things we will find that nothing at all is done. With appropriate encouragement, as is given in South Australia, the banks, insurance companies and the housing trusts all provide finance for home-owners on liberal terms.

There is one suggestion I would like to make to the Government. I appreciate the fact that there is no waiting time with regard to the purchase of new homes under the war service homes scheme. At present money is more easily available in Australia than ever before in our history. There was so much money offering to the Government in Commonwealth loans in the latter portion of the last financial year that it cancelled its proposal to raise a new loan. In other words, at the present time the Government is able to raise by way of loans all the money it wants. People are just scrambling to put their money into Commonwealth loans. Why, then, is there any reason to have a waiting time for the purchase of old homes under the war service homes scheme? When the Government lends money for war service homes purposes it does not give the funds ,away - , it does not lose them. The figures show that the amount of money lost in respect of war service homes is an infinitesimal proportion of the total amount lent. I cannot see any reason why the Government should not, if necessary, float a special loan to enable it to remove the arrears of finance in relation to old homes under the war service homes scheme.

I am delighted to know that there is no waiting list in regard to new homes under the scheme, but that does not solve the problem. Many ex-servicemen prefer to buy old homes. Why should they not be able to do so? I therefore ask the Government either to raise a special loan in order to remove this waiting list or increase the amount of the ordinary loans raised and use the additional money to do away with the waiting time in respect of old homes, as has already been done in respect of new homes. If ex-servicemen were able to buy old homes - the homes of their choice1 - that would relieve the pressure in other directions and make more money available for home building and for many other purposes.

There is no danger in following the course I suggest, as there is already a ceiling on the number of people entitled to war service homes. It is sincerely to be hoped that there will not be another war and, if there is not, the number of ex-servicemen entitled to war service homes will be limited to those already known to be qualified. A recent estimate showed that the total number of ex-servicemen who could qualify for war service homes would be about 100,000, spread over a considerable number of years.

I would not and could not have said two years ago what I am advocating and saying now. At that time the Government was unable to get all the money it required for the States’ purposes and for its own purposes and had therefore to subsidize the loan funds of the States very substantially out of revenue. Had I advocated two years ago what I am now advocating, any additional money that had then gone for the purchase of old homes for war service homes purposes would have meant a subtraction from the amount of available money urgently needed by the States for hospitals, homes, water works, schools and things of that nature.

To-day the situation is entirely different from that. For the first time since the war there is now a surplus of money. Theris more money available for investment than there are people willing to take it for investment purposes. 1 think the Government should seize this opportunity of making more money available for war service homes so as to enable it to carry out its solemn obligation to returned servicemen and make war service homes finance readily available to them. I ask the Government to give this matter consideration.

The Government can be justly proud of its achievements in housing. The Government has had a long and difficult battle to reach the present situation, but I believe that in all the States except New South Wales the housing situation is virtually under control. The position in that State admittedly is deplorable and the Government of New South Wales is responsible for the situation because it has used for other purposes money which should have been spent on housing. Once the Commonwealth Government has made money available to the States it cannot control the expenditure of those funds. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Premiers sit in conference and the Commonwealth and each State is allocated its share of the total amount of loan money. Each State then apportions, according to its own desires, an amount for expenditure on housing and amounts for expenditure for other purposes. While South Australia has spent a great deal of its money on housing and consequently has overcome the shortage, New South Wales has expended its money for other purposes-

Mr Cockle:

– What purposes?


– The Opera House, for example. The Government of New South Wales has created in that State a housing situation that in turn is creating a very bad image of Australia overseas. Many people outside Australia hear about housing conditions in New South Wales and imagine that the same position applies all over Australia. I believe that steps should be taken as soon as possible to deal with the housing position in New South Wales, where the situation has been completely wrecked by a Labour government. If it is desirable to set up any commission of inquiry, as suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, it should be an inquiry not into the housing situation of Australia but into why the housing situation in New South Wales - a Labour governed State - is so deplorable, while the position in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia is virtually under control. I hope that my New South Wales colleagues, who are nearer to the New South Wales situation than I am, will develop this attitude and really show the people of Australia that a very bad image of this country is being created elsewhere in the world because of the wretched administration of the New South Wales Labour Government in relation to housing.


.- It is refreshing to be in this House and hear a debate in which every member on both sides of the House is in agreement. Unfortunately the last speaker endeavoured to introduce politics into the discussion of a question, which is national in character. I leave it to those honorable members who represent New South Wales electorates, to answer the statements that have just been made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson).

The additional money that is to bc made available for housing will be welcomed by those people who can afford to buy its use. It will be welcomed also by the State housing authorities. But this additional money will not alter to any great extent the plight of the vast, and growing number of home-seekers who, because of economic circumstances, cannot meet the demands of the lending institutions when seeking loans for home-building. These people are worthy borrowers, but, due to. their inability to meet the high deposit required and the high interest charges, and, because of the difficulty they experience in bridging the -gap between what they can afford and what is required as deposit, they are lost to the home-building industry. This is a tragic state of affairs. It is a state of affairs which is retarding the home-building industry in its attempts to recover from the slump into which the policies of this Government have plunged it. Blame for this state of affairs can also be placed on lending institutions because of the unrealistic attitude they have adopted to present-day circumstances.

It is interesting to examine the history of home-building finance in Victoria since 1946. What applies to Victoria applies equally to almost every other State in Australia. Such an examination will give us a complete answer to the article which the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) quoted from the “ Financial Review “ to-day. In fact, a perusal of the records will disclose that the price of a threebedroom, brick veneer home has increased from about £1,160 in 1946 to £5,500 in 1963, an increase of over 380 per cent. I ask those honorable members who are so enthusiastic about the article which appeared in the “ Financial Review “: Have the allocations of finance for housing increased by 380 per cent.? Of course not! That is one reason for the upsurge in the cost of loans. Another reason is the deterioration that took place when the credit squeeze was imposed in 1960.

Again, in the period between 1946 and 1963, the price of land has risen from approximately £116 for an average block in 1946 to £1,700 in 1963, an increase of 1,300 per cent. Have housing loans increased to that extent? Of course they have not! When we examine the figures with relation to deposits required, we find that ten years ago a deposit of 10 per cent, of the purchase price enabled a person to secure a home. To-day the deposit required is from 35 per cent, to 37 per cent. - an increase of 25 per cent, or more. In fact, it is true to say that in 1946 the Commonwealth Bank would lend £1,046 on a house and land costing £1,230. The only deposit it would require would be £184, or about 14.9 per cent, of the total cost of the house and land.

Let us now look at the present position. To-day, the Commonwealth Bank will advance £3,500 repayable over 26 years if it is for the purchase of a brick or brick veneer home, and over 22 years if it is for the purchase of a weatherboard home. In order to obtain this loan, the prospective borrower must own the land on which he intends to build a home. He must also have sufficient capital over and above the £3,500 to meet the cost of completing the home building contract. In other words, if the land is valued at £1,500 and the house that the prospective borrower proposes to build is to cost £4,000 the borrower must have in hand another £500. Therefore, to obtain a loan of £3,500, a prospective bor rower needs collateral security worth about £2,000. This represents a deposit of 57 per cent. Have Commonwealth housing loans increased by that amount? Certainly they have not! This represents a deposit increase of 12 per cent, on 1961 values and of 43 per cent, on 1946 values. And to-day we are told there is to be a further increase of 2i per cent, in the prices of homes!

In 1946 it was estimated that it would take a person earning £6 10s. a week 142 weeks to save the £184 needed for the deposit on a Commonwealth Bank loan. Under present circumstances, it would take a person earning £24 a week approximately 450 weeks of saving to accumulate the money necessary for the deposit required. It will be claimed by Government supporters, and by other people, that wage increases have brought about this state of affairs. Such is not the case. A perusal of building figures is very revealing in this connexion. For instance, in 1951, the number of workers employed in the building industry totalled 106,536. In September, 1961, the total number of workers employed in the industry was 92,816. By comparison, the population of the country increased by 40 per cent, between 1945 and 1962; yet the work force employed in the building industry dropped by nearly 14,000 in the period between December, 1951, and September, 1961. Again, the average annual value of work completed in the three years ending June, 1953, was £209,818,000 or £1,900 for each building worker. During the three years ended June, 1961, the average annual value of work completed was £495,312,000, or £4,000 for each building worker. Although the productivity of the building workers increased by 100 per cent., in the three-year period ending June, 1961, wages increased by only 33 per cent, over the same period. Those figures signify without doubt that wage increases are not the cause of the exorbitant high values of homes to-day. In fact, they demonstrate quite clearly that high interest rates, high deposits, the liability of the second mortgage - which, in these modern times is called the deposit gap - and the changed circumstances of sub-divisional development are the prime factors causing the prices of homes to rise beyond the means of the average wage-earner. The deposit gap, Mr. Speaker, is an almost insurmountable barrier that confronts thousands of young couples who desire to obtain a home to-day. In fact, the gap between the present limits of finance and the ever-rising costs of home building is the greatest problem that faces the young home seeker.

It was customary, before the avaricious land sharks and financial pillagers began their rape of the open spaces, for councils to carry out the private street construction schemes in their municipalities. However, owing to the financial squeeze applied by this Government most local authorities have discontinued private street construction because they are unable to obtain loans. In those days, the ratepayers were given ten years in which to make 40 quarterly payments to cover the cost of the street construction. The interest charged on this account was the same rate which the council was charged when obtaining the loan. It was usually about 4i per cent, or 5 per cent., and, of course, interest payments were on a sliding scale. In cases of hardship, payments for street construction could be extended to 60 quarters, or fifteen years. But what is the present position? To-day, roads, footpaths, sewerage, water reticulation and even playing areas are provided by the subdivider or home-building company. For these services, the purchaser is charged interest at the rate of 10 per cent. flat. An investigation will reveal that in the metropolis of Melbourne street construction costs are about £400 a block, and I repeat that the interest rate charged for this service is 10 per cent. flat. This cost involves the home buyer in an additional £1,100 or £1,200 in the cost of his home. And this is the money that is unobtainable unless the borrower is prepared to pay extortionate interest rates. By having to meet these costs, the home buyer has become the principal financier of many of our public works. Therefore, if the present public works policy related to home construction is to continue, an allowance for these service costs should be built into the lending policies of the savings banks and other financial institutions.

The press reported this morning that the housing co-operatives in Victoria have done something about this. The money required for the services is part of the deposit gap. It must be admitted that the sub-divider or home-building authority must borrow money to provide roads, drains, footpaths, sewerage and very often electricity and these costs must be passed on to the unfortunate home-builder at a flat interest rate of 10 per cent. Although the Commonwealth Bank has innumerable applications for housing loans, the applications for money to bridge the deposit gap or for second mortgages greatly exceed the applications for ordinary housing loans. But the Commonwealth Bank will not lend money for these purposes. It is interesting to note that in 1961 about 49,000 mortgages were lodged for registration at the Titles Office in Victoria, and nearly half of these mortgages were at interest rates in excess of 7 per cent. In fact, 66 per cent, of all mortgages were granted by hire purchase and finance companies. This form of lending is not subject to any sort of public control as to the rates of interest to be charged.

The facts I have disclosed show quite clearly that we must alter our approach to the financing of homes, particularly in the private sector. A new finance policy must be designed to take into consideration the matters I have raised. It must be a policy that will assist in controlling the price of land and homes. Half the population of this country is under 30 years of age. From now until 1975, the fifteen to nineteen years age group will increase by 51.7 per cent.; the 20 to 24 years age group by 65.5 per cent.; and the 25 to 29 years age group by 63.5 per cent. In the same period, the work force will increase by 33.8 per cent. I am sure that every one will agree that these increases will undoubtedly bring many problems. The greatest problem by far, however, will be the problem of housing. People in the age groups I have given are all of marriageable age. This emphasizes the absolute need for a big increase in home-building. The present rate of construction is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of those who seek to marry and raise a family.

Taking into account the age groups to which I have referred, it is considered by those who have studied the problem that the minimum demand for houses from this year to 1970 will be as follows: -

Against this need780,00b homes were commenced in 1961 and 86,422 in 1962. For the first two quarters of 1963, 46,200 homes were commenced. These figures reveal how substantially below requirements are the numbers of homes that are being constructed.

In Australia to-day, almost 1,000,000 people have incomes exceeding £1,100. As I said, these people could most probably afford the payments for an average quality home on the present date terms. It is safe to say that private home building is largely confined to this group, which would welcome the additional money being provided for housing. But at the other end of the scale there are about 600,000 people whose incomes do not reach £1,100. These are the people for whom I am concerned, for they are genuine home-seekers too. However, because of their economic circumstances and for the other reasons I have stated they are unable to undertake homebuilding.

Some idea of the plight of these people can be gained from a consideration of the affairs of the Victorian Housing Commission. Because of its inability to provide sufficient housing to meet the demand of low income families, the commission has refused to accept applications from childless couples other than pensioners or elderly persons. Young couples are not considered. They are the victims of the practices that this Government allows to operate. It is interesting to note that in England it is an accepted fact that a worker should not pay in rent or house purchase more than one-fifth of his income. But in Victoria, and in other States, many occupiers of housing commission homes are paying one-fourth or an even higher percentage, and occupiers of private property are paying one-third or higher for accommodation inferior to that provided by the housing commissions. Young childless couples, excluded from housing commission homes, must pay the high rents demanded by private enterprise or purchase homes through banks or co-operative societies. To do this they need substantial deposits, if they are to avoid burdensome repayments.

Much has been made of the co-operative housing movement. I can say as a director of a co-operative society that this movement is one of the greatest advances ever to be made in Australia, but, up to the present, co-operative societies have mainly served those in the middle-class bracket. The low wage earner on £20 a week or lower - the average tenant and purchaser of a housing commission home is in this bracket - would not have a chance of becoming a home-owner without the housing commission’s low deposit purchase scheme. It is startling to know that despite the facts I have stated many people are already advocating the discontinuance of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This was advocated in a roundabout way by the honorable member for La Trobe this afternoon. I say with a good deal of reverence that, if this happens, God help those in the low-wage bracket. The housing commissions are the only people building low rental homes in the city and country areas.

The honorable member for Sturt referred to the affairs of the South Australian Housing Commission. In Victoria, however, in the financial year ended 30th June, 1963, 8,492 applications for the tenancy of housing commission homes were received. Although this is about 1,200 fewer than in the previous year, the fact remains that with new production and vacated units, only 4,130 tenancies were allocated, with a net result that there are still 13,000 unsatisfied applications on hand. The Victorian Housing Commission has in the past seven or eight years entered the field of social welfare by providing for the housing needs of pensioners and elderly people of limited means in the form of flats suitable to accommodate people living alone or elderly married couples. Although the commission has built some 2,000 low rental units, much still remains to be done in this field, as there are still more than 2,500 unsatisfied applications on hand. The “ Herald “ of 3rd September had this to say -

The Queen Elizabeth Home has 231 aged people waiting admittance.

This is the general picture right throughout Australia in relation to homes for the aged.

The matter of house sales bears ventilating. The current interest rates for the Victorian Housing Commission are 5i per cent, with death benefit and repayment over 30 years, and 41 per cent, without death benefit and repayment over 45 years. A recent survey revealed that less than 20 per cent, of purchasers enter the death benefit scheme, mainly because of the high monthly repayments. The survey also revealed that the average income is £18 to £20 a week. The following table shows the monthly instalments over different periods, together with the amount of interest payable on a loan of £4,000:-

When we consider that the average sale price of a new Housing Commission dwelling is £4,700 and that houses may be sold on a deposit of £100, repayments in some instances, because of higher loans, are higher than the figures quoted above. I ask: What must be paid by people who are financed by the private sector? What must be the interest rates paid by those who have to borrow on second mortgage at a flat rate? This matter will bear investigation, and that is the reason for the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). This matter must be investigated and these evils must be removed.

I turn now to slum reclamation, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). A certain amount of slum reclamation has been undertaken in Victoria. The honorable member for Hughes said that £500,000 had been allocated this financial year for slum reclamation in that State. The funds provided by municipal councils and private enterprise have increased this to approximately £800,000. But, as the honorable member pointed out, £50,000,000 is needed for a complete programme of slum reclamation in Victoria. The problem has been placed before the Commonwealth Government on several occasions, with negative results. We see large headings in the newspapers that indicate how bad the situation is. Just recently, a newspaper carried a large headline reading, “ Migrant hostels will be with us for years “. The report under that heading pointed out the reasons. The poor devils in the migrant hostels cannot afford to rent or buy homes.

All the short cuts in dwelling construction were worked out years ago. Automation has reduced the time factor without reducing prices. As long as present methods of home financing continue to be used, instability in the building industry will remain. Some evidence of the difficulties of low-wage earners can be gleaned from a statement by Mr. E. Farrar, general manager of the C.B.C. Savings Bank Limited, which was reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 22nd August. Announcing an increase to £3,750 of the limit on the bank’s housing loans, Mr. Farrar said -

We believe the extra amount available will help many worthy borrowers.

As far as we know the limit of £3,750 is the highest granted by any of the major savings banks.

It is, of course, essential that the financial prospects and integrity of borrowers are such that they should be able to repay the loans without undue hardship.

I think it is fair to ask: How are low-wage earners to meet the conditions without undue hardship? Do not these circumstances mentioned in Mr. Farrar’s statement make even more essential the acceptance of the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition?

As I said before, Mr. Speaker, I repudiate a statement that appeared in the “Australian Financial Review”. My view is confirmed by a statement made by Mr. Archer, the Commonwealth Statistician, which was reported in the Melbourne “ Herald “ on 7th September last, under the heading, “ Banks lag on loans “. The report stated - . . a report by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. K. M. Archer, this week reveals that the banks had by no means fully exploited their earlier authority to advance 30 per cent of their deposits for housing.

The total level of savings passed the £2000 million mark last July, so the maximum the savings banks could advance under the new rule is about the £700 million mark.

Actually the total housing advances by the banks was only about £405 million.

Deposits rose by £34.5 million in July. But housing advances increased by only £7.3 million.

Of their new deposits the savings banks, therefore, diverted only 21 per cent, to housing finance compared even with the 30 per cent authorised before the Budget.

We have a right to ask: What are the reasons for this lag? The question is not difficult to answer. The answer is to be found simply in the fact that genuine home-seekers cannot afford to meet the financial demands of the lending institutions. In short, money is too dear to borrow!

The issue centres on two problems - first, the problem of the need to meet the demand for housing for those in the marriageable age groups, and, secondly, the problem of the need to encourage home ownership through easy methods of obtaining finance. I say again, as I said at the outset, that this is a national matter; it demands a national approach. A home is the rightful heritage of every Australian.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that my contribution to this debate to-day shows quite clearly the need for a national housing banking corporation. As I have shown, low deposits, low and uniform interest rates and long-term repayments are urgently needed in this country. One thing is certain: The building of houses under a scheme with such features could not help but stimulate the economy as well as meet a basic need for all young people. Australians are justly entitled to these things.


.- Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to authorize the borrowing of £49,850,000 for advances to the States in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I rise mainly to counter some of the arguments advanced by Opposition speakers. Some of those arguments were put quite unfairly. The Opposition has proposed an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill in terms advocating a committee of inquiry representative of the Commonwealth and State governments to inquire into expected increased housing requirements during the next five years. This trick of calling for inquiries is old hat. Opposition members adopt it consistently, hoping that an inquiry will find some weakness or some evidence that will enable them to hit back at the Government. However, they find themselves in a rather embarrassing position in relation to housing, perhaps more so than in relation to any other subject. Some Opposition members come from States where there are Labour governments and others from States where there are conservative governments. Consistently, those Opposition members who come from States with Labour governments say that all is well with housing in those States, and those who come from States such as Victoria or South Australia where there are conservative governments say that the housing situation in those States is atrocious. Therefore, Opposition members ask for an inquiry, believing that it will get them all out of a very difficult situation.

A most noticeable feature of this debate to-day, Mr. Speaker, has been that two out of the first three Labour speakers have been members who come from New South Wales. They have portrayed a rather dismal picture of housing in that State and have clearly illustrated the point that housing in New South Wales is not up to the standard of housing in other States. The Opposition members who genuinely feel about housing come forward to speak in this debate. It is strange that two out of the first three speakers on the Opposition side of the House were members who come from New South Wales and who want to express their feeling that something more should be done about housing in that State. As a New South Wales member, I might agree that there is a need for more to be done about housing in that State.

Mr Forbes:

– Not “might”. You do agree, surely.


– I do. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has made wild accusations that there has been no increase in activity in the building trades in Australia during the last year. This is an absolutely false claim. I want to cite the very latest figures that I could obtain. They come from the most recent edition of the “Australian Financial Review”, which obtained them from the Commonwealth Statistician.

Let us look at the amount of money spent on houses and flats in the three months June to August of various years. In the three months ended August, 1960, which was the boom year, £94,500,000 was spent on houses and flats. That is the highest amount of money spent on buildings in Australia in a three months period. In the relevant period in 1961 expenditure dropped to £75,300,000. In 1962 expenditure was £80,800,000 in the relevant period and in 1963 expenditure had risen in the relevant period to £93,600,000- almost up to the level of the boom year of 1960. But if we look further at other figures we will see that on non-dwelling buildings £60,800,000 was spent in the three months ended August, 1960. In the same period in 1961 £54,600,000 was spent. In 1962 the amount spent in the relevant period was £63,600,000 and in 1963 - again the same period - the amount spent was £67,900,000- an all-time record.

In the same period in 1963 the amount spent on alterations and additions to existing buildings was £23,100,000 - another all-time record. The total amount spent on buildings in the three months ended August, 1963, was £184,600,000 compared with £176,700,000 spent in the same period in the boom year of 1960. That is a clear indication that there has been an upward trend in building.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no right to make the accusation that the tempo of building in this country has not accelerated. The rate of building is at present at an all-time high level. The honorable gentleman knows that, and he should not have made his accusation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that house building had not been expanded due to financial restrictions. This Government Iiss made every effort to find every penny necessary to stimulate genuine homebuilding. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of having no consideration for the social problem brought about by a shortage of homes. I do not think that accusation may be made of any honorable member on this side of the house. We all have the greatest sympathy for young people who want homes. We all want to do our utmost to see that every young married couple gets a house as quickly as possible. This is one of the great social needs of our country, but we in Australia have no cause not to be proud of our achievements. I state quite categorically that no other country has a better record in supplying homes to young people than has Australia. No other country gives young people a better chance of acquiring a home than does Australia. In few countries is the employment level higher than it is in Australia. There are few countries where young people have a better opportunity to borrow large amounts of money and repay them at reasonable rates of interest over long periods of time.

The whole purpose of the bill is to provide funds to the States so that through their housing authorities they may provide relatively cheap homes for people on low incomes and build homes for rent at reasonable rentals.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.


– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was replying to the accusations by Opposition members that the Government is not taking a sufficient interest in the housing programme in Australia. The Opposition was trying to pinpoint some of the alleged weaknesses of our policies. I rose particularly to reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who stated that there was no expansion of home building in Australia, and that the Government showed little sympathy from a sociological point of view and had failed to remedy the somewhat depressed situation of home building since 1960-61. To counter those arguments let me refer to the latest edition of the “ Financial Review “. The front page carries the headline “Indicators Point to Vigorous Building Boom”. If you look at the figures you will see that ti present Australia is experiencing the greatest building boom ever. In 1960, £176,000,000 was spent on all types of buildings - houses, flats and nondwelling buildings - and on alterations and additions to existing buildings. In 1963 the expenditure was £184,600,000 - a very substantial increase. In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that savings banks were advancing record amounts for home building. It is estimated that this year about £100,000,000 will be advanced for this purpose.

I do not blame the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for accusing us of not doing our utmost to help the building industry, but he has tried to sustain a very weak argument. The facts speak for themselves. By giving additional funds to the States for their housing programmes, by increasing our contribution to the provision of war service homes, by providing additional funds for homes for serving members of the forces and by allowing the savings banks to increase their advances for home building, the Government has given the Australian building industry a stimulus and activity in the industry now is running at a very high level. To see that that is so, one only needs to look at the unemployment figures relating to skilled building tradesmen. The number of skilled building tradesmen registered for employment now is as low as it has ever been, indicating that the great majority of the tradesmen are being employed in the building trade throughout Australia.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, using his usual venomous style, accused members of the Government parties of having little consideration for the sociological needs of the people of Australia. He claimed that all that we think about is the problem which faces the Government in finding funds to carry out the housing programme. Let me tell him that we have just as much sympathy as has any one else for people who need homes. We realize that one of the greatest needs of our young people is a home, and we have done and will continue to do everything that we can to provide homes for them. No other government in this country has done as much as we have in this regard. I do not claim that what we have done is any criterion of the ultimate but we have tried continually to find ways and means of making additional funds available for this purpose.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also accused the Government of introducing financial restraints in 1961 in a deliberate attempt to reduce the rate of home building.

Mr Armitage:

– That is right.


– We introduced restrictions in 1961 in an attempt to prevent the boom which had developed from becoming greater. If the honorable member for Mitchell was in the House at that time and knew what went on, he would know that we made the special stipulation that the home building industry was not to be affected, that the banks, both Commonwealth and private, were not to call in money from people who had borrowed it to buy homes and that the banks were to continue making advances to people who needed homes. To show our bona fides, we granted additional funds to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for the construction of war service homes, in an attempt to stimulate the industry. Admittedly there was some recession in home building - I do not deny that - but that was due to the psychological result of all our restraints. The last thing we wanted to do was to affect the home building industry. In fact, we did everything possible to keep it running at a high level.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed an amendment to this legislation, which is designed to provide almost £50,000,000 for home building. The amendment is in the form of a request that the Commonwealth set up a special committee to examine housing in Australia. Obviously this was the only way he could see to attack the Government. He was hoping that an inquiry would show some point of weakness in our policies. Opposition members are not quite sure what attitude to adopt towards home building. Those who come from New South Wales try to make out that everything in the garden there is rosy because a Labour government is in office in that State, but those who come from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia claim that the situation in those States is pitiful. They can approach the problem of housing only by asking for an inquiry into it. They adopted the same approach to education. As I mentioned before the suspension of the sitting, the Opposition members who seem most concerned about housing and have some genuine bone of contention about it come from New South Wales. Three of the first four Opposition members to participate in this debate come from New South Wales. I too come from New South Wales. I believe there is justification for complaining about the housing situation in that State, although the rate of increase of population there has been nowhere near the rate in South Australia and Victoria. So there is some weakness in the attitude of the New South Wales Labour Government towards housing.

I do not know why it is thought necessary to have a survey of the housing situation. A whole host of statistics is issued every month by local government authorities, by State government departments and by the Commonwealth Statistician. These monthly statistics show the number of approvals for homes, the number of homes commenced, the number of homes completed and the number of people seeking homes. Surely all the information that is necessary is available. What does the Opposition mean when it talks of a survey to find out the needs of the people for the next five years? This is a very difficult subject to analyse closely. Does the Opposition mean that we should try to ascertain the total number of houses required? Many people are doing that kind of projection already. This afternoon the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) spoke about an article written by Dr. Hall on architecture in Australia. Dr. Hall made surveys in 1961 and 1962. He made three different surveys and every time his figures were different, because circumstances kept changing. He did not know quite what the situation was.

Mr McMahon:

– He made another one this year.


– I am very glad to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service say that Dr. Hall has made another survey and come up with different figures again. This is an intangible quantity. One cannot determine exactly what the figure should be.

When we talk about the number of dwellings, we have to determine how we will split them up among the population. About 89 per cent, of married people, 59 per cent, of widows, 52 per cent, of widowers and 23 per cent, of unmarried people over 25 years own their own homes. How are we going to work a percentage or proportion into a survey so that those groups of people receive their fair share of homes? This is a very difficult subject. When one is making a survey of homes, it is difficult to determine the actual standards that are required or the rate of improvement in the standard of homes. I know that the planners and the bureaucrats can easily write down the answers, but it is purely theory. We already know what the housing requirements of Australia are. We do not need a committee to tell us that. All we need is the money to build as many homes as we can. That is what we want in this country.

People who say that the Commonwealth is not making available enough money for housing should have a close look at what the State governments are doing. The money that the Commonwealth provides under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is decided by the Australian Loan Council, which consists of representatives of each State and the Commonwealth. The State governments ask that a certain amount of money be raised each year for loan works and housing. For this year they estimated that they required £272,000,000. Once the Commonwealth guarantees that the States will receive a certain amount of money, it is up to the States to decide how that money is apportioned.

If the States feel that there is a greater need now, or that more money should be spent on housing than they have been spending in the last two years, why do not they allocate more money to housing? The States were given an additional forty-odd million pounds between 1961 and 1963; yet they did not use any more money for housing. In fact, they reduced their expenditures on housing very slightly. That is a fair indication that the State governments think that they are keeping up with the demand for housing throughout Australia. If the State governments believe that they are not doing the job properly, why do not they apportion a greater percentage of their money to housing?

I will quote the actual figures. In 1961-62, £247,000,000 was allocated for public works and housing. Of that amount 20.4 per cent, was spent on housing. In 1963-64 the total amount was increased to £272,000,000, but only 18.3 per cent, was allocated to housing. The States had it in their own hands to decide how much they needed for housing; but they felt that the need to build more schools, to do sewerage works, to do water reticulation and to meet other requirements from public works money was greater than the housing needs.

Mr Reynolds:

– Which States cut their housing programmes?


– The honorable member for Barton asks me which States cut their housing programmes. I know that New South Wales did not make too big a plea for more money for housing.

Mr Cope:

– I am beginning to think that you do not like the New South Wales Labour Government.


– That is the understatement of the year, particularly in regard to housing. The New South Wales Government’s housing record is atrocious. Even the “ Financial Review “, which is predominantly pro-Labour, cannot support the New South Wales Government in regard to housing. Over the years it has consistently condemned the New South Wales Government for its housing programme.

Accusations have been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that building societies are not receiving as much money or building as many homes as they were when the Labour Party was in office. I think be said that, but I will stand corrected if I am wrong.

Mr Stewart:

– He said that building societies are not receiving as much money from insurance companies.


– I stand corrected, if that is so. The position to-day is that building societies are building more homes than they ever built, as a result of the assistance given to them by amendments to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that this Government introduced. In earlier years there was a great deal of resentment against 30 per cent, of the money that the Commonwealth finds for the States going to building societies. There was quite an element in the Labour Party which did not want the working man to be a little capitalist who owned his own home. In 1951 this Government re-negotiated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and laid down a provision that 30 per cent, of the money provided for housing go to building societies. We on this side of the House believe that we should give the building societies as much encouragement as possible. We believe that they are very good. We believe that people have the right to select their homes, to choose designs that they want and to build homes where they want to build them. We do not believe that everybody should be compelled to have a housing commission home. We believe that building societies are good because they attract more of people’s money into their own homes.

I agree that a certain amount of the money provided should go to the State housing authorities to enable them to build homes for people who are on very low incomes and who have not the deposit to put on a home, and also to provide homes at a reasonable rental for people on low incomes. But I do not believe that all the money should go to the State housing authorities. In fact, I would like to see the allocation for building societies increased from 30 to 40 per cent. I do not think that would be too great, because we receive the greatest possible value from the money that goes to building societies. The Commonwealth lends money to the States - if you like to put it that way - over a term of 53 years. The State governments, in turn, lend money to the building societies over a term of 31 years. If you make an actuarial computation you find that the money lent for 31 years can be used twice in a period of 53 years. In other words, the money that is lent to building societies does twice as much work as the money that is lent to the State housing authorities. That is of very great benefit in having more homes built.

I have here some very interesting figures on a comparison of building societies with State housing authorities. In the period of operation- of the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - that is up until 1961- £134,630,000 was advanced to the State housing authorities and £45,819,000 was advanced to building societies. If you divide those amounts by the numbers of houses built by the State housing authorities and the building societies you find that the cost of each home built by the State housing authorities was £2,853 and the relevant figure for the building societies was £2,566. In other words, for every £10,000,000 advanced to building societies, they built 392 or 11.2 per cent, more homes than were built by the State housing authorities for a similar amount. Obviously it is sound policy to spend as much of the available money as possible through building societies rather than through State housing authorities.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a few other inaccurate statements. This, of course, is typical of him. Members of the public might think him a glamour boy who speaks very well, but the fact is that he makes many inaccurate statements. deliberately trying to poison this Government. He said that we were providing incentives for people to put their money into the loan market rather than leaving it in insurance companies. He referred to the 2s. in the £1 rebate on money invested in Commonwealth bonds. He referred also to the 30/20 per cent, ratio of money invested by life insurance companies in public securities, including Commonwealth securities, and to the proportion of 70 per cent, of depositors’ balances required to be held by savings banks in cash and in government securities. Of course, what the honorable member referred to was like robbing Peter to pay Paul, if you like to put it that way. The money provided under this bill comes from the loan market, and if we can compel certain people to put money into the loan market, then that money will be used for housing and public works.

The fact is, of course, that when we introduced the legislation covering the 30/20 per cent, ratio, some insurance companies were not providing enough money for building societies and were not putting money into government securities. They were simply using their money for speculative purposes in real estate and on the stock exchange. We have simply compelled them to use a specified amount of their money for home building. The provision for reducing from 70 to 65 per cent, of depositors’ balances the minimum amount a savings bank is required to hold in cash and in government securities has been an additional help. It has meant that an extra £109,000,000 is now available through the savings banks for use in home building.

Our record in home building is a proud one, and 1 have much pleasure in supporting this bill. I do not see any justification whatsoever for the amendment proposed by the Opposition.


.- The favorite activity of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) seems to be to try to shelve the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government, particularly in the field of housing, and to argue that these responsibilities are those of the State governments. He always approaches the housing problem as though it were a State problem. He does not seem to realize that the number of homes that will be built in Australia can only be determined by the economic policies of this Government. This is the Government that controls the purse strings. It is the one that decides how the cake will be cut up. It is the Government which, in the final analysis, decides how many homes will be built, how big will be the waiting list for homes, how many prospective home purchasers will be disappointed and how many people will be left homeless. The honorable member for Richmond cannot evade these facts, no matter how he tries to vent his spleen on State governments and evade the responsibilities that lie on the Government parties in this House.

The honorable member sought to ridicule the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that a nationwide survey of housing needs should be undertaken. He seems to have overlooked the fact that when the Premiers met about six months ago. they were unanimous in putting forward the proposition that such a survey is essential in Australia’s housing programme. It is no wonder that they were unanimous; it is quite obvious that they cannot depend on the surveys conducted by the Department of National Development. In 1915 a survey was conducted by that department, and as a result we were told that by 1970 we would have to be building 79,000 houses a year. The fact is that we are now building about 90,000 houses a year and the lag is still growing. No wonder the Premiers have decided that there should be an independent survey, because it is quite obvious that this Government’s own department cannot conduct a survey with any accuracy whatsoever.

The backlag in home construction in Australia is one of our most difficult economic problems. I think I can speak with some authority on this matter, because my own electorate is one in which there are many young communities. It comprises several new areas that have developed very quickly, such as the Blacktown and Hornsby areas, the Hills district and the Penrith district. In these areas are many young people, for whom the Government must endeavour to find housing. The electorate also has a large population of immigrants, and the problem of housing for immigrants is a very serious one, deserving the close attention of this Government.

It was only to be expected that there would be some housing lag after the war, but surely at this time, eighteen years after the end of the war, the fact that we still have large backlags in housing is an indictment of this Government’s policy. It is a reflection of the Government’s failure to produce any form of economic planning, of its laisser-faire method of planning, its attitude of “ Let things take their course and let us hope that everything works out all right “.

Mr Nixon:

– What about the States?


– That is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government at all times. The honorable member asks, “ What about the States? “ 1 have already answered that question. The decision as to how many homes will be built is one which depends on the economic policies of this Government, and the honorable member cannot evade that fact by trying to pass Commonwealth responsibilities over to the States. The next thing we know, honorable members opposite will be trying to pass the problem of housing on to local authorities.

The result of this Government’s policy is that young people to-day cannot obtain homes. This has resulted in unhappy marriages and in very bad publicity for Australia overseas. The housing position in this country is really one of our show windows. If we do our job properly in the housing field we can show Australia as a worthwhile country to which people overseas may confidently emigrate. The fact that we have a large backlag of housing is causing a serious deterioration in Australia’s reputation in other countries. The result of our shortage of housing is that many immigrants are leaving Australia because they find that the country simply does not measure up to the claims made for it. Let me give some figures in this connexion. 1 have before me a document prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, entitled, “ Australian Demographic Review No. 167: Oversea arrivals and departures, March quarter, 1963 “. There is a table showing “ Permanent and Long-term Movements “. For the year 1962 it shows that there were 124,985 arrivals and 60,347 departures, leaving a net intake of 64,638. In other words, of all the people who came to this country, nearly 50 per cent, returned to their homelands. Surely we should do some research to find out the reason for this.

Mr Jess:

– That is rubbish.


– These are the figures given by the Bureau of Census and Statistics of permanent and long-term movements. It is undoubtedly important for us to try to find out why there are such mass movements of people going back to their countries of origin. Unless we correct this tendency we will not be able to ensure that we will progress at the most rapid rate possible, and we will not be able to retain all the people that we need in this country. Honorable members opposite should go into their electorates and have discussions wilh the migrants. They will find that one of the main reasons why migrants are returning to their homelands is a lack of housing. I was told this as recently as last week-end. Other problems are involved, such as a lack of social welfare. Far better family benefit schemes than ours operate in other countries of the world, and far better social services are provided. We are getting very few migrants from the Scandinavian countries. The people there have been fortunate enough to have Labour governments for some years and as a result they enjoy good housing conditions and good social welfare schemes. They do not wish to come to Australia because they cannot get the same conditions here. I give credence to the argument that the most important need of people overseas wanting to come here is housing. The problem of housing must be faced up to if we are to bring to Australia as many migrants as we possibly can. I feel that I can say safely that honorable members on both sides of the House support the migration programme and want to see as many migrants as we can get coming to this country as soon as that can be arranged. We all realize the need to increase our population by births and by migration, but I argue very strongly that the migration programme cannot proceed very quickly unless we overcome the housing lag. I ask honorable members opposite to go out amongst the New Australians in their electorates. If they do, they will find that one of the main reasons why migrants are returning to their homelands and not remaining permanently in Australia is their failure to obtain adequate housing.

In considering this problem we should look ot our expenditure on the construction of dwellings, taken as a percentage of national income, and compare Australia with some other countries, lt is important to realize that Australia is a developing country with a very quickly increasing population. Accordingly, we should be spending a far greater percentage of our national income on housing than is spent by more static countries. We have high standards, compared with those in many European countries. To protect these standards, we should bc spending a greater proportion of our national income on housing. But what do we find? Expenditure on the construction of dwellings is 5.91 per cent, of the national income in Australia. In Canada it is 6.53. In Greece it is 6.23 and in Italy it is 7.46. In the United States of America it is 6.07 per cent. Our percentage expenditure on housing is the lowest of all these countries. It is probable that our population is increasing at a greater rate than the populations of the other countries with which I have made a comparison, yet we find that our expenditure on housing as a percentage of the national income is the lowest. Surely this is an indictment of the policies of the Government.

Demand should also be considered. The estimates of demand made by the Department of National Development have been very inaccurate. I shall quote some figures given by Mr. A. R. Hall, taking as a basis an assumption of 80,000 migrants a year. In 1963 the demand is for 102,000 homes and we are building approximately 91,000. By 1970 the demand will be for 131,000 homes and we will be building about 121,000. No matter what analysis you make of the figures or what authority you quote, you will find that, far from overtaking the housing lag, we are steadily slipping further behind in meeting the demand. Let us examine the figures for completed dwellings. According to the *’ Quarterly Bulletin on Building Statistics “, 86,776 houses were completed in Australia in 1962. The figures show that Australia is simply not measuring up to this problem and that the Government is not coping with the tremendous demand for housing in Aus tralia to-day. The Department of National Development said in its 1957 survey that approximately 79,000 houses will be required by 1970. On the other hand, Mr. A. R. Hall estimates that the requirement will be nearer 131,000. We will have completed only about 90,000 houses this year. Surely the gap is confirmation of the wisdom of the unanimous submission of the Premiers that there should be an independent survey of housing throughout this country.

I turn now to the number of outstanding applications to the State housing authorities. R. T. Appleyard, in his survey called “ Low Cost Housing and the Migrant Population “, said that at 30th June, 1962, 71,623 applications were outstanding.

Mr Cockle:

– Is that in New South Wales?


– No, that is the figure for the various State housing authorities. It is obvious that we are slipping further behind the demand, even though we have increased year by year the number of houses commenced. The projections of the Department of National Development have not been realized and this points to the need for a national inquiry into our housing needs. The Opposition strongly supports the proposal made unanimously by the Premiers.

It is very important that we should look at the very serious social problem involved in the need to assist in the building of homes for pensioners and aged people. I compliment the Government on its scheme to assist the churches to build home units for aged people. Nobody quarrels with that scheme. It is very good and we want to see an extension of it. But for some reason the Government is not prepared to support the proposals by the States to build small units for pensioners and aged people. Approaches have been made to the Government on a number of occasions but each time they have been rejected. I cannot see the logic of the Government’s actions. Housing for aged people is a necessity but the States are required themselves to find ways and means of financing their proposals. The New South Wales Government has made some very fine proposals. lt is allocating finance for the erection of small bed-sitting room units, equipped with toilets and other conveniences for aged people. Surely this is something in which the Government can assist the States in regard to their normal housing loan requirements!

I would now like also to deal with the Treasurer’s proposal to increase from 30 to 35 per cent, the statutory limit imposed on savings banks under the Banking (Savings Bank) Regulations in the terms of which they may lend their deposits for housing purposes. At present 70 per cent, of their deposits must be held in reserves in the form of deposits with the Reserve Bank of Australia - notes, coin, bullion, government or semi-government securities. The remaining 30 per cent, may be loaned for housing or for other purposes on the security of land. I do not quarrel with the Government’s proposal to increase the 30 per cent, limit to 35 per cent. To the contrary, I advocated it in my maiden speech in this House, but I think the Government has overlooked the basic problem in this regard. That is, the savings banks are still not lending anything like 30 per cent, of their deposits for housing purposes, the total being approximately 20 per cent. In the case of the Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank Limited the figure is 17.68 per cent.; the figure for the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Limited is 20.10 per cent., and the figure for the Commonwealth Savings Bank 17.62 per cent. These figures are taken from depositors’ balances in the “ Australian Banking Statistics” published on 19th September, 1963. We find that on the average the figures for the savings banks, both State and those under the control of the Commonwealth legislation, is 20.09 per cent. I make that point because, by and large, the State banks are lending a far greater proportion of their deposits for housing than are the banks under the control of the Commonwealth legislation. Even so, the average is only 20.09 per cent.

Only the other day an article which appeared in the “ Financial Review “ pointed out that the savings banks had increased their lending on housing to a considerable degree. To appreciate how that has occurred we must realize that their depositors’ balances increased very considerably over the last year. This increase has been brought about by lack of public confidence in industry and commerce caused by the economic policies of the Government. Accordingly, there is a tendency for people to put more of their funds into savings banks or Commonwealth loans rather than in other forms of investment.

By the end of July, 1962, the depositor’s balances totalled £1,763,500,000 and a year later, the figure was £2,012,800,000, a rise of £249,300,000. This represented an - increase of £63,000,000 for housing, yet only 25.3 per cent, of those increased funds went into housing loans. Surely it can be seen that there is not a great deal of practicability at this stage in the proposal to increase the statutory limit.

It is the duty of the Government to try to find some way by which it can encourage the banks, including savings banks, to put a far greater proportion of their depositors’ balances into housing loans. I think we have ample evidence that the savings banks at this stage are putting only approximately 20 per cent, of their depositors’ investments into housing loans, and of the increase in depositors’ balances in the last year still only 25 per cent, has gone into housing loans. A great deal more has to be done if the figure is to reach 30 per cent., let alone the requirement of 35 per cent.

Why are the banks approaching the problem in this way? The answer is very simple. They have consistently found it necessary, in order to save the face of the Government over the last decade, to invest their savings bank deposits in Commonwealth loans, owing to the continual failure, up until recent times, of the Government’s loan programmes. The Government has called on the savings banks to invest their depositors’ balances in Commonwealth loans in order to save its face. If the banks had not had to do so, those funds could have been invested in housing loans. I feel that the Government first of all should overhaul its loan programme and take all possible action to encourage savings banks to put their funds into housing loans.

The insurance companies, also, are not investing in housing loans to anything like the degree to which they should. An article which appeared in the “ Financial Review “ to-day pointed out that in the June quarter of this year the total housing loans outstanding from life insurance companies increased by only £446,000, while their holdings of ordinary shares rose by £7,776,000. Surely this shows that the insurance companies, despite repeated appeals by the Treasurer, are not placing a sufficient proportion of their funds into housing loans, but that, to the contrary, they are buying up industrial stock and particularly retail stock. The result is that the loan programmes of the various governments are allowed to go unheeded. The Treasurer has made appeals to the insurance companies, but they have not been heeded.

It is time the Government took further action to give stronger encouragement to insurance companies to invest more of their funds in housing loans. The inactivity of these companies in this direction needs very careful examination by the Government when it gives consideration to its economic policy.

One of the great problems wilh regard to the housing programme is the gap between the amount of the loan and the cost of the home. This disparity is having a great effect on young people who, in many cases, have to find £2,000 or £3,000 deposit on a home. This is almost impossible for a great proportion of the young people to-day. As I said previously, if we want to populate Australia quickly we must populate it not only through migration but through natural increase and housing is one of the most important essentials in this regard. In order to overcome the present position, it is important that Labour’s policy regarding a home finance commission to provide money, to construct homes and to lend at a low rate of interest for the construction of homes on low deposits, as is being done in the United States of America, should be implemented. This is one of the only ways in which we can overcome the great problem of the gap between the cost of homes and the amount of the loan which the lending authorities will approve. These are some of the many problems which face Australia to-day.

Lack of housing is a great social problem. The housing position may be described as our front window overseas. It is the window which determines our reputation in overseas countries and which, accordingly, determines the number of migrants that will come to Australia. It is affecting our development, through lack of migration and through the dissatisfaction of the population as a whole, who cannot maintain a high rate of productivity if they have not decent housing conditions. This problem must be overcome and the gap between the cost of housing and the loan which the finance authority will provide must be solved. We must encourage the savings banks to lend more for home building and we should insist that the insurance companies measure up to their responsibilities in regard to housing.

Furthermore, we should help the States in their programmes for the provision of homes for pensioners and the aged, lt is being done for the churches which are carrying out this work, and we agree with the Government’s proposal in this direction. We ask that help be given to the States for similar work, and we cannot understand why the Government refuses to give that assistance. Wc also suggest that a homes finance commission should be established to help young couples bridge the gap between the deposit required and the maximum loan advanced and to see to it that low interest housing is provided. These are the only ways by which this Government can measure up to those social and economic responsibilities which it must accept if this country is to develop at the greatest possible rate and achieve its destiny.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that only by a change of government can we overcome this great housing problem. Because this Government is not prepared to face up to its responsibilities, is not prepared to undertake the economic planning of our future, and continues to move along slowly with its laisser-faire policy of “ Let things take their course, let us hope they work their own way out”, it must be replaced. Australia must have better housing, and this can be achieved only by a Labour government which will measure up to all these responsibilities.

Minister for the Army · Bennelong · LP

Mr. Speaker, I think the last words of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) are worth commenting on. He stated that the only way in which the housing problem can be cured in Australia is by changing the government.

In other words, he says that a Labour government would do more for housing in Australia than this Government has done. This statement will bear examination, and in a few moments I propose to give the House an outline of the record of the Labour Government when it was in office. For the moment, I wish to refer to the amendment which has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam)., He proposes that we should inquire into housing requirements for the next five years, as was suggested by all the State Premiers. Such a suggestion is mere subterfuge. It is all very well for the Premiers to say, “ Have an inquiry “; that is only another way of trying to get more money out of this Government, and all States are very adept at finding new ways to get money from the Commonwealth. The truth is, of course, that, under the Commonwealth Constitution, housing is essentially a State responsibility.

Mr Barnard:

– It is a national problem.


– Under the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution, it is a State matter, as I shall prove to the honorable member in a moment when I am dealing with another point. The previous Labour Government found that, constitutionally, housing was a State responsibility. Certainly from a national point of view the Commonwealth does interest itself in housing, and its record in this direction is unsurpassed. To talk about having an inquiry to find out what the housing requirements of each State in Australia are is mere subterfuge, as I have said. If the State governments themselves do not know what their housing requirements are, then they are just not doing their jobs.

Members of the Labour Party insist that there is a great housing shortage. That is true enough in one respect in New South Wales, but that position does not obtain, as has been claimed, throughout the whole of Australia. Many Opposition members have suggested that more money should be made available for home ownership. This, Mr. Speaker, is a great change of front on the part of the Labour Party. I have been in this House for fourteen years, and I can vividly remember speaker after speaker on the opposite side of the House opposing home ownership in every possible way. As a matter of fact, before I have finished my speech, I shall prove that they did in fact try to prevent home ownership in Australia.

There is no doubt that the housing problem is the subject of more distortion than any other problem confronting Australia. Unfortunately, housing is made a political plaything and the facts in connexion with it arc distorted in very many ways. In many cases they are distorted deliberately in order to deceive those people who know nothing about the subject. Quite frequently, politicians play on the human emotions and, unfortunately, on the sacrifices of the people in an attempt to gain a political advantage. Such tactics are very wrong indeed. I agree with the honorable member for Mitchell that housing is one of the most important economic and social problems confronting any community.

Mr Armitage:

– What are you doing about it?


– In a moment I shall tell you what we are doing about it and what we have in fact done about it. In a case like this, I think it is necessary to go back over a little of the history of housing. Many members of the Opposition would like to forget about these things, but I intend to remind them of them. It is a fact that in 1939, before the war, private enterprise, without government assistance of any kind, supplied Australia’s housing demands. At that time, every one in Australia could get a house to rent in any suburb in any State and those who wished to buy a property could select the one they liked and that suited their pockets. All this cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that the great bulk of the savings of the people went into investment in housing and real estate, and for modest returns. They were not looking for very high returns on their investment. Every one will remember that at that time provident people made provision for their old age and retirement by investing in the purchase of the homes they rented. This was a healthy economy, and the position that obtained then can be contrasted with that which was brought about by the previous Labour Government and many of the State governments in Australia.

This Government believes in home ownership, as we can prove. We can prove, also, that a previous State Liberal government was the first government in Australia to introduce home ownership provisions into the legislation governing building societies. I refer to the Stevens Government of New South Wales in 1935. I do not think anybody can deny that the building society movement, which has now spread throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, and which is being encouraged by the 30 per cent, allocation of the funds provided under the housing agreement, has done a magnificent job in promoting home ownership throughout Australia.

It is true that the building industry was in a very healthy state when war broke out in 1939. The only real housing shortage at that lime arose from slum clearance work. Those who can remember those days will remember that although there were investigations into housing, all inquiries were related to slum clearance and not to the question of housing as we are discussing it to-night. The war stopped all this activity, as it did activity in many other directions. Wages, property rents and property sales were all subjected to controls. When the war ended in 1946, the Labour Government was still in office and it is to this period that we must look to find the genesis of the trouble from which we are suffering at the present time. When the war ended in 1946, the Labour Government insisted upon keeping on all controls. Indeed, if honorable members opposite were to give expression to their real desires to-night I am sure they would admit that they believe that the only way in which we can cure a problem that confronts us is to impose a control. The honorable member for Mitchell almost advocated that when he spoke about the funds of the insurance companies. The perpetuation of controls by the Labour Government in 1946 created widespread black-marketing in property, which everybody remembers. It also drove private investment in property completely out of existence. The material controls that were imposed at that time inhibited the manufacturing and building industries. They brought progress in the building industry to a grinding halt. Labour then tried to socialize housing completely. Let any honorable member on the other side of the House try to deny this. The Labour Government after the war tried to introduce a Commonwealth housing commission for the purpose of government ownership of all housing in Australia.

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– Rubbish!


– This is true. This was the famous time when Mr. Dedman, who was a Minister, said that we did not want to create little capitalists in Australia. Labour found that its plan was unconstitutional. It then approached the States and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that we are now debating was born. The agreement entered into with the States at that time made no provision whatever for home ownership. It discouraged home ownership and indeed prevented it. Labour gave no assistance to home building. Now, of course, 30 per cent, of the money we provide under the agreement goes to building societies. In addition, when Labour was in office there were arbitrary and cruel resumptions of private property without proper compensation. Although inflation was gripping the economy and wage-pegging was lifted, rents were still pegged to the 1939 values.

Let me give the House some very interesting figures. In the four years after the conclusion of the war, Labour built 145,000 houses at the rate of only 36,000 houses a year throughout the whole of Australia. That is one house for every additional 4.5 people in the population.

Mr Cockle:

– Which government was that?


– That was at the time the Opposition was in office. For four years, when Labour should have been building many houses, it built only 145,000. Compare this with the record of the present Government. This Government took office in 1950 and since then has built 1,000,000 houses throughout Australia at an average rate of about 80,000 a year and about one house for every additional 2.6 people in the population, including migrants.

Mr Barnard:

– By how many has the population increased?


– You work it out yourself. I have given the figures.

As other honorable members have said, last year we built 86,776 houses and at the moment construction is running at the rate of about 100,000 houses a year.

Mr Barnard:

– That is still not enough and you know it.


– Those figures speak for themselves.

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– Not enough!


– Not enough? That is right, you say it is probably not enough. All I say is, as I heard an honorable member say this afternoon, that this Government has the greatest record in housing in the history of Australia. No other country has been able to surpass its record in the last fourteen years.

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– Why do you make those reckless statements?


– I am making these direct statements, which can be proved to the hilt. In less than fourteen years we have built about 36 per cent, of the total stock of houses built in Australia in the last 170 years. Those figures are impressive. In that period, over £3,000,000,000 has been spent on housing and of this the Government has provided £957,000,000 or nearly £1,000,000,000.

I remind the House that the Government provided £82,100,000 in 1960-61, £96,600,000 in 1961-62 and £91,600,000 in 1962-63. This year the Budget provides for an expenditure of £97,000,000. In addition, of course, there is the matter that was referred to by the honorable member for Mitchell. The rule that the savings banks must invest 70 per cent, of their funds in Commonwealth securities, leaving 30 per cent, for housing loans, has been altered so that the ratio is now 65 per cent, to 35 per cent. This means that an extra £72,000,000 can be lent by the savings banks for housing.

The main items of expenditure for this year are worth considering. The housing agreement that we are discussing provides for the expenditure of £49,850,000. This should be compared with Labour’s expenditure of £17,220,000 in 1949, the last year it was in office. We are providing for service housing an additional amount of £2,034,000; Labour provided nothing. We are providing for war service homes £35,000,000; Labour provided £16.150,000. We are providing £3,700,000 for homes for the aged; Labour provided nothing. In the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory we are providing £6,232,000; Labour provided £1,370,000. Of course, in addition to this, the Commonwealth Bank in the last year lent no less than £43,000,000 for housing and will lend more than this amount in this year. The amount it lent last year was an increase of about £20,000,000 over the amount lent in the previous year.

I think some figures on war service homes may be appropriate, too. In thirteen years, this Government has spent over £400,000,000 or more than 90 per cent, of all the money spent since 1919. To put it another way, this Government has provided 170,000 homes for ex-servicemen in thirteen years compared with 54,541 provided by all other governments in 30 years. I think those figures-

Mr O’Brien:

– Prove nothing.


– They prove a great deal. They prove how active the Government has been in the housing field and they establish the magnificent record that it has. Yet a government that does as much as this is subjected to the petty criticisms that we hear from Opposition members. I think they must be talking with tongue in cheek; they are not telling the truth.

The major housing shortage in Australia has now been overcome. The only apparent shortage is in rental homes for the lowerincome group. This is the real problem. This shortage is most obvious in New South Wales. I know that all the other States have problems, but their problems in housing are not as great as are the problems in New South Wales

Mr Whittorn:

– Why is that?


– I am glad the honorable member asked that question. The cause of this is without doubt the continuance of rent control in New South Wales. This rent control is based on 1939 values and it is the most vicious legislation ever passed in a civilized community. It deliberately perpetrates an injustice on a section of the community that is completely defenceless against the legislation. Perhaps s more potent factor is that at least 80 per cent, of the people who are receiving the benefit of the rent control laws could afford to pay an economic rent. They are, therefore, depriving the workers on a low wage of the low-rental housing that they would otherwise have. Despite this, the State Government has taken no action at all to alleviate the position. In addition, it has distorted the economy and created an artificial shortage of houses. It has cruelly forced young people to buy and lease at rates quite beyond their means.

There arc two aspects of the shortage of homes for people on low wages. One is the system of rent control in New South Wales. Perhaps only 20 per cent, of the people who benefit from that system are entitled to consideration. The other 80 per cent, are not, but they continue to occupy homes that could be occupied by workers on lower wages. The other important factor is that housing commissions have been building for rental purposes for quite a long time. A man who obtained a Housing Commission dwelling 15 years ago may then have been financially in a position that entitled him to that house, but he may since have become quite affluent. Many people who some years ago obtained Housing Commission dwellings have now become quite affluent but still continue to occupy those houses. Tens of thousands of people are now occupying Housing Commission dwellings that should be available to workers on lower wages. In my opinion, this is quite wrong.

Let us have a look at some of the figures revealed by the census in 1961. These are most illuminating. In 1947, 47,041 dwellings in Australia were unoccupied. In 1954, the number was 112,594 and in 1961 194,1 09. In New South Wales, the number increased from 17,392 in 1947 to no fewer than 72,441 in 1961. This proves one thing: People will not let their houses in certain circumstances. As a result of rent control, tens of thousands fewer people are now living in the same number of houses than previously. Then we turn to the figures for the occupancy of houses as revealed by the census. In New South Wales alone, in 1954, one person occupied each of 83,855 houses. In 1961, the number was 110,662. In 1954, 209,858 dwellings in New South Wales were occupied by only two persons each and in 1961 the number was 251,121. This means that one out of every 2.89 occupied dwellings in New South Wales accommodates only one or two persons. This is a dreadful state of affairs, which has been brought about by the vicious rent-control system that operates in New South Wales. The truth is, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if rent control were applied on the basis that an economic rent should be paid, there would be no shortage of houses in New South Wales at present.

I know that the abandonment of rent control might cause some hardship to some tenants. I am not suggesting now, nor have I ever suggested, that rent control should be arbitrarily ended in one fell swoop. That would be unfair to some of the tenants. However, rent control should have been gradually lifted over the years as the basic wage rose. Had that been done, the control could have been lifted completely by now and the number of houses would have been properly adjusted to the number of people seeking to occupy them. The New South Wales authorities persist in continuing rent control. Some adjustment should be made now. Those indigent people who are not able to pay an economic rent should receive from the State some kind of a subsidy to enable them to pay an economic rent. That is die fair thing to all. If some adjustment is not made in this way, the economy is distorted and the property-owners do not receive a fair deal. The only effect is to destroy their incentive completely.

I should like to direct attention to some other very interesting figures, particularly in relation to New South Wales. My friend, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), mentioned this matter earlier today. These figures are taken from the census results. They are authoritative figures. In New South Wales, in 1954, 533,266 houses were owned or were being purchased by the occupants. In 1961, the number was 717,208. This represents an enormous increase. Government tenants - those for whom the State Government is supposed to be providing, and for whom that Government is the only source of lowrental homes - occupied 30,539 dwellings in 1954 and 34,217 in 1961. The number increased by approximately 3,000 in the seven-year period mentioned.

Mr Jess:

– Only about 3,000!


– That was the increase in the number of government-owned rental houses in New South Wales in the seven years from 1954 to 1961. The number of privately owned houses occupied by tenants declined from 310,334 in 1954 to 270,088 in 1961. So, notwithstanding the number of new houses and flats built, the stock of rented dwellings decreased by about 40,000 between 1954 and 1961 in New South Wales alone. This is one of the greatest tragedies that I can imagine, because, as a result, all incentive to provide rental housing has been destroyed. This has been due to the actions of the previous Federal Labour Government and of the present Labour governments in various States.

This destruction of the incentive to invest in rental housing has had far-reaching effects. Investment in housing is the safest possible form of investment at a reasonable return, but the incentive to invest in this field has been destroyed. As a result, the money that would have been invested in housing has had to find an outlet elsewhere and has created many of the economic problems that we have in this country. This factor was the basic cause of the period of inflation and boom. The destruction of the incentive for people to invest their savings in property has brought about a situation that a lot of people do not understand. It is one of the reasons why prices of land and buildings are so high. In place of the incentive to make worth-while investment in property, we have had speculative activity. People have looked for big profits. As a result, prices have been forced up because markets here and there have been cornered. All this has resulted from the destruction by Labour governments of the incentive for people to invest their savings in property. This has been the cause of these conditions that are now causing a great deal of difficulty in our economy.

I have estimated the amount that has been contributed as a subsidy, as it were, by the section of the community represented by property-owners upon whom rent control has been imposed. In New South Wales alone, property-owners have been forced by rent control to contribute £1,000,000,000 as a subsidy to their tenants. We shall never get back the incentive to invest in property in Australia while there is a likelihood of a Labour government that believes in controls regaining the treasury bench in this Parliament. Indeed, the only hope for the encouragement of investment in property in New South Wales is a change of government in that State and the maintenance in office of the present Commonwealth Government. This would enable us gradually to re-build confidence in the property investment market and to encourage people to return to it. I hope that the people of Australia will realize that a socialist government that thinks that it can solve all problems by imposing controls, and by interfering with the economy as such governments do, will only cause almost irreparable injury to the economy and prevent the proper housing of the people of Australia.

I think that I have said enough, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to indicate to the people and to the House that the present Commonwealth Government’s record in housing surpasses that of any other government in the history of this or any other country. We propose to continue that record and to carry on with the work that we are doing in promoting Che maximum rate of construction of houses for the people of Australia. However, some action is required on the part of the States, which have the definite responsibility for ensuring that equity and justice are done to all in providing low-rental houses for the workers of Australia.

Mr. COUTTS (Griffith) T9.20].- I have just listened to a fairy story entitled “The House that Jack Built “. There is no doubt that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) entered into the realms of fantasy. I realize that when quoting figures a member of the Liberal Party need be only reasonably accurate. He need not be accurate; it is enough to be reasonably accurate. That was the line followed by the Minister. I am compelled to set the Minister’s figures against those quoted by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he introduced this bill. The Minister for the Army referred boastfully to his Government’s efforts in the field ot home-building. He stated that the Government was building 100,000 homes a year. But the Treasurer - a modest man, although somewhat irresponsible with figures, as we all know - has claimed only that the Government in 1962-63 built 88,000 homes and 82,000 homes in 1961-62. So if we compare the figures given by the Minister for the Army with those given by the Treasurer we find a difference of 12,000 homes. Honorable members may say that that number is not very significant, but it represents the total housing shortage of South Australia, which has the greatest shortage, on a comparative population basis, of all the States.

Mr Jess:

– Not South Australia, New South Wales.


– What does the boy soprano say? The honorable member for La Trobe claims that whatever the New South Wales Labour Government does, it is always wrong, but I am quoting figures given by the Commonwealth Statistician. Surely he is right! I am afraid that the honorable member for La Trobe is a good Liberal. He must never be accurate in his figures; only reasonably accurate. South Australia, which has the worst housing shortage of all the States, on a comparative basis, would be very pleased to get the 12,000 houses that the Minister for the Army has conjured up in his story of “ The House that Jack Built “.

Mr Jess:

– Can you prove those figures?


– The honorable member will find the figures in a reply supplied by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) in answer to a question on notice by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The figures appear in “ Hansard “ of 18th October, 1962, at page 1766.

Through the generosity of the Chair we are given an opportunity to debate first the bill, which concerns the advance of money to the States, secondly the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and thirdly the overall housing situation in Australia. I support the amendment, which seeks the appointment of a committee to inquire into the housing situation in this country. Honorable members, particularly those from this side of the House, who have taken part in the debate have explained the difficulties confronting Australians who seek a home. I suppose it is the desire of every Australian to own his own home. This Government is not doing a great deal to assist in the matter. Accordingly, I support the amendment, which is in conformity with the request of the Premiers of all States that a committee of inquiry be established to review the housing needs of the people of Australia.

The agreement under which loan money is made available for housing was initiated by a Labour government - by the late Mr. Chifley during the concluding days of the war in the Pacific - and it has been of great assistance to the people of Australia. As the Minister for the Army has said, prior to the war responsibility for the construction of homes rested almost entirely on private enterprise and, to a minor extent, on State governments, but with the obvious necessity to overcome the backlog in housing construction, which had developed during the war years, the far-sighted statesmen who were members of the Chifley Government realised the need for the Commonwealth to enter into this sphere of activity. Although constitutionally the responsibility for home construction is entirely that of the States, the Commonwealth took upon itself the responsibility of making money available so that the States could proceed with the construction of homes. That was an intrusion by the Commonwealth into a sphere of State activity. The system has been most successful. But having regard to the natural increase in population, which was referred to by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), the fact that there was a sharp decline in the number of homes built during the war years and the adoption of the immigration programme, under which about 135,000 persons will migrate to this country during this financial year, not enough money is being made available for the construction of homes. The Treasurer washes his hands of the whole problem by saying that the amount that is being made available in this bill is all that was sought by the Premiers. The Treasurer thrusts the entire responsibility onto the Premiers. In view of that I must refer to a statement made by Mr. Nicklin, Premier of Queensland. He is quite happy with the amount of money that is being made available to Queensland under this bill for home construction. He said that the proportion of money allocated to housing is determined by the States themselves from their overall loan allocations. He said also that other States are considerably behind with their housing at present whereas Queensland has overcome most of its shortages. That is a boastful statement but a completely untruthful one. The record of the Queensland Government in housing is a sorry one.

The original purpose of the housing agreement was to provide homes for people in the lower income bracket. The wealthier section of the community can look after itself. It receives good service from the banks and the insurance companies. But the working man on the bottom rung of the ladder is a somewhat helpless individual when it comes to obtaining a large sum of money in order to build a home. The 1945 housing agreement, as I read it, was intended to provide homes for people in the lower income bracket. We know that is so because of some of the conditions that applied in those days and which do not apply now. For instance, the agreement originally provided for an economic rent and for a rent rebate. However, as time has gone on the agreement has been varied. According to the report of the Queensland Housing Commission, under the 1945 agreement, which a Federal Labour Government negotiated with the States, the average economic rent for houses made available by the commission was £3 5s. 4d., but under the 1956 agreement, which this Liberal Government negotiated with the States, the average economic rent for similar houses was £4 5s. 4d. The Commonwealth Government, by increasing the interest charged on money made available to the States for housing purposes, has been responsible for a £1 a week increase in the rents of commission homes.

There is an acute shortage of homes in Australia. I refer, as I did when the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) interjected earlier, to the information supplied to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on 18th October, 1962, in reply to a question on notice. As at 30th June, 1963, the various State housing trusts and commissions had 74,392 outstanding applications for homes. I do not propose to cite the figures for each State. It is enough for my purpose to tell the sorry story of my own State, Queensland. In 1962 the number of outstanding applications for homes with the Queensland Housing

Commission was 4,166, but by June of 1963 the number had increased to 4,194. The demand in that State is increasing while the supply is decreasing, but the Premier apparently is quite satisfied with the position.

By this bill, £49,000,000 will be made available to the States for housing. As the Treasurer has said, that is the amount for which the Premiers asked. I notice that New South Wales leads the States with its request for £16,500,000, that Victoria comes next with a request for £13,250,000 and that Queensland asked for a mere £4,300,000. Making a closer analysis of the subject, I find that New South Wales will spend £4,125,000 per 1,000,000 population, that Victoria will spend £4,117,000 per 1,000,000 population and that Queensland will spend only £2,870,000 per 1,000,000 population. If Queensland were to spend on housing at the same rate as the New South Wales Labour Government spends, it would devote to this purpose not £4,300,000 but £6,197,000. If Queensland were to follow the glorious record of the Labour Government of Tasmania and spend on housing at the same rate as the Tasmanian Labour Government spends, it would spend not £4,300,000 but £13,500,000. Why is it that the Labour governments of New South Wales and Tasmania, aware of their responsibilities to the people of those States and desiring to do something to alleviate the housing shortage, are able to get on with this great work and to be proud of their records while Queensland lags behind badly in its efforts to meet the demands of people who need homes so urgently?

It is true, as the Treasurer has said, that finance is being made available by the banks, but, as I stated, that finance is being made available to people in the higher income bracket. The Treasurer made the point that for the June quarter 9,800 loans were made, of a total value of £30,000,000. The average advance therefore was £3,060. But to get an advance from a bank to build a home a person must own the land on which he proposes to build and must have a deposit, so you would be safe in saying that any person who receives an advance of over £3,000 from a bank will be building a home worth in the vicinity of £6,000 or £7,000.

Leaving that aspect, let me deal now with those people who are sorely in need of homes - those in the lower income bracket. They are the people who are being denied the opportunity to own a home by the policies being followed by the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. Australia’s population is growing, but the rate of growth in Queensland is slower than in any other mainland State. Queensland’s industrial progress is also the slowest in Australia. Because of this slow rate of progress our record in home construction is a sorry one. We do not appear to be overtaking the backlog in Queensland.

This is a social as well as an economic problem, and because it is a social problem 1 am particularly worried about it. Recently the Victorian Police Commissioner, in a report to the Victorian Chief Secretary on housing conditions in the city of Melbourne, stated that sub-standard housing means sub-standard citizens. I am not prepared to admit that that is entirely correct but I believe that sub-standard housing tends to reduce the initiative of the people and the regard for citizenship that they should have. The people are looking to the State and Commonwealth governments to help them to improve their conditions of living.

In Queensland a points system operates when a person seeks a home on a rental basis from the Housing Commission. The newly married couple cannot obtain a home but the person against whom a court eviction order is made has the highest number of points required to obtain a Housing Commission home. The man who has a family and is living in very cramped conditions, perhaps with his in-laws or with other relatives, is next on the list. So it goes on. This points system seems to be forcing some applicants so far down the list that they are becoming desperate. In my position, as the representative of a constituency in the heart of the city of Brisbane, I am very worried when people, particularly the mothers of families, come to interview me and ask for assistance in obtaining a home from the Queensland Housing Commission. It is pathetic to hear the stories of some of these mothers who say that they are living with their in-laws and have two or even three children. The mother and father sleep in a room and the children sleep on the veranda. I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, tha1! during July and August it can become very cold on verandas in Brisbane.

But nothing is done. The position is getting worse. We still have the sorry record of 4,194 unsatisfied applications to the Queensland Housing Commission. The large number of people involved in this problem throughout the Commonwealth should appal the Government. I repeat the figures quoted by the honorable member for Hughes a little while ago. He said that the number of individuals, the number of Australians, involved in the 74,000 outstanding applications for homes exceeds 250,000. We must also consider a matter which is the direct responsibility of this Government. I refer to the fact that eighteen years after the conclusion of the Second World War 50,000 people - ex-servicemen and their dependants - are waiting for war service homes. That means that 300,000 people are in dire straits, desperately in need of decent housing.

Mr L R Johnson:

– Then there are the migrants.


– As the honorable member for Hughes very rightly interjects to assist me, there are also the migrants who are coming to Australia. There will be 135,000 of them this year if the target is achieved. As the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) has said, the hostels for migrants will be required for years. We must face up to this problem. We cannot let it drift on and on. Honorable members opposite are complacent and contented. We on this side of the House are horrified at the situation that exists. We are impatient. We want the Government to take some action to meet this situation, to alleviate the problem and to get ahead of ‘the housing shortage. But I am afraid that the wrong government is in power.

We are faced not only with the problem of housing shortages but also with the problem of sub-standard homes. I do not use the word “ slums “ because I think it is a bit extreme. I admit that there are no slums in the city of Brisbane, but I say that there are many sub-standard houses there. The Premiers are worried about this matter. Money must be made available to provide for the clearing away of sub-standard houses and for the launching of a new scheme to replace such houses in the industrial hearts of the big cities with flats and tenement building to accommodate working people who have to live in close proximity to their places of employment. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the money provided cannot be used for that purpose. It cannot be used for the acquisition of land, the demolition of improvements on land, sub-standard house clearance or slum clearance. The Premiers have asked for a grant for that purpose over and above the £49,000,000 that is made available under this bill.

This is perhaps the most pressing social problem facing the nation. This Government must give a lead to the States. It must try to persuade the State Premiers that they have to ask for more money for home construction. There is nothing more pathetic than to witness an Australian and his young family living under sub-standard conditions in an old home, with his parents or parents-in-law, or with people who are not his own kith and kin. The position is bad and we should not be complacent or satisfied with it. At this late hour to-night many kiddies in Brisbane will be kneeling down to say, “ Now I lay rae down to sleep “. They are doing that under shocking conditions which are the responsibility of this Government and the Queensland Government. I hope the time is not far distant when we will be able to say ‘.’hat this is just sorry history. I hope that the succeeding government, led by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), will initiate a programme which will consign the present position to the limbo of forgotten things.


– I wish the Opposition would not approach this problem in a spirit of exaggeration and relish. I intend to say something about this problem, but my statements will not be exaggerated, and I hope I will not fall into the trap of regarding this problem with some relish in the hope that votes can be got out of it.

There has been too much of that in the approach of the Opposition to this very real problem. My views on housing have been stated in the House before. I will summarize them insofar as they relate to the general problem.

There is a housing shortage in Australia, but it is confined mainly to the State of New South Wales, certain fast-growing areas and certain specified groups, particularly migrants and the aged and invalid. There is a real housing shortage, but it is not a general shortage; it is a selective one. Secondly, I believe that the Government should take more advantage of any lull that occurs in the tempo of business in order to increase building activity, particularly in the field of low-cost homes. We have a very large prospective demand because of the large numbers of births shortly after the Second World War. The people born then shortly will become of marriageable age and will be in need of houses. We need a much stronger tide of migration, but the limiting factor on the migration programme is always the accommodation question. There is still some slum clearance to be done. Although that has to take its place behind more urgent demands for accommodation, I hope that it will not be delayed unduly. So there is a case for a further increase in the housing programme. I do not intend to repeat the figures. I have put them before the House on a previous occasion. What we want is more low-cost housing. We want it available to purchasers on a low margin of equity. We want finance available at a low rate of interest. I agree with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that we also need a certain number of houses available for rental at low rates. Those are all good objectives. In order to approach them, the Government has to consider increasing the stock of houses made available.

Earlier in this debate the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) mentioned war service homes. I believe that the Government could and should do more in that field. Honorable members know all the problems that their constituents bring before them in this regard. If one looks at the accounts of the War Service Homes Division over the past twelve years or so one finds that the amount allocated per year has risen from £25,000,000 to £35,000,000, with an added £2,500,000 as an emergency measure last year. I think the amount mentioned in the estimates for this year is £35,000,000. But during that same period the annual repayments, interest and principal combined, has increased from £5,000,000 to £24,000,000. The figure for this year is not available and, unhappily, has not been published in the estimates, but it will be about £26,000,000. So it appears that the net figure spent on war service homes has decreased during the period I have mentioned by about 50 per cent., and if one takes account of the decline in the value of money during the period, the drop is even steeper.

There is a case to be made out for greater expenditure on war service homes, and I would propose - and I hope the Government will consider it - a five-point plan in this regard. It is a plan directed towards increasing expenditure on war service homes, because I join with the honorable member for Sturt in reminding the House that money spent in this way is not just distributed and wasted, but is money that is lent and will come back. It is productive in the fullest financial and social sense of the word. I shall enumerate the five points that t advocate from my experience of the problems of my constituents. I believe that other honorable members will have had the same kinds of experiences of these problems in their own electorates.

First, I think we should eliminate the waiting period for loans for the purchase of old houses. We have already eliminated, as honorable members know, the waiting period in respect of loans for new houses, and I feel that we should do the same with regard to loans for the purchase of all houses.

Secondly, I think we should widen the eligibility for advances for war service homes. Members of the Britsih forces who fought beside our own men are surely entitled to similar consideration. I am not suggesting that they should receive preference. I do not suggest that they should be able to elbow out any Australian. But if we arc going to increase our net outlay, as we should, then I believe that they are entitled to share in these benefits.

Thirdly, we should do something about additions to new houses. Extra money has been made available by the Government for this purpose, but all sorts of administrative clogs and blocks have arisen. I believe that the administration of this provision could be handled in a much more flexible manner.

Fourthly, in urgent cases, and urgent cases only, I believe we should give more consideration to applications for second advances. In cases in which persons have suffered hardship by reason of ill health, or because of movement in their jobs, outside their control, perhaps a little more consideration should be given to their applications.

Fifthly - and this is the last point I make - I think we should do something about refinancing. I know that war service homes money is repaid at the very low interest rate of 3) per cent, and if we were to offer advances to everybody at this rate we would have such a flood of applications that even the Treasury could not stand up to it. What I am suggesting is something that we could do as an interim measure. I think we could, without altering the interest rate for existing finance, offer re-finance for war services homes at, say, 5i per cent, as an initial step, with a reduction to be made at the Minister’s discretion when the amount coming in is ascertained. I think this would solve a great number of the problems which come before honorable members in dealing with questions raised by their constituents in connexion with war service homes advances.

I put this five-point plan as a practical one arising from the experience I have had in my own electorate. I believe it is experience that has been paralleled in other electorates. I next come to the question of the housing shortage, particularly as it relates to New South Wales, and to quickgrowing areas and some special groups. I am sure the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) was not quite right in the figures that he gave in respect of population increase. I have had figures taken out by the statistical service of the Parliamentary Library, and if honorable members will allow me I will have this short table incorporated in “ Hansard “.


– Is leave granted?

Opposition members. - No.


– Leave is not granted.


– I shall read as much as I can in the time available. In the last fifteen years the population of the States has increased in the following proportions: -

New South Wales is at the bottom of the list, and I suggest that if there were a competent government in New South Wales the housing shortage would be less serious in that State than in any other. Instead, however, it is more serious than in any other State. What is wrong is the way in which the Government has handled the situation. To some extent it is the result of the bad effect of the landlord and tenant legislation. To some extent it is the result of genera] inefficiency. Mainly, however, it is the result of the utter incompetence of the representatives of New South Wales at the Australian Loan Council. This is what is mainly the cause of the present deplorable state of affairs.

New South Wales has been consistently victimized in the Australian Loan Council because our naive and incompetent representatives have been worsted by the, unfortunately, more competent representatives of other States. On 1 5th August last I had incorporated in “ Hansard “ the figures which prove my case. Honorable members will find them repeated in the Budget paper on payments to or for the States, which has been distributed. In point of fact, New South Wales has been getting, per head, much less than any other State for many years. The honorable member for Sturt is quite right when he points to the fact that in South Australia there is no housing shortage, but has he - I am sure he has - looked at the net Loan Council allocations and seen that the per capita allocations for South Australia is just on 33 per cent, greater than for New South Wales and has been for many years?

Mr Wilson:

– You have been robbed.


– As the honorable member interjects, we have been robbed. We have been robbed because of the utter and complete incompetence of the New South Wales representatives on the Loan

Council. It is no good blaming anybody but members of the New South Wales Labour Government for what has occurred, because every one of the resolutions was unanimously agreed to by the Loan Council. The Loan Council has been unanimous, and the New South Wales representatives on it have voted for each one of the resolutions.

The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was perfectly right when he pointed out that the money allocated for housing was the residue of the loan funds. The amount allocated for housing was the determination of the State governments concerned, but I want to talk about the overall Loan Council allocation. Meetings of the Loan Council are conducted in an aura of secrecy. I think this is a bad thing. Secrecy is justifiable to some extent when you are dealing with things such as the bond rate, but in such cases the Loan Council docs not meet in this chamber. The Premiers, with one or two of their senior officers, retire into the inner secrecy of the Cabinet room. The normal deliberations of the Loan Council, which are conducted in this chamber, should not be conducted in secrecy. They should be open. This unwholesome hugger-mugger - that is all I can call it - has been responsible for covering up for far too long the inefficiency and incompetence of the New South Wales representatives on the Loan Council.

I believe that there is a good reason why the large States with sparse populations should receive more per head than New South Wales. But why should Victoria, with its population concentrated in a small area, have received consistently more than New South Wales at every meeting of the Loan Council for the last fourteen years? There is only one reason. The Victorian representatives have outsmarted our New South Wales representatives, who have been led unanimously to vote for their own destruction.

I came to the last Loan Council meeting. I was not allowed to sit in the chamber but I saw some of the things that happened in the corridors. I know that after the meeting Mr. Renshaw, who was representing New South Wales, gave himself a very large pat on the back and said how well he had done. I think he believed it. He did try, but in point of fact if Mr. Renshaw had received only the same per capita treatment for New South Wales as Victoria received, he would have left with another £27,000,000. These are the figures. He was done in the eye for £27,000,000 and, poor simpleton that he was, he did not realize what was being done to him. He went away and covered himself with selfcongratulations, saying how wonderfully he had done for New South Wales. The other Premiers went away and laughed at him behind his back. He was a new boy at Loan Council meetings. He was not fully experienced and it was rather pathetic to see him being duchessed rather effectively by the Premiers of the other States, once again leaving New South Wales floundering in the mire. This incompetence of its representatives is the reason why New South Wales has been lagging so far behind other States in its per capita allocation from the Loan Council. It is no use saying that anybody but the New South Wales Government has been responsible. Every decision of the Loan Council during the term of office of the New South Wales Labour Government has been unanimous. Therefore, the New South Wales representatives have consented to every decision, apparently without knowing what they were doing or how their State was being sold down the river. I do not accuse them of malice. I accuse them of ignorance and incompetence. The figures can be seen by everybody. They are published in “Hansard” of 15th August.


-Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the bill before the House.


– Very well, Sir. The Treasurer’s view is that the housing allocation is a residue of the Loan Council allocation. I come back, therefore, to the view that the fact that the housing shortage is worst in New South Wales is a reflection of the way in which our New South Wales representatives on the Loan Council have been diddled over the last fourteen years. They have not known what was being done to them. Theirs is a record of incompetence and betrayal of the real interests of their State which is almost without parallel in the history of Australia.

I turn to another point which illustrates the way in which New South Wales has been placed at a disadvantage in the matter of housing. I shall again refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). South Australia and Victoria have their own savings banks. The honorable member for Sturt very rightly referred earlier in this debate to the amounts made available for housing in South Australia by the State instrumentalities. Under the unhappy regime of a previous New South Wales Labour government, the New South Wales Government Savings Bank, the largest institution of its kind in the Commonwealth, went bankrupt. This happened in Lang’s day. In consequence, New South Wales has never had its own savings bank since. It has had the Rural Bank, which has tried gallantly to step into the gap and has done a good deal for housing in New South Wales. But the Rural Bank does not command the big funds which are available to the State savings banks in Victoria or New South Wales. Such funds are available to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but that bank has responsibilities spread all over Australia. So here again in New South Wales, due to the inefficiency of a Jong-past Labour government, we find ourselves at a disadvantage compared with the other States.

I suggest to the Treasurer that he have a consultation with the members of the board of the Commonwealth Savings Bank to see that moneys which are not needed in South Australia are channelled into New South Wales, where they are needed, particularly for building societies, which, in many respects, are the best instruments of low-cost, low-interest and low-margin housing. The honorable member for Sturt has made it quite clear that there is ample finance available in South Australia for housing. The Treasurer might well consider my suggestion. Looking at our Australian housing picture on a national scale, seeing where the shortages are, he might perhaps direct the Commonwealth Bank - . or if not direct, at least try to influence the Commonwealth Bank - to make its housing moneys available in the areas where such finance is most needed. In particular he should make money available for the building societies in New South Wales which, as I very well know, are desperately short of funds. If funds were available it would encourage many more people to build houses. This is another constructive suggestion which I put before the House.


.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who requested that a committee of inquiry be established, consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, to inquire into the anticipated increase in housing requirements during the next five years. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) put forward what he called a five-point practical plan. It is unfortunate that there is not in existence a committee such as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested, because if there had been the honorable member for Mackellar could have gone before it and elaborated his plan. He touched on the housing needs of Australia for only a few minutes during his speech. For twenty minutes or so until you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, brought him back to the bill, he indulged in criticism of the New South Wales Government and the State Minister for Housing. He also said that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was robbing the Government of New South Wales, through the machinery established by this Parliament, and was putting a shabby, smart trick over that government in the matter of housing. That is not a very proud boast for the honorable member to make. I am reminded by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) that, after all, the people of New South Wales are citizens of Australia and are just as much entitled to consideration as are the people of South Australia or any other State.

Surely the housing problem is a national matter! Members of the Government have spoken at length to-day in attempting to show that one State has failed in this direction or that an other State has done a magnificent job in regard to housing. Honorable members have quoted figures to suit their own contentions. As we ali know, figures can be made to give the result which the person quoting them wants to give. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) boasted this afternoon that South Australia had solved its housing problems. The honorable member for Mackellar reiterated that statement, but the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) a short time ago produced statistics which showed that South Australia had 12,000 outstanding applications for housing on 30th June, 1963, while in 1961 the figure was 11,000 and in 1960 it was 8,000. So much for the alleged decline in the number of applications in South Australia. The honorable member for Sturt did not tell this Parliament that there is still a wait of four or five years for rented homes in South Australia, because he was blatantly politically dishonest in dealing with the matter of housing in South Australia.

Mr Wilson:

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask that that statement be withdrawn.


– Order! I ask the honorable member for Kingston to withdraw the remark containing the word “ dishonest “.


– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw that remark, but the honorable member certainly handled the figures concerning housing in South Australia most recklessly. He deliberately omitted any reference to rented homes in South Australia and consistently omitted to quote from the report of the South Australian Housing Trust, which warns of the long waiting list for rented homes in the years ahead and of the great need lor homes not only for people on low incomes but also for the aged and needy. South Australia has nothing to boast about in regard to housing, as has been shown to-night, and the fact that 12,000 people are waiting to obtain decent accommodation is not a matter for pride. Getting back to the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to the bill itself, I point out that for eighteen years, since the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, this Parliament has regularly provided money for the States to help them deal with the housing problem. What has this achieved? The money certainly helps the States to build some homes, but it does little more than skim the surface of the problem. By regularly voting money for housing to the States in this Parliament, we have recognized it as a national problem.

Will the money voted for housing by means of this bill do more than similar measures have done in previous years? I am sure it will not solve the problem, any more than have similar votes on previous occasions. We have to supply the States with money but we need an efficient plan to deal with the housing shortage. We need the committee suggested in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Let us forget all that has been quoted this way or that in the Parliament to-day. The plain fact is that we are not building sufficient homes in Australia to meet the yearly demand, let alone to overtake the lag which mounts up as years go by. The demand for housing is increasing and will continue to increase each year. The demand for housing comes partly from young married couples in the community who are in search of homes. It comes partly from middle-aged people, many of whom have occupied homes for twenty to thirty years and who, when their old homes become no longer fit for habitation and have to be pulled down, must seek other accommodation. The demand comes also from thousands of migrants to whom we have an obligation to sec that they are provided with housing. Perhaps one of the saddest sections of the; community is our senior citizens who, in the twilight of their lives, are compelled by circumstances to seek accommodation to suit their own peculiar needs. lt is against the background of these shortages that we should consider the bill which is before the House. It is with these shortages in mind that we should consider the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As he said when moving his amendment, the Labour Party will not do anything to oppose the passage of the bill. We recognize that the money to be provided by this measure is needed by the States and will go some way towards providing accommodation to help those in need, but we urgently request the Parliament to support the amendment, which seeks the establishment of a committee of inquiry. In putting this suggestion we are mindful that we have the full support of all the Premiers. They support this proposition because they are fully aware of the problems of the housing situation and know that they are not able to meet the demands for housing. The appointment of the suggested committee is long overdue and it is time we dealt with the matter instead of trying to set one State government against another.

It is not good enough to say: “It is a State problem. We in the National Parliament will vote you so much money, but it is your job to provide the houses.” Housing is a problem of national magnitude. It is tied up with our immigration programme. If we cannot provide adequate homes for our migrants we cannot hope to maintain the immigration target we set for ourselves. We must set about establishing a real partnership on a Commonwealth-State basis. We must forget all about scoring off the States. It is time we set about doing something to help the people who are in need. It is abundantly clear that we cannot hope to solve the housing problem by continuing in the way in which we have been going in the past. We ought to be prepared to accept this challenge. If the Government is not prepared to accept it, then the quicker it gets out of office and makes way for another government which is prepared to do the job, the better.

The young people wishing to obtain a home are placed in an almost hopeless position to-day. As an illustration, let us take the case of the young married man 25 years of age or a little older who has managed to save £1,000 or £1,500. Whether he be an apprentice, a clerical worker or just a labourer jobbing about, he has made a very creditable effort if he has managed to save £1,000 or £1,500. When he wants to buy a home, what does he find? When he tries to buy a block of land, he is lucky if he can get one for £1,500.

Mr Leslie:

– Let him go to the west.


– He might get it in some of the suburban areas of South Australia. If he is prepared to go a good many miles out from the city he might be able to buy a block for a little less, but then he is faced with the cost of transport to and from his job in the city.

Mr Thompson:

– He perhaps has to pay £1,000 for a motor car.


– As the honorable member for Port Adelaide has said, he might be faced with paying £1,000 for a motor car in which to travel to his work because quite often public transport does not extend to the outlying areas. The only hope most young married people have of obtaining a home to-day is for the wife to go to work and to continue working in order that between them they might earn enough money to pay off their mortgage - sometimes they have to pay off both first and second mortgages - and pay the high interest rates charged for the money they borrow. They can keep up their payments only as long as they are both working and no children come along. Surely that is not very satisfactory. We must face this problem. I do not suggest that unlimited money should be made available. It is of no use merely saying, “We will lift the maximum loan from £3,000 to £3,500”. Nor is it of any use to increase the maximum loan by another £500 later, or make it easier to obtain a second mortgage. AH this money has got to be paid for and at high interest rates. This again pinpoints the urgent need for the establishment of the planning committee visualized in the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Leslie:

– What is the position in South Australia?


– I am glad the honorable member asked me that question. The South Australian Housing Trust is the housing authority set up by the South Australian Parliament to construct homes to meet the requirements of the people of South Australia. It is interesting to study some of the comments made by the trust in its reports and to study the results of its activities. First, let me say that I have a very high regard for the South Australian Housing Trust. In my view, it has done a most remarkable job in providing housing accommodation over the years. It has as general manager a first-class planner and administrator in Mr. Ramsay, and the members of the board have shown great energy and willingness to cope with the problems of housing. But, despite their great efforts, the fight is being lost, as it is in all other States, and the trust is slipping behind in meeting the needs of the people. The trust in its report refers to future needs of housing, and makes many references to the great problem confronting the State.

Recently the Leader of the South Australian Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr. Frank Walsh, pointed out to the South Australian Parliament how ground was being lost in that State. He produced a schedule covering the activities of the South

Australian Housing Trust since the year 1956-57 and cited comparative figures for the period from 1956-57 to 1962-63. For instance, he said that in 1956-57 the number of homes completed was 3,140, that by 1960-61 it had increased to 3,314, but by 1961-62 it had dropped to 3,253, and that by 1962-63 it had fallen still further to 2,884. If the comparison is made on the basis of taking the year 1956-57 as representing 100, it will be found that in 1960- 61 the figure slipped down to 95, in 1961-62 it dropped to 91 and by 1962-63 it fell to 79; and the general trend is towards a reduced number of constructions each year. If we analyse the position on a percentage basis, the trend is seen to be even more pronounced over the past three years. In 1960-61 there were 5 per cent, fewer homes built than in 1956-57. In 1961- 62 there were 9 per cent, fewer homes built than in 1956-57, and in 1962-63- last year - there were 21 per cent, fewer homes built than in 1956-57. And this despite the fact that there are still 12,000 people on the waiting list in South Australia, and the waiting period for them is from four to five years! In its report for the year 1961, the South Australian Housing Trust states -

The Trust is only too well aware that the position as regards the availability of reasonable, adequate accommodation for the less fortunate section of the community is far from satisfactory.

The report continues -

Applications for rental houses, especially in the metropolitan area, continue to pour into the

Trust’s office and the waiting time period for applicants is still quite considerable.

It goes on to say further -

Moreover, the increase in demand consequent upon continued immigration and the higher marriage rate due to the expansion of the birth rate after the depression years of the 1930’s is already becoming apparent. The Trust desires to emphasise its opinion that at the present time rental homes are urgently needed. The requirements of a large proportion of the families with low incomes cannot be mct by even the most generous of home-purchasing plans and privately owned accommodation is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain at rents within the means of the lower paid workers.

These are statements not made by Labour members of parliament but taken from the annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust, and they are totally at variance with what the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has said. They emphasize that there is a shortage, and that the shortage will get worse. In the last report available, that for the year ended 30th June, 1962, the trust again warns of future needs. It says -

The Trust would again wish to draw attention to the fact that in the latter part of this decade an increase in the housing demand can be expected as the result of the increased birth rate during the war and early post-war years. People born at this period will attain marriageable age and will need housing accommodation.

These comments by the trust clearly point out the problem that lies ahead. The danger light is showing and the warning issued by the South Australian Housing Trust and other housing authorities calls for immediate action on a national basis. Government supporters now have the opportunity to get on with the job by accepting the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition instead of just talking a great deal, as they usually do each year when legislation of this kind is before us. The problem of housing must be tackled on a national basis. We need co-ordination and planning. The State Premiers have said that they support such an idea. The pattern is before us and we must show that we are eager to do the job. What prevents us from providing the housing that is needed? There is no shortage of building material or of manpower. The only shortage is a shortage of finance. I refuse to believe that at this time a committee could not work out a scheme to solve the finance problem and set about finding an answer to this urgent social question.

The War Service Homes Division has been mentioned during this debate. I think we could do much worse than establish a national scheme on the same lines as the war service homes scheme, but having application to all those people in Australia who need housing. It has been said that the division provides finance at 3£ per cent, and shows a very good profit. The Commonwealth Bank, I understand, provides finance for its officers at about the same rate of interest, and it gets out of the woods very well with those charges. What is wrong wilh the Government introducing a similar scheme for all citizens who need housing? The pattern of the war service homes scheme could be adopted as the basis for a national programme.

I know that the plight of the young is hard and that they urgently need accommodation, but nothing is more sad than the plight of the old people. The Premiers have raised this matter at meetings of the Australian Loan Council. The South Australia Housing Trust has done something about it. It has built 803 cottage flats for pensioners and others with restricted means and has assisted many charitable organizations to build similar flats. We are all very pleased that the Government has provided a subsidy of £2 for £1 to various church, charitable and benevolent organizations that construct homes for the aged. But surely we will not leave all this work to the charitable organizations, the benevolent societies and the churches. What is wrong with the Government agreeing to the Premiers’ suggestion that money be made available on the same basis to local government, semi-government and government instrumentalities that are prepared to build homes for the aged? I have been informed by a member of the South Australia Housing Trust that, if the Government gave the trust a subsidy of £2 for £1, it would be able to wipe out the long waiting list for homes for the aged in a very short time. Surely we ought to be able to provide this subsidy. If we will not help the young and the middle-aged, we should help those who in the final days of their lives are seeking adequate accommodation.

While I am speaking about the aged, let me refer to another matter that has some relation to them. We have a wastage of housing. Hundreds of homes are occupied by single persons, widows and widowers who have lost their partners in life and are left in possession of a fairly large home. They must decide whether to stay in the home and cope with the rates and taxes or to sell it and find alternative accommodation. When they try to sell the home they learn that the lending institutions other than finance companies, are not prepared to provide loans for the purchase of existing homes, old homes or whatever term we like to apply to homes that have been built for a good many years. Many young people would be glad to purchase such homes if money were made available to them. If the banks would earmark part of their funds for the purchase of existing homes, single occupiers of these large homes would be able to sell them and buy home units or other accommodation to suit their needs. The larger homes would then be available to the young people and those who need them.

I think the housing needs of the people in the next few years have been made clear. We have shown that, irrespective of the political colour of the State governments, whether they be Labour, Liberal or Country Party, the housing needs are the same from one end of Australia to the other. This is a national problem and will be solved only when we are willing to tackle it on a national basis. I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I hope that honorable members opposite who have spoken about the housing problem will rise to the occasion. I know that I am asking for a great deal, but maybe one of them at least will come over to this side of the House and vote for the establishment of the committee that we need urgently to find the solution to a great social problem.

One point is clear. If the Menzies Government, which has failed for so long, is not prepared to meet its obligation to provide housing, the electors will deliver its marching orders when they have the opportunity. I hope that the people of South Australia, who may be voting in a by-election next Saturday, will remember that the Playford Government, like the Menzies Government, has failed to meet its obligation to provide housing. If the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not carried, a Labour government in the very near future will set up such a committee. The people can be assured that we will have the courage to tackle the problem on a national basis.


.- The speech of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) was rather amazing. He, like other Opposition members, showed up the weaknesses of Labour. He built his argument on very doubtful premises. After all, South Australia has the best housing record of any State. I suppose his purpose was to keep discussion away from the serious plight of New South Wales, about which we have heard so much to-night. I remind the honorable member that South Australia has had a most progressive Premier for a considerable number of years.

He foresaw the difficulties of a large increase of population. If the honorable member cares to read the figures given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his second-reading speech on the bill, he will learn that South Australia has the largest loan allocation for housing on a per capita basis of any State.

The honorable member said that 12,000 people were waiting for houses in South Australia. Most of those people are unable to find the £50 or £75 needed as a down payment. He said that 4,000 applications for housing loans had been accepted. I am reminded by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that no one is waiting for a house for purchase in South Australia. South Australia has been under considerable stress because of its extraordinary rate of development. Per capita, it has absorbed twice as many migrants as the normal quota; yet its migrant hostels are half empty. In New South Wales, on the other hand, as we all know, migrant hostels are full to overflowing. This shows up New South Wales very poorly by comparison.

I think that the remark’s made by the honorable member for Kingston and other Opposition members about people not being able to make moderate down payments on houses constitute a very serious indictment of those people. With the high standard of living that we have in Australia, the great majority of our people should be able to find the money to put up moderate deposits. We hear a lot of criticism of young people who earn high wages and spend their money very recklessly. Surely to goodness they can think a little of the future and save something so that they will be able to buy a house on the very easy terms provided by the various housing societies. We on this side of the House believe in the principle: Seek and ye shall find. I feel that honorable members opposite have more or less adopted the slogan: Sit down and we shall give it to you. That is all very well while the Australian Labour Party is in opposition, but what will happen if it ever takes office?

Let us have a look at Labour’s record in housing. The honorable member for Kingston complained about insufficient funds being provided for the housing of aged people. When Labour was in office, it had no scheme for the housing of aged people. The present aged persons’ homes scheme was introduced by this Government with the payment of a £1 for £1 subsidy to organizations that provided homes for aged persons. The subsidy paid by this Government is now £2 for £1. In the current financial year, £3,700,000 is to be made available under this scheme. Let us take our minds back to the days when Labour was in office in the federal sphere. I know that we have to go a long way back. At that time, one could get permission to build a house of only about 10 or 12 squares in area. The amazing thing was that Labour maintained that these controls could not be removed. As has been pointed out, the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the individual owning his own home. A former Labour Minister once said, in effect: “We do not want people to own their own homes. If you let them own their own homes, you will make little capitalists of them.”

We have heard a lot about the woeful housing situation in New South Wales. In a previous debate, we heard a great deal about the hopeless situation of education in that State. Members who represent New South Wales electorates seem to treat this place as a sort of wailing wall where they can pour out all their troubles. I suggest to the people of New South Wales that the best way to overcome their difficulties is to change the State Government.

Let me just tell the House something of the housing situation in Queensland. The present Government has established a record in providing housing. I have here a few figures that will demonstrate this. In 1955- 56, when Labour was in office in Queensland, the total number of housing units completed in that State was 7,660, which was fewer than the current need in that year. The lag became worse in 1956- 57, Labour’s last year in office in that State, when the figure fell to 7,456 units completed - again fewer than the current need. This was a record low for house construction in Queensland in the post-war years.

Mr Cockle:

– What government was in office in Queensland then?


– A Labour government. The Housing Commission was snowed under with high-priority applications, and hundreds of families were still living in temporary housing camps. In 1957-58, the Country-Liberal Government’s first year in office, there was a marked improvement and 7,716 units were completed. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Don Cameron), who is interjecting, knows all this. He does not like to hear it, but there is no harm in my reminding him of it. In 1958-59, the first full year in office of the Country-Liberal Government, completions shot up to 8,900 units. This was a dramatic increase and the best figure for five years, Mr. Speaker. There was another marked advance in 1959-60. Completions rose to 9,972 units, compared with the new target of 8,000 to 8,500. That was the year in which the Country-Liberal Government cut Labour’s housing lag to ribbons. In 1960-61, we achieved the third best performance in the history of the State. The number of units completed rose to 10,640. We had the credit squeeze in 1961-62. It was a very tough year. Finance was difficult to get and buyers were few. Nevertheless, in the year ended 30th June, 1962, 10,092 home units were completed in Queensland. In other words, the performance of the CountryLiberal Government was 20 per cent, better than Labour’s average from 1953 to 1957. In the quarter ended 30th September, 1962, dwellings were being completed at the annual rate of 9,676.

Mr Cockle:

– The honorable member for Griffith did not tell us this.


– No. This is another side of the picture. Part of the improvement is due to the new guaranteed cooperative building societies that were introduced by the Country-Liberal Government. Since the relevant legislation was passed, no fewer than 156 societies have been registered, with a total capital of £7,718,000. Some of the most dramatic headway has been made in country districts. In the thirteen years from 1944 to 1957, Labour completed 4,053 houses in the whole State outside the capital city. In the five years to 30th June, 1962, the Country-Liberal Government completed 2,798 houses outside Brisbane. In other words, in five years we achieved almost as much as Labour achieved over the much longer period of thirteen years.

The Australian Labour Party fought against building societies. It resisted the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth attempted to channel through building societies portion of the money provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The use of the money in that way represents the best value in building that we can possibly get. When, finally, the Labour Party’s hand was forced and it had to accept the proposal, it was so discouraging to building societies in the first year that a large portion of the first year’s grant did not go to those societies. We have so encouraged building societies and home ownership that we now have more societies clamouring for funds than we have funds to accommodate them.

In addition, the Country-Liberal Government, as I have mentioned, started the guaranteed co-operative building societies - something that the Australian Labour Party had continually refused to do. The signal success of this scheme and the contribution that it has made to home ownership are demonstrated by the fact that in the first year of its operation the guaranteed cooperative societies succeeded in raising £1,150,000. In the second year, they broke the record, and the amount raised increased to £1,450,000. In the third year, from 1st July, 1960, to 30th June, 1961, the societies again broke their record with a figure of more than £2,000,000. It is very likely that they will break the record again this year. We have made great progress in housing under a Country-Liberal Party Government. I suggest to the people of New South Wales that they can get out of their difficulties by changing their State government.

In the field of housing this Government’s record is better than that of any government of any other nation. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer said - . . a study of international statistics on this subject shows that no country in the world has average housing standards higher than those existing in Australia at the present time.

Further he said, and these are excellent statistics -

United Nations statistics of numbers of persons per room show Australia sharing first position on the list with several other countries which also have high living standards. But when you turn to the figures showing the proportion of Australian homes having five rooms or more, you find that the proportion rose from 68 per cent., according to the 1954 census, to 72 per cent. in 1961 . . . according to United Nations statistics, no country has yet reached Australia’s 1954 figure of 68 per cent., let alone the higher figure for 1961.

That is something we cannot forget, although honorable members opposite would like to forget it.

Honorable members opposite have claimed that the Commonwealth is niggardly in its allocation to the States of money for housing. On this point let me again quote the Treasurer. In a statement that is most apt in this discussion he said -

In closing I would emphasize several points. The first is that the expenditure of £49,850,000 on housing provided for in this bill is the amount that the States, which are constitutionally responsible for housing, have themselves decided to apply to housing in 1963-64.

That is fair enough. The total amount allotted by the Commonwealth for all types of housing this financial year is over £97,000,000. It is made up of £49,850,000 provided in this bill, £35,000,000 for war service homes, £3,700,000 for homes for the aged, £6,232,000 for housing in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, £2,034,000 for housing for the defence forces and £200,000 for housing Commonwealth employees in the States. In addition £150,000 will be provided under the proposed new scheme for housing disabled persons. The total expenditure by the Commonwealth will be in excess of £97,000,000 in this financial year.

Mr Snedden:

– And a grand total it is.


– I agree; it is a grand total. I do not think I need go any further. The Opposition’s case is the weakest that it has ever put up. I condemn the amendment and support the bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.

page 1322


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Housing Loans. (Question No. 85.)

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

By what amounts did -

savings banks and

life assurance companies increase their housing loans in the last financial year?

Mr Harold Holt:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

  1. Figures for Australia, including the Territories of the Commonwealth, published by the Commonwealth Statistician in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “, show that savings banks’ housing loans outstanding increased during 1962-63 by £58,300,000 to £404,000,000 at the end of June, 1963. A new series of statistics that was introduced in the Reserve Bank’s Statistical Bulletin for August, 1963, shows that new loans approved by savings banks for housing purposes amounted to £108,800,000 during 1962-63. In the previous year new loan approvals for housing totalled £58,600,000.
  2. The latest figures of “Selected Assets and Liabilities Held in Australia by Life Insurance Companies” included in the Commonwealth Statistician’s Monthly Bulletin of Australian Life Insurance Statistics for April, 1963, show that in the nine months to the end of March, 1963, the total investment by life insurance companies in housing mortgages and loans to building or housing societies increased by £4,200,000 to £170,500,000. Figures for the June quarter of 1962-63 have not yet been published.

Company Investments. (Question No. 219.)

Mr Jones:

s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Has his attention been drawn to a recent statement by Mr. Lewis Luxton, chairman of the Shell Oil Company, that the company has invested £150,000,000 in Australia over the last 62 years?
  2. If so, is he able to state how much of this invested capital is in the form of (a) new capital brought in from overseas, (b) loans raised in Australia by way of bank loans, debentures, &c, and (c) undistributed profit?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Advertising. (Question No. 231.)

Mr Don Cameron:

n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that approximately £120,000,000 is spent annually in Australia on national advertising, and that, of this amount, 58 per cent, is spent on press advertising?
  2. Is he able to state whether, despite claims that the impact of modern advertising has drastically altered the shopping habits of Australian housewives, surveys have shown that 51 per cent, of all supermarket and self-service store purchases were made on impulse?
  3. As the cost of living is greatly increased by these advertising costs, has the Government any proposal to introduce legislation which will restrict largely the expenditure of money in this way?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Official figures of expenditure on advertising are not available.
  2. No surveys of this kind have been made by Commonwealth authorities.
  3. lt would be impossible to estimate the net effect of advertising expenditure on the cost of living and the Government has no proposals for legislation of this character, which would apparently raise constitutional, as well as other, questions.

Imports. (Question No. 270.)

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -

  1. Do existing rulings of the Minister’s department allow travellers to import radios duty-free as gifts up to a total value not exceeding £30 at the point of purchase?
  2. Under this ruling can a traveller bring in up to eight transistor radios?
  3. If the answers to the foregoing questions are in the affirmative, will he restrict the number of transistor radios which travellers may import dutyfree?
  4. Is it a fact that many thousands of transistor radios are being smuggled into Australia?
  5. If so, does this inflow of smuggled radios together with the import of radios as travellers’ possessions seriously retard the manufacture of transistor radios in Australia?
Mr Fairhall:
Minister for Supply · PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -

  1. Yes. But the rulings apply only to portable radios and not necessarily to a value of £30.
  2. No.
  3. There is a restriction on the number of portable radios the traveller may obtain duty-free.
  4. During the year ended 30th June, 1963, the Department of Customs and Excise seized 2,210 transistor radios. As most of the radios were found hidden in ships, this would indicate some smuggling of these goods into Australia.
  5. The question of removing portable radios from the free list for passengers is currently under consideration. However, manufacturers have not as yet indicated the extent to which these situations retard the manufacture of transistor radios in Australia.

Pacific Islands Regiment. (Question No. 101.)

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

  1. How long do Australian officers serve with the Pacific Islands Regiment?
  2. Does this period enable them to become familiar with the soldiers they command and to look after those soldiers as an officer should look after his men?
  3. Has the Army any plan to extend the period which officers serve with the Regiment?
  4. Is the Army training New Guineans to become Army officers if not, what plans has it for training such officers?
  5. Is the technical and other equipment of the Regiment as good as that of other infantry units of the Regular Army?
  6. Are the infantrymen of the Regiment trained to the same high technical standards as the soldiers of comparable units in Australia?
  7. In view of the expansion of the Regiment announced in the Prime Minister’s Defence statement of 22nd May, 1963, has the Army any plans to establish additional technical training facilities in the Territory, and what are those plans?
  8. How many New Guineans attend the Army Apprentices School?
  9. Does he consider that number adequate, and has he any plans to increase it?
  10. In view of past discontent in the Regiment about pay and conditions of service, can he assure the House that New Guineans in the Regiment are now reasonably content with their pay and conditions of service?
  11. In its administration of the Regiment, does the Army bear in mind its importance as a source of technically trained New Guineans and as a school in which the diverse peoples of the Territory learn to be conscious of their nation?
Mr Cramer:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Normally three years.
  2. Yes.
  3. No. Three years Is considered sufficient. However, officers may serve more than one tour, and several have done so, in different ranks.
  4. Yes. Two New Guineans are now attending the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, and are expected to graduate in December, 1963.
  5. Yes. The equipment on issue and being issued to the Regiment is similar to that on issue to battalions in Australia.
  6. Provision is made on the establishment of the Regiment for Pacific Islands infantrymen in trades and duties equivalent to those in mainland battalions. Training is effected by unit courses and by the attendance of selected soldiers at Army Schools: for example, weapons and signals courses at the Infantry Centre, courses for assault pioneers at the School of Military Engineering, and for medical assistants at the School of Army Health.
  7. Yes. It is planned to establish a new Papua and New Guinea Training Depot which will provide for much of the military/technical training required for the expansion. Other training will continue to be undertaken at Army schools in Australia. 8 and 9. There is no requirement for the attendance of New Guineans at the Army Apprentices School at present. However, arrangements are to be made to train technicians for specialist units, such as workshop and signal units, to synchronize with the expansion of the PapuaNew Guinea force. These will be trained at the

Army schools responsible for training vehicle mechanics and radio mechanics on courses designed to obtain recognition as Army tradesmen.

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes. The Army is very conscious of this matter, and is making every effort to assist in the development of the Territory.

Pig Meat. (Question No. 249.)

Mr Hansen:

n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -

  1. What quantity of pig meat was processed in Australia during the year 1962-63-
  2. What portion of this meat was originally imported by the processors as carcass meat?
  3. Can he say whether this meat was imported because of shortage of local pigs or because the landed cost of the imported carcass compared more than favorably with the cost of locally produced carcasses?
Mr Adermann:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. According to figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician, the production of bacon and ham in 1962-63 amounted to 40,969 tons. This figure represents the cured carcass weight of smoked, cooked and canned bacon and ham.
  2. While imports of carcass pig meats into Australia in 1962-63 totalled 1,884 tons, it is not possible to state precisely the quantity which was processed from imports in that year.
  3. Information received from the trade would indicate that imports have been made for both of the reasons mentioned.

Commonwealth Banking Corporation. (Question No. 187.)

Mr Webb:

b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the refusal of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to revert to a 9 a.m. start is creating dissension and affecting staff morale?
  2. If so, will he discuss with the corporation the desirability of reverting to a 9 a.m. start?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -

As I have pointed out in reply to previous questions in the House on this subject (see “ Hansard “ of 10th April, 1962, at page 1475 and of 15th May, 1962, at page 2355) the daily time of commencement of duty of employees of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation is an administrative matter which, under the Commonwealth Banks

Act, is entirely one for determination by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. Nevertheless, I have again inquired into the matter. The managing director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has now assured me that all aspects of the 8.45 a.m. commencing time have been very carefully examined in the light of the findings of a special committee, representing both the corporation and the Commonwealth Bank Officers’ Association, that was set up to examine at first hand the results of the earlier commencement. The corporation remains of the firm opinion that the 8.45 a.m. start offers operational advantages which benefit the staff as well as the corporation.

Taxation. (Question No. 184.)

Mr Collard:

d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What amount of sales tax was collected in each year from 1949-50 to 1962-63, inclusive?
  2. What amount of (a) direct tax and (b) indirect tax was collected (i) per head of population and (ii) per taxpayer in each of those years?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information: -

1 Snowy Mountains Scheme. (Question No. 214.)

Mr Nixon:

n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -

Can the Minister, in order to assess the effect of the construction of the proposed dam at Jindabyne on flooding in the lower reaches of the Snowy River, furnish the following information: -

What proportion in area of the watershed will be above Jindabyne?

What proportion of total rain and snow to fall on the watershed will fall above Jindabyne?

What volume of water enters the sea at the mouth of the river per annum?

What proportion of this volume is it estimated will be held back by the dams at Adaminaby and Jindabyne?

Mr Fairbairn:
Minister for Air · FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The following information is supplied in answer to the honorable member’s questions: -

  1. The catchment area of the Snowy River at Jindabyne is 824 square miles, which is about 14 per cent. of the total catchment area of the Snowy River.
  2. About 55 per cent. of the total flow at the mouth of the Snowy River is contributed by the catchment above Jindabyne.
  3. The average annual flow of the Snowy River at its mouth is estimated at 1,900,000 acre feet.
  4. Due to the high degree of regulation provided by the works of the Snowy scheme at and above Jindabyne, some 55 per cent. of the total natural flow of the Snowy River at its mouth will be held back by the works of the scheme at Jindabyne and above.

Capital Punishment. (Question No. 226.)

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -

On what occasions and for what crimes under federal and territorial laws since 1950 has a sentence of death been (a) passed, and (b) carried into execution?

Sir Garfield Barwick:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

  1. No sentence of death has been passed in that time under federal law. In two cases, sentences of death were passed under the law of the Australian Capital Territory, one on a conviction for rape and one on a conviction for murder. Under the law of the Northern Territory, sentences of death were passed on three persons on convictions for murder.
  2. Two of the sentences of death passed in the Northern Territory were carried into execution. These two sentences arose out of the same incident. None of the other sentences was carried into execution. 1 have assumed that the question relates only to the laws of the internal territories. Any information relating to the position under the laws of the external territories would be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Territories.

Eagle Farm Airport. (Question No. 247.)

Mr Don Cameron:

n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. How many of the 46 homes to be resumed at Eagle Farm Airport have been resumed?
  2. How many of the occupants of the homes that have been resumed have vacated the premises, and how many of the previous owners are remaining in the premises as tenants?
  3. How much of the total area of land to be resumed at Eagle Farm Airport has been resumed and taken over by the department?
  4. What area remains to be resumed?
  5. How much of the estimated expenditure of £250,000 on this resumption has been expended by the department?
  6. By what date is it anticipated that this entire resumption programme will be completed?
Mr Freeth:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. It has not been necessary to acquire, that is, compulsorily, any dwellings in this area; however, 30 homes have been purchased from the owners after agreement was reached as to price. 2. (a) 23. (b) 7.
  2. 1,000 acres.
  3. Twelve residences on about 2 acres of land.
  4. Approximately £200,000.
  5. It will be some years before the land is required for aerodrome development; meanwhile the Commonwealth will continue to purchase properties affected as they become available.

Restrictive Trade Practices. (Question No. 252.)

Mr Beaton:

n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -

Can he say whether the action of the members of the Victorian Crushed Stone Quarry Association in simultaneously ‘announcing’ by agreement’ identical price rises for their product constitutes a restrictive trade practice?

Sir Garfield Barwick:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

My attention has been drawn to press reports referring to this matter, and correspondence has been received from some local government bodies complaining of notifications of identical price changes they have been given by members of the association mentioned by the honorable member. That information and any information that the honorable member can supply about this or any restrictive trade practices will bc taken into account by the Government in its consideration of the proposed legislation.

Ord River Scheme.

Mr Harold Holt:

t. - On 12th September, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) asked me a question without notice regarding the availability of finance from the Commonwealth group of banks to farmers who have had blocks allocated to them under the Ord River scheme. I undertook at the time to examine the position.

In response to my inquiries, the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has supplied the following information: -

The first allotment of farms under the Ord River scheme took place during August, 1962. Five farms were involved and of the successful applicants, four applied to the Commonwealth Development Bank for finance to assist with development of the farms and purchase of machinery. The four applicants were granted loans covering their estimated requirements.

The repayment terms attaching to each loan were formulated to suit the particular needs of each applicant, but all loans were basically long term. The interest rate applicable in each case was 6 per cent, which is the rate currently attaching to all loans made by the Development Bank.

The second allotment covering seven farms was made only recently. The Development Bank has received preliminary enquiries for finance from a number of successful applications.

Restrictive Trade Practices.

Mr Harold Holt:

t. - On 10th September, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) asked questions in the following terms: -

  1. What sum has been allocated for the preparation of pamphlets or other literature to explain the proposed restrictive trade practices legislation?
  2. Has the money so far spent on such documents been expressly authorized by the Government or the Treasury?

The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. The sum of £2,000 was allocated by the Attorney-General’s Department in its estimates of expenditure for 1963-64 for the printing of material related to restrictive trade practices.
  2. The money so far spent has been charged to the appropriate item of appropriation under the Supply Act 1963-64.

Bills of Exchange Act.

Mr Harold Holt:

t. - On 17th September, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) asked me in a question without notice whether the committee set up to review the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958 had recommended any changes in the act. I promised to ascertain what stage had been reached in the matter.

I have now been informed that the committee has completed its public hearings and is at present engaged in the preparation of its report.

Banking. (Question No. 84.)

Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What were the net profits of each private trading bank in its last financial year?
  2. What dividend did each bank receive in its last financial year from a (a) savings bank, (b) hirepurchase company, (c) unit trust, (d) development corporation, or (e) factoring organization?
  3. What capital (a) has each bank subscribed to date, and (b) did each bank subscribe in the last financial year to a (i) savings bank, (ii) hirepurchase company, (iii) unit trust, (iv) development corporation, or (v) factoring organization?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Three private trading banks have so far published or announced their net profits for the year 1962-63. These figures and net profit figures of the other private trading banks for the year 1961-62, as published by the Commonwealth Statistician, are set out in the following table: -

page 1327


All seven major private trading banks have savings bank subsidiaries. All savings banks have now published or announced their profits on at least one occasion but only three of the banks have paid dividendsto their parent trading banks. These are shown below: -

The following table shows the paid-up value of shares held by each bank in an asociated hirepurchase company at the first and last days of the latest financial year of each bank, and dividends declared by the companies between the two dates. Dividends declared during the year shown may not have been received by the banks during that year: -


Generally, no information of this kind has been published by banks. However, the annual report of the Bank of New South Wales for the year ended30th September, 1962, statedthat its wholly owned subsidiary, The Wales Unit Investment

Limited, had “ earned “ steady profits since its inception “ and “ for the past year the company has declared a dividend of 2i per cent.”.

Bauxite. (Question No. 281.)

Mr Cairns:

s asked the Minister for Terri tories, upon notice -

  1. Were leases for bauxite development on Gove Peninsula granted to two separate companies?
  2. Mas one of the leases been abandoned; if so, why?
  3. Have applications been received for the grant of the lease that was abandoned?
  4. If so, is there among them an application from the company that holds leases in the area twice the size of the abandoned lease?
  5. Is it in the interest of maximizing exports from this area to grant the lease of the remaining area to the company already holding leases on the peninsula or to another company which would possess access to additional markets?
  6. When is it expected that a decision will be made concerning the issue of a lease for the abandoned area on the peninsula?
  7. Does the grant of this lease, and the time when it will be issued, depend upon the development of the area for bauxite mining?
  8. If not, what other factors are being taken into consideration?
Mr Hasluck:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Yes.
  2. One lease was terminated because the proposals put forward by the lessee for the development, mining and treatment of the bauxite deposits were not acceptable to the Government.
  3. Yes.
  4. No.
  5. This is a matter of opinion. 6 7 and 8. These are matters for decision by the Government as and when the occasion arises.

Pharmaceutical Benefits. (Question No. 144.)

Mr L R Johnson:

son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -

  1. What are the (a) ten most popularly used and (b) ten most expensive pharmaceutical benefits provided under the national health scheme?
  2. In respect of each of these benefits, what is the (a) name of the manufacturer or each manufacturer, (b) cost of production, (c) wholesale price to hospital bulk buyers, (d) approved retail price and (e) cost under the national health scheme?
  3. Is the Minister able to state the cost of each of these benefits under the (a) British and (b) New Zealand schemes?
Mr Swartz:

– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: - 1. (a) The ten most frequently prescribed pharmaceutical benefits items are -

Acelylsalicyclic acid.

Aluminium hydroxide gel.





Penicillin phenoxymethyl.

Pentobarbitone sodium.


Tetracycline (buffered).

  1. The ten pharmaceutical benefits items attracting the most expenditure are -




Demethylchlortetracycline hydrochloride.

Penicillin phenoxymethyl.



Tetracycline (buffered).

Tetracycline with nystatin.

Tetracycline with oleandomycin.

Most of the above items are available in a number of different forms (e.g. tablets, capsules, injections) and in different strengths within these forms. My department does not maintain statistics of usage or expenditure for each form and strength. 2. (a) Each different form and strength of each item is priced separately, and a manufacturer may not make all forms and strengths of the one item.

  1. Details of cost of production are not available.
  2. Details of wholesale prices to hospital bulk buyers are not available.

    1. Examples of the retail price and the price paid under the National Health Act for the maximum quantity of the main form and strength of each item are: -
  1. Some of the above items are the products of single manufacturers. Information as to the sales of such products is treated as confidential within my department. The annual cost under the national health scheme, including patient contributions, on the other items is as follows: -

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.