25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DAVIS presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government immediately grant a basic pension rate of £8 10s. per week, formulate a national housing plan for low rental homes for pensioners and provide all pensioners within the permissible income with the medical entitlement card.
A similar petition was presented by Mr. Clark.
Petitions severally received.
– Mr. Speaker, I give notice that to-morrow I will move -
That the Attorney-General lacks the confidence of the House because he deliberately misled it while purporting to give it official information in his position as Attorney-General and as Minister in charge of security when, as he subsequently admitted, his statement was based solely on a report which appeared in the Communist newspaper “ Tribune “, and which even then he quoted incorrectly.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, as honorable members will be aware, this motion would come before the House under “ General Business “ in the ordinary course of events and, having regard to the programme ahead, that would not occur until the House met again for the Budget session. It clearly would be undesirable to have a matter of this character on the notice-paper until then. The Government and the House would wish to bring this matter to issue as speedily as we conveniently can. Indeed, it would have been of advantage, I feel, to be able to do that in the course of this day. However, there are reasons associated with the programme of business that make it important for us to press on so that legislation required to be reviewed by the Senate, some of which will require a degree of reprinting before it goes to the Senate, can be dealt with forthwith.
Consequently, what the Government proposes is that after question time to-morrow we proceed, by leave of the House or through suspension of Standing Orders, with debate on the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition has given notice. Having regard to the business programme and to the content of the motion we feel that, in the circumstances, a long debate should not be necessary.
– Why not?
– The House should be able to come to issue reasonably speedily on the matters involved. The Leader of the Opposition is as well aware as we are of the programme ahead. He knows that it is the wish of his own supporters, as it is of the Government, to bring the business of the House to a conclusion, if practicable, by 5 p.m. to-morrow.
– That is not right.
– Honorable members opposite had better make up their minds. The members of the Government will be here for some time after the House rises and will not be incommoded if the House sits beyond to-morrow. In any case, I have outlined the programme to which we’ have been working. It was only last week that honorable gentlemen opposite told me of the inconvenience they had been caused in their travel and other arrangements by the fact that we were continuing to sit this week. However, be that as it may, the motion of which notice has now been given will be dealt with after question time to-morrow.
– I wish to inform the House of ministerial arrangements during the absence overseas on Government business of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon).
– Will they come back?
– Without question - well, D.V. The Minister for Primary Industry will be absent from 16th
May to 16th July. Over this period Senator Wade, the Minister for Health, will act as Minister for Primary Industry. Senator Wade will be represented in this chamber on primary industry matters by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). The Minister for Labour and National Service will be overseas from 23rd May until approximately 6th July. During his absence the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will act in his stead.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has the Minister for Primary Industry or the Depart.ment of Primary Industry received representations from the Tasmanian Farmers Federation requesting a review of the department’s decision to withdraw summarily licences held by Tasmanian processing and slaughtering works to export meat to America? Has the Minister considered the request to provide provisional licences pending the completion of modifications of those works now being carried out?
– I do not know whether the Minister for Primary Industry has received representations from this quarter, but 1 know that he has received representations of this kind from various quarters in Australia. In each case he has requested those within his department responsible for the administration of the meat inspection services to review the decision made, as to its essential character or validity. I think it will be of interest to all members of the House to know the circumstances surrounding this matter. In May, 1963, the Government of the United States of America changed the regulations to require that meatworks in countries exporting meat lo the United States should be of a standard equivalent to that set for meatworks within the United States. In short, the United States decided not to accept meat from meatworks in any country, including Australia, not complying wilh the standards required within the United States. This decision having been taken, Australian meatworks were given twelve months’ notice of its enforcement. This obviously is not a matter for decision by us, and certainly the Australian Government did not seek to apply compulsion to any meatworks. But it has been made clear that we could not certify that certain meat had been killed and prepared in a works complying with United States specifications unless this was indeed the fact. Therefore, the meatworks were given twelve months’ notice. Many of the works in which conditions did not measure up to the United States specifications have taken necessary action. Other works are in the course of taking action to comply with the requirements. Works which are to-day handling more than 80 per cent, of our exports to the United States are either registered as complying with the specifications or have been given conditional or limited registration pending completion of the work that they are now engaged upon. In the meantime, no works which is not registered for this purpose is debarred in any sense from exporting to any other market overseas, whether to the United Kingdom or anywhere else. As the United States market is so valuable to the industry, and as the Government has had to fight so hard to secure entry into that market, I do hope that all Australian works that want to engage in this trade will bring their conditions up to the specifications required so that Australian stock producers may enjoy the magnificent advantages that have come to them from entry to the United States market.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service relating to income and the cost of living. Can the Minister let me know how the average male income has varied during the past year and how any such variation has compared with changes in the cost of living? Can the Minister inform me whether his information discloses any marked changes in the standards of living in Australia?
– I think one of the achievements about which the Government can justly feel proud is the fact that Hie average income of male wage and salary earners has increased so substantially over the period for which it has been in office. This means that the standards of living of wage and salary earners arc much better to-day than they were in 1949 and the years immediately following the war. This can be best illustrated by these facts: First of all, in 1949, the average income of male wage and salary earners was less than £10 a week. It is now £26 17s. a week.
– What about the basic wage?
– If you wait a moment, you will get the facts. In other words, there has been an increase of 177 per cent, in the average income of those wage and salary earners, while during the same time the consumer index has increased by less than 90 per cent. If honorable members opposite want it in different language, let us take the last five years. In the last five years, there has been an increase of £5 a week or nearly 22i per cent, in the average income of male wage and salary earners while the consumer index, reflecting prices to the extent that it does, has increased by only 5 per cent. I can quite confidently claim that this is a proud achievement of the Government. Purchasing power is increasing and the wage ana salary earners are participating in the prosperity of this country.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. If it is true that a part aboriginal child has been abducted to the Soviet Union against the will of its mother, will representations be made to the Soviet Union for its repatriation? Reports of this event have appeared in the “ West Australian “.
– If the honorable gentleman will supply me with details of the case, I shall certainly take it up. I can assure him that the fact that a child is part aboriginal or full aboriginal does not put it in any different category from that of any other Australian child.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It relates to the fact that the drug urethane was deleted from the list of pharmaceutical benefits in the edition of February, 1964. I ask whether it is a fact that this drug is given in the latest editions of several leading text-books as the drug of choice in the treatment of the fatal disease of myelomatosis and is accepted by the medical profession as a life-sparing drug. In these circumstances, will the Minister obtain from his colleague a full statement of the reasons that actuated the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in making its recommendation regarding urethane? Will he also discuss with his colleague the practicability of issuing each quarter an explanatory memorandum setting out the reasons for any alteration in the list of benefits, especially when the reasons are not obvious or are of a controversial nature?
– As the honorable member is aware, drugs are included in or excluded from the pharmaceutical list on the recommendation of a special drug evaluation committee. This practice was followed with the drug to which the honorable member referred. However, in view of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable gentleman I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Health and see that a reply is prepared.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Navy. At the time of the handing over of the Daring class destroyer “ Duchess “ to the Royal Australian Navy it was stated that the ship would be refitted at the Williamstown naval dockyard at a cost of about £300,000. Will the Minister advise the House of the nature and extent of this refit?
– When “ Duchess “ was offered to the Royal Australian Navy by the Royal Navy we were told that she was due for her two-yearly refit. If the ship were taken over by the Royal Australian Navy naturally we would become responsible for this refit, which the Royal Navy had intended to be done at Singapore. As we were taking over the ship it was thought much better to have the refit done at an Australian dockyard so that the work could be supervised.
– Get the girls to do it.
– I am not sure of what the honorable member means. I always thought that, like us, honorable members opposite preferred Australian workmanship to be used. That is what is being done. The work being done on this ship is the normal work that is undertaken on a ship of this class when it is undergoing its two-yearly refit.
– I preface my question to the r.rime Minister by expressing my regret at the announced early retirement of His Excellency the Governor-General, Viscount De L’Isle. and I ask: Does the Prime Minister agree that there are in Australia distinguished Australians with eminent records in various fields who could, with dignity and ability, fill the post of GovernorGeneral? Will he recommend such an Australian for appointment? Is it true that he has given thought to taking the position himself?
– The honorable member is entirely in error in talking about the early retirement of the Governor-General. When the GovernorGeneral was good enough to take up his appointment, he made it quite clear to Her Majesty and to mc that he would not like to be required to hold the appointment for more than four years. He had some personal reasons for that.
– Why did you not say that?
– As the honorable member ought to know, all appointments to this office are at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It is not the practice to state terms. All that has happened is that the Governor-General has indicated that he would like to be relieved of his office at a time that was always in contemplation. I do not see why it should be called an early retirement. I regret to say that, unlike some speculators in the press, I have given no thought to the question of a successor to the office. I believe I am right in saying that it will be about fourteen months before this question arises. I will, of course, with my usual courtesy, give consideration to any claim that may be put forward by any honorable gentleman sitting opposite.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by reminding him that the transcontinental railway link is undoubtedly part of the standardization of gauge programme and that the Parkes to Broken Hill section forms part of it. This section was constructed to light requirements and is unsuitable for heavy trans-continental traffic. I ask the Minister whether, as contemplated by the Rail Standardization Committee, the section between Parkes and Broken Hill will be included in that programme. What communications has he had in this regard from the New South Wales Government?
– The honorable gentleman raised this question earlier this year. As I then informed him, the Government had received a request from the New South Wales Government for some assistance in up-grading the Parkes to Broken Hill section. I then told the honorable member that the Government had not completed consideration of that request. I regret to have to inform him that final consideration has not yet been given to the request. I have had some further discussions with the New South Wales Minister for Transport, but the Government is still examining the request.
– My question is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle, but I shall address it to the Minister for Immigration. I ask: Has the honorable gentleman had inquiries made into the allegation that a part-native baby has been taken out of this country against the mother’s wishes? Does the Minister know whether the child is still in Australia? What efforts are being made to find the child?
– The matter has been brought to my notice. In this case Commonwealth officers were asked to make sure that the child was not taken out of Australia. However, our investigations have disclosed that the child has been taken out of the country under the name of McLean, in the company of other children. At present we are investigating whether it is possible to cancel the passports of the parties concerned. Because of the circumstances in which the children were taken out of the country departmental officers could not be blamed. As I have said, a different name was used for the child who was on the passport of another family.
Mfr. KILLEN. - My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Can the honorable gentleman give any information about the Pathet Lao advance on the
Plain of Jars in Laos? Can the Minister say whether the Geneva Convention on Laos is to be reconvened and whether a new move is proposed by countries interested in preserving the integrity of South-East Asia and in putting an end to the salami sausage treatment of liberty in that area?
– I suggest to the House that the situation in Laos is not yet fully clear following a recent stepping up of activity by the Pathet Lao. The United States Government in Washington, in concert with other powers allied with it in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization has had some discussions on this matter and, of course, steps have been taken by the Geneva Convention powers towards attempting to stabilize the situation. I prefer to withhold comment until the matter clarifies.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is it a fact that the 80 miles of unsealed road between Port Augusta and Woomera is not a satisfactory road for the transport of large quantities of specialized equipment required at Woomera? Is the road sometimes impassable during the rainy season, and does it cause contractors transporting important equipment over it - such as equipment for use in the Black Knight project - grave concern as to whether it will arrive at its destination in good order? Will the Minister consider, in the interests of Australian prestige, providing an all-weather road to this area?
– I cannot give the honorable member any information now about the state of the road. I shall have inquiries made and let him have an answer in due course.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. When members’ privileges next come before the Government for consideration, will the right honorable gentleman consider implementing an insurance scheme to cover members who use their own motor cars for some part of the journey to and from Canberra for meetings of the Parliament?
– All that I can say is that I shall make a note of the matter. I cannot say that I have ever given any thought to it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry the following question: Will he investigate a report in the “Daily Telegraph” of 30th April to the effect that Associated Electrical Industries Limited, the British parent company of A.E.I. Appliances Proprietary Limited, in Australia, is subsidizing the Australian company to the tune of £250,000 a year? If the report is correct, will the Minister ascertain whether this subsidy allows A.E.I. Appliances Proprietary Limited to sell imported washing machines on the Australian market at less than cost, thus causing chaos in the electrical retailing industry? Will he also have officers of the Department of Trade and Industry investigate the matter to determine whether this practice amounts to dumping on the Australian market? If it constitutes dumping, can some action be taken under the Australian Industries Preservation Act?
– As the honorable member has based his question on a newspaper article, I shall have the article studied with a view to ascertaining whether there is anything in it that should properly concern this Government and its administration. I know of nothing that prevents an Australian company, relying on its own resources, from selling its product at whatever price it likes. However, I shall study the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Minister may remember that, on 18th March, I asked him whether he could take action to expedite the loading of ships in Sydney and Melbourne so that the shipping of export fruit from the port of Hobart could be carried out satisfactorily. Can he now give me some specific information regarding the loading for export of this season’s Tasmanian fruit?
– Immediately before the opening of the season for the shipping of apples and pears from Tasmania, the honorable gentleman asked me whether I would try to obtain better priority for ships moving to Tasmania for this purpose and to ensure that port quotas were kept up by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Both these things have been done. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, until this morning more than 4,000,000 cases of apples and pears had been moved from the port of Hobart including a considerable quantity from Port Huon, in southern Tasmania. I think that this is about 1,000,000 cases more than had been moved at a comparable stage last year. 1 believe that a record has been achieved at the northern port of Beauty Point and that a little less than 1,000,000 cases of apples and pears have been shipped by this time. The important fact is that port quotas have been kept up by the Stevedoring Industry Authority. We now believe that, as a consequence, the sailing schedules will be met and overseas delivery dates will in most instances be satisfactory. This is another achievement about which the honorable gentleman may well be satisfied.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Is he aware that some persons are allergic to fluoride :n very small concentrations and that this is established by detailed medical case histories which are immediately available and which show serious damage to health? In view of this, is the Department of the Interior making any provision for the supply of fluoridefree water to any persons who produce medical certificates indicating that they would bc liable to suffer such damage to their health when fluoride has been added to the Canberra water supply, or is it the policy of the department to advise such persons to move away from the area or to suffer the consequences?
– Questions concerning the possible danger to health by the introduction of fluoride have been studied by many medical authorities. I am quite sure that if the honorable member has any specific cases or any examples that he would like to have investigated the various medical authorities would look at them.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Has he been advised of complaints lodged with the Commonwealth Migration Officer. Western Australia, regarding seven Filipino salvage experts who have undertaken a salvage operation in the Albrolhos Islands? I ask whether his department approved of these crew members of the seized tug “ Pacific Star” assisting in the salvage work under a misunderstanding. Is it a fact that the men are not subject to any Australian law as they are not working for wages but for a reward for successful salvage? Will he issue a statement on this matter to clarify the position in the interests of constituants who have expressed their concern that the temporary visitors are competing with local contractors on an unfair basis?
– The Filipinos came to Australia under a special arrangement. There was litigation concerning the ship on which they came, and they stopped here for a time. The department allowed them to carry out this work in special circumstances. It was learned later that they had not continued in the position for which they had been allowed to remain, but had carried on further salvage work. There is some misunderstanding about them. NonEuropeans are not allowed to compete to the detriment of the Australian industry or an Australian employee. My department is now investigating the position and we will fake further action to clarify the matter at a later date.
– My question is directed lo the Minister representing the Minister for Health and concerns the widespread dissatisfaction with medical and hospital benefits and the restrictive means test provisions affecting these entitlements. Has the Minister read the criticism of the Australian Medical Association respecting the pensioner medical service? What docs he intend to do about these vital matters?
– Only last week a bill was passed by this House to increase the Commonwealth contributions for medical purposes under the national health scheme. The bill increased the value of these benefits by one-third at a cost of £4,000,000 in a full year. That, I think, is a pretty substantial improvement in the existing circumstances. I have not seen the article referred to by the honorable member. I will arrange for his question to be referred to my colleague in another place and see whether some information is available.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, concerns a recent survey conducted by Mr. Burke and Dr. Runcie of the Faculty of Commerce of the University of New South Wales, wherein it is suggested that the activities of bank-associated finance companies are increasing absolutely and proportionately to the activities of the banking system and, furthermore, that such an expansion will represent a major source of alteration in our financial structure in the near future. Does the Treasurer consider that such an expansion will introduce an unnecessary element of instability into the economy? Will it impede economic growth in Australia?
– The honorable gentleman has opened up a pretty considerable field of economic discussion. I would not myself have thought that the present scale of operations of finance companies in Australia was excessive in relation to the economic growth of the country. The dimension of borrowing from these finance houses is not larger than would be found to be the case in comparable economies in other parts of the world and it is, of course, considerably lower than in the United States of America. Most - if not all - of the trading banks have links with finance companies. The banks - these solidly managed organizations - tend to serve as a steadying influence in this field. In my discussions with representatives of the hire-purchase conference I have been impressed by their determination to maintain good ethical standards and sound financial practices. So far as financial instability is concerned, this would be only one element in a general situation. Provided we are able to maintain stability in other directions I do not regard this as presenting any threat to continued economic stability in this country. Further, I think we may take some comfort from the evidence of the desire on the part of the Australian community to save. One of my colleagues earlier pointed to the growth in average weekly earnings. This growth has been accompanied by a quite phenomenal growth in bank savings, which rose by £260,000,000 in 1963 and, I think, by £545,000,000 over a four-year period. I do not feel that there is ground for concern over developments up to date. On the other hand, there is a good deal of room for gratification.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. The honorable gentleman will remember that in answer to representations I made to him last week on behalf of a constituent of mine he told me that there is no blanket ban on the issue of passports for former Yugoslavs but that some extra precautions are being taken when dealing with their applications. Are those extra precautions being taken regardless of the time at which the migrant left Yugoslavia and the part of Yugoslavia from which he came? When were the precautions introduced? What is the general nature of them? How long does it take to deal with applications for passports in the light of these precautions?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter. He has asked a series of questions about a matter that is of great importance at the present time. I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Is the Department of Labour and National Service responsible for industrial relations in this country? Does this responsibility involve discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, particularly when strike action is contemplated by a union or group of unions? If so, will the Minister say whether left-wing unions are now attacking the A.C.T.U., demanding that it take a more aggressive attitude towards the Government, particularly in respect of penal clauses in the conciliation and arbitration legislation? Can an explanation be given why labour relations are in turmoil at a time when Australians work less than their contemporaries in Great Britain and Western Germany?
– Order! The honorable member is now making a comment.
– It is all comment.
– Order! The subject matter of the question comes within the ambit of the Minister’s department. As a matter of fact, there has been some relaxation at question time to-day, but the honorable member is going beyond reasonable limits. I suggest that he ask his question without further comment.
– Can the Minister say whether the Australian worker enjoys reasonably satisfactory conditions?
– As the honorable gentleman has said, the Department of habour and National Service is responsible for Commonwealth industrial relations in this country. For this reason the department comes closely into contact not only with the federal executives of the Australian unions but also with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In addition my department is in close contact with employers and manufacturers on matters relating to industrial relations. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question concerning the origins of disputes. I think those origins may be stated clearly in two particulars. First, under present conditions, as the Communists and a large group of militant left-wingers have lost control of some important trade unions, they are now attempting to exploit area committees and shop committees in order to obtain by direct action what they have failed to achieve through the arbitration system. Secondly, over a wide area of Australia and in many industries we now have overfull employment; so, some unions now feel that they can exploit the position by direct action in order to get more than the economy can afford. On that aspect 1 make only one comment: No one can get more out of the pot than is in it. If, under these conditions, strikes are caused, costs and prices rise and we have inflation, the standard of living of the working man can fall. In the long run inflation is the great enemy of the working man.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer in his capacity of Leader of the House. Why do Ministers refuse to answer questions put on the notice-paper bv members of the Opposition and show discrimination in favour of members of the Government parties? 1 point out that on to-day’s notice-paper there are no unanswered questions from members of the Government parties whereas there are 26 questions submitted by members of the Opposition between 26th February last and 16th April last. Will he ensure that all questions are answered before the House goes into recess? In particular, will he see that an answer is given to question No. 73 which was asked by the honorable member tor Yarra and which has been on the noticepaper since 5th March last?
– As the House is aware, it is for Ministers to determine whether questions shall be answered or not. However, it is the practice of Ministers to answer questions, generally speaking, unless they come to the conclusion that the amount of research and expense involved is not warranted, having regard to the subjectmatter of the questions concerned. From time to time 1 make a rev.ew of the noticepaper and the speed with which questions arc being answered. When the Leader of the Opposition was acting as the representative of the Opposition in this regard - performing the duties now performed by his deputy - he would raise this matter with me occasionally. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done so :t times. I have then given my attention to the matter. When I have felt that soma stimulus to a colleague was called for, I have attempted to provide that stimulus.
Generally speaking, it will be found that more questions have been answered over the last year or so than in any similar period in the history of federation. Nowadays, more questions are being asked by members of the Opposition. I do not think the same curiosity exists in the ranks of the Government parties, because members on this side of the House have faith in the Government that they support and, generally speaking, their level of intelligence is sufficiently high to enable them to carry out much of the research for themselves.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In discussions on provisions of the 1964-65 Budget, which
I expect will take place during the coming recess, will the Treasurer give urgent consideration to the granting of taxation deductions in respect of expense incurred in the transport of patients when ordered by a doctor, and to the abolition of sales tax charged on freight, which continually adds to the cost of goods purchased by people who reside outside the metropolitan areas?
– The honorable member did pretty well with dried fruits last year, lt looks as if I have merely whetted his appetite for future concessions. Quite seriously, the matter raised by the honorable member is, I know, of some consequence, particularly in rural areas. It has received consideration at earlier points of time in company with many other requests for taxation concessions. I will see that consideration of it is not overlooked on this occasion, but I can give no indication as to the outcome.
– Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, 1 present a report relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of Stage 2 of the Land Research and Regional Survey Laboratories for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at Black Mountain, Australian Capital Territory. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement in connexion therewith.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr. Speaker, the committee has found that in order to consolidate the activities of the Division of Land Research and Regional Survey, and to accommodate the staff in adequate and suitable space, there is need to construct stage 2 of the laboratory. The committee has inspected stage 1, which has already been completed, and also the proposed site for stage 2 adjacent to stage 1. The committee recommends the construction of a building to the design and size proposed, and that special precautions should be taken for the preservation of important scientific records against loss by fire. This special precaution was referred to in your committee’s last report to this House regarding the proposed building at Shenton Park, Western Australia. The estimated cost of the work proposed is £237,000.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill 1964.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill 1964.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 1) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1964.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1964.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Supply Bill 1964-65.
Without amendment -
Supply (Special Expenditure) Bill 1964-65.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed by this bill relate to four separate matters. First, to ensure that the provisions of the Explosives Act and regulations extend to defence explosives intended for dumping at sea; secondly to provide power to make orders for the carriage of Commonwealth explosives by rail similar to the power that already exists in relation to handling explosives through ports; thirdly to provide for the necessary regulatory control of the storage, handling and transport of Commonwealth owned or controlled explosives which are not for defence purposes; and finally to provide that explosives manufactured by the Commonwealth and intended to be supplied to the governments of other countries can be transported and handled on the same basis as other Commonwealth explosives.
Since the enactment of the Explosives Act 1961 some doubts have arisen as to whether defence explosives which are to be dumped at sea are explosives to which Part II. of the Explosives Act applies. The proposed amendments to the Act will remove any doubts that might exist in this regard and ensure that the Services can continue to load their obsolete or surplus explosives in merchant vessels in port’s for disposal by dumping at sea and indemnify the port authority concerned by the making of an order. The need for dumping is brought about by changes in weapon design and other technological considerations and the necessity to clear unwanted stores from magazines to make space available for usable explosives. I might add that condemned explosives, which may be more dangerous to transport than other explosives, are not dumped at sea but are destroyed by the Service concerned in the vicinity of the magazines where they are stored. The need to provide the Commonwealth with the same power to direct the carriage of Commonwealth explosives by rail as already exists in relation to handling through ports arises from the fact that in an emergency situation a substantial proportion of the Commonwealth explosives that may have to be transported in Australia will of necessity have to be carried by rail.
The proposed amendment will provide the Commonwealth with the power to direct by order in emergency conditions the carriage by rail of greater quantities of Commonwealth explosives than are authorized by State regulations, which are intended to cover the transport of relatively small consignments of commerically owned explosives. The making of an order on a State railway authority will ensure that the system concerned is fully indemnified by the Commonwealth.
In proposing the extension of the provisions of the principal act to cover safety measures to be observed in respect of the storage, handling and transport of “ non- defence “ explosives owned by the Commonwealth, the Government has been guided by the findings of an interdepartmental committee which has reported that explosives of non-defence types are used by a number of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities throughout all States of Australia with quite a substantial proportion being transported in Victoria and South Australia. In these two States existing legislation is specifically worded so as not to apply to Commonwealth-owned explosives. Additionally there are considerable variations in the provisions of the laws in the different States covering the transport of explosives particularly in relation to vehicle requirements, load limitations and other important matters. It is regarded as most important that some form of regulatory control over Commonwealth-owned explosives, including those that are not intended for defence purposes, should exist and that it should be uniform for the whole of Australia.
The amendments proposed will allow for the introduction of regulations providing necessary controls on handling Commonwealthowned explosives in the interests of safety and will facilitate transport between States. Because of the Commonwealth’s commitments overseas it may be necessary on occasions to export explosives manufactured in Australia to other countries and to facilitate transport arrangements in such a case, a clause has been included in the bill to provide for the explosives concerned to bc transported within Australia and handled through ports on the same basis as any other Commonwealth explosives.
The bill makes provision for the act to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation which will allow time for the drafting of the necessary regulations. As a number of the matters provided for relate to handling explosives through ports, I will, in accordance with section 10 (2) of the act, place any recommendations the Permanent Committee of the Australian Port Authorities Association may have to make before the Governor-General when the regulations are under consideration.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Galvin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1987), on motion by Sir Robert Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill is an inadequate contribution to science education and to education generally in Australia because it -
fails to provide for an inquiry into all aspects of education, at all levels, as requested on several occasions by States Premiers;
fails to meet the crisis in education by making an emergency grant of at least £10 million to the States;
fails to assist parents of all children at all schools to bear the burden of education from primary to tertiary levels by instituting a system of Commonwealth scholarships for all students capable of receiving an education, such scholarships to be tenable at the schools of the parents’ choice;
fails to attack the problemof science education by ignoring the question of teacher training, and the need for the establishment of a national science foundation to co-ordinate scientific training, teaching and research; and
fails to recognize that all pupils are entitled to be educated to the fullest extent of their abilities on the principle of aid to the scholar without discrimination “.
.- I have received many letters of complaint from organizations and individuals in my electorate and throughout New South Wales concerning the bill that is now before us. I wish to read briefly from two of the letters from organizations. The first letter was sent to me by the Australian Council of School Organizations, which represents every parent-teacher State school organization throughout Australia. It reads -
No one denies or should deny the right of any citizen to send their children to a school of their own choosing outside the government school system, but it should be at their own cost and not at a cost to the State.
Government schools cater for all children irrespective of creed or colour and other social or religious distinction, not limited to large centres of population, but wherever there is a group of children requiring education. Great advances have been made in the standard of education in government schools, particularly in recent years, although much more remains to be achieved.
Honorable members will agree that there is much more to be achieved in education in this country. The other letter from which 1 wish to read briefly is from the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the union representative of school teachers in New South Wales. The passage to which I particularly direct attention is as follows: -
The States Grants Science Laboratories and. Technical Training Bill, 1964, now before the Federal Parliament, embodies a complete reversal of the attitude adopted for many years by the Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies. He has repeatedly stated that the provision of finance for education conflicts with the Federal Constitution.
Honorable members with any length of service in this Parliament will agree that this has been the case. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has refused, year after year, to agree to proposals put forward by honorable members on this side of the House. We have asked for grants to the States to improve their educational systems. We have expressed the point of view that has been expressed not only by the New South Wales Teachers Federation but also by other similar organizations throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and the Government has consistently rejected our suggestion for an immediate inquiry into teacher training, primary, secondary and technical education. We have also asked for immediate grants to help the States improve their educational conditions, which can only be described as chaotic.
There are two main aspects of this bill. One is a step in the right direction and the other is a step in the wrong direction. Some might call this a thimble-and-pea bill. This legislation was promised by a desperate man who wanted to retain power at any price. I think all will agree that this was the case. The Prime Minister wanted to try to save the country from a Labour Government - from a Government that would represent the whole of the people. He did not give a darn about the future or about historical consequences. Senator Cole, speaking on behalf of the
Democratic Labour Party, has said, “This is the break-through.” On the other hand, that conservative newspaper, the Melbourne “ Age “, which, incidentally, is a strong supporter of the Menzies Administration, said in an editorial on 13th May, 1964, “State Aid: So Far and No Further.”
What is to be the answer? Will the militant section of the Roman Catholic Church be satisfied with this proposal or will it want more? I will discuss this matter in more detail later. This is a question that all members must ask themselves. Is it, as Senator Cole has said, that this is the break-through, or is the Melbourne “ Age “ following the correct line when it says: “ State Aid: So Far and No Further “? 1 challenge honorable members opposite to say whether they agree that the Melbourne “ Age “ is right. Do they believe that the Roman Catholic Church, which in fact has been the agitator for State aid to denominational schools or non-State schools, would agree with the Melbourne “Age”?
I will try to deal with this matter objectively. I have heard many accusations from honorable members on the Government side of sectarianism on the part of members of the Opposition. This bill is being debated in the House of Representatives. The 124 members who occupy seats in this House do not comprise the brains trust of the nation but we are the representatives of our nation. We come from all walks of life. Some of us come from wealthy homes, some from very poor homes, some from Roman Catholic homes, some from Protestant homes and some from homes of other religious faiths. If you look at honorable members on the Labour side of the House you will find that they constitute a representative body. But could you say the same of the supporters of the Government? There are only two or three honorable members on the Government side who are of the Roman Catholic faith. For the first time since federation we have a Cabinet that contains not one Roman Catholic member. It has been said that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones, so let us consider this hyprocrisy that we hear expressed by honorable members opposite when they refer to these sectarian issues.
I make my position very clear: I am a socialist and will do nothing to promote the division of youth at an early age. I am a member of a socialist party. We stand by the unity of our nation and we do not stand for the division of youth at an early age. The Australian Labour Party’s attitude is quite clear. It says that if a person wishes to send his children to a non-State school, that is his business. He may do so at his own expense. If a person wishes to separate his children from other children, that is his business, and we will do nothing to force parents to send their children to State schools. But we want to lift the standard of State schools to such a level that all children will want to go to those schools. This is important. I repeat that if a person wishes to send his children to a non-State school, that is his business.
This is a matter that we should look at carefully. We should all express our opinions, because, after all, the decision in this matter was not made here. It was made by the Prime Minister in a moment of desperation. The Prime Minister has held office for the last fourteen years. Why did it take him so long to make this proposal? We all know that the Government had a majority of only two and had only to lose one seat for the Parliament to be deadlocked. No doubt every section of the community has a right to pressurize the Government, but I make it clear now that, as a matter of principle, I do not support the segregation of children at an early age. The Government now has to make up its mind whether, as Senator Cole has said, this is the break-through or whether, as the Melbourne “ Age “ has said, it is to be a question of State aid, so far and no further. I invite the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), who challenged honorable members on this side, to answer that question. Does he want any further State aid? Does he say this is the end? Does he disagree with granting aid to denominational schools? He remains silent on those matters.
I should like now to refer to two differences of opinion on this question. First, I refer to an editorial appearing in the “Catholic Weekly” of 14th May, 1964. This very frank editorial says -
Our first reaction, of course, must be one of gratitude. This same Prime Minister has previously afforded at least one section of the community a measure of relief by refunding the greater part of interest payments on loans raised for nongovernment schools in Canberra. He also granted income tax concessions for education expenses which have been of great benefit to parents, especially to those in the middle and upper income brackets.
That is very true. The Prime Minister and his Government have been very anxious to look after certain sections of the community - those in the middle and upper income brackets. Statistics disclose that in the last year for which the Commissioner of Taxation has issued a report something like fi 7,000,000 was allowed to the taxpayers of Australia by way of tax rebates. We know, also, that those who enjoy the greatest rebates are the people in the middle and upper income brackets. And these are the people who are being specially treated by the Menzies Government. Under the sub-heading, “ Important Principles “, the editorial goes on to say -
But direct federal aid to Catholic schools in all States (as envisaged in the new legislation) establishes an enormously important principle in the federal sphere, ft may not solve the problems of our schools and parents, but at least it points the way to a solution. Rome wasn’t built in a day and education injustices won’t be remedied in the life of one Parliament, but a start has been made on firm constitutional foundations.
Referring to public criticism published in the “ Anglican “ - the newspaper of the Anglican Church - the editorial says -
In a free community “ The Anglican “ is entitled to ils opinions but we would prefer to think of the Prime Minister’s action as being on the highest principles of distributive justice. The money collected in taxation by the Commonealth Government comes from Catholics and Protestants in proportion to the incomes they receive, h is only fair, then, that in apportioning money for schools, parents who have freely chosen to educate their children in religious schools should not be denied a share of what they have contributed.
That is one point of view, and the “ Catholic Weekly “ has a right to express it. On the other hand, as a member of the Australian Labour Party, I have a right to express my view in this Parliament without being subjected to jeers from honorable members on the Government side. We must examine the State school system, and here I repeat that I do not like segregation of any kind. In my view, unity is of the utmost importance not only in our schools in order that we may build up a strong, united Australia, but also to foster unity and toleration throughout the world. I am pleased, loo, with the liberal winds now blowing through the Cath olic Church. 1 have already expressed my admiration for the late Pope John and I have also expressed my opinion of the liberalizing of certain matters by the Ecumenical Council; but if anybody is able to show me that the action which is now proposed by the Government as the result of its desperate effort to regain control of the treasury bench at the last election, will do any good for the nation, I shall be surprised. 1 do not think it will.
The other point of view is expressed in the editorial published in the Melbourne “ Age “ on 1 3th May and is well worth reading because it lays the matter clearly on the line. It states -
The fundamental objection to full-scale State aid is that, because Roman Catholic parents are given no real freedom of choice by their church, under persuasion by the church to send their children to their own denominational schools, lax-payers, whatever their religious convictions, would be called on to subsidise a large duplicate education system. Stale schools are open to al), and, if parents wish, for whatever reason, to exercise their right to choose an alternative form of schooling, they or their church must be prepared to pay for it.
The article concludes -
Temptations . . .
What temptations? The Prime Minister was not tempted; he was prepared to use any trick to get back to power - . . to political parties to seek crucial votes by developing State aid will be real. Yet the limits are clear enough, and the perimeter should bc carefully drawn to avoid opening the gate to new and wider areas of controversy and separateness.
This decision by the Government is a historical one. For the first time in the history of Australia, this Parliament is deciding to give direct State aid to non-state schools. The legislation we are now discussing lays down a principle-
– Are you for it or against it?
– The honorable member for Phillip interjects. Let me tell him that I am a member of the Labour Party, and that the principle which the Labour Party supports has been laid down right from the word “ go “. I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). That is where I stand. I ask the honorable member for Phillip whether he stands for State aid, so far and no further? Does he intend to develop still further direct aid to denominational schools? That is the question he has to answer.
– Are you for or against it?
– Why do you not answer my question? The honorable member interjects from his coward’s castle, but he refuses to answer my question. He does not have the courage to give a direct answer. I gave my direct answer when I rose to speak. This Parliament is the only place where the important problem of education can be settled. As I said earlier, this legislation takes one step in the right direction and another step in the wrong direction. The Prime Minister has now accepted our advice and at last taken advantage of the opportunity open to the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution to make direct grants to the States for education. That section empowers the Commonwealth to make direct grants to the States for education, local government or other purposes. The Government has wide power under that section and has at last determined to use that power to make money available for education.
Of the £10,000,000 that is being made available, £5,000,000 will go direct to the States for technical education. In this day of electronics and automation it is important that we encourage the development of technical education throughout Australia, and for that reason the Opposition supports the granting of £5,000,000 to the States. Our only criticism is that the amount is too small and it is being made available far too late. For years we have been agitating for the grant of money to the States for education in this field.
The other £5,000,000 is to be granted to assist in the provision of science buildings and equipment in all secondary schools whether government or independent. Of this £5,000,000, State schools are to receive £3,653,300 and, of the balance £879,200 will go to Catholic schools and £467,500 will go to schools of other denominations. As I have said, the great bulk of the money will go, of course, to State schools, but my point is that a small percentage of it will go directly to non-State schools. This is a dishonest action and, as I said before, it was promised by a desperate man and a desperate party.
The Murray committee’s report on universities in 1957 was a warning to Australia. Year after year we have asked the Government to hold an inquiry into primary, secondary and technical education, and also into teacher training, but that request has been fobbed off by the Menzies Government. I should like to read to the House an extract from “The Condition of Science in Australian Universities “ by Joseph Gani, a senior fellow in statistics at the Australian National University. This book was written in 1963. The passage states -
In spite of the similar recommendations put forward by the Murray Committee for Australia in 1957, there has so far been little concerted effort to implement them. There is no avoiding the conclusion that the supply of scientists of all kinds, and particularly of Honours and higher graduates in Australia has remained inadequate over a relatively long period.
Surely all honorable members will agree with that comment. Does the Prime Minister think that the small amount of money that is to be made available now will be adequate for assistance to State schools? The Premiers only last year said that they now need £45,000,000 more each year to spend on education, honorable members will appreciate how meagre is the amount proposed and how great is the challenge to be met. These grants will establish a precedent, but they were promised by the Prime Minister only as means of regaining a majority in the Parliament.
– How much would you grant?
– The honorable member interjects. The future will reveal that it will be necessary for the Government to give more and more for education. It will need the courage to make a decision and give what is needed, without indulging in sleight-of-hand. It will be necessary eventually for Government supporters to say where they stand and to tell us the principle by which they stand.
It is important that the Commonwealth should enter the field of education in Australia because we have a wonderful country which needs development. Our country needs scientifically trained men more than most other countries do, because of the need to develop our arid inland, because of the lack of trace elements in our soil and because of our need to search for mineral wealth. In addition, to our near north we have thousands of millions of people with a much lower standard of living. It is our moral responsibility to raise our standard of education and technology so that we can help other nations. This is important. The role of education is so important that we must do something positive about it. I ask honorable members to consider the amount that we pay for education in Australia.
In 1959-60 our expenditure on education amounted to 3.1 per cent. of our gross national product; in 1960-61, 3.37 per cent. of our gross national product was made available for education; and in 1961-62 the percentage was 3.68. Compare those figures with the expenditure in other countries. In Britain about 4.5 per cent. of gross national product is spent on education, and the percentage is much the same in the United States of America; in the Scandinavian states the figure is about 6 per cent. and in the Soviet Union it is 7 per cent. These figures present a challenge. In this connexion it is well worth repeating some remarks made by the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) last Thursday. He said -
In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the production of scientists is at the rate of 232 per 1,000,000 of the population; in the United States of America the relevant figure is 281; in the United Kingdom it is 182; and in Australia it falls to 89. If any proof is needed of the challenge which faces our education system, those figures provide it.
The honorable member for Evans is new to this House, but the Government that he supports has occupied the Treasury bench for the last fourteen years. It is the Menzies Government that has allowed the position of education in Australia to deteriorate.
Let us consider further the percentage of gross national product spent on education. Countries with standards of living lower than ours - their standards will not be lower for much longer if we continue to spend such minute amounts on education - spend more on education than we do. I refer to countries such as Holland, Italy, the Soviet Union, Norway and France. The dilemma in which our education system has been placed is revealed by the difficult position that some of our schools face. I shall cite figures for the State of New South Wales, from which 1 come. New South Wales has done a remarkable job in education. I invite honorable members to compare the amount per head of population that has been spent in New South Wales with the amount spent in Queensland, from which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who is to follow me in this debate, comes. New South Wales spends 282s. per head of population on education. I notice that the honorable member for Moreton smiles and puts his head down. The Queensland Government, with which the honorable member is affiliated, spend 228s. per head of population on education. Despite the expenditure in New South Wales, the figures that I shall now cite will show how inadequate the educational system is even in New South Wales.
A survey conducted by the New South Wales Teachers Federation of secondary schools revealed that only 44.5 per cent. of secondary schoolteachers in New South Wales were graduates. Less than 50 per cent. of the teachers who are teaching our children in secondary schools had reached the degree of training to enable them to pass on knowledge to the youth of our nation. Of the mathematics teachers, only 48 per cent. had taken a university degree course. That means that of all mathematics teachers in secondary schools in New South Wales, 52 per cent. had not taken a degree at the university. In science, which is an important subject, 45.1 per cent. of teachers had graduated. I should add that 280 science teachers who were teaching 4th and 5th year students had completed only two years of a four-year course. Among the science teachers, 125 had not been trained at all to teach science. Doubtless it was decided that those teachers had to be put somewhere, so we find that 125 teachers in New South Wales schools are teaching science without having had any training for the job. I have given examples only from the State to which I belong, and I believe that New South Wales is the premier State in education. All honorable members will quite frankly admit that.
I refer now to the training of science graduates in the Commonwealth. Between 1939 and 1960 the number of students enrolling for science degree courses rose from 1,325 to 6,020. This means that the proportion of science undergraduates, compared with all undergraduates, rose from 9.5 per cent, to 12.1 per cent. But in Britain, during the same period, the proportion of undergraduates taking science degree courses nearly doubled, rising from 10.4 per cent, in 1939 to 20.5 per cent, in 1960. This information is given in “The Condition of Science in Australian Universities “ to which I referred earlier. The Prime Minister proposes to make £10,000,000 available for education by using section 96 of the Constitution.
In conclusion, let me repeat that honorable members on this side of the chamber have advocated for years that the Commonwealth Government should provide more to the States for education. However, the Government has acted suddenly after being told of this need year after year. In the past, when we have asked for increased grants for education, we have been told that money for this purpose could not come from federal revenue, yet suddenly the Prime Minister found it convenient to make the money available. He did so because he was desperate and because he was facing an election. He was then able to use this sleight-of-hand - the thimble and pea trick - and make his historic decision. The Prime Minister said that this is the first time in the history of Australia that such grants have been made, and that it will establish a precedent of assistance to non-State schools. This legislation will serve only to make a wider division and to create further arguments on this issue. We should discuss this subject objectively and deal with it as a matter of principle. If honorable members opposite wish to throw stones I suggest that they should first put their own house in order. Members on this side of the chamber know that the Government’s house is far from being in order. The Government’s approach to this subject has been too sectional and there has been too much hypocrisy. Therefore, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that honorable members who follow me will speak on principle and will not indulge in mud-slinging against members of the Opposition.
.- I say at once that I regret in a very deep and genuine way the injection of rancour into this debate. In saying that I do not in any sense want to be sententious, but I think this is legislation that should be discussed without bittterness and certainly without reflecting upon the convictions held by people who take up a different point of view. Having said that, may I say to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) that for my part I reserve the right to dissent on any matter and to express my point of view on any matter as vigorously as does any person I know. In this instance we are dealing with legislation which may have some novelty about it, but in the end result we also are dealing with human beings and their lives. I think that all members owe it to the Parliament - to use the language of the honorable member for Reid in concluding his speech - to discuss the legislation on principle.
I can see the humanist point of view towards assistance to independent schools and I recognize the point of view of the rationalist towards independent schools. I am prepared to make those recognitions but I reserve to myself the right to engage in argument those who hold such points of view. It seems to me that consideration of any denominational question in this matter, and in this day and age, has absolutely no relevance. Last Thursday, as I listened to the views of one member against another, the words of Chesterton’s epic poem “ Lepanto “ came back to me - “ And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room “. This chamber may not be a narrow dusty room but in the circumstances of last Thursday’s debate that impression was created for me.
I appeal to the House and to the country to look to the merits of the issue without saying that because a person belongs to a particular creed and another person does not belong to the same denomination there is inadequacy, that there is deficiency; that is t < be deplored. There is nothing very startling about governments giving assistance U independent schools. I hope that the honorable member for Reid and others who may think as he does may be moved to examine the record. In England for centuries assistance has been given to independent schools. In Edinburgh, under the shadow of John Knox, assistance has been giver to independent schools. The fact that the Anglican Church is the established church in England does not make the situation any different from the situation in Australia. I submit that what is morally right for the church in England cannot be morally wrong in Australia.
I invite my friends who may hold different points of view from mine, in this House and outside of it, to examine the operation of government assistance to church activities, to independent activities in other fields of the community. I shall mention a few cases at random. I refer first to assistance for university colleges, for purposes of tertiary education. It is rather strange that I have never heard any person complain about aid in this field. I have never heard any person say it is wrong that grants should be given to Xavier College, to Cromwell College or to any other college. I have not heard complaints of grants at that level. Why is it that when we come down to the level involved in this legislation people feel anxiety? It is not intelligible anxiety. If it could be spelt out in a way that people could comprehend, so be it; one could at least recognize it. But here it seems to be what can only be described as sheer and utter prejudice.
The second illustration I give to the House relates to Queensland where for years a scholarship system has operated. Funds have been paid to the schools and the system operates to-day. Again I say that I have never heard any person complain about it. In Sydney the council of the Anglican Church, within the University of Sydney - the Primate is a member of the council - and the council of the Methodist Church accept from the Government money for the payment of the salaries of wardens. I have never heard any stricture upon the government which does that. Next I give the classic illustration of aged persons homes and church hospitals. I invite honorable members to consider this simple proposition, if humanly possible divorced from any political consideration and examined on purely logical grounds: Is :t not strange that we are prepared to accept the principle of government assistance to people to suffer pain and to live out their days, as it were, but we are not prepared to accept the principle of aid for people to get an understanding of life? It strikes me as being very odd and quite frankly I cannot understand it at all.
Having made those introductory remarks 1 want now to turn to two attacks that have been made on this legislation. The first attack appeared in a paper called the “Anglican”, in the edition which appeared on 7th May of this year. It was the first attack of any consequence made on this legislation. Perhaps I may be forgiven for quoting a completely unsolicited testimonial for myself by way of credential, at least to establish that I have some right to refer to this publication. The “Anglican”, in its leading article on 5th December, 1963, vouchsafed that I was saved from my political deficiencies, manifest as they may be, by my “ deep and genuine Anglicanism “. I repeat that it is a completely unsolicited testimonial from the “ Anglican “. I feel that it is about time somebody said that this publication is not the official organ of the Anglican Church in Australia. I regret tremendously that tens of thousands of people throughout the country have literally been deceived into accepting the publication as the official organ. It is largely conducted by a Mr. James, of whom I could say a lot but I try to remind myself that charity remains a virtue. All I shall say of Mr. James is that he speaks in a way becoming a suffragan bishop when in fact he is vested with the authority of a sexton. If one examines the attack that was made in the lead story of this paper on 7th May 1 venture to say one will feel that it is as schismatic an attack as it is possible to imagine. Yet on the very same page is an announcement of a week of prayer for Christian unity. The contrast struck me as being completely ironical.
In the editorial article the writer made an attack on the prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I do not know whether the Prime Minister is going to sit down and sob about that. It is an attack which I would have thought was not distinguished by any depth of perception or feeling. The writer described the bishops of the Anglican Church as “ an undisciplined rabble “. Whenever I feel that a bishop has done something wrong in a secular sense, I am not backward in saying so, as honorable members well know. Describing all the bishops of the Anglican Church in Australia as an undisciplined rabble struck me as one of the worst and most silly comments - the kind of comment that adds no lustre to any argument. In the leading article on 7th May, 1964, on the broad issue, Mr. James declared -
As to laboratories and experimental equipment, could it not be that their importance is overrated . . .
That is a point of view. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it is another matter. But contrasting that sentiment with another that appeared on the editorial page of the same journal on 31st August, 1956, is worth while. On that occasion, Mr. James declared -
Better facilities for higher education and research are a matter of life and death to this country . . . 1 submit that it is a little difficult to reconcile the two points of view. 1 hope that, in this House and outside it, people will apprehend that this man and his journal do not speak for the Anglican Church on this matter. With great respect to him, I say that I do not think that he is equipped with sufficient sensitiveness on this issue to be able to put the Anglican point of view. I hope that people who have been upset and who have looked critically on our brethren in Christ on this issue will not be alarmed and will not be distressed to the point of reviving bigotries and prejudices which, though they may have had relevance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 1 for my part declare that they have absolutely no relevance in the second half of the twentieth century.
The second attack of consequence on this bill was made by my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Among other things, he said -
This bill was conceived in chicanery, born in duplicity and nurtured on deceit.
I thought that that was rugged language, whatever honorable members may think of it. The honorable gentleman went on to say that the bill will “ confer further privileges on the Australian plutocracy “. I hope that he will not regard it as discourteous on my part if I do not follow him through the labyrinth of argument represented by his speech. 1 simply turn to Tennyson’s “ Morte d’Arthur “, which I suggest, has some allegorical appropriateness in a political sense. I give the House these lines - “ But now the whole Round Table is dissolved Which was an image of the mighty world; And I, the last, go forth companionless, And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds “. And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge: “ The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world “.
I leave it at that, Sir. 1 leave my honorable friend to think on those words from “ Morte d’Arthur “ and the sensitiveness and imagery that may be found there.
I turn now to the bill as legislation and to the philosophy behind it. May I say that I can think of nothing more disastrous for education in this country than for the state to have a monopoly of education. My honorable friends opposite rail, understandably, about the operations of monopolies in this country and elsewhere throughout the world. I invite them to consider the consequences of giving to the state complete power over education. If you look round the world you can find illustrations of the history and the sociological development of communities having been absolutely distorted because one transient figure on the world stage has taken it into his mind to set out to distort history purely for political reasons. Having said that, I go on to say that I believe that the basic issue involved in this measure is education. Any person opposite may level a criticism at what we are doing on account of education in this country. I do not object to that. I understand it and I appreciate it.
I hope only that the Australian community will find both that sense of conviction about education and that sense of dedication that are needed if we are to provide the wherewithal to do all the things which are necessary and which we want to do. Let us recognize candidly that some independent schools in Australia are in what I describe as a desperate position. These are schools with a great tradition. These are schools that have bent to the task of developing character - of turning out not merely people able to rattle off the answers to an infinite number of questions or people with encyclopaedic minds, but people who have a sense of conviction, who understand the Christian ethic and who understand or try to understand the destiny of man. Are these schools to go by the board, Sir? We would make a terrible mistake if we looked on them as class schools. But they are in grave danger of becoming class schools, because, as the fees go up, only the extremely wealthy will be in a position to send their children to these schools. By and large, in Australia, we have what one could call an egalitarian society. I think it would be a pity if we were to say that because of the financial fix into which these schools have got themselves we would give them no assistance from the nation. After all, we are a nation - one people, with, I hope, one future, and certainly with one destiny. If we could understand this, we would realize that there is no occasion for any person to level strictures at any person with a sense of sympathy for the plight of the independent schools.
Have not these independent schools contributed greatly to the Australian community? I venture to say that they have. Let me give to the House what I regard as a few relevant facts. When Australia was founded, the Church - and the Church alone - was left to carry on education. Not until 1911 did the State enter into the field of secondary education in Queensland. If one looks at the statistics of the University of Queensland for 1962 - the most recent that I could find - one sees this sort of picture emerging. Students from State high schools who entered the university numbered 1,240 and those from independent schools 2,332. Are we to say that fewer and fewer independent schools will remain for those parents who want to send their children to such schools? I submit with great respect that ultimately these schools will feel the pinch so much as to be no longer able to keep their heads above water unless action is taken.
May I now direct the attention of the House to the views of one whom I regard as being certainly the foremost authority on education in this country and probably one of the greatest educational authorities in the English-speaking world. I refer to Professor Sir Fred Schonell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland. In a small publication entitled “ Modern Developments in Secondary Education in England “, he declared -
Two recent developments in English secondary education that have given the plan of secondary education for all a better chance of success-
The operative words are “a better chance of success” - are: (a) the raising of the school leaving age and (b) the increased financial assistance to voluntary or non-stale schools.
That is the view of this eminent educational authority. One may or may not agree with that point of view, which comes from a man whose whole life has been given to the cultivation of greater facilities for education in this country and in other countries, notably the United Kingdom. Another opinion that I would invite the House to consider is an opinion represented in seven propositions spelled out in a paper given by Professor A. K. Thomson, who is Professor of English at the University of Queensland. Professor Thomson is a very studious and above all a very kindly man and I think it is useful to reflect that he is the son of a coal-miner. That, I suggest, should be borne in mind when honorable members listen to what he has to say. These are the seven propositions that he has ventured to put on the position of independent schools -
Does anybody controvert that?
Again may I ask, does anybody controvert that?
This legislation may be modest in its effect, but it will help in a sector that desperately needs help. I agree with every person who proclaims that more of our resources should be turned to education. We should be prepared to go to the very limit in any way possible. We live to-day but we cannot think in terms alone of yesterday. We must think predominantly of to-morrow. I do not think it would be too narrow, too mean or too pinched a contemplation to speculate on the world 1,000 years hence, when we are gone and forgotten and when even the creeping lichens have eaten away the letters upon the churchyard stone. What of that world?
Surely it would bc the common aspiration of every person in this Parliament that it will be a world in which enlightenment has triumphed over ignorance, in which compassion has replaced prejudice, in which tolerance is supreme and peace and understanding fill the minds and hearts of all men and in which the gentle sublimity of the human personality yet rests before the presence of divine authority. That seems to me to be a goal towards which all civilized people should work. 1 believe it is helped by this legislation.
.- One thing the announcement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech that the Government would grant a subsidy of £5,000,000 to State schools for science purposes, and the introduction of this legislation, has done is to allay some of the sectarian feeling that has been rife in the Australian community for a great number of years. Much of the criticism directed against the Australian Labour Parly during the course of this debate has been that Labour has shown its inconsistency and does not know where it stands. In order to prove that that argument is incorrect, I want to deal this afternoon with the approach of the Labour Party to the question of aid for independent schools and for education generally, with the attitude of the Liberal Party to the same concept and with the attitude of some of the Australian newspapers to it. I do so merely to prove that on another occasion the Labour Party has been accused of a misdemeanour that it has never committed.
The subject of education and aid to independent schools has been a live one in the Labour Party almost since its formation. However, in the last thirteen years, especially, a number of amendments has been made to the policy of our party on the subject of education. Between 1951 and 1957, our policy read quite simply -
That financial aid be granted for the purpose of assisting all forms of education.
We did not in that announcement specify the type of assistance we would grant or what form the assistance would take. In 1957, that plank was removed from our policy and in its stead was substituted the following provision: -
Promotion of secondary and higher education by way of bursaries, scholarships, exhibitions and benefits of a like nature payable direct to the students.
As well, this point appeared -
This Conference deplores the failure of the Federal Government to provide adequate funds to State Governments to enable them to expand their educational facilities.
In 1957, we decided on aid to pupils and we also decided that the States were not receiving sufficient money for educational purposes. In 1 957, the Labour Party said that, unless something was done for education in Australia, the crisis that was already developing would continue until it became so large that it would be almost beyond solution. In 1959, this further plank was added to the platform -
In pursuance of A.L.P. policy of promoting education the party undertakes to legislate as early as possible so that all fees, together with a reasonable sum for prescribed text-books expended by students undertaking tertiary education, be made income tax deductions.
Again, we moved for further benefits to pupils attending universities
In 1961, our policy read -
The Federal Government should make special financial grants to the Slates for the following and other purposes: - (a)……
to permit the States to provide adequate science equipment in the schools. (c)…… (d)……
To establish a system of secondary school scholarships similar to the Commonwealth university scholarships, which shall be in keeping with the general principle of promoting secondary and higher education by way of bursaries, scholarships, exhibitions and benefits of a like nature, payable direct to the student.
A further resolution to this effect was passed -
That the A.L.P. call for an enquiry on technical, secondary and primary education on the lines of the Murray Commission on Universities.
This point was also included -
That the A.L.P. believes that the Government and the community generally should be prepared to spend a much higher proportion of the national income on education.
Until 1961, we had said that we would grant benefits to pupils attending all schools. We said that there was a crisis in education and funds should be made available to the
States to help them solve the crisis. We especially specified that the grants should be made to permit the States to provide adequate science equipment in the schools. This was introduced in 1961. In 1963, a substantial amendment was made to Labour’s policy on education. It is much too large to read in its entirety. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
1963 AMENDMENT TO PLATFORM.
This applies particularly to the following classes of people: -
The recognition that these objectives can only be attained by vigorous action on the part of the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the States.
A national conference to follow the recommendations made by the Australian Education Council in 1960 to determine and recommend priorities for action.
More residential accommodation for students.
The provision of improved facilites for the training of kindergarten teachers.
To provide an administrative centre for various investigatory and advisory bodies such as the Australian Universities Commission, an Australian Education Council of Federal and State Ministers meeting frequently, a Standing Committee of Directors of Education and appropriate specialized panels.
Promoting a greater and belter informed public understanding and appreciation of education matters.
I emphasize the fourth point, which states -
Citizens who do not wish to use the school facilities provided by the State, whether for conscientious or other reasons, shall have the absolute right to develop an independent system of schools of a recognized standard provided they do so at their own cost.
Our 1963 policy emphasizes that we believe in a dual education system in Australia. Our policy gives parents an absolute right to develop an independent school system if they so require, but they must provide their own buildings at their own cost. Our policy also states that immediate action should be taken to relieve the crisis in Australian education. We state that other grants in aid should be given for backward sectors of the community. Labour’s policy is clearly written for anybody to see.
– Is not the honorable member for Reid in your party? He does not believe in that policy.
– I will deal later with the attitude adopted by members of the Liberal Party. When I am finished honorable members opposite may see fit to interject, but at this stage I suggest that they remain silent. The Australian Labour Party has a clearly written policy on education. It has never opposed in this Parliament or in any State parliament any aid that has been given to independent schools, whether that aid has been direct or indirect. Some people refer euphemistically to the aid that has already been given as fringe benefits, but those fringe benefits have covered quite a large field of assistance. On a
Commonwealth basis, for instance, the Australian Labour Party has never opposed the granting of aid to mission schools in the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We have not opposed the reimbursement of interest payments to non-government schools in the Australian Capital Territory. We have not opposed the making of grants to university colleges. We have not opposed the assistance that has been given to European children living in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or in the Northern Territory. The Australian Labour Party has always regarded the aid that has been given, whether direct or indirect, as merited, because we have believed that it has been given in order to relieve a crisis in Australian education. We still believe that aid given to relieve a crisis in Australian education is aid that should rightly be given by the Commonwealth and by the States.
Time and again in this debate, in other places and in the newspapers we have been accused of changing face on this subject, but I think I have shown that over thirteen years our attitude has been reasonably consistent. We have stipulated that Labour’s aid for education would take the form of a direct payment to students. We have said on a number of occasions that an inquiry should be held into primary, secondary and technical education. We have said that in our opinion emergency grant’s should be made available to the States. If honorable members opposite care to glance at the published policy speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in 1961 and 1963 they will see those points clearly stated.
I turn now to the Government’s approach towards education. On a number of occasions the Opposition has instituted debates on education and has taken advantage of the Estimates debate to urge that something be done along the lines I have just indicated. On every occasion Government supporters have opposed the Opposition’s moves. The Opposition has been told that whatever it wanted to do was unconstitutional or unnecessary. I propose to quote from a report that appeared in the “Canberra Times” on 18th November, 1961. The report emanated from Wagga Wagga and read -
The Commonwealth Government would not extend aid to church schools outside the Australian
Capital Territory, the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, told a questioner at a Liberal Party election rally here to-night.
Mr. Menzies agreed the Government had helped church schools in the Canberra area as the questioner had said. In reply to the man’s next query: “Would the Government extend this aid elsewhere?” the Prime Minister said: “The answer must be ‘No’.”
Earlier, on 30th August, 1960, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) the following question: -
My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he inform the House whether his Government favours the provision of financial assistance for denominational schools throughout tho Commonwealth?
The Prime Minister replied -
The honorable member puts to me a question that is outside the jurisdiction of this Government.
May I turn now from this Parliament to the Parliament of New South Wales, which has been mentioned in this debate by other speakers. Let us look at the policy of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party on aid to independent schools. I do not think I need remind Liberal Party members from New South Wales of the violent dispute that occurred between the former State president of the Liberal Party, Mr. Ralph Honner, and the leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, the Honorable R. W. Askin, when a Liberal Party committee which had investigated this subject was about to produce a report. During the debate in the New South Wales Parliament last year on the Budget, proposals for granting scholarship aid to students attending independent schools were under discussion. Mr. Askin said that Liberal Party policy on State aid was clear cut. He said that the party had promised a greatly expanded bursary system applying equally to students of public and private schools. Mr. Askin indicated, in his 1962 policy speech on behalf of the New South Wales Liberal Party, that under the party’s education proposals private schools would share in benefits, including free travel, extension of the bursary system and one or two others. He went on to say quite specifically -
Our policy on this subject is limited to indirect help of this kind. But we do not support direct aid, such as per capita payments, capital loans or interest subsidies.
I have had conversations on this topic with various honorable members on the Government side of the House. I was told quite clearly that they did not believe that aid such as that granted under this bill should be granted; but there does not seem to be any indication that they will voice their opposition to the proposals now before the House.
I make it quite clear that I do not say these things in any sense of uncharitableness at all. I am merely pointing out that of all the parties represented in this House the Australian Labour Party has been the most consistent in its education proposals, and particularly in its attitude towards assistance to independent schools.
– These are your own views.
– You might find a few hot-heads on our side of the House in the same way as you will find a few hot-heads on the Government side of the House. Some members may not agree with what their party has decided. But the Australian Labour Party believes in majority decisions. We have our regular caucus meetings at which all these proposals are discussed fully. However, I doubt very much whether some of the honorable members on the Government side, who previously indicated to me that they were opposed to aid to independent schools, even knew that this proposal would be included in the policy speech of the Prime Minister in November, 1963. I am sure that they saw this bill in its entirety only a short time before it was brought down in this House.
Now that I have shown that in this instance the Labour Party has been more consistent than the Liberal Party has been, I turn to the attitudes of some of the most vociferous opponents of aid to independent schools, and in particular the two morning daily newspapers in New South Wales - the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the “ Daily Telegraph “. As well as being vociferous opponents of aid to independent schools, they have been ardent supporters of this Government. Perhaps the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has had its changes of heart, but the “ Daily Telegraph “ certainly has never been anything but an ardent supporter of the Government. I quote the following from the editorial in the “Daily Telegraph” of 14th May, 1964, which was entitled “A.L.P. squibs the issue on State aid “-
Labour has decided to run away from the issue of the Federal Government’s proposed legislation on State aid for school science buildings.
Faced with the choice of opposing a measure that a large number of voters obviously want or of going against its official policy on State aid, it has taken a cowardly and dishonest way out.
Further on the same editorial stated -
It is plain enough that both these measures are popular with the electors: the Government eoi a clear mandate for them from the people at the last elections.
After quoting from that editorial and finding in it no criticism at all of the attitude that has been adopted by the Government in introducing this legislation, I go back to an editorial published in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of 11th September, 1961. It was headed “ Dangers in Private School Aid “ and read -
A public meeting yesterday resolved, in effect, that no State aid should be given to private schools without the authority of the people, expressed through a referendum.
This is a sound and long-established principle, and any political party in this Stale should think deeply before it abandons it.
Further on the same editorial stated -
The official sanctioning of segregated education would only deepen and perpetuate that rift and tend more and more to build two separate classes of citizens within the one community.
At that stage, of course, the “ Daily Telegraph “ was criticizing the New South Wales State Labour Government; but now it does not criticize the Federal LiberalCountry Party Government. It says that the Labour Party has run away from its responsibilities. If that newspaper had an attitude on State aid in 1961, surely the same attitude should be apparent to-day; but it is not apparent to-day. So, I repeat that the Labour Party has been reasonably consistent, but the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ certainly has not been consistent.
The other point that I wish to make is in relation to the attitude of the “ Sydney Morning Herald”. An editorial published by that newspaper on Friday, 8th May, 1 964, and headed “ A Spur to Science Education” read -
It is no longer necessary to argue that Australia needs to train many more professional scientists. At the moment there is a shortage of university staff, a lack of honours students, and a disturbing tendency for trained scientists to go abroad. There are a number of ways in which it is possible to tackle these problems, but there can be no doubt that the best, most fundamental approach is to spur on something like a revolution in the teaching of science in secondary schools. The money which the Federal Government is making available, for specific purposes, is an essential precondition.
In other words, that newspaper applauded the introduction of the legislation that is now before us. But when we turn to an editorial published by the same newspaper on Tuesday, 1 7th July, 1962, and headed “ State Responsibility and the Schools “, we read, in part -
But the State, which is being asked to support this dual purpose, must consider whether any Church has the right to demand support from public funds for activities which extend beyond those of an educational system designed for the children of all citizens of whatever faith.
Further on the same editorial stated -
If Roman Catholics prefer to attest their faith in their own system by erecting scores of schools and colleges, rather than use the State facilities for instruction, they are not entitled lo expect aid from public funds.
An article written by the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 2nd September, 1961, and entitled “‘Politics and State Aid to Denominational Schools “, slated quite specifically - 1 he “ Herald “, for its pari, believes that the
State should not directly subsidize the establishment and operation of non-State schools.
So, from the three comparisons that I have chosen - the attitude of the Australian Labour Party compared with (hut of the Liberal Party in this Parliament and in the New South Wales Parliament, that of the “ Daily Telegraph “ and that of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ - only the Australian Labour Party emerges wilh any semblance of honour. I will not say that all the speeches that have been made by the honorable members on this side of the House are speeches with which I wholly agree. I am certain that the speech that 1 have made is not a speech with which all members of the Opposition will wholly agree. But unless we examine these questions in a cold, logical way, we will not get anywhere on them.
Only one official approach has been made by the independent schools. That was an approach made on behalf of the Catholic schools for aid for them. It was made in September, 1962, by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Gilroy. He presented a five-point plan to the then Premier of New South Wales, the Honorable R. J. Heffron. One of those five points was a £30 annual scholarship allowance for secondary school pupils. Such an allowance or something similar has been introduced already in Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales and in respect of some students in the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If I had sufficient time I could read to the House a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in Brisbane on 18th November. 1963, in which he specifically spelt out the fact that our policy is to grant aid to pupils along that line. From that speech I quote this extract -
The scholarship will be available from the first day at secondary school to the last day. and will rise from £20 in the first year to £50 in the final year.
The second point advanced by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney was for capital grants for new schools and extensions to present schools, or the payment of interest on Joans raised for those works. The latter has been done by the Commonwealth Government. Interest payments up to a certain percentage on loans raised for the provision of new schools in the Commonwealth’s Territories have been met by this Government. The third point made by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney was that additional assistance should be granted to equip science laboratories. We are discussing that very proposal now. There were two other points, but time will prevent me from dealing wilh them.
The Labour Parly in its proposed amendment to this bill suggests that there should be an inquiry into all aspects of primary, secondary and technical education. The Labour Party has asked for emergency grants to the States for educational purposes. Wc have been consistent for the last thirteen years on these matters. We have again put forward the policy that we have been espousing since about 1 95 1 . I could give figures of the number of pupils in attendance at non-government schools in secondary classes. Despite what has been said by previous speakers in this debate, these schools cater for the needs of a great number of children from the working community. Look at the electorate of Dalley, which includes the Sydney suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle. You will find there independent schools charging 5s. or 10s. a week for the fees of the pupils who attend them. Look at the electorate of Grayndler, which contains the Sydney suburb of
Marrickville. Look at my own electorate of Lang, which contains Lakemba, for instance, and at the electorate of Banks. Two-thirds of the private schools in those places cater for the needs of the children of workers. Only an infinitesimal proportion of people send their children to schools that charge upwards of £200 a year in fees. The need for assistance to the schools which the poorer children attend is urgent. The Government in introducing this legislation is only picking at the problem. An inquiry into the needs of these schools, as well as the needs of State schools, would show that there are many other things that could be done.
I conclude by saying that I agree with the remarks that were made by the right honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt at the opening of St. Edmund’s boys school, in Canberra, in 1954. Among other things, he said -
The Prime Minister takes no risks in giving support to schools built by the great churches - everyone with love of country, imagination and belief in Christianity, will agree with him.
– Mr. Speaker, I have been impressed and entertained by the speeches made by honorable members on this side of the House during this debate; but I have been disappointed by the acrimonious tone brought into the debate by many of the honorable members opposite who spoke. I deprecate the heated and often barely truthful manner in which the socialists have debated this bill. But there is an explanation for this. It is a well-known psychological fact that when a person is in severe mental conflict he reverts to rage and immoderate conduct. Honorable members opposite are obviously in a state of conflict because, in their heart of hearts, they oppose this bill, but they know that it has been endorsed by the people of Australia. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), for example, said that he had to oppose the bill because of his party’s discipline. He said it so happened that he agreed with their views, but added that if his party bosses changed their views on the bill he would change his. This was politically a very clever statement, even though it was rather redolent, I think, of the faceless men. He then said that the States should not pay for the Church schools to teach religion. He drew a most unfortunate analogy with
Germany between the wars, where aid was demanded and was given to private schools which taught communism and nazism. Such arguments ignore the fact that our Church schools teach religion and not politics. I know that honorable members on this side of the House recognize that religion is a totally different matter from politics: I am not quite so sure about honorable members on the other side.
I am appalled that the teaching of religion should be compared with the teaching of any of these unsavoury isms. Church schools, in addition to teaching religion, perform all the other functions of State schools. They perform those functions very well indeed, and thereby save taxpayers considerable expenditure. So, why should they not receive government recognition for the service they provide? The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) tells us that as a student at State primary and secondary schools he received excellent religious teaching. This was not my experience. I received a secular education and, in aggregate. I would have had less than three hours religious training during the entire time I attended school.
Sir, the last speaker for the Opposition, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) made much of what he called the changed attitude of this Government and of the Liberal Party on State aid for independent schools. Certainly there has been some change, but no fundamental change. I think that the change which has taken place demonstrates the integrity and courage of this Government and of the Liberal Party in that they can adjust their views to the changing times. As we all know, times are changing with dramatic swiftness. It is one of the singular weaknesses of the Labour Party that it clings desperately to its outdated and discredited philosophies. The Labour Party is too rigid to alter its views and keep pace with changing conditions. This is one of the serious and singular troubles of the Labour Party, and one of the reasons for its great weakness to-day.
The honorable member for Lang said that there were differing views within the Liberal Party on State aid to independent schools. No doubt this is true. I have not heard any acrimony, I must say, but doubtless there are differing views. The vast majority of Liberal Party members - indeed, all honorable members on this side of the House - recognize the wisdom of this historic measure that we are debating to-day and are fully in accord with it. Because of our philosophy of freedom of thought we will never see the spectre of somebody breathing fire and smoke descending on us, as Mr. Chamberlain did on the Labour Party in New South Wales to pull it into line. Thank goodness, that kind of spectacle would never be witnessed in the Liberal Party.
The standard of debate from the Opposition on this bill has been rather poor. The Labour Party’s arguments have been wide open to successful criticism, but it would be too tedious to deal with all of them. I shall content myself simply by asking, as the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) asked - and he has not been answered - this question: If the Labour Opposition became the Government to-morrow - perish the thought - would it rescind this bill in the same way as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said he would cancel the agreement which provides interest-free loans to non-government schools in the Commonwealth’s Territories? The Leader of the Opposition owes it to the people of Australia to give them an answer. There should be no smokescreen clouding this issue. We should have the facts. I ask again: If the Labour Parly became the Government to-morrow, would it cancel the agreement which grants interest-free loans to independent schools in the Commonwealth’s Territories?
T should now like to say a few words in support of the bill itself, which has been supported also by the most eminent Professor Titterton, who said that it would be of enormous help if the grants were spent wisely. I am sure that they will be. The bill is a typical product of the liberal, enlightened and progressive thought which characterizes this Government. If will provide support for education where it is most needed, without imposing any coercion on parents to send their children to schools which are not of their own choosing. The bill provides support for the teaching of science throughout the entire spectrum of secondary schools, without fear or favour and, moreover, without strings attached. Church school problems are administered by church leaders, without governmental interference. Senator Gorton deserves great credit for the manner in which this legislation is to be implemented. I have been lost in admiration of the skill, the flexibility and the impartiality which he has displayed in dealing with the problems which must of necessity have arisen.
– And the duplicity.
– There has been no duplicity whatsoever. That was a nonsensical interjection. I believe that a parent is fully entitled to have his child’s education provided within the environment which he considers best. If he believes, as I do, that the best environment is provided by a church school, then he should not be penalized. If grants are to be made to schools, church schools should share the benefits equally with schools of a secular nature. Church schools in this country have done and are doing magnificent work, but their finances are always sorely strained. Church school education should not be, and must not be, the prerogative of the rich. The great majority of church schools do keep their fees as low as possible and I sincerely trust that the financial assistance afforded by this bill will help them 10 continue to do so.
No doubt all honorable members of this House have received numerous communications from pressure groups. They are all politically tinged and simply seek to implement the old Labour Party policy of keeping education secular. Unfortunately, support was lent to this campaign, probably unwittingly, a few days ago by no less a personage than Sir Mark Oliphant. Sir Mark stands out as one of the giants of his chosen field of physical science. I have noticed, however, that many physicists, who must do most of their thinking in the abstract, and to me abstruse, realm of advanced mathematics, feel an irresistible urge to make pontifical pronouncements about philosophy and religion generally. They have, for the most part, no training at all in these disciplines and, therefore, they make a most lamentable showing when they succumb to this urge. Sir Mark has been no exception. My reading of his religious, or rather quasi-religious, utterances have saddened me. I gained the impression of a very fine man who is losing, or has now lost, his faith. He is obviously troubled by the problem of suffering and grief in this world, but he dealt with this problem, and with love and faith, in his well-known speech of 10th October, 1963, in an uninformed manner which displayed surprising superficiality of thought. He also showed a singular lack of objectivity, one example of which was the statement that scientists know more about God than a fat prelate does. “ Ideas 2,000 years old “, says Sir Mark, “ must be suspect in the totally different physical and mental climate to-day.” Suspect, Sir? Surely he realizes that our ideas have changed in 2,000 years because of those timeless sayings which are succinct and yet universally applicable, sayings, Sir, the validity of which has not yet been successfully challenged, by Sir Mark or by numberless others like him who have attempted to do so.
Sir Mark has, in fact, fallen into exactly the same error - though from the opposite end - as that into which the Church fell 350 years ago when it was confronted by Galileo’s hypotheses. In other words, Sir Mark questions Christianity because all of its aspects do not appear to fit into the universe as he sees it. Yet, Sir, he sees it, more clearly, perhaps, than we do, but still only as through a glass, darkly, because of his very incomplete and fragmentary knowledge. The Church soon realized its error; I hope Sir Mark will do the same. I hope such a fine and good man will come to realize that the scientist explores the material workings of the universe whilst the theologian seeks to understand their meaning. The theologian is better equipped for this task than the physicist, who is not trained for it and who, I believe, often cannot see the wood for the trees.
Unfortunately, Sir Mark descended to a lower plane when, on 11th May, he exhorted educationists to discard religious instruction and other accumulated junk - as he disarmingly put it - from school curricula. To my surprise, this junk includes the study of English, which he says should be thrown over in favour of teaching real and existing things which fascinate children. We have here much food for discussion, Sir, including what appears to be a new end for education - children must be fascinated. He said more and I should love to discuss other of his remarks but this debate has been a lengthy one so I shall content myself with just one further quotation from Sir Mark. He said that we must create a situation in which white and grey haired reactionaries like him are unable to hinder progress. I believe that this bill will be of great value in this direction.
On the other hand, on 10th May the Archbishop of Canterbury said that men of scientific discipline and habit should ascertain the mental processes of men of arts and of an artistic mind. He stressed this point, saying, “ This is the really urgent and spiritual need of our time, and unless this matter is remedied we are likely to get a kind of iron curtain right through the western civilization “.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am utterly convinced that an increasing preoccupation with technical teaching, at the expense of the humanities, would lead to a technocracy every bit as frightening as that envisaged by George Orwell in his novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four “. It is not nearly enough to have material knowledge alone. In fact, as technology advances it becomes more and more vital for us that we develop that balance and background which enable us to use science as a means to a better and fuller material life. If we are not so educated, then science will become an end and a nightmarish tyrant. I hope that it will never be necessary again to say -
With desolation is the land made desolate because no man thinketh with his heart.
I am not decrying State schools. I know that the majority of them do provide firstclass, balanced education. But while we have Church schools we need have no worries that eminent men like Sir Mark Oliphant will upset this delicate and important balance. Finally, Christianity is not a Sunday-only affair, and very few parents indeed possess the knowledge, the ability or the time to ensure a firm foundation of faith for their children. I admit my own failings in this regard. But church schools do provide it and I am thankful that, to date, my children when they study science, do so with that deeper and more satisfying approach expressed in Psalm 19:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork
15.5]. - The Australian Labour Party will not repeal this bill. There is no question about that. This bill will repeal itself. It has currency only until 30th June, 1965, and no indication has yet been given that another bill wilh favours of the same kind will follow it. The honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) referred to this bill as being historic in ils implications and in the principle which it asserts. Quite a number of Government back-benchers have emphasized in this debate the importance which they attach to the principle which they see in the decision of the Government to provide a share of public funds by capital grant to private schools. As to that attitude by Government back-benchers, I think several considerations might well be mentioned. The first of them is - and it is surely significant - that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) himself, the head of the Government, has never at any stage acknowledged this principle which these gentlemen profess to see in this bill, and to which they attach such great importance. The Prime Minister has not slated the principle; he has not expounded it; he has not even paid lip service to it anywhere - in this House or out of it. Neither in his policy speech announcement of the proposal, nor in his speech here in moving the motion for the second reading of the bill did he even mention the principle. That is quite extraordinary, but, nevertheless, it is a fact.
Of course, this omission by the Prime Minister could not have been accidental. If this measure constitutes an historic break-through in the field of education, as Ministerial back-benchers have claimed, then the Prime Minister’s failure to explain it, to justify it, or to deal with any aspect of it, was surely deliberate. If this enunciation of a new and great principle is an historic break-through, then the Prime Minister’s failure even to mention it when explaining the bill to the House was surely deliberate. In fact, as we know, the Prime Minister completed all his remarks on the bill - not only on this aspect, but on all its other very important aspects - in exactly ten minutes.
– You do the same.
– I know that the
Honorable member would like me to do so, but if he will wait 1 shall even deal with some of his remarks. I am very generous in these matters. The Prime Minister confined himself entirely to explaining the machinery of the measure. Indeed, he dealt with it exactly as one would deal with a machinery bill. For example, he disregarded entirely the constitutional aspects of this bill, although in the past he has attached very great importance to the constitutional aspects. He did not say one word to explain how what was formerly plainly unconstitutional had now become plainly constitutional.
– Tell us what you think about it.
– I shall. He did not bother to reconcile his present proposal with the uncompromising answer which he had given to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in this House only a comparatively few months previously. That also was surely a deliberate omission by the Prime Minister. As a great constitutional lawyer, he would not have overlooked the contradiction in his attitudes or felt that he did not owe it to himself and to the House to clear up the position.
In the strangely brief speech which the Prime Minister made in moving the motion for the second reading, he did not even dwell for a moment on this historic entrance - and it is historic - by the Commonwealth into the field of secondary education. Throughout the whole of his political career, the Prime Minister had continually asserted that this was a field solely for the States, that it was not a field for the Commonwealth. During the life of the preceding Parliament, he asserted that many times in this chamber and repudiated Opposition arguments that the Commonwealth should take its share of this responsibility. Now, having made the somersault on this issue, he says not one word in explanation or justification. I dwell on this at some length because I think it is highly significant. I do not attempt to explain or state reasons for the Prime Minister’s remarkable silence upon each of these matters. Obviously it was deliberate; obviously it was significant.
The Prime Minister is certainly a shrewd politician. He permits, and apparently deliberately permits, an interpretation that, having cynically and, as a complete opportunist, put this proposal hastily into his policy speech as a means of obtaining votes, and having done so without any conviction whatever of its justice and without any enthusiasm for it whatever, now, being required to fulfil his promise, he still deliberately refrains from espousing the principle or saying one word more about it than he must say. He treats it indeed as though the whole thing were a distasteful necessity to his own retention of the office of Prime Minister.
I suppose no one can say for certain on what issues elections are decided. This must always be a matter of surmise. I would agree with the surmise that on this issue the Government gained a substantial number of votes and lost very few. I would also agree that those realistic people who are particularly beset by the tremendous difficulties of maintaining church schools knew very well that the Prime Minister was insincere in his offer and that in relation to the extent of their financial problems the amount that he offered was completely insignificant. Yet they voted for him, or apparently many of them did, although they saw through his motive, and they persuaded others to vote for him because they saw also that, whatever the Prime Minister’s motive, here was a chance which, if rejected, would never come to them again, to have direct capital aid written into the Australian statute-book. So the promise probably brought the Government a very substantial number of votes and lost it very few votes indeed.
In the light of the history of bitter controversy on this issue, the fact that there was little outcry against the Government’s proposal on this occasion was quite remarkable. There are apparently several reasons for this. In the first place, of course, the issue was never squarely put to the people of Australia on this occasion. It is perfectly clear that the Prime Minister put it in such a way that those who were concerned with it would recognize it and see it and those who were not particularly concerned with it would hear as little as possible about it.
– He did not even tell his own party members.
– Of course he has been adopting that practice for many years. He finds he does not need to inform his party members of what he decides to do. He knows that they will, without any question, adopt whatever decision he makes, and follow it regardless of their previous convictions. On this occasion also there was none of the usual outcry from the press, which, as has been pointed out in this debate, was always tremendously bitter, tremendously provocative and tremendously vituperative on previous occasions. I remember a couple of years ago when the Roman Catholic church schools at Goulburn were closed in protest because of a State Government requirement that they should make certain building alterations. At that time they felt that they were not receiving a just share of government funds towards the maintenance of independent schools. On that occasion, when I expressed my views on the issues involved, and some considerable sympathy with those who had closed the schools, I was politely challenged by the Goulburn Ministers Fraternal to come down and face them in Goulburn and to discuss this issue with them.
The Goulburn Ministers Fraternal on that occasion had passed a series of resolutions condemning any proposal for State aid. They were bitterly condemning the proposal and had made a series of statements in the press in Goulburn and elsewhere similar to statements which were being made by similar bodies throughout the whole of New South Wales. I accepted the invitation and went to Goulburn, where I met all members of the Goulburn Ministers Fraternal. We spent the whole evening discussing this issue, neither of us convincing the other. Their views remained in accordance with the resolution they had passed and in accordance with the statements made in the press. However, when this proposal was put forward by the Prime Minister during the election campaign there was not one word cf protest from the Goulburn Ministers Fraternal, not one resolution condemning the proposal, and not one such statement, so far as I could see, in any of the Goulburn newspapers.
– Why do you think they went quietly?
– I think that many of the “ unco guid “ in the community have the idea that the most important thing in life is to help dear Sir Robert dish that dreadful Mr. Calwell, and 1 think that that is a considerable part of the explanation of their attitude. The second explanation is a genuine decline in the bitterness with which these issues were formerly discussed in the community - that there is a growing understanding between those of different brands of Christian faith, and that this is no longer the very sad, prejudiced and bitter issue that it was in the public life of Australia.
But I would say to those Government supporters who are in the chamber that in view particularly of the light that I have thrown on the Prime Minister’s attitude in this matter, some Government supporters yet may prove to have been incautious in their sudden and enthusiastic support for this policy of capital grants of public funds for private schools. Obviously, of course, honorable members opposite thought that it was the proper thing, once the Prime Minister had given the lead, for them to jump on to this band waggon and to beat the drum. I am sure that they will agree with me that they have done this only because they follow the Prime Minister blindly and not because they have any minds of their own on this matter.
– Don’t you think you have your hands full giving advice to Mr. Stoneham without advising us?
– 1 am prepared to advise even you.
– We can do without it.
– In your blindness you may try to do without it, but in time you may say, “ His advice was right; I should have followed it.” Anyhow, just listen to it; it will do you no harm. Much capital has been made by honorable gentlemen opposite about the very lively arguments which have taken place inside the Labour Party on this issue, not only in recent days but for many years past. There is nothing wrong, but something very healthy, in such arguments. If men are genuinely interested in political issues, if they share a common ideal, a common goal and a common set of principles, it is inevitable that they will differ from time to time on the methods of obtaining those objectives. If they are genuinely interested in seeking a goal they will inevitably differ on the best method of reaching it. I think such differences are healthy and are a sign of activity, health and vigour inside a political party.
I remember the days, because I have been associated with this Parliament for very many years, both here and while I was in the press gallery, when that was also the spirit that animated the great Liberal Party of Australia, but that is no longer so. What is utterly wrong in public life, and extraordinarily unhealthy is the utter lack of interest - the apathy - which has afflicted the Liberal and Australian Country Parties in recent years, so much so that they now, without question, adopt whatever proposal, whatever decision and whatever policy is announced by the Prime Minister without ever having been consulted on those issues. They were never consulted on this issue, which has never been on their party platform or their policy. It was never put to them in their party room as a proposal, nor was their approval or rejection invited.
– When were you last in the party room?
– These things are true, and you cannot deny them. The first opportunity that rank and file members of those parties had to consider this proposal was after the Prime Minister announced it in his policy speech. Then they suddenly found that they believed in this measure of aid for private schools which, possibly with very rare exceptions, none of them had previously advocated but which a substantial number had publicly and strenuously opposed throughout their political careers.
I believe there is something extraordinarily unhealthy inside a political party when all its membership, without one squeak of objection, can suddenly swallow a new policy, a new proposal and a complete change of attitude announced by the Prime
Minister without his even consulting them. In this case they are marionettes’ they are dupes. I can understand honorable members opposite squealing and protesting now, but why did they not cry out previously, “ We are members of this great Liberal Party and we proclaim that the parliamentary party has rights; we insist that we should be consulted before a decision is made “. No honorable member opposite made that protest, and none is rising in his place to say that now, because no longer have honorable members opposite any real sense of political responsibility in these matters. Honorable members opposite have reached the stage under the rule of “ Big brother “ where they simply and humbly accept whatever he tells them to do, and they do it. Whatever he tells them to say, no matter how much it is at variance wilh their previous convictions and utterances, they now say it.
I remember the immense soul-searching and the agonizing period that the Labour Party went through on the issue of the North West Cape, which was one of the most vital issues that the people of Australia have ever faced. I admit that difficult time of appraisal in the Labour Party and I am proud of it. But I cannot understand how on that occasion, or on this occasion, the once great Liberal Party did nc-t even ask to be consulted. It was not consulted on that issue and yet it accepted, without one word of protest, the agreement and the decision reached. It was to them either an issue of no importance or else one of importance on which they felt that their own political lives made it unsafe for them to say publicly what they thought. It was either one or the other. So it is that in all the ranks of the Government parties, from which scarcely a voice was ever previously heard championing public funds for independent schools, we now hear every one dutifully chirping it and, if not vocally supporting it, at least silently accepting it.
– Sullenly and silently. I thank the honorable member for the improvement. I even heard the honorable and reverend member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) speaking most eloquently in this House in favour of this proposal. Some how as I listened to him the words and the tune of an old song came into my mind. I was reminded of something about “ In good King Charles’ golden day “ and “ The Vicar of Bray “. I cannot remember the rest of it, but somehow when I heard him speaking, the words and the tune came irresistibly to my mind.
Of course, in this reference I must be fair to my friend, the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), because I was in this chamber when he repudiated the charge by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that he had actually performed a double somersault on this issue. I want to do justice to the honorable member. He said “ Oh no! “ He said that his attitude had not changed and that he had always been in favour of public aid to independent schools. He quoted an utterance of his reported in “ Hansard “, I think two years previously, to prove that he had always been in favour of State aid. I have checked the reference he gave and it is quite correct. As “ Hansard “ shows the honorable member did refer to the terrible financial difficulty of private schools. This is about all he did. Then he went on to say that if ever the time came when the claims of education were being re-examined he hoped that this aspect would not be overlooked. What a courageous announcement! What bold conviction! How strongly he has advocated the case of the private schools for all these years and how grateful to him they must be!
Before passing from these kindly references to honorable genetlemen opposite I merely remind them that when they now strike heroic attitudes and speak of this legislation as a courageous new departure by the Government, it is not in fact nearly so new or such a departure as they apparently imagine. It is certainly not new or different in providing federal aid for private education. The difference is in method. The fact of federal aid for private education is well established and when honorable members opposite jibe at the Opposition for not proposing to vote against this bill which makes such an insignificant contribution to the immense financial difficulties of private education - fi, 300,000 where £50,000,000 would not be enough, if Government supporters’ statements of the terrible position of the private schools are correct - I remind them that so much of the legislation is in entire accord with Labour policy. I think it is appropriate also to remind honorable members opposite also of some of the forms in which assistance has already been given by Labour and non-Labour governments to private schools and is now being given throughout Australia. There is no need to remind honorable members opposite of the position in the Australian Capital Territory. There is no need to remind them of the position of church colleges in universities, because legislation year after year has come before the House in this respect, and both sides of the House have supported it. There is no need to remind them of the position of mission schools in the Northern Territory and in Papua and New Guinea. There is an immense amount of assistance in the general field available and being provided from Government sources to nonState schools, to private schools in every State, by Labour governments and nonLabour governments alike.
Assistance is now being given in over 40 different forms and has been given for years past. So I suggest to honorable members opposite that when they strike these heroic attitudes and jibe at the Opposition they are simply unaware of the position that has existed for years. The Labour Party’s position has been well established by its attitude to all measures such as those I have enumerated and I remind the House that it has not seen fit to vote against any of them. The policy of the Labour Party has to be understood in the context of that history.
– Are you going to vote against this measure?
– I insist on my right to demand an educational system in which all individuals will be given equal opportunities to develop their innate capacities for leading free, happy and useful lives. I start from the basis that it is a fundamental human right that a parent should be able to choose the form of his child’s education. This is an inalienable right and no majority has the right to take it away from a minority or an individual. I assert this right. I also assert that nobody should be penalized if he accepts this responsibility. I assert that it is against the principles of democracy and against the policy of any party that what is an indi- vidual human right should be penalized or should not be allowed full exercise.
If a parent chooses to hand over that responsibility to the State educational system - and that is his right - he has discharged his responsibility as he sees it. If he chooses to educate his child himself and can do so up to the acceptable standard which the community requires, that is his right and he should be allowed to exercise it. If he chooses to enrol his child at a school conducted by athiests at which the child will be instructed in atheism, that is his right and a proper exercise of his responsibility. He should not be deprived of assistance to which otherwise he would be entitled, because the school happens to be conducted by atheists, or by anybody else who is pursuing a lawful doctrine in the community. All I have said is subject only to the over-riding obligation of the community to ensure that every one is educated to the acceptable standard in which he can take his place in the community.
– What about interestfree loans in Canberra?
– I have already dealt with those. If you had been awake two minutes ago you would have heard me deal with them. I pointed out that they have existed for years, that they have been accepted by parties on both sides of the House and that the Labour Party has never opposed them. I fully understand and I sympathize with those who put the case against what they strongly regard as injustice in the education field. I feel that an independent system of schools is not only a right but a necessity. I object to uniformity in education. I am all in favour of diversity. I am certain that the proposals contained in the Labour Party’s amendment now before the House would go a long way towards attaining these objectives and would do far more towards removing the heavy burdens which parents now carry under the private educational system than would the financial provisions made in the bill before us.
I insist on my right to demand an educational system in which all individuals will be given equal opportunities to develop their innate capacities for leading free, happy and useful lives. My belief is in no way opposed to Labour policy or to anything written into Labour policy. 1 believe that there must be a system in which every child has the right to the free growth of his intellect, emotions and abilities, and that all persons are entitled to have equal efforts spent on their education, no matter in what form of school they are educated. An apprentice is entitled to have the same amount spent on his education as is spent on university students. We must recognize that different individuals require different treatment. Above all, I insist that equality in education is not achieved in uniformity but only in diversity. I insist that it is a compelling requirement to provide diversity in education, and that this would be ended with the disappearance of the private schools. I stand therefore for a policy which will enable every child to obtain his full opportunity for education in a diverse educational system, and everything I have said in these regards is taken direct from Labour’s policy on this issue.
Question put -
That the words proposed to beomitted (Mr. Cal well’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir JohnMcLeay.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
. -I shall not detain the committee long. Neither the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) nor any of his Ministers has seen fit to answer any of the questions raised concerning the origins or motives of this measure. No Minister has shown how this bill relates to a general plan for education in Australia. I believe that the Ministry has a responsibility for doing that. Ministers ought to show how this bill will help education generally in this country.
We still do not know upon what doctrine or philosophy the Government bases its legislation. The Prime Minister said some time ago that his party is not doctrinaire in its approach to any subject. How could it be doctrinaire when it has no doctrine? How can the Government resent being described as unprincipled on this legislation when it has no principles upon which it bases its approach to education?
The Government proposes that £1,250,0 a year will be spent on the denominational schools or the independent schools, call them what you will, among 500 applicants. That works out at £2,500 a year each. This is just chicken feed. How many science laboratories can be built with £2,500 a year? How much equipment will that buy? It buys nothing. But then the Prime Minister covers up by saying that some applicants - that is, some schools - will get nothing and some that will get a grant will have to wait years before they receive it. It is obvious that only a relatively few schools will receive anything worth while and they will be the schools that will need least. They will be the schools that pander to or cater for the very wealthy families in the community. That is not good enough. We want to see a real educational programme introduced into Australia, financed largely by the Commonwealth Government under section 96 of the Constitution and not by the State governments. We think that what is being done is insufficient and in some ways has been wrongly applied.
What we want to do is to educate every child in Australia that has the capacity to be educated. The Government does not propose to do this. It spends £5,000,000 on technical and scientific education and says that that is a massive, an immense contribution to education. It is nothing of the sort. It is merely tinkering with the subject. What is required is the expenditure of £5,000,000 on 5,000 additional scholarships at university level. That is what we promised in our policy speech at the last election. We promised to establish a Commonwealth scholarship system for teacher training. We do not know how much this would cost, but it would cost some millions of pounds. We say that the Commonwealth Government should establish a Commonwealth scholarship system at the technical school level. This would cost some millions of pounds. We say that there should be scholarships for all children at all schools. We say that all parents ought to be able to educate their children at least at the secondary school level. These scholarships would cost £15,000,000.
We want an inquiry into all levels of education - primary, secondary and technical - outside the tertiary level. The Government refuses to hold such an inquiry. We say that there should be a national science foundation and that tax concessions ) should be allowed for research. We want 1,000 overseas scholarships for young men and women, and this would cost £10,000,000. Our programme, excluding teacher training and technical training, would cost many millions of pounds. We have no way of ascertaining precisely how much it would cost. However, a sum of £30,000,000 would be needed to finance the items for which we can estimate the cost.
We say that child endowment should be paid to full-time students up to the age of eighteen years. We want to pay for the first child an amount of 1 ls., for the second child 19s., and for the third child 22s. This would cost £50,000,000. This is the only way to tackle the problem of education in Australia. The Government proposes to pay 15s. child endowment for the third and subsequent children. I will give the Government’s proposals on items comparable to those I have mentioned. The Government will give nothing for university and teacher training scholarships. It will establish 2,500 scholarships for technical education, each of £100. This will cost no more than £250,000. The Government will, under this legislation, grant £5,000,000 for technical buildings. At the secondary level, it will give 10,000 scholarships each of £100 for children in the second and third years of secondary education. This will cost £1,000,000. The Government does not want an inquiry into education at the primary, secondary and technical levels, although the Premiers have repeatedly requested that such an inquiry be held. The Government will give an amount of £5,000,000 as a building grant for secondary science blocks. The total expenditure that the Government will undertake is £11,250,000. The Government will pay just 15s. a week child endowment for students up to the age of 21 years. That is not enough.
The Government should urgently consider - sooner or later some government will have to do this - granting at least one television licence in each capital city for the purpose of teaching. It will have to give a licence to the universities and the schools in combination and not to those people who up to date have been given licences - those who own newspapers or some monopoly that the Government wants to favour. In this way, the best science teachers could be made available to all children in the Australian States. We think that if we use television as a medium by which we can educate the children, we will be doing the best job we can within the limits of our resources, both of money and of teaching ability.
Australia still lags behind the world in education. It lags so far behind that we are to-day on the level of Portugal and Spain. We ought to be up with the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. We must bring ourselves up to this level in the interests of all our children, regardless of their beliefs and the school they attend. We need to do this for the development and for the defence of Australia. We are lagging behind the rest of the world. We are relatively an uneducated people. The Government has let Australia down because what it has done is insufficient. The Government will have to answer for this eventually.
.-I want to draw the attention of the committee to the significance of clause 2-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Barnes) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I will be quite brief. I do not quite follow the procedure which prevented my speaking at the committee stage. I simply want to emphasize the significance of the words in clause 4 of the bill. This bill puts the Commonwealth’s imprimatur on a dual system - in fact a tri-partite system - of education in Australia. This a completely untraditional departure from previous practice. There will be continuing and persistent pressure for the amount that is given to nongovernment schools to be raised to parity with the amount spent on State systems of education. We on this side of the House have no quarrel with the non-government system of education. There are many excellent ways in which the independent schools may be supported while continuing to function in co-operation with the existing system of government education without direct grants. The sum of £1 , 346,700 to be granted under this bill to independent schools will not satisfy them.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Sir ROBERT MENZIES (Kooyong-
Prime Minister) - by leave - The statement which I am about to read is being made in the Senate by my colleague, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who is in charge of Commonwealth activities in education and research. It is as follows: -
At the last federal elections the Government promised that it would, if re-elected, provide scholarships to secondary school students throughout Australia. The scholarships were to be 10,000 in number and were to be tenable during the last two years of normal schooling. They were to carry two benefits - a payment of £100 a year to the parent or guardian for the maintenance of the child and a payment of up to £100 a year towards the cost of school fees and books. They were to be free of any means test. They were to be tenable at any school chosen by the scholarship winner whether or not the student had previously been attending that school. And they were to be awarded competitively.
Arrangements have now been made as to the methods of awarding these scholarships which will, in all cases, carry the benefits specified above. Detailed information as to dates of, and methods of, application will be announced later in each State. The fees which will be paid will cover, with the exception of charges for board and lodging, fees of all kinds which are normally charged to all students attending aparticular school and the books which will be paid for are books which all children in the relevant format the relevant school are required by the curricula to have.
Because State education systems vary widely in many ways, including curricula, methodsof examination, and the number of years spent in secondary education, it is necessary to allotto each State a proportion of the total number of scholarships available. The number allotted for competition within any State will be in proportion to that State’s population as certified by the Commonwealth Statistician. As a result, speaking as of now, the number of scholarships available for annual competition in each State will be: -
The Commonwealth requirement as to the award of these scholarships is that they should only be awarded, in each State, on relative merit as revealed in a test common to ali competitors in that State. We also require that such examinations should be marked, not by individual schools, but externally. This requirement, because of the variation in State systems, necessitated specific arrangements being made with each Slate and I should like to pay a tribute to the genuine co-operation of State Education Ministers and their departments in working such arrangements out. I am warmly appreciative of their help.
The scholarships will be awarded in the various States by the following method: In Queensland they will be awarded on the results obtained in the 1964 Junior Public examination and will be tenable for the two years culminating in the Senior Public examination. In Western Australia they will be awarded on the results obtained in the 1964 Junior Certificate examination and will be tenable for the two years culminating in the Leaving Certificate. In Tasmania they will be awarded on results obtained in a special examination similar to the present Senior Bursaries examination. This examination will be held at the end of the fourth year of secondary education, will be conducted by the Bursaries Board, and will be an external examination common to all competitors. Although the Tasmanian secondary school course officially finishes after the fifth year, these scholarships will be tenable during a fifth and sixth year. The Tasmanian Education Department is encouraging students to stay at school for a sixth year and more and more students are in fact doing so. The awarding of scholarships at the end of the fourth year to be tenable for a fifth and sixth year is therefore in conformity with the desires of both the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian Education Department.
In South Australia the scholarships will be awarded as the result of two external, but equivalent, examinations. Secondary school students will sit for the Intermediate examination, which is externally set and marked and common to all secondary school students. Results will be based on seven subjects in the Intermediate Certificate examination. The conditions will be those which have applied this year, in that State, for the award of Intermediate exhibitions. Technical high school students will also sit for an examination, externally set and marked and common to all Technical high school students. The South Australian Department of Education will correlate the results of the two examinations in recommending secondary scholarship winners.
I do not want honorable members to think that we are getting these scholarships muddled up with the technical school scholarships which I announced previously. It so happens that in South Australia students go along on a common course of studies until a certain stage at which there is a division between those who are to go to technical high schools and those who are to go to other secondary schools. Therefore, with the concurrence of the South
Australian Department of Education, this method has been employed. The statement continues -
In Victoria a situation exists where, of the secondary school students in the relevant year, only some 40 per cent, sit for a common external examination. The remaining students sit for internal examinations set and marked by their respective schools and varying in content and approach. This system did not meet the Commonwealth requirement for the selection of scholarship winners by an examination externally set and marked and common to all competitors. Yet the Victorian Education Department and, I think, educators in Victoria generally did not want a type of external examination which in their view might lead to “ cramming “ and which they feared, by its very existence, might impinge upon the curricula and the methods of teaching which they thought appropriate.
Accordingly at the suggestion of the Victorian Education Minister, and with the concurrence of the Commonwealth, the Australian Council for Educational Research is devising a special, and in some ways an experimental, examination.
This examination will be externally set and marked and will be common to all competitors, but it will be of a type which will not interfere wilh the requirements of the Victorian Education Department, lt will be taken by students at the end of the fourth - Intermediate - year of secondary schooling, will include students at technical schools and will be tenable for the two years culminating in matriculation. This new examination will be of a kind designed to test the student’s ability in general, one which will require hard factual knowledge, yet one which will not be closely tied to any one course of study. The results will, I am sure, be watched wilh interest by all those concerned with education throughout Australia.
In New South Wales a special problem exists. Secondary study in that State is in process of changing from a five year lo a six year course. As a result there will be, at the end of 1964, no students who will have before them two years of secondary schooling to complete their course. Students will have either one year’s further study, if they have completed four years of the old five-year course, or three years’ further study if they have completed three years of the new sixyear course. Two-year scholarships cannot therefore be awarded at the end of this year. The New South Wales Education Department is, however, to conduct, at the end of 1964, a special examination for students who have completed four years of the old five-year course and who, therefore, have one year of secondary education in front of them. Scholarship winners will be selected on the results of that examination and scholarships will be tenable during 1965. At the end of 1965 and future years, scholarships in Nev/ South Wales will be awarded on the results obtained in the school certificate examination which will be held after four years of secondary schooling. These scholarships will be tenable for the final two years of schooling. Details of the special examination, which are being worked out by the New South Wales Department of Education, will be announced as soon as possible. Students at technical high schools will be eligible to sit for these examinations.
In all cases, and in all States, continued holding of the scholarships will bc subject to satisfactory progress of the students. The Commonwealth will raise no objection to the holding of other scholarships concurrently with Commonwealth scholarships, with the exception that Commonwealth scholarships will not be tenable concurrently with another scholarship which involves a bond of any kind. So far 1 have dealt with arrangements for the scholarships, covering the last two years of secondary schooling: scholarships which the Government promised at the last elections.
I admit that these arrangements of necessity are complicated. They need to be read and studied. They involved a great deal of work.
But the Commonwealth has also been giving consideration to the position of students who, in States other than New South Wales, at the end of 1963 had two years of secondary schooling before them, lt was impossible to introduce a system of scholarships as from the end of 1963, when the Government first mooted the scheme- 1 do not need to argue this because it was impossible to introduce such a system at the end of 1963 when all the examinations were over - but the Government has beer disturbed that many students who, al the end of 1963 had two years of schooling before them, and who might reasonably have expected to receive some assistance from the new proposals, might have been placed in the position of receiving no assistance whatever.
We have therefore decided to award, at the end of 1964, one year scholarships in each Stale, equal in number to, and in addition to, the number of two year scholarships to be awarded in that State. These will be awarded al the end of the second last year of secondary schooling and will be tenable during the school year 196S. This is strictly a “one time” exercise to meet a particular situation. The States are now working out the details of how they believe they can best do this and I shall announce the arrangements made with each Stale as soon as they are complete.
Although students from technical schools will, in States where high schools and technical schools do similar courses, be competing for these scholarships, the scholarships themselves are the secondary school scholarships promised by the Government. They do not impinge upon 2,500 technical scholarships, the methods of awarding which are yet to be worked out. All Stales agree with the Commonwealth that discussion of those scholarships should wait until the report of the Committee on Tertiary Education. 1 have made previous reference in this House to that committee.
I conclude by once more saying how stimulating it has been to work with Slate Education Departments for (he attaining of a commonly desired end. I believe that parents and children alike will be able to see. in the operation of this scheme, that individual met it is the only criterion for success. 1 believe thai many children of ability will be encouraged by this scheme to slay at school for a longer period than they might otherwise have done, to their own benefit and that of the nation. And I think that it is one more step, among the many taken by this Government, to ensure a career open without hindrance to the talents.
I present the following paper: -
Commonwealth Secondary School Scholarships - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1687), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this bill relates to the employment by the Commonwealth of certain employees at the Australian Royal Mint which is in process of being established at Canberra. It makes provision for the terms and conditions under which certain employees in the branches of the Royal Mint in Melbourne and Perth can transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service for employment at the new mint. The Opposition is not opposing this bill. There are a few points, however, to which 1 would like to draw attention. After 63 years of federation we have at last reached the stage of establishing the first Royal Australian Mint. During those 63 years many moves have been made in the direction of establishing our own locally controlled mint. Section 51 of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth powers in respect of currency, coinage, and legal tender. Since federation, therefore, we have had the authority to establish our own local Royal Mint.
There have been three branches of the Royal Mint in Australia. The Sydney branch was established in 1855 and was closed in 1926. The Melbourne branch was established in 1872 and the Perth branch in 1899. Both these branches arc still operating and will continue to operate even though the Royal Australian Mint is being established in Canberra. The main function of those two branches will be to serve the interests of the gold-mining industry in assaying and refining gold. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has pointed out that a refinery will not be established in Canberra. In recent years most of our silver coins have been minted in Melbourne and most of our bronze coins in Perth. The minting of these coins will now be carried out at the Royal Australian Mint, but it will take some years for the transfer of these functions to be completed.
There is no doubt that the decision to change to decimal currency in Australia in February, 1966, has been fully responsible for the establishment of the Royal Mint at Canberra. The Treasurer has pointed out that the establishment of this mint will provide new and interesting employment opportunities. These will include positions requiring experience and qualifications in the heavy industrial field. He also points out that specialists will be required for coin and medal design, engraving, die-making and other minting operations. Previously the Commonwealth Government has ordered its coin requirements from the Melbourne and Perth mints. It has paid the State Governments for the work performed by those establishments in producing the required coins. The staffs of the two branches have been paid by the State Governments, although most of them are British civil servants. The conditions of employment, including those relating to superannuation, covering employees in fact operating under British Civil Service conditions, are based on the conditions applying to civil servants in Britain. Some employees, however, who have not been employed for the number of years required to bring them under those conditions, work under other conditions.
The Treasurer has pointed out that coinage operations in both Melbourne and Perth will eventually cease when the Royal Australian Mint gets into full production. The Commonwealth hopes, therefore, to get its specialist staff from the Melbourne and Perth mints, and moves have been made to engage such specialist staff. Some are already employed at the Royal Australian Mint. Negotiations have been proceeding with regard to the terms and conditions under which Royal Mint employees might transfer to the Commonwealth Public Ser vice. The Treasurer has said that conditions of those employees differ greatly from those applying to the Commonwealth Public Service. The British Civil Service has, for instance, a non-contributory superannuation scheme which incorporates a lump sum benefit on retirement in addition to an annual pension, but in the British Civil Service there is no provision for long service leave. The conditions covering recreation and sick leave are entirely different. The Treasurer claims that the scheme that has been worked out has the full acceptance of the British, Victorian and Western Australian Governments, the Royal Mint authorities themselves and the Royal Mint staff associations. The workers who come under British Civil Service conditions belong, I understand, to the Institute of Professional Civil Servants, although there are other employees who are members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and other such organizations. The meat of the Treasurer’s speech is to be found in the following passage: -
In brief outline, the bill provides that Royal Mint employees who are offered and who accept transfer to the Royal Australian Mint will become Commonwealth public servants. They will receive the full benefits prescribed by the Public Service Act. Their salaries at the Royal Australian Mint will be no less than the salaries to which they are at present entitled in the Royal Mint branches. Their past service in the Royal Mint branches will count as Commonwealth service. Transferees will be given the benefit of this aggregate service in the calculation of their entitlement to benefits under the Public Service Act, such as long-service leave and sick leave. They will be offered the choice of two alternative superannuation schemes. Either they will continue with a non-contributory superannuation scheme similar to that which they at present enjoy, or they will transfer to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. If they choose the latter course they will be credited with a number of paid-up units calculated actuarially to be the equivalent of the benefits which have accrued to them so far under this existing superannuation scheme. They will in addition have the right to contribute to further unitis where appropriate, in accordance with the normal provisions of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
The point that concerns honorable members on this side of the House relates to the choice of transfer to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. We think employees who make this choice should be assured of benefits equivalent to those that would apply if such employees had had continuous service with the Commonwealth. We suggest that the Minister might give consideration to this proposition.
Part I. of the bill deals with definitions, and Part II. deals with conditions of transfer. The only point I want to raise in connexion with these portions of the bill concerns the provision for appointment of transferees in a temporary capacity. Why should any of these employees electing to transfer to the RoyalAustralianMintbeemployedina temporary capacity? We feel that they should be given permanent employment. If they are specialists in their field and the Commonwealth wants their services atthe RoyalAustralianMint-andtheCommon- wealth admits that they are specialists because if they were not the Commonwealth would not want them - why cantheynotbe employedinapermanentcapacity?Itis well known that persons employed in a temporary capacity suffer certain disadvantages. For instance, if PartIII.,Division 10 of the Public Service Act is studied it will be seen that temporary employees are obviously at a disadvantage as compared with permanent employees. Section 82. - (6), for instance, provides that their services may be dispensed with at any time.
It may be said of course, on behalf ofthe Government, that these employees elect voluntarilytocomeovertotheRoyalAustralian Mint but inmy view it is a matter of Hobson’s choice. Their work isbeing taken away from the Melbourne and Perth branches which will ceaseproducing coins anddoing other work associated with the production of coins. What choice hasa specialistifhedecidesnottocomeover to the Commonwealth? He will settemporary employment until theRoyalAustralian Mint finally takes over thefullproduction of coins but if hedoesnotelecttotransfer hisjobwillcutout.PartIII.ofthebilldeals withsuperannuationrights. It shows thata temporary employee could be prejudicedas far as superannuation rights are concerned. Section 15 reads: -
This Part, other than section nineteen ofthis Act, applies to -
whose service as an officer is continuous with his service as a RoyalMint employee: or
I point out that certain disadvantages will be suffered by those who come over to Canberra to work as temporary employees at the Royal Australian Mint. Under this bill the Treasurer is giving some selected employees an opportunity to transfer as permanent employees while other are being given the opportunity to transfer as temporary employees; but I emphasize that they have Hobson’s choice. In my view, and in the view of the Opposition, all should be treated as permanent employees. Again, what about those workers who will be redundant at the Melbourne and Perth mints as a result of coins being produced at the Royal Australian Mint? The Treasurer admits that workers will have to be kept on coinage at Melbourne and Perth for some years but what will be the position of those workers when the Royal Australian Mint is finally producing all the coinage that is required by the Treasury? It seems that those who will be appointed to the Royal Australian Mint will have to be replaced at Melbourne and Perth because coining will have to go on there for some time. The Government of Western Australia has already advised those who arelikelyto become redundant as a result of coining being transferred from Perth to Canberra that it will try to place them elsewhere; but no definite assurance has been given to these employees. The State Government advised them to apply for jobs at Canberra. Some did apply for employment in Canberra, and although some have been accepted, other have been rejected by the Commonwealth. The important point is that we should give some thought to the people who will become redundant as the result of the transfer of coining from the Melbourne and Perth mints to the Royal Australian Mint at Canberra.
The approximate number of staff to be transferred is 65, of whom 50 will come from the Melbourne mint and fifteen from the Perth mint. We are told that these transferees will constitute approximately onethird of the staff of the Royal Australian
Mint and that the rest of the staff will be recruited from other public service departments and from the Canberra labour force. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer said -
After these Royal Mint employees have transferred to Canberra, the Melbourne and Perth mints are going to find it increasingly difficult to maintain production at something approaching the current rate. 1 think it is clear from these remarks that once the total production of coins is transferred to the Royal Australian Mint the only functions being performed by the Melbourne and Perth mints will be the assaying and refining of gold. Another point arises: Taking the coining away from the Royal Mint at Perth could mean that the cost of refining gold will increase because the facilities of the mint possibly will not be used to the full. I have not seen any statement, but I am informed that about twelve months ago the Treasurer gave an assurance that the cost of refining gold would not increase. He did not mention that in this second-reading speech on this measure. I feel that some such assurance should be given and if the Treasurer did make it before, I urge the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) to ask the right honorable gentleman to repeat it.
If there is any danger of the cost of refining gold increasing, the Government should do something to ensure that it does not. For instance, it could subsidize the Melbourne and Perth mints to meet the extra cost of refining. Assistance could be given either by way of direct subsidy to the mints or by way of indirect assistance to the industry. In order to keep these mints working to their full capacity, 1 suggest that the Government should give additional financial assistance to the gold-mining industry. This would lead to the production of more gold to keep both mints working to capacity on treatment and refining.
Let me remind the Government of the importance of the gold-mining industry to Australia. The annual value of gold produced is between £15,000,000 and £16,000,000 and, as the whole of our output is added to our international reserves, it becomes very important to Australia that more gold be produced. Certain areas of Australia, such as Kalgoorlie, are largely dependent upon the continuance of goldmining operations for their existence. As honorable members know, subsidies are paid to the industry. The total amount to be paid by way of subsidy this year is approximately £870,000, but if the cost of gold refining increases, this could impose another hardship upon the industry.
The gold-mining industry has been penalized over the years by the fixed price of gold and the increased costs of production. Although Australia and other nations have been pushing at the International Monetary Fund meetings for an increase in the price of gold, the United States of America, which holds more than 27 per cent, of the total of gold quotas, has resisted their efforts. Australia should be more forceful, through its Treasurer, in appealing for this increase, and the Treasurer should be more forthright, in submitting Australia’s case to the International Monetary Fund meetings.
I point out to honorable members that under the stimulus of the gold price rise in the 1930’s, Australia’s production rose from 420,000 ounces in 1929 to 1,646,000 ounces in 1939. But production has been dropping gradually each year, and by 1963, the last year for which figures are available, the ou’.put . had fallen to 1,023,400 ounces. The desirability of providing a stimulus to the gold-mining industry should be heeded by the Government so that production may increase and so that the increased production may keep down the cost of refining at both Melbourne and Perth. The gold-mining industry is vital to Western Australia, which produces over 79 per cent, of Australia’s total production. If increased production could be encouraged either by way of further subsidies or by a rise in the world price of gold, the advantages to be gained would be three-fold. First, the Melbourne and Perth mints would be kept working at full capacity; secondly, employment in the industry would be increased; and, thirdly, our overseas funds, both in dollar and sterling areas, would be helped considerably.
I repeat that the Opposition does not oppose this bill because, from reports we have received, we understand that negotiations in connexion with it have been going on for some time. Apart from the few points that I have raised in connexion with the conditions of employment of those workers who are transferring and those who may not have the opportunity to transfer, the Opposition supports the measure but asks the Minister for Shipping and Transport to convey to the Treasurer the suggestions that have been made with a view to making the adjustments we have suggested.
– I rise to point to one or two issues that I think are raised by this bill. They relate to the employment of future Commonwealth public servants, and I feel that they may have been overlooked. The main purpose of the bill is to make provision for the terms and conditions under which a limited number of employees will transfer from the Melbourne and Perth branches of the Royal Mint to the new mint in Canberra which is to be a division of the Commonwealth Treasury. It is because the new mint is to be a division of the Commonwealth Treasury that I feel that we should not pass the measure without taking into consideration certain things that may occur as the result of transferring employees from a set of conditions of employment that are quite foreign - and I sa’y this deliberately - to the code applying in the Commonwealth Public Service. First we are told that this new mint will employ equipment the like of which is not operating at the moment anywhere else in the world. That is a good thing. I would have hoped, and all honorable members would have hoped, that in authorizing the setting up of a royal mint in this year of 1964 we would have available the most modern automatic machinery obtainable for this class of work. Bearing that in mind, I should like to think also that consideration would be given to the wages and conditions of employees. Although the present wages and conditions may appear to be handsome in some respects they may not be all that is desirable or essential for employees who will be required to use a type of machinery that we know is not functioning anywhere else in the world.
I hope that when an assessment is made of the service rendered by these employees, who will be uprooted from their homes and brought to Canberra, the measuring stick used will not be what happened yesterday but what should happen to-morrow for employees operating machinery of this type. These men will be called upon to operate a new type of precision equipment which has never before been used by Australian artisans. That, in itself, will justify a review of their wages. The reason that I raise this issue now is that I am hopeful that wherever this issue finally falls, whether it is with the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) or with the Commonwealth Public Service Board, a degree of consideration will be extended to the problem.
In assessing an appropriate salary for these employees there will be no comparison of like with like, because there is no one else with whom they can be compared. This will be an assessment in a new field, and I trust that the assessment will not be based on the class of work previously performed. In a press report this morning I saw a reference to the determination of the employers in Australia to move very swiftly into the field of automation because - this has been said at very high levels - they believe that automative machinery is available which will more than take up the lack of trained personnel about which we have heard so much from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in this chamber recently. In this new field that we are creating by legislation I hope that we will have, as the Treasurer has indicated, the most modern automative machinery available for this type of work and, as a consequence, I believe that the employees will be entitled to more than they have been receiving in their present employment.
– If they want specialists they have to pay for them.
– That is true. Until now the employees in this industry have looked for instruction and technical guidance to the authorities at the Royal Mint in London. This brings me to a point that is worrying me at the moment. I refer to the fact that this will be a new organization not associated with any section of the trade union movement and not associated at this stage with any section of the Commonwealth Public Service.
I have had experience in industry in Australia where important employees have gone from one area of industry to another and found that their association or union protection has been dissipated because they have moved into a new field. This becomes important when consideration is given to the matter of which body they should belong to. The authorities will have no measuring stick, for guidance in determining a code for these employees. 1 trust that this aspect will be considered at a very high level by this Government and that my words will not prove to be idle. When highly skilled technicians are uprooted from their homes in Melbourne and Perth and transferred to highly technical jobs that have no related wage structure, any association could claim them as members. As we know, their present organization is the institute of Professional Civil Servants, which is linked only with the parent organization in Great Britain.
I ask that consideration of these features be given when the entitlement of these employees in this new industry is being assessed. They will not have the assistance of the trade union movement, the Australian Council of Trade Unions or the Commonwealth Public Service Professional Officers Association. Because of the peculiar position in which these employees will find themselves, they will be a small body of men in a new field and with no professional or trade union representation in a similar field. I have seen other instances in industry where highly skilled people who have transferred to another organization have become lost souls in the Australian wage structure because of the difficulty of determining their entitlement. I make this plea because the employees will have no measuring stick to point to. They will not be able to refer to any other industry to which to relate their wage levels. Problems will arise also when considering their rights in regard to superannuation. I know that these men are being considered as actual transfers, but in my book that is not good enough, because they will be transferred from one superannuation scheme to another which has been operating in Australia for many years. Again I say to the Treasurer and to the Government that this is not good enough, for reasons that I shall indicate in a moment.
– Nobody has ever lost through this sort of movement.
– If the
Minister can be sure of that, I hope that he will rise in his place and say so, because the Treasurer has not said so, nor does the bill say so. Although I agree that the employees have been consulted about this movement, consideration should be given to the fact that they have no means of comparison upon which to base a claim. We have been told that in the new mint there will be a new kind of machinery and a new kind of production. It will bc virtually a new field of employment. The salaries that these men are now receiving are not, to my way of thinking, the salaries to which they would be entitled in this new industry, nor have they any guide as lo what is their proper entitlement. That fact might easily be lost sight of in the new professional environment into which they are moving. It is all very well for the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) to interject; he has been protected in many respects. The protection that he has received has been quite unlike the protection that these employees will have when they arrive because, as Commonwealth Government employees, they will no longer be recognized by the association that has looked after them all their lives. They will have no link or affiliation with the organization which covered them previously. They will be transferring into a new professional field.
– You are under-rating the value of the Commonwealth Public Service association.
Minister blandly talks about the Commonwealth Public Service association, but let me repeat that these men are moving into a new field of employment where they will be a very small segment of a great organization. They will have no possible chance of union coverage. I have seen this kind of thing happen too often. Let me put it to the two honorable members opposite who have been interjecting-
– I am sorry.
– I welcome your interjecting; it shows at least that you are prepared to think about this matter. That is good. We have been told that service by these employees in the Royal Mint will count as Commonwealth service. Let us consider this point. The great problem is how far this transfer will take them. Let me put this to the Minister-
– That is not-
– If you will listen I have no doubt that you will be on my side. Some of the employees in the mint in Melbourne are covered by English law which states that any service until the amendment of the act in 1949 shall be counted only as one-half. They do not know at this stage of the development of the new programme whether any of them are likely to come, but there is a distinct possibility that some of them will come and will fall into this category.
– They would not be original in that move if they did. Plenty of defence personnel have come to Canberra.
– That is the type of interjection that comes from people who are not prepared to analyse a situation. The honorable member referred to defence personnel, but every Australian employee under the Australian code of conditions is in a different situation from that envisaged in the bill. I shall tell honorable members of some of the conditions under which the employees we are concerned with are now employed. The Treasurer said that if these people elected to remain employed under their own conditions they were free to do so. I ask the Treasurer and his officers how they propose to deal with the question of superannuation for these officers.
One of the primary points to be remembered is that they enjoy no legal right to a superannuation allowance. The second point in this context is that the decision of the Treasury on any claim is final. I would hate to see an employee in any field in the Commonwealth Public Service have his superannuation rights on retirement subject to the behest of a Treasury official. But those are the conditions that will apply if they transfer, even though the Treasurer has said that they can retain their own conditions. It is all very well to say that they are not entitled to long service leave. It is true that, provided the Treasury approves, these employees are entitled to retirement leave of up to 18 months on full pay after they have completed their service, and that is not bad as a retiring allowance. That is one of the reasons why the Treasurer is able to say that the employees do not have any long service leave, but they can accumulate up to eighteen months’ retirement leave under the present conditions, and that is much the same as long service leave. In addition they may be entitled to an amount equal to almost two-thirds of their average wage over 40 years. I do not want to delay the House to-night.
– Hear, hear!
– Of course honorable members opposite may say hear, hear, but I am prepared to say that there is not one honorable member opposite who has paid attention either to the type of organization that these employees belong to, or to what were their conditions under the English code.
Government supporters are prepared to bandy words by way of interjection at this stage instead of giving some attention to what I have to say. Whenever I am dealing with a bill that affects the lives of human beings I look at it seriously. This legislation affects the lives of human beings because people are leaving one job for another. You can offer them what you like, but we are entitled to know what is meant by the bill we are to pass. We are entitled to know what are to be the conditions of employment. In relation to what is termed “whole-time unestablished service “ the English conditions are as follows: -
If an officer secures establishment, his continuous full-time unestablished service will reckon from the age of eighteen as to one-half from 1.1.1919, and in full from 14.7.1949.
Any service prior to July, 1949 is assessed only as one-half service. Is a condition of employment to be that if an employee proceeds to the Commonwealth Public Service the condition I have quoted is to be applied to him actuarily? That is the type of question I want to have answered when we are dealing with legislation that affects the lives of men who are to transfer from one job to another.
I have drawn attention to the points I believe should be looked at. We are considering approximately 65 men and their families. I understand that proper arrangement have been made to house them and to provide suitable facilities. However, I hope that the interjection of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney), when he said that their rights will be protected by a professional association, will prove to be correct and that they will not be voices crying in the wilderness. These employees are transferring as a result of legislation to be passed by this Parliament.
I say to honorable members opposite that we have an obligation to see that the case of every employee - irrespective of whether he has been permanent and has continuous established service or is an isolated employee who has credit for half-service prior to 1949 - is looked at in a very liberal way. We are asking these people to transfer to employment under which they will have no industrial code and no industrial protection. They will be removed from the trade union movement in relation to the new organization they join. I appeal for the maximum amount of examination of these cases in the interests of the employees. 1 hope that we shall have the best equipped mint in the world with the most efficient staff in the world, enjoying the best set of industrial conditions in the world, as an example to others.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr.Freeth) read a third time.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1964.
Evidence Bill 1964.
State and Territorial Laws and Records Recognition Bill 1964.
Rules Publication Bill 1964.
Debate resumed from 1 3th May (vide page 1858), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the bills be now read a second time.
.- The four acts which are being amended by these bills are basic to all federal legislation. They are basic to all litigation, Federal and State. The four amending bills make the process of legislation somewhat simpler and clearer, and the process of litigation somewhat simpler and cheaper. The Opposition supports all four bills. The principal acts are among the most ancient on our statutebook. One was the second act passed by this Parliament. Another was the fifth act passed by the Parliament, and the third and fourth were passed in 1903 and 1905. The
Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) has said that he proposes to make a complete review of the Acts Interpretation Act, the earliest of those I mentioned. We believe that it is natural and desirable that this should be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr. Snedden) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1920), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker, this is primarily a technical measure. Its purpose is to extend for another three years certain provisions of the income tax law that expire on 30th June, 1964. Those provisions relate to tax deductions accorded in respect of expenditure on the search for oil in Australia. In addition, the bill will rectify certain anomalies that have appeared in the existing provisions.I do not intend to talk for verylong on this measure, but I should like to direct the attention of the House to the present rather erratic nature of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, which now extends over some 400 pages or more. Sections 77a and 77aa, which are now to be amended, cover about ten pages as printed in the act. Indeed, unless one is an expert in these matters, one finds it pretty difficult to comprehend the act in its present form.
At this stage, I ask the House: How is it that a bill of this kind, which affects comparatively few people in the community, can be brought in to amend the principal act in certain respects when other provisions of the act, which fundamentally affect far more people, receive no attention at all? I do not think anybody can deny that the finding of oil in Australia is of some significance. At this stage, we import virtually all our petroleum. I think that at present our import bin for this commodity is getting close to £200,000,000 per annum. We buy oil from various parts of the world. Therefore, the finding of oil in Australia would be of some significance to us, and the extent to which governments are prepared to go in an endeavour to find sources of petroleum in Australia is understandable. I believe that expenditure on oil search in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea now aggregates more than £100,000,000. Expenditure of this order is of considerable significance.
Commercial entities of the sort that engage in the search for oil are relatively few and the people who subscribe share capital for the prosecution of these rather hazardous adventures represent a comparatively small part of the- population. Nevertheless, these interests have been able to make successful representations to the Government from time to time. I think that this is about the fourth occasion on which the relevant sections of the act have been amended. This shows that vested interests that are highly concentrated and strong enough can work their will on the government of the day. Representations by others for income tax reforms that are just as desirable, and, in the aggregate, probably just as significant, are of no avail, because the pressures behind them are not as strong as those of the interests that are engaged in the search for oil.
In this connexion, I should like to direct the attention of the House to a booklet recently published in Melbourne by the Melbourne University Press, entitled “ Taxation in Australia - Agenda for Reform “. It embodies the findings of a number of leading economists in Australia, including Professor Downing of the University of Melbourne, Professor Arndt of the Australian National University, Professor Boxer of the Monash University and Professor Mathews of the University of Adelaide. At paragraph 392, which appears at page 159, referring, as I think the House ought to realize, to a form of subsidy to a particular group of taxpayers, they state -
The use of personal income tax concessions as a method of subsidizing particular industries or forms of financial investment appears to us objectionable in principle. Such subsidies - and we do not deny that they may be justifiable and indeed desirable in certain cases - should be granted directly and openly.
I suggest that in respect of the measure now before us, it is not being revealed that this form of tax concession is in essence a subsidy, and the subsidy is not being granted directly and openly. The paragraph continues -
When they take the form of income tax relief, their cost to the community is concealed both from the taxpayer at large who bears the cost and from the legislature which grants them.
Surely honorable members regard as of importance a statement in a document such as this to the effect that the Parliament often is not aware of what it is doing. The passage goes on -
Once the practice is adopted for some industries, it sets a precedent for similar subsidies to others. Tax relief of this type, which bears no conceivable relationship to capacity to pay, also detracts from the equity of the income tax structure. This is so even when it takes the form of rebates of tax, since such rebates can never benefit those whose incomes are too low to attract tax. It applies with much greater force when the concessions are granted in the form of deductions from income; for under a progressive system of income taxation, the value of these deductions varies with the taxpayer’s marginal rate of tax and is therefore much greater to persons in the high than in the lower income groups.
In the next passage that is relevant to this measure - paragraph 393 - the professors state -
We suggest the abolition of all three subsidies at present provided through deduction from personal income tax. The deductions for mining calls and oil exploration investments should be replaced by direct government subsidies to the industries concerned if such subsidies are considered desirable.
In essence, this measure provides for a subsidy to the oil industry. Shortly, the House will be faced with another measure that is to come from the other place, as we say here. That measure relates to a direct subsidy to those who search for petroleum. They will be aided and abetted also by the concessions under the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act provided for in this bill. I doubt whether anybody knows the overall value of these concessions.
I believe that it is time the House faced up to certain aspects of the principal act, which, basically, is supposed to provide the most equitable method of raising the revenue of the Australian Commonwealth. The act now provides for the raising of something like £700,000,000 a year of Commonwealth revenues totalling approximately £1,500,000,000 annually. About £500,000,000 is raised by taxes on individuals and some £200,000,000 by taxes on companies. But, as this report points out, in some respects the income tax law is being strained to provide for matters that it was nol intended to cover. The aiding of petroleum search is one example of this. We had an example quoted by my colleague, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) this afternoon of an income tax allowance for education which costs the Australian revenue about £20,000,000 per annum. In essence, that is an aid by the Commonwealth to those who pay education fees in Australia. Equally, this amendment relating to petroleum search, which will be enacted for a period of three years, gives taxation concessions. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) or the Minister assisting him to give an indication of the cost of forgoing this revenue by reason of the provisions of section 77 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act.
I think we ought to ask ourselves what kinds of people are receiving the benefit of these concessions, because they apply to very few people in the community. They apply basically to two groups. They apply to companies, local and foreign, which engage in petroleum search and to those people in the community who are willing to hazard their individual savings in calls by oil companies. Again, nobody knows precisely how much in the aggregate is involved. I doubt whether many people in the legislature, as Professor Downing describes us, have studied the provisions of the measure. It is my unfortunate duty on behalf of the Australian Labour Party to attempt to understand it. The bill was introduced into the House on Thursday of last week and I am asked on behalf of my party to recommend aye or nay on it.
I would say on behalf of the Australian Labour Party that we realize as well as does anybody else that it would be most fortunate if Australia were to find oil in large quantities, but I think most people would be astonished to learn, if Australia did find oil, how little difference it would make to our balance of payments position. Most of the earnings from an oil discovery would immediately go overseas in dividends to foreign companies. I think it is salutary occasionally for the House to consider this proposition. We are now re-enacting this legislation for a further three years. It has been in operation now for some three or four years. The effect of it has been that most of the expenditure that could be called capital expenditure by these companies, and most of them are foreign rather than local, has been claimed by the companies as a deductible item for income tax purposes, and as soon as there is any return in the future it will immediately be remitted in the form of dividends. 1 would suggest it is about time that the House bad a look at this question, lt involves one of the great resources of Australia, namely, the areas in Australia that are regarded as exploitable fields of the future. We should have a look at his word “ exploitable “ and ask ourselves who is exploiting and who is being exploited. I think occasionally we might be surprised at the answer. I suggest it is time that the House was given a little more adequate information about this important question. After all, as I said initially, we should know who the people are who can come along to the Treasurer or the Government and say, “ We think certain amendments should be made to the income tax legislation to encourage the development of the petroleum industry in Australia “.
Many other parts of the income tax structure require amendment. 1 invite the attention of the Treasurer in particular to the document “ Taxation in Australia “ which is published quite handsomely by the Melbourne University Press and which has not as yet received anything like the publicity that it deserves. In my view, the reason it has not attracted the publicity it deserves - contrary to the representations that are made by the people who can secure amending legislation of the type now before us - is that it points to grave inequities in the overall structure of taxation. The Australian taxation structure is much more regressive than it should be. In other words, ordinary people are paying far more taxes than they should because there is a greater resort to indirect taxation than there should be. They are paying far more even of the so-called equitable tax, the income tax, because the pressure comes from those who have the greatest economic resources or the greatest economic strength. The equity of the tax is being eroded away by concessions of the kind contained in this legislation.
I would think in the few months between now and the introduction of the Budget, the Government, those who claim to support it and those who claim to represent the populace as a whole, should give some attention to the matters I have raised. The Government has quite a lot of committees of inquiries. It has economic committees, social science committees and other committees which, after a great deal of work, seem to produce reports that are not acted upon. But mysterious bodies whose roots no one can trace seem able in the dying hours of the Parliament to come along with amendments of this kind. I for one ask why it is that these mysterious people who cannot be seen can get reforms of the law but the sections of the community who speak without any axe to grind are almost ignored. I think to say the least that this raises a query. No doubt some people can justify what is being done and in essence all this bill does is to re-enact for a further three years the law as it has operated in the past and to correct what it points to as anomalies.
Basically, these anomalies arise out of the fact that people act against the spirit of the law. The idea here is that only those who directly engage in petroleum search can get the subsidy. But we find that somebody who has happened to fluke upon an area that he thinks might yield oil is able to sell his right to the petroleum company and, if he is shrewd enough to take his right in shares rather than in cash, he can evade or avoid taxation. I think sometimes these words cause a little confusion in the minds of some people. Apparently it is regarded as clever to avoid but rather dishonorable to evade taxation. In my view there is not much difference between the two processes. If people act against the spirit of the law they deserve all that the law can do to them. Basically some part of the amending provisions of this bill is designed to close the gate against people who are acting contrary to the spirit of the law. I am not one who has any great admiration for capital enterprise on a large scale. I think that if given the opportunity it will stoop to anything to defend its position and to defeat anybody whom it regards as a competitor; but in theory it is held that private or free enterprise operates by the spirit of competition. However, ii is not my lor- this evening to go into that rather thorny hedge.
The Opposition offers no objection to this legislation, but we on this side of the House ask the Government occasionally to take notice of some of the other people who claim that tax reforms are necessary. I refer to people who are not armed with the same kind of economic weight as apparently the petroleum research group is. As this booklet, “ Taxation in Australia “, points out, sometimes taxation is a matter of equity as far as the whole community is concerned. After all, the Government told the Ligertwood committee that its job was not to say how much tax is to be raised but to say, assuming that as much has to be raised as is already being raised, whether the present system is equitable having regard to the various forms of taxation that may be used. I suggest that that is a matter of some concern to a democratic community. It is a matter that has aroused the interest of these gentlemen from the various universities in Australia. It is a matter that deserves more attention from the public and particularly from the Government than it has received so far. As I have already said, we offer no objection to the bill but if the Government concedes there are some anomalies in the tax structure I ask it to realize that there are a great many other anomalies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Roberton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1928), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 point out to these crowded benches that this is a bill to assist young married persons to purchase or build their own homes. We know this is so because the title of the bill says so. Its title does not add that no one could have conceived a more complicated or less effective way of achieving this objective - not even Heath-Robinson. One has only to study the bill to realize its ineffectiveness, its complications and its extreme injustice.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) himself said in an interview, “I would not understand a word of this myself if I were not the author of it.” I think that is the position with most of the young couples who are endeavouring to ascertain what the bill really means. The first thing they discover is that it means far less than the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) gave them to understand. Many young couples are now realizing that they will not qualify to benefit under this legislation.
This bill is designed, as its title says, to assist young married persons.
– Hear, hear
– It will shut out far more young married persons than it will include. Again the honorable member may say “ Hear, hear! “. Every young married person whom this bill shuts out is a young married person in urgent need of housing. Literally scores of thousands of young married persons in this category will be shut out. Why will they be shut out? They will be shut out because they do not have enough money or because they have several children - in other words, because they are in most need of housing assistance. That is why they will be shut out under the terms of this legislation.
To say the least of it, this is an unusual feature - to exclude from housing assistance the people who most urgently need housing assistance. But the bill contains features even more unusual than that. It contains features that are quite extraordinary. I have said every young married person whom the bill shuts out is a person in need of a home. But the bill will provide a gift of £250 to other young married persons who need no assistance whatever in order to obtain a home.
– I thought you said you underStood the bill.
– I understand it thoroughly, but I do not think the honorable member understands it. However, he will know more about it when I have finished my speech. I have stated two propositions, and each can be substantiated. First, the bill shuts out many young married persons who need a home. Every young married person whom the bill shuts out is a young married person in need of a home. My second proposition is that the bill will provide financial assistance to enable a home to be obtained by many young married people who do not need financial assistance in obtaining a home. They are persons who already have all the money they need - even far more than they need. They may have inherited it, won it in a lottery or earned it. They all will be eligible. The millionaire will be eligible. A poor man will be ineligible. A family at the top of the ladder will qualify under the bill. A family at the bottom of the ladder will not qualify.
– You have not read the bill.
– These things are in the bill. I am afraid the honorable member has not read it. Let us look again at the title of the bill. It is a bill to assist young married persons to purchase or build their own homes. You may not think that a bill can contain provisions to do things that are not covered by its title. But this bill does things that certainly are not included in its title. By its title the bill is designed to assist young married persons. In its provisions it will assist also some middle-aged married persons and some elderly married persons to obtain homes. At the same time it will shut out a great many young married persons.
A married couple will be able to obtain assistance under the bill so long as one of the couple is under 36 years of age and provided they can fulfill all the other qualifications. Even if the husband is 60 or 80 years of age, provided they have saved £750 they will receive the £250 towards the cost of their first marriage home in which to establish their family. Even if they have accumulated £7,500, or £75,000, or £750,000, they will still be eligible.
– Only the person who cannot accumulate £750 is ineligible.
– Order! The honorable member for Maribyrnong will cease interjecting.
– Put him out.
– No, leave him here. I enjoy him. As you will realize, Mr. Deputy Speaker - 1 know that you have studied this bill - a young married couple, although both are under 36 years of age, are shut out, even if they have a large family of young children and even if they are living in a shed, provided their crime is that they cannot accumulate £750. No one is eligible to receive this gift of £250 unless he can accumulate £750.
The title of this bill says that it is designed to assist young married persons to obtain homes. But it takes power to do much more than assist. It takes power to distribute largesse to those people who need no assistance. You cannot assist some one who needs no assistance. For example, you cannot assist to obtain a home some one who already has all the means to obtain a home merely by lifting his finger. Yet this bill professedly will assist such a person. In fact it will make a gift of £250 to him from the taxpayers’ funds.
It may be said that at least this bill will deal with people who are homeless, although it shuts out the people who most need homes; that although it provides assistance for people who are most able to provide homes for themselves, it will be dealing with people who are homeless. But I am sorry to have to point out that even that is not true. We know that the bill will shut out many young married persons who are genuinely homeless and who have a desperate housing need for themselves and their children. At the same time it will provide a £750 cash gift to people who are not genuinely homeless at all. They may own a home; they may own a mansion. All that they have to do is. sell it before they marry, and they will qualify for the £250.
– Can you get a mansion for £7,000?
– No. I am glad that the honorable member has interjected. I am pointing out that a person can have a mansion worth far more than £7,000 and, if he sells it before he is married and fulfils the other conditions, he qualifies for the gift of £250. Moreover, once such a couple has the £250 gift in their pockets and have used it to purchase a house, they may sell the house the very next month. Then there is nothing in this bill to stop them using their £250 profit, if they are already wealthy people, to purchase a house suitable to their desires and costing far more than £7,000, or accepting a gift of a house from dad or going for a trip around the world, while a family which is in desperate need of a house can continue to live in a shed as far as this Government is concerned.
– You are going to vote against the bill, are you?
– I am not going to vote against the bill. I- will tell the House why. The Labour Party takes this attitude: Although this bill will shut out scores of thousands of young married people with dependent families who urgently need housing, and although it will provide largesse to very many people who do not need any financial assistance from any government in order to obtain a home, in between those two groups it will provide housing assistance for some of the people who really need it.
Because the Labour Party is in a minority in this House, it is not in a position to place before the House legislation which really would deal with the housing problem. But we do not propose to deprive those people who need help and can benefit from this legislation of that benefit. Nor do we intend to prevent the people of Australia receiving some benefit from the fulfilment of one promise made by this Government when so many of its promises made over the past fourteen years have been so callously and cruelly repudiated. By the way, of course, the £250 gift is tax-free.
– Hear, hear!
– I notice the smiles of joy that that brings to the large income earners in the House. I am sorry. I used the words “income earners”; I should have said “ income receivers “. If a married basic wage earner with children received the £250 gift it would be worth £250 to him, and no more. Of course, the point is academic, because except in very rare cases such a man could not qualify for the gift. But to the man in the top income bracket a tax-free gift of £250 is equivalent to a gift of well over £500 of taxable income.
This is the extraordinary type of legislation that this Government is presenting to this House. Gilbert and Sullivan dreamed up no situations more ludicrous than the provisions of this bill. They leave even “ Alice in Wonderland “ for dead. Tommy Manville would have loved this bill. As honorable members know, he was the great lover - the elderly, marrying millionaire.
– You are clowning now.
– I am not clowning. I am pointing to a fact which highlights the absurdity of the provisions of this bill. Tommy Manville married eleven times. Each time he chose a young woman of under 35 years of age. If he had lived in Australia during those hectic and enjoyable years he would have been able to receive a Commonwealth hand-out of £2,750 under the provisions of this bill. All he would have needed to do would be to divest himself of the home he owned before his marriage, ensure that the next application was made in the name of his next wife and also ensure that she did not own a home already. The relevant provisions in that respect are set out explicitly not only in the bill but also in the Minister’s second-reading speech. I quote that simply as one illustration of the curious provisions and the extraordinary loopholes in this measure which supposedly is designed to help young couples who are in need of assistance to obtain homes. I say that the bill supposedly is designed to do that because I do not think that was the design of the bill at all, as I shall show. I do not think this bill can possibly have been designed with the purpose that is set out in the title.
Suppose a government really set out to promote ways of assisting young couples who needed homes to obtain those homes. What would be the chief ways that it would consider for adoption? Surely it would seek to increase the real income of those persons. Surely it would seek to reduce homepurchase deposits. Surely it would seek to reduce the interest rates that they would have to pay. Surely, also, it would move to make land available at a modest cost, to establish priority for home-building over luxury building, and to strengthen and expand the building industry to cope with all home-building needs. I do not think any one in the House would disagree that those would be the propositions that a government normally would examine if it were deliberately seeking ways of assisting young married persons to obtain their own homes.
Therefore, we might expect to find all of those things in a bill with the title of this bill. If we did not expect to find all of them in the bill - not expecting too much of this Government - we might expect to find some of them. But it is a matter of sober fact that this bill contains no provision to do any one of those things. On the contrary, it is amazing to find that this bill contains provisions which will operate with exactly the opposite effect. In particular, it will tend to increase home purchase deposits. It will tend to increase the price of land for building. It will tend to increase home-building costs. The Minister for Housing in one of the most extraordinary passages in his second-reading speech said that the Commonwealth Government can exercise very little control over land prices. By this measure, the Government is tending to increase land prices. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) shakes his head. I think he would agree with me that if every intending purchaser at a land auction was given an extra £250 as he walked in the door, the land would be likely to bring near enough to an extra £250 a block. The honorable member for Deakin shakes his head again. He does not agree with that. Every land speculator in the community recognizes it. I think that land speculators are going to make far more out of this bill than genuine home-seekers are going to get out of it. The Government has power to reduce the price of building land. It has complete power to take all the profit out of land speculation.
– The Government can do that by taking for the community the values that belong to the community, by ensuring that it is not possible to make profit merely by holding unimproved land out of use. The Government could give, to the man who produces, the value of what he produces, and preserve for the community the value of what it produces. By these measures, which are completely within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Government could reduce the price of land to every genuine land seeker. It could ensure that land was no longer held out of use by speculators for future profit, but that the land was made available to those who need it.
– Your leader said he would not set out to socialize anything.
– This is not socialism. This is just plain justice and commonsense.
– This is Douglas Credit.
– It has not the slightest relation to Douglas Credit. This is in conformity with the principle that you do not allow people to make profit out of the efforts of the community, when they themselves make no effort. You do not allow unearned increment as a community value. The revenue that would be obtained from that source would enable the Government to give far more assistance to genuine home seekers than this measure, multiplied 25 times over, could do. If the Government did this, at the same time it would reduce, to a very modest cost, the price of land for building. The price of land would be the cost of the improvements and the development of the estate.
– You did not say that at the last election.
– I have said it at every election. I have advocated this policy in every campaign in which I have been engaged. This proposition, of course, is greatly supported in rural electorates, where young men are constantly prevented from obtaining a living area of land because some greedy land owner, who has far more acres than he needs, steps in on every occasion land is auctioned and outbids them for the land that is available, even though he then does not make a proper use of it. The first point about this bill to be observed is that it takes none of the obviously necessary steps to assist young married persons who need homes to obtain homes, lt assists some of them to a limited extent by this extra ordinarily ineffective method of a £250 gift, but it employs none of the obvious and effective methods.
I have just said that this bill will assist some young couples to obtain the homes they need, lt will assist some, but not all. Why will not this bill assist all young couples who need homes to obtain homes? Why does not the Government set out to help all those who genuinely and urgently need help to obtain homes? The reason is not stated. Apparently the Government finds itself unable to help all young married persons who are to-day in urgent need of housing. 1 can understand that. But, whatever the reason, it certainly was not that the Government failed to recognize the urgent and vital need for helping these young people needing homes; because the Minister said in his second-reading speech -
Housing is vital to the welfare and happiness of individuals and thus to our future development as a nation. Without proper housing the process of marriage and family formation which is the very essence of Australia’s future must be seriously impaired.
That was the Minister’s statement. So, the Government was perfectly aware, when it formulated this legislation, of the importance of assisting those families which, to-day, desperately need homes yet are prevented from obtaining them under existing circumstances.
The statistics available are the proof that literally hundreds of thousands of Australian families arc to-day in that position. This matter is of vital importance to the nation, and the Minister recognizes that. Since the Government proclaims that it is able to assist only some, obviously it would be vital also for the Government to think carefully before deciding to whom it could best give this help and to whom first priority for assistance should go. I say that that needs careful thought, but I should not imagine it would take very long thought to decide those to whom assistance should first be given, lt would appear in these circumstances that you would help those who needed homes and you would help those first who most needed homes. That seems to be the plain commonsense answer. Those needing homes arc surely those who lack the resources to surmount the existing financial barrier against home ownership. Those most needing homes are those whose present housing is most inadequate and who have families of young children. Inside that category, I suppose everybody would agree that the greater the number of children in the family, the greater the need for adequate housing.
So it might have been expected that the Government, unable to help all who need homes to obtain homes, would have given its aid first to those in the category of greatest need, and would have given first priority to those with the largest families of young children. Thus you would have thought that a man with a small income, with a large family, and without a suitable roof over his head might be given first priority. That would have seemed reasonable. You would certainly have thought that, at any rate, he would be included among those who were to obtain assistance. You must surely have been amazed as I was, Mr. Speaker, to discover that the man in that category is not included at all and that the reason why he is shut out is because he is in that very category. This bill does more than any other bill I have ever seen in this Parliament to carry out the proposition that “ To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath “.
Let us consider this matter a little further. Let us assume that, after paying tax, the average worker still has £20 a week to take home. I think that that is a reasonable assumption, even from the point of view of the Government.
– It is a generous assumption.
– It is a generous one, but I am trying to be, as I always try to be in every proposition I put forward in this House, scrupulously fair. How can the average worker who takes home up to £20 a week save £750 out of those wages in three years or even five years when he has his wife and several children to support, and rent to pay? It must be remembered that he is not a home owner, but that he has to pay rent. How can he save that amount? I say it would be impossible.
– At what age are they gettting married now?
– If the honorable member thinks that the workers should not get married, that is in keeping with his tory outlook. 1 have read of politicians of his ilk, in previous generations, who thought that the ordinary people should not have the right to homes and families. The honorable member is a relic of a past that I had hoped was gone forever. There are ways in which the worker in that category could attempt to save that amount of money. He could do it by taking two jobs or by taking odd week-end work.
– Or by buying a home through a housing commission on £50 down!
– By buying a home through a housing commission on £50 down! The honorable member who says that knows, or he ought not to be in this House if he does not know, that despite everything that can be done at the present time under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the waiting time for a house in the State of New South Wales, where his electorate lies, is now four years.
– That is because they are building an opera house in New South Wales.
– That is quite a good point. He could do it, also, by having his wife go out to work instead of staying at home to look after the young family. He might do it by living in a tent or a shed for three years in order to avoid paying rent, or by remaining childless in order to qualify, because while children would increase the housing need they would also, of course, increase the domestic expenditure, thereby decreasing the amount available for financial eligibility for the £250 gift. Again, he might do it by winning the lottery or by attempting to make some money by betting on horses or dogs. He could do it, perhaps, by skimping on food and clothing and by buying everything possible on the “never, never”. But I do not know of any other way in which a worker paying rent, with £20 a week take-home pay and a wife and a young family to support, could possible save £750 in three years or in five years.
I also contend that any one of the various means I have outlined by which such a person might try to raise the required money would be bad from a social point of view. Yet that is the kind of conduct into which this bill will push tens of thousands of people who need this assistance and who will be forced to take desperate measures to try to qualify for it.
It might have been thought that this bill was the result of some planning. Rarely is a bill brought in that is not the result of some planning. The Government had available to it such documents as the ones I now have before me. The first is entitled “The Housing Situation,” published in 1956. It is the latest available publication of the kind and it shows the considerable extent of the housing shortage in Australia at that time. The other publication is “ Renewing Australia’s Cities “, published in 1963. This showed that the housing situation had not improved in all those years and that the slum position in Melbourne and Sydney was shocking beyond words. The second publication sets out the Commonwealth Housing Commission’s recommendations for a Commonwealth attack on this problem. Having in mind publications such as these, it might have been thought that this bill would be the result of much thought and planning, but we know that it was not. There was no Housing Ministry. This proposal had never been ventilated in the House. Not one member of the Government parties knew of it.
– When did you first know about this proposal? I take it from the honorable member’s silence that he knew about it for the first time when he heard the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). It had never been put to him or his party. All the details had to be worked out after the promise was made.
The position is simply this : The bill possesses all these defects and it will fail to make any effective contribution to the housing needs of the Australian people. It embodies what was simply an unscrupulous election gimmick. It was a gold brick, but you cannot build houses for the people out of gold bricks unless you have a considerable number of them. This was indeed a glittering promise, in the formulation of which no consideration was given to housing needs, consideration being given only to the need for votes. Of course the people of Australia were deceived and now they are awakening to the extent of the deceit practised on them. The responsibility for this bill and for the deception of the Australian people will rest upon the Government that introduced the measure.
.- My friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), has illustrated the dilemma facing the Opposition. He said that the Opposition would not oppose this bill and then he went on to give a lot of reasons for opposition to the bill which, however, upon examination do not affect the principles of the bill, the application of the bill or the extent of the benefits to be derived from the bill. Towards the end of his speech he got tied up with references to the election campaign. Let mc remind him that according to the last census that was taken there were then 1,395,473 young women between fifteen and 34 years of age in Australia and 1,504,937 young men in the same age group. I suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro who is, if nothing else, a practising politician, that the great majority of these people, or those of them who voted, believed that the Government held out more worthwhile promises and benefits to them than those put forward so glitteringly and convincingly by the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
The honorable member and his deputy leader, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) both followed, in broad, the same pattern. They said, “This is a bill that we will not oppose, but it docs not apply to this section of the community, or that section, or the other “. They elected to ignore, although they are as well aware of it as I am, that about 90 per cent, of the 80,000 or so marriages celebrated each year in Australia are of people in the age group to which I have already referred. So potentially about 90 per cent, of the young people who marry in this country each year are, subject to the other conditions prescribed, eligible for some benefits.
The honorable member dwelt on one aspect of this bill. I suggest that the bill faces the facts that we in Australia, particularly in this place, should have faced long ago. It faces the fact that some encouragement must be given to the people in the 15 to 34 years age group to save in order to assist themselves. Here, of course, we arrive at the fundamental cleavage between this Government and the Opposition. It was demonstrated ably by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. We on this side of the House believe in giving encouragement and incentives for young people, in the interests of themselves and the nation, to save. The honorable member for EdenMonaro, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) hare shown us the socialist approach with controls of one kind or another and restrictions clamping down here and there. They have shown a surprising lack of knowledge of economics in some respects.
Let us look at the facts of the housing position in this country over recent years. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding of it, partly because of the efforts of my friends opposite. We have not, as a country, been short of finance for housing. What we have been short of is finance for housing at reasonable interest rates. That is the crux of the situation. Members of the Opposition - and many other people, I will agree - have told us that the answer is more money from the Commonwealth Government, and socialists generally attach the tag “ at lower interest rates “. The real answer is to encourage into the field of savings additional money which can then be invested in housing at reasonable rates of interest.
These are the two propositions: First, there is not a shortage of money or, at least, of high-interest money. Secondly, the answer is to attract savings into the field of housing investment. That is the simple economics of it, and I hope I will not be wearying the House by reminding it that during the life of the last Parliament the Treasurer amended the legislation to provide that the proportion of deposits in savings banks to be made available for housing purposes was to be increased from 30 per cent, to 35 per cent. Here again there is misunderstanding and perhaps distortion, and the net result is that a wrong impression has been created. Those of my friends of the Opposition to whom I have listened have said quite frequently that it does not work out that way; that in fact the savings banks should be controlled in such a way as to compel them to make 35 per cent, of the money available for housing. Any one who has any knowledge at all of economics knows the disastrous consequences of applying that sort of control to the people’s money in savings banks. No one will deny that it just does not work out. I notice that Mr. Landa, who, I understand, is the Minister of Housing in New South Wales-
– And a good one, too.
– No doubt he is a very good one but he is misinformed about this bill. He referred to the savings banks being compelled to put 65 per cent, of their money in government securities. Then he went on to say that this meant that they could use little more than 20 per cent, for housing allowances. Mr. Landa knows as well as, and perhaps better than, does any one in this House that that was roughly the percentage of total savings bank money invested in housing at the end of last year and in the early part of this year until the effects of the legislation passed by this Government started to be felt.
Let me quote some official figures on this. For the twelve months ended March last, 33.7 per cent, of new deposits were used for new housing loans. The figure had increased to 41.5 per cent, in the quarter ended 31st March. In addition, it is interesting to examine the figures with relation to new loans approved as compared with new deposits. For 1961, new loans approved represented 26.8 per cent, of new deposits. In 1962 they totalled 37.7 per cent, and in 1963, 54.6 per cent. In the last quarter of 1963, the figure rose to approximately 55 per cent. This is a sound and practical contribution to the additional outlay of savings that is available for investment in housing at reasonable rates of interest. This has worked.
The second proposition implicit in the bill is that young people in the specified age group will be encouraged to save before they are married. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke with some violent fury on this as did the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. In effect, he asked how on earth a married man with a number of children could save anything out of £20 a week. Much the same figure was mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Let me put the counter to that proposition: Why on earth should not we as a community expect young unmarried people between the ages of 15 and 34, to save for their future security? We do not suggest that they should be compelled to save, but we do suggest that they should be encouraged to do so. No doubt the Opposition would be happy to compel them to save, but we suggest that they be encouraged to do it, and that is what this bill sets out to do. Nobody can deny that at the present time the bill is of limited assistance to the eligible man in the specified age group who is married, who has a family and who is in receipt of a low wage. But the whole thing will iron itself out as new married couples come into the housing field.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, to whom 1 listened with the great interest I always accord such a distinguished gentleman, talked about interest rates. He was one who believed that interest rates should be pegged by government action to the figure proposed by Labour. He quoted 3J per cent. During the last election campaign, the Labour Party advertised - I believe this was also said by their leader - that if returned to office it would reduce the interest rate on loans from the Commonwealth to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to 3J per cent. lt was not until the Treasurer pointed out some few days afterwards that for some months the interest rate on those loans had been reduced to 3 i per cent, that the advertisement was withdrawn from the press. But the honorable member for Hindmarsh has not realized yet that the interest rate is now only 3i per cent. This is the sort of confusion that arises when we have a substantially new approach to the old problems that arc before us.
I want to say something about the question of interest. Many people have talked about lower interest rates. Let me point out the effect of low subsidized interest rates, although not so long ago I heard spokesmen for the Labour Party disagreeing with what I am about to say. The effect of subsidized interest rates is that somewhere else the subsidy is raised by taxation, either direct or indirect, imposed on the rest of the community. This means added cost to that section of the community which is affected. This added cost, in turn, affects the cost structure of the country and this, in turn, bears heavily on those who, in the initial stages, appear to be deriving some advantage from low interest. Low interest rates represent merely a distortion of the natural and inevitable process and that is one of the reasons why the problems of housing in this country have been as great as they have been in the last few years.
I come now to another matter to which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) also made reference. I emphasize that the £250 grant is a subsidy at the point of purchase. Over the normal period at normal rates of interest, this subsidy is responsible for saving approximately the same amount as the subsidy. In other words, the effect of paying £250 to people towards the cost of a home at the time of purchase is to reduce their overall commitment by somewhere between £200 and £350, according to the period of the loan and the rate of interest charged. Further, what we propose is a continuing benefit. The reduction in the interest is roughly 5s. a week and this is a real and continuing benefit to the individual. It is a benefit which is appreciated by the younger people of the community who can see in our proposal what most members of the Labour Party cannot see in it and who, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out in his appraisal of Labour’s defeat, expressed their appreciation bv voting for the Government parties at the election.
Finally, let me say that one of the great problems in this country has been the difficulty of adjusting the amount of finance available at reasonable rates of interest to the building industry’s capacity to meet the housing needs of the community. Out of the Government’s proposition will come - not to-day or to-morrow, but in due course - a system of home savings for many people. Eventually it will be possible to establish broadly some relation between the capacity of people to purchase houses and the capacity of the building industry to meet their requirements. If we can achieve that we shall be making a very real contribution to the overall stability of the economy, because building is one of the first industries affected by fluctuations upwards or downwards. Therefore, I say that this is substantially a new proposal. The proposal is practical, it is effective, and it brings real benefit to those most in need in the community - ‘the young people. This scheme is sound and it is not a socialistic concept. As the increase in the ratio of the deposits in the savings banks that may be lent for home building has worked, so I feel that this scheme will work and will make a real contribution to the peace and prosperity of this country
– I agree with the statement by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) that tins bill, or something else to assist in meeting the housing needs of the nation, should have been introduced some years ago. A fortnight ago, after some six months’ delay, the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) gave the House full particulars of the measure. We understood that since mid-January Cabinet had been telling him to get cracking on the legislation. The Minister said that this bill represents the first instalment of the new housing policy. Possibly it will be another six months before we will hear of the second leg of this housing double, under which a mortgage insurance corporation will insure mortgages up to a high proportion of the value of the house and the land.
The bill was eagerly awaited by many young people. ] know this from the fact that a large number of the queries that I have received from my electors since the last election have been from young couples interested in what benefits they could obtain under the legislation. The majority of these people, I state here and now, will bc disappointed. The bill do?s not assist those who are most in need of a home. It will not assist the family with an income of £20 a week or less. I am aware that to some extent it will benefit young couples with a small family or with no family, those in the high income bracket and those with double incomes because the wife is working. The people who will not receive assistance under the bill are the people referred to by the New South Wales Minister of Housing, Mr. Landa, when he spoke of this as heartbreak handout. Mr. Landa said that the scheme seems to be a complex of so many strings and so much confusion that only the most determined will ever reach the pot of gold.
The bill discriminates against couples over 36 years of age who are building a first home. People to-day are marrying at an earlier age than was the case some years ago. Ten years ago the predominant marriage age was 26 years; to-day it is 22.6. The young man, as the provider for the home, may well ask, when he com mences his home, “ Should I have saved by my 23rd year the price of a piece of land, a home deposit and some furniture, and how much should I have saved before my marriage? “ We ask how it is possible for people on small incomes to save £250 a year for three years. It may seem to honorable members opposite that this could be quite easily done. Perhaps on their incomes it would be easy, but the young people that I have been associated wilh are mainly in the lower wage bracket.
Take the case of a labourer or ordinary skilled worker who may have been receiving the adult wage from the age of 18 years. This has left him only four years until he has reached the average age of marrying in this country to accumulate £750 so as to qualify for the maximum grant of £250. He may try to do this alone or conjointly with his marriage partner. But in addition to finding the money for a home he has also to find the money to furnish that home, because people cannot just walk into a home without having cutlery, furniture, bedlinen and other necessaries. A tradesman goes through five years of apprenticeship, during which time he works at a greatly reduced rate of pay. Most apprentices start their apprenticeship at the age of fifteen. For the first three years they are largely dependent on their parents for clothing and entertainment. Then in the fifth year they receive from 80 to 85 per cent, of the adult wage. After that they receive the tradesman’s rate of pay. They are then about 18 or 19 years old. and in some cases 21. A lad who begins his apprenticeship at seventeen is 22 years of agc by the time he receives the tradesman’s rate of £20 or more a week. What opportunity has he had to have saved by the time he reaches the average marrying age? If he begins work at fifteen as a boy labourer and then starts an apprenticeship, he will have very little opportunity of saving £750 in three years.
This subsidy discriminates between people who have money, the people on the high incomes or double incomes, the people who are perhaps born a little more in the velvet than others - they will have an opportunity lo receive the full benefit of the subsidy - and the people who have to battle to make a go of it and have to depend on using their entire savings to qualify for this subsidy. These people will not by any means obtain the maximum benefit of £250. The honorable member for Deakin asked why the Labour Party puts up all these arguments and then says it will support the measure. In a lifetime in the trade union movement and of dealings with people generally I have found that it is better to take a slice of the cake that is. offered than stand out for the whole cake when there is no hope of getting it. Whilst I concede that there are some people who will benefit from the subsidy, the people who will benefit most are those who are least in need of assistance in the purchase of a home.
According to research done and published by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, many difficulties are encountered by people who are trying to raise the deposit on a home. The publication, which has been circulated to all honorable members, says that one family has managed to save because the husband was earning more than £20 a week from regular overtime. One woman explained that she had worked for five years after her marriage without having any children because she. felt that the only hope of a couple on their income of getting a home was for her to work and thus save enough to avoid having to take out a second mortgage. But she also said that it would be at least another five years before the house would be furnished, even though they were purchasing everything for the home on hire purchase.
The arrival of children could complicate a savings programme in a family. I have heard many claims put forward about what people can do if they plan, but there are many instances of people budgeting and then having the whole budget thrown out by the arrival of children. They have been unable to save the amount of deposit that they have set as their goal, or to obtain the pot of gold referred to by Mr. Landa. Quite a number of young couples, when they are buying or building a home, depend on loans or gifts from their parents or relatives. As I understand it, the bill provides for no investigation of the actual sources of savings made to qualify for the proposed subsidy. There will be no investigation as to how the amount in the savings bank, home-building account, building society or credit union was obtained. It is worth pointing out that no allowance is made in the fixation of the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the purchase of a home by a worker.
Most young couples in order to purchase a home depend on gifts or on some assistance from members of their families. As I understand it the bill does not propose a comparison between income and savings before a grant is approved. I feel that a certain amount of malpractice could arise because of the restriction of savings to £250 a year. I appreciate that in the case of a married couple the amount is to be £500 a year. It seems to me that for people who have not saved £750 encouragement is offered to look for means to raise the full amount in order to qualify for the maximum subsidy of £1 for every £3 saved in a savings account or paid as a deposit on a new home. The practice could arise where an amount of £250 is added to the price of a home to be purchased by a family that has saved only £500 and cannot see its way clear in the last year to save the additional £250. The additional subsidy of £83 6s. 8d. from the Government could even be split between the vendor or his agent and the purchaser of the home.
Another point that is not covered in the bill is that no account is taken of the true valuation of a home in relation to its purchase price. When homes are purchased through a State housing commission, or through the War Service Homes Division a valuer or inspector always carries out an inspection before a loan is approved. A loan is not approved for an amount in excess of the inspector’s valuation. I appreciate that the amounts to be provided under this legislation are not loans but straightout grants, but while no inspection is carried out to see that a purchase price is not overstated the way is left open for malpractice. I hope that the Minister and officers of his department will ensure that this point is covered.
It has been stated that the bill is designed to help young married couples. I do not know who decided that after 36 years a person is no longer young. Perhaps quite a few of my colleagues would disagree with this assessment. I know of a number of people who married early in life and found that it was not until they were in their late forties that they were able to purchase a home. This was possible only after their family had grown up and they no longer had to meet the costs of bringing up children and paying for their education and health needs, lt was not until after they did not have all these costs to consider that they were able to purchase a home. Yet these people are to be excluded because they are over 36 years of age and it is considered that they are not young. I do not know why the age of 36 years was selected. It has occurred to me that this figure was uppermost in the mind of the Prime Minister when he was framing a policy for the Liberal and Country parties. 1 turn now to consider the prescribed date. The bill refers to the prescribed dme in relation to an eligible person and I ask how it applies to purchasers of war service homes. While the subsidy is to be paid to purchasers of war service homes, I believe that there are now very few people under 36 years of age who would qualify for assistance from the War Service Homes Division. Of course, eligibility for the subsidy may be established by marrying a spouse under 36 years of agc. As the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out, a nian of the type of Tommy Manville could be looking for a suitable person to marry in order to qualify for the grant. In defining the prescribed date the bill states - “ the prescribed date “, in relation to an eligible person, means -
For the purchaser of a second-hand home through the War Service Homes Division the actual date of the loan is about eighteen to twenty months later than the date of the purchase. I ask the Minister whether the prescribed date in this legislation applies to the date upon which the War Service Homes Division grants a loan to an applicant, or whether it applies to the date upon which he makes arrangements through a vendor or his agent to purchase a home before obtaining an interim loan to see him through the waiting period of eighteen or twenty months. Tn other words, under this legislation does the term “ prescribed date “ apply to the actual date on which the War Service Homes Division makes a loan, or to the date on which a purchaser takes over a home from the vendor? I would like the Minister at a later stage to make that point clear.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) referred to Labour’s attitude towards home ownership. He said that the Labour Party is opposed to home ownership, but this is not correct. I refer the honorable member to the policy speech made last November by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in which he referred to the need for housing programmes. He mentioned that Labour would establish a homes finance commission to provide finance for home construction and to guarantee loans from those willing to lend at low interest rates and on low deposits amounting to no more than from 5 to 10 per cent, of the capital cost. The proposed scheme was to operate in addition to the housing schemes operated by the State housing commissions. In Tasmania under a Labour Government no deposit is required on a housing commission home. In Queensland, New South Wales and most other States a deposit of 10 per cent, is required on a housing commission home. In his policy speech the Leader of the Australian Labour Party said that Labour would provide to the States money at 33 per cent, to enable them to reduce rentals and repayments on housing commission homes. He said that Labour would increase grants to the States by £20,000,000 for public housing, with emphasis on slum clearance and redevelopment projects. The Leader of the Opposition stated that we would ensure a steady and adequate flow of private finance for home-building. This is in direct contrast to the Government’s policy in the past.
I recall that early in 1961 a deputation of master builders and trade union building workers came to Canberra to request that money be made available for home construction to offset the effects of the credit squeeze. The deputation pointed out the importance of the home-building industry and that builders, carpenters, plumbers and bricklayers were unemployed Furthermore, trades associated with home-building, such as the furnishing trade, suffered from severe unemployment and economic setbacks. For these reasons, the deputation, which was backed by the trade union movement and the master builders, came to Canberra to present a case for an improved homebuilding programme.
The Australian Labour Party, in its policy for the last federal general election, also promised to hold an inquiry into Australia’s housing needs. The last such inquiry was conducted twenty years ago, when a Labour government was in office. State Ministers in charge of housing have repeatedly asked for an inquiry of this kind in recent years, but it has never been held. I propose to discuss my own State, Queensland, which I know better than I know others. It is worth recalling, that for many years before the war, a workers’ dwellings scheme existed in that State. In 1916, not long after the election of a Labour government under T. J. Ryan, the State Advances Corporation was established to make advances for home-builders under the State Advances Act. Workers’ dwellings came later. In 1957, after the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement came into effect, this scheme was closed.
Under the scheme, homes were provided on low deposits at reasonably low rates of interest over periods up to 40 and 50 years. The Minister for Housing has stated that one of the reasons why housing commission homes will not qualify for the grant is that they provide the opportunity to purchase a home reasonably cheaply. Housing commission homes do not represent cheap purchase. A person buying one would pay it off in a much shorter period than the maximum term of 40 or 45 years if he had sufficient money available. Such a home may be easier to purchase, but it is certainly not cheaper to purchase. I think that the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) pointed out that the purchase of a home over a very long term does not represent by any means the cheapest method of purchase.
This bill provides for assistance for the construction of homes on leasehold land. In Queensland, it was recognized that if a person had to pay a large sum for land a great proportion of his savings would be swallowed up and he would have less to finance or furnish his worker’s dwelling. So land was made available for homebuilding on perpetual lease at an annual rental, in some instances, of £5 or £10. No capital expenditure was required for the purchase of land. This left more of the purchaser’s savings for the financing or furnishing of a worker’s dwelling. The cost of land is a very important factor in the purchase or construction of a home.
I believe that this measure may encourage the sale of a number of secondhand dwellings that the banks - I refer to all the banks - are not at present prepared to finance. There are available numerous homes that were built twenty or more years ago. Many couples with families find that they have to buy old homes if they need large dwellings, because they cannot afford to build large homes. Large homes are available, but there has been a slackness or slowness in the market for them because the purchase of such homes is difficult to finance. In many instances, they are not really good buys because heavy repair bills have to be met soon after purchase. However, they are the best that a family in need of considerable space can afford. If this measure will assist in the purchase of such homes, that will be another reason why we will support it.
However, I should like to mention briefly a number of possible effects of this bill. The Minister has pointed out that there will be a certain degree of looseness in the administration of the measure in the first year. This is quite understandable, and I do not disagree with it. But I believe that quite a number of people, knowing that, after 31st December, 1964, there will be a tightening up, will rush in to buy homes this year. Many of them will not qualify for the maximum subsidy of £250. Indeed, many will probably receive a grant closer to £50 than to £250. I believe that this rush will cause some inflation of prices. Vendors, agents and speculators will be aware of the likelihood of this rush by people forced to get in before the end of the year if they wish to have ther present savings up to a total of £750 recognized under the scheme.
I believe that, after 31st December next, there may be a delay in home-building. After that date, only £250 of savings in any one year will be accepted and, to qualify for the maximum grant of £250, people will have to save over a period of three years. As I understand the proposals, a person who had saved £750 by 31st December next and who sat pat on ii for the next three years would qualify for the scheme in respect of only £250 and not the entire £750. So such people will have to make use of their £750 by the end of this year or delay until they have saved £250 a year over three years. Most people will have as their goal the maximum grant. There is no question about that. Everyone looks for the most that he can get out of anything. That is only human nature.
I believe that the requirement to save £250 a year over three years will have harmful effects. For instance, mothers of young families will probably go out to work, trying to add to the family bank balance and to build up total savings of £750 over a period of three years. This may lead to restriction of the size of families. Furthermore, I believe that, when a wife goes to work while she has at home a young family that needs her, there is always conflict within the family.
Another feature of the scheme relates to the position of the average young fellow who, as soon as he has raised enough to pay a deposit, - usually long before contemplating marriage - rushes in and buys a motor vehicle of some kind. Many burn their fingers because they buy bombs. Many young fellows pay sizeable deposits on cars and pay off the balance to hire-purchase companies over two years at the rate of £20 or £24 a month. They push themselves to their financial limit’s to do this. Most of these young fellows have at the back of their minds the idea that, when they decide to marry the car can be sold and the price put towards a deposit on a home and the purchase of furniture. But, as I understand this bill, a person who sold a car, even after the three-year period specified, for £700 would not be able to claim any part of that sum as savings. This would not worry me so much if it would mean that young fellows would bank their money instead of buying cars. But I do not believe that that would happen, because the trend to-day is more and more for young fellows to buy cars as soon as they can. There may be a slight recession in the motor industry because young men between the ages of eighteen and 23 years, at which a man enters the marriageable age group, will b . second-hand or near-new cars rather than new ones. These are the effects that I believe could flow from the bill. As I said before, I would like the Minister to explain the point I raised about war service homes, particularly regarding the prescribed date. Is it the da:e on which the home is taken over from the vendor or is it the date on which the War Service Homes Division makes the loan available to the purchaser?
– When he signs the contract.
– This bill is the first part of the housing plan announced by the Government. Legislation to give effect to a national housing insurance corporation, which is the second part, will be introduced at a later stage. The bill now before us represents a notable advance. It will achieve three objectives. It will achieve additional home ownership, an increase in home building and, most notable of all, an increase in savings.
Some mention has been made of the object of the bill. At this stage I would like to say that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) deserves to be complimented on the way be has framed this complex piece of legislation, even though some parts of it seem to be a bit verbose. This is particularly so of clause 22 (7.), which was mentioned this morning in the “Sydney Morning Herald “, and which, I am afraid, is certainly a little hard to understand. The bill encompasses much, though it gives the Minister the right to say finally whether an application complies with the object stated in the bill. Clause 5 of the bill reads -
The object of this Act is to encourage and assist young married persons to purchase or build their own homes and, in the administration of this Act, regard shall be had to that object.
The administrative discretion is a notable part of this object. When a new scheme that has not been tried before is introduced, it is natural to find problems that cannot be solved immediately. Perhaps we should bear this in mind when considering the provisions relating to acceptable savings. Some instances of what may happen have been given. A person may have been saving but not in an acceptable form, but it will be possible for the Minister to use his discretionary powers, up to 31st December of this year at least, to allow such a person to change his investments into an acceptable form and so qualify for the housing subsidy.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) said that an arbitrary decision had been made in setting the age limit for recipients of the subsidy at 35 years. He thought that perhaps the Government believed that, as there were 36 faceless men, beneficiaries should be excluded from this bill from 36 onwards. I think rather that we should look at this in terms of the biblical lifespan of three score years and ten. At the age of 36, we are beyond the point of no return.
Some criticisms have been levelled at the bill and some relate particularly to whether there is presently a need for increased home-building in Australia. I would like to examine some of the problems that have been mentioned and try to answer them. An article in the “Australian Financial Review” for 13th May suggested that currently there was sufficient home-building within the community and that the bill came at an inopportune time. The article states -
Latest statistics reveal that from a relatively slow rate of advance at the beginning of 1963-64, new houses and flat units are now being completed at a rate equivalent to an annual increase of 15 per cent.
A projection from the trend established in the last six months indicates that Australia will end 1963-64 with recorded home completions amounting to 97,000.
Though this may be so, I do not think we can look purely at figures and say that, because 97,000 homes will be built, there will not be a demand for houses. Within my own electorate for example, a new abattoir has recently been established at Guyra and this has created a demand for houses. Some 50 or 60 people, who arc the potential labour force for the new abattoir, are at the moment trying to purchase houses in the town. Consequently, I would suggest that although it may appear on the figures that the housing rate is rapidly increasing, at this stage the field is by no means saturated, The article in the “ Australian Financial Review “ refers to Dr. A. R. Hall’s projection. The article states -
Dr. A. R. Hall’s projection of longterm trend in Australian housing demand for the 1960s suggests that from 1965 on, the trend rate of growth of demand for homes should be roughly an annual average of 5 per cent.
This takes a preliminary account of the increase in the marriage rate expected to occur in the second half of the sixties as a result of the postwar baby boom.
Thus pressure on the capacity of the Australian building industry to meet this sustained rise in housing demand up to 1970 will be a continuing important factor in the Australian economy in the years immediately ahead.
The growth of population and of the work force is one of the main reasons why it is absolutely essential for the increase in home construction to continue and particularly for home ownership to be increased. I think such a bill as this is a notable means of encouraging both home construction and ownership. It has been suggested that by 1970 or possibly late in the 1970’s Australia’s population will be 15,000,000. With migration currently running at a rate between 75,000 and 100,000 a year and with an increase of our work force which to-day is about 4,250,000, it is absolutely essential, if we are to maintain our standards, that we provide the means for people to purchase and own their homes. I do not think there can be any argument about this.
One of the most notable aspects of the legislation is that, whilst it is endeavouring to promote home ownership, it is also endeavouring to promote savings. This seems to me to be possibly the most important aspect of the legislation. Let us look at the potential savings. It has been estimated that in 1963 (he earnings of those in the 15 to 20 age group were about ?450,000,000. I am told that in 1961 the 18 to 35 age group contained about 612,000 males and 325,000 females, which gives us a total of almost 940,000 persons. A big percentage of people, about 80 per cent., marry and no doubt most of them want to live in their own home. If the 940,000 people in the under 35 age group were to save at the minimum rate of ?250 a head, accumulated savings would be ?235,000,000. If they were to save the maximum amount taken into account for the subsidy, accumulated savings would be ?705,000,000. This is a tremendous amount of money.
One of the advantages of this diversion of money to home saving can be found in an analysis of our personal consumption expenditure, particularly when we think in terms of the high earning rate of the younger people in the community. If we take into account the great amount of money that these young people are earning and the things on which they are spending their money, we must come to the conclusion that in terms of moral advantage to the community a bill of this nature performs a very useful function. From figures which I have obtained I gather that in terms of personal consumption expenditure the total amount of money spent in 1948-49 was about £385,600,000. In 1961-62, the figure bad risen to £1,156,000,000. The increase in expenditure on luxuries has been proportionate. In spite of all that we hear about lung cancer, expenditure on cigarettes and tobacco increased from £55,900,000 in 1948-49 to £168,400,000 in 1961-62. Expenditure on alcoholic drinks increased from £112,700,000 in 1948-49 to £313,100,000 in 1961-62.
What is the position with regard to motor vehicles? Certainly you cannot altogether classify motor vehicles as luxuries, but you still may take them into account as a personal consumption expenditure which, in the instance of the younger age group, is not necessarily an advantage, particularly having regard to the accident rate. In 1948- 49, expenditure on motor vehicles amounted to £41,700,000. By 1961-62, the figure had increased to £226,400,000. In the same period expenditure on the operation of those vehicles rose from £16,800,000 to £182,400,000. In addition we have the increase in hire purchase activities. Hire purchase is a good thing for Australian industry. If we are to continue to have a prosperous business world it is essential that these large amounts of money be made available. As at December, 1963, about £673,200,000 was outstanding ii. the form of hire purchase commitments in this country.
I do not suggest that any or al) of the amounts to which I have referred should necessarily be diverted into savings, but I do suggest that proportionately higher percentages of the £450,000,000 that is earned by persons in the 15 to 20 years age group and the amount that is earned by those in the 20 to 25 years age group are being spent on luxury items. I direct attention in this regard to a feature article in the “ Sun “ of 15th May under the headline: “ Bing’s Never Been Beaten! The Hit record War Worries ‘ The Alley ‘.” The article States that in one year in Britain alone 78,285,000, records were sold. I think a disproportionate amount of the earnings of young people is being spent on amusements and particularly on such diversions as the Beatles. If this bill leads to some percentage of this expenditure being diverted into savings for homes a very worth-while moral principle will have been served and the bill will have achieved a great deal.
I would like to comment on several other aspects on the bill. First let me deal with the term of the savings. The bill provides that savings must be accumulated over at least three years. As I understand the bill, it places a limit of seven years on savings. I appreciate that we must have some limit on the period during which savings will be acceptable under the bill, but I submit that there is a case for extending the seven year period.
– Seven years is the limit to which the £250 maximum of acceptable annual savings applies. Savings beyond seven years are acceptable under the bill.
– The point is that if we attract money into a savings account we will divert it from other items of luxury expenditure. I agree that seven years is a fairly reasonable period - I know there is some reference to seven years in the income tax law - but I think a case has been made out for extending the period in clause 23 (3), having in mind the advantage of attracting money into savings. If money is being invested solely in a housing account perhaps it would be advantageous to extend the period in which savings will be accepted towards the grant. I appreciate the Government’s view that some limit must be placed on the period of savings. If the Government were to set the period at ten years, somebody would ask: Why ten years and not seven? Nevertheless, if you are thinking in terms of savings and the diversion of money from one channel into another, I think there is a case for extending the seven-year period.
Another matter that has been referred to in the debate and which is of great importance is the inflationary pressure prevalent within the community to-day. One thing I would like to see in the not too distant future is some unification of housing standards among the various local government authorities. As things stand at present, if a person moves from one side of a council’s boundary to another, in many instances he will find that different regulations and restrictions apply to the construction of a home. This adds considerably to the cost of the individual builder. If housing standards could be unified we would go a long way towards reducing the cost of homes. Unification of standards would improve the cost structure considerably. In this regard I refer mainly to New South Wales, because I do not know the position that obtains in other States.
Rural people as well as townspeople have been taken into account in the bill. The Minister has said that some aspects of the bill may not be immediately visible to the casual observer. For example, there is a limit of £7,000 on the amount that may be spent on the house. That figure takes into account the cost of the house, the buildings surrounding the house and the land surrounding the house. Naturally, in many rural areas land will not have the same value as land in town or city areas but it must be recognized that the cost of services to the man in the country is considerably greater than is the cost to the man in the city or town. It is common practice in rural areas to pay a large capital contribution in order to have electricity installed. It is almost always the case that you have to pay for the installation of your own water supply. If it is to be an adequate water supply it frequently means sinking a bore or at least installing a mill on a creek or a dam. If a dam is used it first has to be constructed. Then there is the cost of reticulation of the water through the house. If you are to have a septic system or any of the other amenities that are common to city houses you will have to pay a lot more for those services in the country than in city areas. This expenditure will offset considerably the advantage that it is suggested country people will obtain under the bill.
In the future we will have to think more about making additional funds available from other sources for rural housing. I had occasion to look up the procedure adopted in the United States of America. In that country there is a Farmers Home Administration which provides credit for a number of purposes apart from the construction of houses. It will provide funds to individual farmers and rural residents for home building and improvements. All applicants for loans from the administration must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere at reasonable rates and on reasonable terms. That condition is laid down because the money is made available at a reasonably low rate of interest, presumably in comparison with normal bank interest. I presume that if the bank interest rate is a little higher than the administration’s interest rate, it is regarded as being an unreasonable rate, and consequently a person is able to obtain money from the Farmers Home Administration. The conditions laid down are as follows: -
That is a notable extension of anything that we have in Australia.
There is a case for a scheme such as that to be implemented in Australia. Whilst I appreciate that these things do not come completely within the ambit of this bill, they are some of the things that must be taken into account when we say that this bill caters adequately for rural housing needs. Whether it is to be done through the Commonwealth Development Bank loans or through some separate legislative function of the new Department of Housing, there is a case for an extension of housing finance, particularly in rural areas, beyond the facilities that presently are available.
I wish to refer briefly to one other aspect; namely, the problem that so many people have in endeavouring to borrow money for rural housing, town housing or city housing. They go along to a bank with the deeds of their land. Inevitably they are told that the security value of their land is something less than its market value. When they come to building a house they find that the gap between the amount of money they have in hand and the amount they can raise, on the one hand, and the amount they need on the other, is their main disability. I am hoping that by means of this maximum grant of £250 it will be possible to bridge part of that gap. I am also hoping that some latitude will be given in order that that will be so, because I am sure that this is one of the major problems facing many young people who seek to build their own homes. Finally I say, as Polly Adler said, that a house is not a home; but I am sure that as a result of measures such as this there will be a better chance of a residential house being a home, because it will be owned by the occupier. This bill will certainly mean that more houses will be owned by their occupiers.
– The purpose of this bill supposedly is to help young married couples to obtain a home by the granting of a subsidy on certain conditions which are very important and which are laid down in the bill. In this chamber we have heard a lot of talk about housing, especially over the last decade, by honorable members on the Government side; but very little has been done to relieve the anxiety of the thousands upon thousands of unfortunate people who are homeless. Early in the last federal election campaign the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) came out with a scheme in respect of which he said -
He said this after fourteen years of Liberal Party and Country Party rule.
– Of very able administration.
– Yes, after fourteen years of very able administration this is what the Prime Minister said -
First, there is a special difficulty experienced by young married people, particularly in the age group up to 35, in financing the purchasing of a dwelling.
How he fixed the age of 35 years I do not know. He continued -
We will provide a Commonwealth subsidy of £1 for every £3 which a person in this age group deposits or shall have deposited, over a period of at least three years, in an identifiable account at an approved institution, to be released, upon or after marriage, for home building or purchasing purposes. The grant will be tax free. The maximum subsidy for one house will be £250. . . This will not extend to the purchase . . of house and land costing more than £7,000.
That speech was made in November last. The promise of the housing subsidy was one of the many promises which subsequently brought about the re-election of the present Government for a further term of three years.
Many weary months have passed by while we have been waiting for this Government to implement the promise that it made to the people generally on housing. In the enterim, of course, costs of both houses and land have soared. As a matter of fact, the personal friends and supporters of this Government are having a whale of a time speculating in both. The overseas shipowners engaged in the shipping of building timber, especially Oregon timber which is used mainly in the building of homes, to Australia have increased their freight charges. The freight charges on
Oregon timber shipped to Australia have increased to such a degree that already it is estimated that £125 of the subsidy has been eaten up.
– Why don’t builders use good Australian hardwood?
– It is up to the Government to stop Oregon coming into Australia by imposing higher tariffs. We also see the high-pressure tactics adopted by land speculators who are forcing land prices up to the dizzy limit. These men certainly took advantage of the slow pace of this Government in introducing this measure. Or was its introduction deliberately slowed down so that those supporters of the Government would have a whale of a time in exploiting the people?
This serious train of events will have a serious impact on older people who have made up their minds to buy homes, because already the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has agreed that land prices are increasing at three times the rate at which actual home construction costs are increasing. The Minister also says that a good supply of building materials is available, but there is an increasing shortage of skilled labour. I think we have heard that before in this House. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), in particular, is always talking about the shortage of skilled labour. The Minister for Housing referred particularly to a shortage of bricklayers. This situation is not easy to overcome. I suggest to the Minister that at this early stage of the scheme he call the building trades contractors into conference and urge upon them the necessity of enlisting as many apprentices as possible in the building trades, especially apprentice bricklayers and apprentice carpenters. If this scheme is as successful as the Minister says it will be, this country will need all the tradesmen it can get. The only solution to the so-called labour shortage problem is to provide for the training of more apprentices. There are thousands of school leavers waiting for jobs who would be only too pleased to have the opportunity to be apprenticed to a trade. It is up to the Minister to see that everything is done to give these school leavers the chance to learn trades to equip them for successful working lives in the future.
Housing for low income earners is practically unobtainable. I fail to see how this scheme will lift the burden from the shoulders of these unhappy people. That remark also applies to people over the age of 36 because, as we see, the bill is sectional. It penalizes the low income earner. I do not know of any person in that class who could qualify for the grant. Day by day I meet hundreds of people in the low income bracket. So do other members of this Parliament and of the State Parliaments. Just imagine in these days of high costs of living a low income earner, in the £20 a week bracket, trying to save £750 in three or even five years. In that income bracket are included tradesmen, because we know that the award rate for tradesmen to-day is only in the vicinity of £20 a week. Some of these low income earners, including tradesmen, are paying up to £10 a week rent, and face eviction every twelve months. The gentle technique played to-day in my electorate by the hawks who go around under the guise of estate agents is to let a home, flat or some other sort of unit for £10 a week on a special lease. This special lease requires that the tenant, at the end of twelve months, move out onto the footpath and sign a new lease. He then moves back into the dwelling for a further twelve months. What a gentle technique to adopt in these days of housing shortages under this so-called benevolent Government.
– The New South Wales Government should lift all rent controls. Then there would be no trouble.
– Under pressure, the New South Wales Government gave partial relief of rent controls. This was one of the worst things that could have happened, because it gave these hawks to whom I have referred the right to exploit the people to the full, which they are now doing in no uncertain way. It is just as well that the New South Wales Government kept a certain degree of rent control, otherwise there would have been a revolution in the country.
– There is no limit in Victoria at all.
– Every one knows what happened in Victoria. At least, we have a Labour Government in New South Wales to keep some sort of control.
What are the possibilities of any of these people saving £750 in three years? They would have to save approximately £5 a week for three years to qualify for a grant The Minister realizes this, because it prompted him to say in his second-reading speech -
We consider that subsidized homes built by the States with funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement ought to be reserved for those wilh very small means and on low incomes. This housing is made available at below its true economic cost for social reasons.
What are those reasons? The Minister continued -
In some States there are long waiting lists for these housing commission houses largely because they are relatively so cheap. It would be wrong to inflate these lists and disadvantage the most needy elements of the community by adding those who can better afford to look after themselves. The homes savings grant scheme is designed to help those who help themselves by saving appreciable sums.
The present Minister for Housing is the first Commonwealth Minister for Housing. He does not say who is at fault for the housing shortage by arranging the very cautious manner in which funds are allocated to the States annually. I believe that larger contributions to the funds of State housing commissions are the only way to ease the housing shortage. This scheme will help only young couples who can obtain help from their parents, or who are in the high income bracket.
No consideration has been given to returned servicemen in this bill. No special privileges apply to ex-servicemen. A very neat trap has been laid for these people. As a matter of fact, the Government feels that it has been generous to ex-servicemen when it states that those who acquire homes with the assistance of war service home loans will be eligible for this benefit.
– Hear, hear!
– “ Hear, hear”, says the honorable member opposite. World War II. has been over for nineteen years. Any soldier who was in World War II. - of Course, you can forget about the World War I. man; he is right out of the picture altogether - and who was over seventeen years of age when the war finished, is not eligible at all for this grant, simply because he is now over the age of 36. The honorable member may say “ hear, hear “ to that? This is a mean, contemptible trick by this Government to make ex-servicemen believe that the Government contemplated giving them any consideration at all.
I come now to migrants, both British and foreign. They are accommodated in hostels when they come to Australia. Every member of this House knows that, because of the hostel charges, there is no opportunity for those migrants to save anything like £750 in three years. So it seems that migrants have little prospect of participating in this scheme. They can say goodbye to their opportunity of obtaining a home under this scheme. This is one of the reasons why Australia is finding it difficult to hold the migrants who come here. The only hope for the family to save, it seems, is for the father to work excessive overtime or for the mother to seek work. This means, of course, that the mother and father leave their children of tender years in the care of other people. This adds extra worry to the mother and father. This will not be conducive to a healthy life. Physical and mental breakdowns follow to one or both parents. Complications ensure, and the couple can see no hope for the future, even though both the mother and father go to work.
A further part of the Minister’s secondreading speech makes one wonder at the action of the Minister in placing restrictions on the activities of credit unions. I think that the omission of these bodies was an oversight and it should be reviewed. We find that after 12th January next new savings in the credit unions will not make one eligible for the subsidy unless they arc transferred to a board, a bank or a building society. It is reported that the
Minister objects to credit unions on the grounds that they do not lend all their money for housing purposes. This seems strange reasoning indeed, when savings in savings banks come within the scheme. Do savings banks lend all their money for housing or do they not? Is this bill framed for the purpose of giving the savings banks preferential treatment? Any member of this House knows how difficult it is to get a loan from the banks, particularly the private banks, for the purpose of building a home. It is known that over the last ten years, the banks have steered clear of the homebuilding field. They lend their money in more lucrative fields - for instance, for the building of office blocks in the capital cities of Australia. Has the Government closed its eyes to this fact? Does the Government intend to give to the banks a monopoly of the new field that has been opened up? Has the Government overlooked the fact that thousands of working men and women have been subscribing to the various credit unions over the years and that they will object strongly to the Government’s action in this field. The Minister should have another look at that portion of the legislation.
The Government seems to have a very soft spot for the banking institutions. It is always doing its best to help them, and this bill is just another way in which it is helping them. A large proportion of individual savings will, after 31st December 1964, have to be deposited in the various savings and trading banks. This is a deliberate attempt to channel what are called new savings in this direction. Special provision is made in respect of other savings to cover the period until 31st December, 1967.
One portion of the legislation allows for the payment of the grant to a person who may not have been born in Australia, who may have come here to live, got married and not become naturalized. Such a person can save for three years or more until his or her savings amount to £750, and then receive the grant of £250 and place a deposit of £1,000 on a home. There, of course, his or her obligation ceases. Such a person is then free to sell the house to another person who might satisfy the same conditions and become eligible for a similar grant. This could go on almost interminably, and I think the Minister should have another look at this provision also.
An interesting article in the “Sydney Morning Herald “ of Wednesday 13th May, commenting on the Government’s subsidy plan read as follows: -
This method of helping young people, by which they are induced to save the initial deposit, the basis of the purchase of their new home, is a new angle, but on realistic examination of the whole problem is it not an acknowledgment of the failure of the Government, business leaders, financiers, builders and real estate organizations to understand why an average Australian homeowner has to spend six times his annual salary on a house when his American counterpart has to spend only two and a half times his?
Those were the comments of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “; they were not my comments. Costs of domestic real estate have been increasing every year since 1945. Young people now have to go miles from our cities to find a block of land within their means. This produces difficulties for the young couple. After the home is built and they occupy it the husband finds that he is many miles from his work, which means extra travelling and extra expense every week. These extra costs add to their living costs, and so the cost spiral goes on. Of course when the young couple have paid their deposit and occupied their home they then have to grapple with the repayments, added to which is a spiralling interest bill. The deposit gap is not the only difficulty encountered.
Another aspect of the bill in which I fail to see any reasoning is the discrimination shown with regard to certain home building authorities as against others. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
A home built by a State housing authority and paid for with money made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will not be eligible for the grant, where it is sold by a State housing authority, or is being purchased with the assistance of a loan by a State or State authority out of moneys made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
However, the many homes being built by young people in Canberra with the assistance of loans of Commonwealth moneys from the Commissioner for Housing are eligible. Surely the Government is playing politics in this case. This is a glaring case of sectionalism. Evidently what is good for one section of the taxpayers is too good for another. If the Government is sincere in its approach to the housing problem - and it is a serious national problem - it should get its teeth into something big.
What would be wrong with drawing up a master plan for homebuilding, starting in all the capital cities of the Commonwealth with a huge slum clearance plan? Put the bulldozers through the slums, resume all the available land adjacent to the various cities and build flats, cottages and home units until the housing problem is arrested. This would make our cities the envy of the world, make our citizens happy and ensure that our young couples would have homes available after marriage, homes that could be bought for small deposits and paid for over a number of years by small weekly instalments. This would encourage them to rear large families, which would help to solve our population problem. A population explosion can only be brought about in Australia by freeing our people from worry and huge debts.
This Government has not the courage to face up to the task. It is caught in a web of intrigue with political tricksters who are battening on the homeless, extorting huge amounts of money from them in the form of interest, key money, so-called premiums, sky-rocketing rents and lease charges. The piecemeal scheme now before us, while affording assistance to a favoured few, docs nothing to alleviate the struggles and sufferings of the great majority of taxpayers, the low-income earners, those over 36 years of age, the age pensioners and the parents of big families who find it impossible to put aside £5 a week for three years to become eligible for this grant.
Finally I would like to ask: How do a mother and father of a large family feel, who have reared their children to about teen age, who have paid their taxes over the years and who are now, say, 37 years of age? They must wonder why the LiberalCountry Party Government has singled them out for punishment by leaving them out of this scheme. A man 37 years of age may have five, six, seven or eight children, done his duty to the nation, paid his taxes and still be left out by this Government simply because he committed the sin of being 37 years of age. Why not bring them in under the scheme? The Government talks about assisting the young married couples. They have to save for three years after they are married to get this grant. The people I am now talking about represent going concerns yet the Government ignores them and leaves them out of the scheme.
They should be given earnest consideration. The father and mother of such a family may, after a lot of worry, trouble and struggling, have gathered together a few pounds, so that over a period of, say, 15 years they may have £750 put aside for a rainy day. Why not bring them into the scheme? Why not give them the grant of £250, so that the couple who have reared a family and still are comparatively young may at least get a start and know that they would not have to pay some wealthy landlord for the rest of their lives?
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) who led for the Labour Party in this debate, like most of his colleagues, has not one good word to say about this legislation. I feel that he floundered through his speech, evidently remembering some of the things he had said during the election campaign on this subject. Under the heading “ Whitlam says Prime Minister Panicking”, he is reported in “Canberra Times “ of 15th November, 1963, as having made this statement at a meeting which he attended at the Rydalmere town hall -
The Government was grasping at straws. Experienced administrations had said that the Government’s proposal to subsidize deposits on housing was impracticable and would cause endless confusion and headaches.
I think we know who has the headache at the present moment. But I feel that the headache which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has is not nearly as severe as that being suffered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) because, as one would expect, the Leader of the Opposition was much more forthright in expressing his views than was his lieutenant. He is quoted as saying that the proposed home savings grant scheme was invalid and would never be implemented by the Menzies Government if returned to office. Let me quote from the Melbourne “Sun News-Pictorial” of 19th November, 1963, which published a report of a meeting which the Leader of the Opposition addressed at the Brisbane suburb of Geebung. It is headed, “Home Subsidy Plan not Valid - Calwell “, and says -
The proposed subsidy on housing for people under 33 would never be implemented by the Government if it were re-elected the Federal Labour Leader, Mr. Calwell, said to-night.
He said the reason for this was that the Government’s plan to pay the £250 subsidy for new houses was unconstitutional. He said that this was the considered opinion of Lawyers in the Labour Party, including 3 Q.C’s.
– What date was that?
– This was 19th November, 1963. I take it that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was included in this triumvirate of legal talent. Undoubtedly the Leader of the Opposition was implying political dishonesty on the part on the Government. But the Prime Minister very quickly and very adequately answered this charge. He answered it so adequately that the Opposition dropped it like a red hot coal, and 1 ask honorable members in this chamber to remember that not one member of the Opposition has raised the issue of invalidity during this debate.
When speaking at Hornsby during the election campaign in support of my illustrious colleague from Robertson (Mr. Dean) he was reported in the “Sun News Pictorial “ of 27th November as follows: -
Home plan legal, says Prime Minister. He quotes Dr. Evatt.
The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said to-night that the Government’s plan to subsidize the purchase of houses by people under 35 was legal.
He quoted the former Labour Leader, Dr. Evatt, as one of the constitutional authorities.
The report continued -
Sir Robert Menzies said the Government had taken legal advice before it announced its subsidy policy - “ to make sure it could be do;ie “. “And I just want to make it quite clear that it will be done.”
It went on to say -
Sir Robert recalled that the last Labour Government had brought down proposals to amend the Constitution. One of the provisions of the constitutional amendment was for “family allowances.”
The Opposition does not deny that. The article continued -
Sir Robert said that Dr. Evatt in a referendum pamphlet said that “ family allowances “ was open to the widest interpretation and “ assistance for housing purposes would be included.”
Sir Robert said that Dr. Evatt was a man of considerable experience in constitutional law - “ and so am I.” “ What Dr. Evatt said then is now being denounced by his successor as a fraud.”
Sir Robert said that when he first outlined the Government’s housing policy the Labour Party had claimed that he had stolen theirs. “They have now discovered that our proposal for a subsidy is not in their programme after all.”
– Is that the finish?
– No. It goes on- “The result is that they have now discovered - on very eminent advice - that our proposals are illegal. “This is the high water mark of humour.”
This sort of thing always occurs when a non-socialist government shows it can implement worthwhile welfare legislation, as the record of the Menzies Government has amply illustrated. All we get is the sort of knocking that we got from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) to-night, and when the knocking fails all we hear is the cry stinking fish “ that we have heard to-night. I think I have said enough about the attitude of the Opposition towards the measure. Unlike most honorable members opposite, I want to say something about what the bill will do.
This bill gives full effect - I repeat, full effect - to the proposals enunciated by the Prime Minister in his 1963 policy speech. Indeed, it goes a great deal further and includes many people who would have been excluded if the strict letter of the proposal had been adhered to and translated into this legislation.
At this stage, I should like to make ten points to give some idea of what the legislation does. The first point is that, by direction, the eligibility of all transactions for the purchase or construction of the first matrimonial home is back-dated to 2nd December, 1963. That was the first date when the result of the election could be authoritatively known. The second point is that the operation of the scheme is not restricted to Australian citizens; it includes all residents of Australia. The third point is that the date of operation of regulations and conditions which normally were expected to apply to qualification for the grant generally has been deferred until 1st January, 1965. The fourth point is that a wide acceptance has been given to practically all types of past savings where the date of effective payment of the grant is prior to 1st January, 1965. The fifth point is that the Minister has been given ample discretionary power to decide on marginal cases during this preliminary period. The sixth is that the title to the property concerned has not been restricted to freeholds; strata titles and leaseholds with a remainder term of not less than 2 1 years have been included.
The seventh point is that where the threeyear period of saving is not complete by 1st January, 1965, past savings up to that date which are already deposited in either a general purpose savings account, a current account with a savings bank, or deposited with a friendly society or a credit union are to be allowed to continue in that form until 1st January, 1968. The eighth point is that one partner of the marriage being over the age of 36 years does not disqualify the other from attracting the £1 for £3 grant in respect of that individual’s savings. The ninth point is that once all the conditions have been completed and the home has been occupied by the married couple, no restrictions are placed on their future transactions in respect of the property. They can sell, lease or otherwise dispose of it immediately after occupation if they so desire.
I come now to the tenth point, which puts honorable members opposite out. To meet the wishes of those who qualify, but who desire to purchase or complete the building prior to marriage, special provisions have been made. Applications for the grant must be made within three months of buying or building, but the Minister has discretion to extend this period to twelve months. The only requirements for this earlier grant to be paid are (a) the existence of a bona fide contract of sale; (b) evidence that a minimum deposit of 10 per cent, has been made; and (c) evidence of financial ability to complete the contract.
Surely the ten points that I have mentioned demonstrate the Government’s willingness to give every assistance to those couples whose acquisition of their first matrimonial home takes place during the period from 2nd December, 1963, to 31st December, 1964, and who otherwise, through lack of knowledge of conditions of this legislation, would have been debarred from the grant. The conditions under which this legislation will continue to operate after 1st January, 1965, are clearly defined in the bill. Clauses 16 and 17 deal with eligible savings after this date.
Shortly, the requirements are as follows: (a) A definite home savings account with a savings bank; or, (b) A fixed deposit with any trading bank, but it must be designated as home savings deposits; or (c) Moneys deposited with a housing or building society, either by shares, deposits or otherwise. This will include any type of building society which is approved under relevant State laws, but the moneys must be available at the time of purchase; or, (d) Savings in land on which the house is to be built; or, (e) Moneys paid by way of instalments on the purchase of a house or land; or, (f) Moneys used in the purchase of materials to be used in construction otherwise than through a building contractor. That condition will apply to owner-builders.
Those conditions are quite clear and are laid down as conditions to qualify for the grant after 1st January, 1965. Many Opposition speakers have claimed that the disqualifications and restrictions under this bill are loo harsh and will preclude many people from obtaining the grant. I maintain that the conditions are eminently fair and just, and give effect to every undertaking made by the Prime Minister in this matter. Let us look at some of the exclusions which will operate. If both partners to the marriage are over 36 years of age they are excluded. We exclude people who are not legally married, and we exclude also those who contracted to purchase a property before 1st December, 1963. We exclude also the millionaires referred to by my friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, by fixing a cost limit of £7,000. I ask honorable members: Is there anything unreasonable in these restrictions? Do they not carry out exactly the original proposals?
Let us consider the disqualifications. The persons disqualified are, first, an undischarged bankrupt; secondly, a person certified as insane; and thirdly, a person serving a prison sentence. Can anyone quarrel with those disqualifications? Next is the provision that borrowed moneys deposited in an account shall not form part of the money attracting a grant. Is this wrong or unreasonable?
– How do you know whether the money has been borrowed?
– Because the person applying for the grant is required to make a declaration that no borrowed moneys are included in the deposit. There have been one or two complaints from honorable members opposite about the minimum period of three years over which the savings should be accumulated. That is not an unreasonable principle. After all, the basis of the Government’s scheme is to encourage savings from earnings and not from speculation. The knowledge by young people that this grant of £1 for every £3 saved to a maximum of £750 is available undoubtedly will create an incentive to save for a home. People are not required to save £750; they will receive £1 for every £3 for any part of the £750 that has been saved. Not only will this cash grant subsidize their savings, but when the second barrel of this general housing scheme is fired shortly - that is, the mortgage guarantee scheme - the so-called deposit gap will have been attacked from two directions and will have been lessened in two ways. In speaking in this chamber on the debate on the Loan (Housing) Bill (No. 2) 1963 on 26th September, 1963, I said, as reported at page 1434 of “ Hansard “-
We must give the young people of our community an incentive to save for a home.
– That was before the election.
– It was before the election; it was on 26th September. I continued -
Young people to-day are fighting a losing battle in their efforts to save for a home. The forces of commerce are arrayed against them farly solidly. Every time you pick up a newspaper or a magazine and every time you switch on the radio or television you are bombarded with advertisements about motor cars for sale on low deposits and hirepurchase terms. The young fellow with a few hundred pounds in his pockets knows that he has to save about £1,500 before he can think of buying a house. He may think that the time when he can put a deposit on a house is too far off and he succumbs to the car salesman’s blandishments and buys a car.
– Who said this?
– I did, in September, 1963. I was referring to the young man who, at some time in the future, will want to marry and will face the problem of providing a home for his wife. I went on to say -
Even the traditional lending authorities - the savings banks - do not always encourage young people to save for really worthwhile purposes.
AH honorable members have seen television commercials showing the young man with a savingsbank book, saving for a special purpose. And what is that special purpose? It is to buy a car or to have a holiday. That is all very fine, but we do not see any determined drive to encourage young people to put their money into a savings account in order to purchase a home.
What I said in September, 1963, has been translated into action by the Government, not only by the measure before us to-night but by the complementary bill which will come in to deal with the mortgage guarantee proposals. I will say again, because it is worth repeating, that the bill before us, and the complementary bill which I understand will be introduced next session, will undoubtedly have the effect of diverting the use of young people’s savings from expenditure on luxuries of the moment to solid investment in their future security.
Much stress has been placed by Opposition speakers on the question of rising costs, particularly in the price of subdivisional land. They have pointed out that this is the factor in creating and widening the deposit gap, and they constantly blame the subdividers to whom they invariably refer as land sharks. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) introduced a new term to-night when he called them hawks. No one will deny that rising building costs must increase the quantum of deposit necessary to obtain finance for the purchase of a home, but this rise is not due exclusively to the actions of subdividers, nor is it related only to land development. Local government authorities require a subdivider to provide roads, drains, light, water and power, which means that the subdivider must outlay money to provide these facilities. He capitalizes all his costs for the development of the land, plus the interest he pays on the money borrowed to pay for the facilities. His profit is then calculated as a percentage of his total capital cost. Purchasers of the land must pay an inflated price and if they borrow money they are required to pay interest calculated on the inflated price.
I have said many times in this chamber and outside it that if funds were made available to local government authorities for land development works individual subdividers would not be required to do them.
– That is socialism.
– No, it is not. The price of land would be kept within bounds and the purchasers would benefit from the reduced capital outlay of municipal authorities which are able to develop land more cheaply than subdividers. The interest paid by purchasers would also be at a reduced rate. But this is only part of the problem. Undoubtedly the major cost is for the home which represents approximately 75 per cent, of the overall price of the land and building. By far the greatest cost in home-building is the cost of labour, yet we never hear from honorable members opposite on this aspect. They are always pushing claims for higher wages, shorter hours and longer annual leave.
– Are you in favour of shorter hours?
– I am not against the principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire but I am a little sick and tired of listening to the constant harping on land development costs as the main reason for increases in home-building costs. I remind honorable members that land-development costs also include a high labour content. In road making in particular labour charges form a great part of the costs.
I commend the Minister and his department on a job particularly well done, and done so expeditiously. It has taken a little time to frame the legislation and get it under way. The Minister is to be commended for the short time he has taken. I am sure that we can look forward to an efficient administration that will be tempered with justice and understanding by the Minister. I shall now quote the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in a broadcast on 27th November, 1963. The Prime Minister said -
Our scheme for subsidizing a saved deposit on a home at the rate of £1 for £3 for married people in the under 35 age group with a maximum subsidy - that is, a gift not repayable - of £250, will give great encouragement to those who need it at the right time and in the right way. For most ambitious young married couples want to have a home of their own. This indeed is the ideal of genuinely civilized democracy.
– Who said this?
– The Prime Minister. He also said -
The ownership of a home is the kind of security which naturally attracts them because it represents a measure of independence. 1 commend those words to honorable members and I am quite certain that this Scheme will have the blessing of the entire nation, despite the attempts of Opposition members to knock it.
.- The bill before the House is designed to assist young married couples to purchase a home. I have listened attentively to some of the previous speakers in this debate and it is quite natural that a few of the Government supporters who have spoken are now or have been estate agents or land dealers. It is also quite natural that they should support the bill because in the near future it will mean that most of the subsidy of £250 will be absorbed as interest or will go to estate agents. Newspapers published last weekend that already there has been a rise of 1 1 per cent, in the costs of timber. As approximately £500 worth of timber is used in the construction of an ordinary home the rise in the price of this material will increase the cost of a home a great deal. It is interesting to note that the subsidy of £250 does not even cover the interest payable for the first twelve months on a loan of £3,000 borrowed for 30 years at bank interest rates. It is apparent that the subsidy will finish up in the hands of insurance companies, hire purchase companies or other lending institutions.
The legislation before us has been backdated to 1st December, 1963. When it suits its ends this Government will back-date legislation, but on numerous occasions it has refused when requested to do so by the Labour Party. I refer, for example, to the Labour Party’s request that increased age pensions should be back-dated. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) in this legislation has cast aside the credit unions because they have the backing of the trade union movement. At present credit union funds total approximately £4,000,000, out of which loans are made to members at interest rates of about 5 per cent. Members are thus saved a lot of money when making purchases. Once again this Government is attacking the trade union movement by excluding from this legislation moneys supplied by credit unions.
By the scheme outlined in the bill the Government offers a subsidy of £1. for every £3 saved by married couples under the age of 36 years. This is an incentive to save £750 to obtain the subsidy and no doubt the legislation will benefit some people in the community. However, a great number of people will not receive any assistance, particularly those in the lower income bracket. It is a class distinction bill in that makes a distinction between people under the age of 36 years and those over the age of 36 years. The Opposition feels that people over 36 years of age are just as entitled to the subsidy as those under 36 years of age. Since commencing work they have paid taxes to the Government and will continue to do so during their working span of perhaps another 30 years.
The legislation bars such people as career men from receiving the subsidy. For instance, it excludes State and Federal public servants who, because of their positions, may be transferred all over the country. They cannot conveniently purchase homes until they have obtained positions from which there is no further advancement.
This bill will not assist people in the low income bracket, especially those who wish to buy homes through the channels that cater for people in this group - the State housing authorities. The housing authorities of all States have by far the greatest waiting lists of people who want to acquire homes. That is because these authorities sell homes on low deposits. It is estimated that there are in Australia at present approximately 80,000 people on the waiting lists of the State housing authorities. The Housing Commission of New South Wales alone has completed more than 68,000 homes since the war, 24,000 or about 35 per cent, of which have been sold to families on low deposits of £50, with repayments spread over 45 years. The commission expects to complete 4.500 new homes in the financial year 1963-64. So approximately 1,500 couples who should be entitled to the proposed subsidy in one financial year will be denied it.
Admittedly, the Federal Government supplies money to the States for housing. But the States do not receive it for nothing. They have to repay it over about 50 years and pay interest on it at 1 per cent, below the Commonwealth bond rate. The Government declares that, because it lends money to the States at this low rate of interest, people purchasing homes from State housing authorities will not be entitled to benefit under the terms of this measure. I point out that the Commonwealth does not give the money to the States. It only lends it and the States have to repay it. In New South Wales, last financial year, £14,000,000 was allocated to the Housing Commission. That included £2,250,000 from the State’s own resources.
Under the terms of the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in the first two years for which it operates 20 per cent, of the money allocated to the State must be advanced to building societies and other approved institutions for lending to individual home-builders. During the remaining three years of the agreement, the proportion will be 30 per cent. There are approximately 1,700 registered building societies in Australia, of which about 100 are in the main investment societies that make loans for housing purposes, usually on credit foncier terms. They obtain their funds from share capital, deposits and borrowings from banks and other lending institutions. The terminating societies are co-operative societies that make loans to members from funds obtained from lending institutions, usually under Government guarantee, members’ subscriptions, and, since 1956, from funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In 1961-62, 39,142 loans were granted, of which 23,702 were in New South Wales, 4,637 in Victoria, 5,418 in Queensland 1,212 in South Australia, 2,863 in Western Australia and 1,310 in Tasmania. Furthermore, more than £5,000,000 was allocated by the Housing Commission of New South Wales to co-operative building societies to assist them in their building programmes.
We now find that couples who purchase through these societies which advance money granted to them by the State housing authorities will be entitled to the subsidy, but couples who buy direct from the State housing authorities will not qualify. It does not seem fair that people who borrow from lending institutions to which money is channelled through the State housing authorities will be entitled to the subsidy but people in the low income bracket who buy direct from the State housing authorities homes financed out of similar funds will not be entitled to the subsidy. I believe that the Minister for Housing ought to have another look at this aspect of the bill.
The measure provides also that to be eligible a couple must, on or after 2nd December, 1963, have entered into a contract in writing to buy an existing house or a contract signifying that the foundations of a new dwelling have been started. The land sharks and estate agents have been running an advertising campaign trying to induce young people to buy land. The cry is that young people ought to take advantage of the opportunity to get the home subsidy of £250 and that they can do so by buying a block of land. Young couples have been misled by this campaign. Many of them have bought blocks of land that they probably will not pay off for five or six years. They will not be entitled to subsidy in respect of the land itself. To qualify for subsidy, they will have to sign a contract and get the foundations of a house laid. Young people who find that although they have bought a block of land they fail to qualify will be very disappointed. I believe that there will be repercussions against many people.
State governments have to provide money for slum clearance work. They receive no assistance whatever from the Commonwealth for this purpose. The Labour Government in New South Wales has spent about £8,000,000 on slum clearance and redevelopment, and has in hand plans involving the expenditure of an additional £5,000,000. The States should be helped, particularly to meet the great expense of compensation and demolition works. There is also a heavy demand on State housing authorities for houses for the aged. But this Government will not assist the State governments in the important work of providing aged people with homes. We know that, prior to 1956, under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth subsidized the State governments in the building of houses for aged persons. In 1956, this subsidy was withdrawn. That action, of course, is completely in line with this Government’s policy. It is not interested in old people who have ended their working lives and no longer pay taxes. Because the Government no longer gets any return from these poor unfortunate persons, it does not believe in looking after them. The New South Wales Government has built more than 1,300 units for aged persons. These are the usual Darby and
Joan units to accommodate age-pensioner couples. Another 600 of these units are at present under construction. The State has provided a total of £3,000,000 for this work. Although the welfare of pensioners is primarily a Commonwealth responsibility, this Government refuses to do anything at all to provide decent homes for age and invalid pensioners. 1 should now like to tell the House of a case that recently came before me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. An age pensioner of 72 whose husband had recently died wanted to get out of the flat where she had been living. She went to an estate agent who sold her a one-bedroom home for £2,250. She paid a deposit of £275 to the agent. He arranged for her a first mortgage of £1,200 and a second mortgage of £775. She was charged interest at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum on the first mortgage and at the rate of 13.14 per cent, per annum on the second mortgage. She was asked to pay off the mortgages at the rate of £7 a week. The interest on the first mortgage alone was £2 5s. a week and the interest on the second mortgage totalled £190 a year. She was required to pay off the second mortgage at the rate of £5 a week. So the £7 a week that she was asked to pay was only paying off the second mortgage and the interest on the first mortgage. After about eight months, she found that she was unable to continue to pay at this rate. Incidentally, her brother-in-law was living with her. The estate agent has taken legal action against her and she must now leave her home within a week. She is penniless and we are trying to get her accommodation through the Housing Commission of New South Wales.
This sort of thing is being done not only to age pensioners but also to many young people. I shall refer to the young people later in my speech. The cost of housing for age pensioners is high. Many of them are compelled to pay up to £4 a week for inadequate accommodation in a room where they are required to share the conveniences. Rental of this nature does not allow them very much money on which to live. If they pay £4 a week out of their pension of £6 5s. a week, they have only £2 5s. a week with which to buy food and clothing. They are able to exist only with the assistance of charitable organizations in the city of
Sydney, which provide them with hot meals for 2s. Many pensioners are living in a state of poverty.
The New South Wales Government also provides a rental rebate scheme which extends to Housing Commission homes. The rental rebates granted by the commission up to the present time total £3,000,000, but the Commonwealth Government has constantly refused to participate in this scheme or to assist these poor unfortunate people. Despite the extensive work done in New South Wales by the Housing Commission there is still a waiting list of 38,000 families who want either to buy or to rent a home. These people mainly are in the low income bracket and probably would never be able to save the £750 that would entitle them to receive this subsidy from the Commonwealth Government for the purchase of a home. In New South Wales, at present, 38,000 people are waiting for a Housing Commission home. This is the only way that they can get a home at a reasonable rental. No houses are available to them through private enterprise. Private enterprise would charge £10 a week for a house or flat that is available from the Housing Commission for £5 a week. These people have to wait for their turn on the priority list to obtain a Housing Commission home. Despite increased building in the private sector, there is still a big demand from families in the low and moderate income groups who cannot afford to pay the current high prices.
The Minister for Housing stated in his speech that this bill is the first instalment of a new housing policy, but it will not assist many young couples to bridge the deposit gap that exists between the price of a house and the amount of a loan available from lending institutions. Land values in some areas have increased by 300 per cent, and young couples to-day are compelled to find 35 per cent, or 40 per cent, of the value of the home they wish to purchase before they will be granted a loan. The deposit required on a £5,000 house would be approximately £2,000.
This is far too much for any young couple to save to-day. Young people getting married to-day, unless they live with their in-laws, are required to pay between £8 8s. and £12 12s. a week rental for a reasonable one-bedroom flat. If the wife is working, the lion’s share of her salary is taken in paying the rent, electricity and gas, and they are expected to save £5 a week from what is left from her salary and her husband’s salary. Young couples would be compelled to practise birth control and many of them, because of their religious beliefs, do not want to do this. It is natural that once these young couples have a family, if the husband is in a low-income bracket, it is impossible for them to save any money out of his salary alone.
If this Government were sincere and wanted really to help young couples to-day, it would introduce a national housing finance scheme that would guarantee loans for young couples at interest rates below the market or bank rates. This would be in line with the practice adopted in many other countries and would help the young people to bridge the deposit gap with reasonable weekly repayments. Young people in the United States of America who borrow from the Federal Housing Administration pay only 3 per cent, interest.
If the Government would guarantee interest rates as low as this, the young people would receive considerable assistance. If this can be done in the United States, where those engaged in high finance always demand their pound of flesh, we in Australia ought to be able to do it, too. If the Government is sincere, it will bring in a housing finance scheme on the lines of the American scheme.
The average home-owner in Australia pays about 25 per cent, of his earnings in repayment of mortgages, compared with 14 per cent, in the United States. If young couples to-day borrow £5,000 to build a home - this would be only a moderate home - and undertake to repay the money over a period of 30 years at bank interest rates of 5i per cent, with quarterly rests, the weekly instalments will be £6 7s. 2d. Interest over the period will amount to £4,950 and the total cost of the home will be £9,950. If the same amount were borrowed over a period of 45 years, the weekly repayments would be £5 14s. Interest would amount to £6,988 and the total cost of the house would be £11,988. This, of course, does not include legal fees or insurance. In addition, the young couple would be required to pay council rates, water rates and general maintenance of the property. They would have to furnish the home and meet payments on hire purchase agreements, and we all know that at present many families make purchases on the sad and sorry system of hire purchase. Young couples trying to own their home have an uphill battle from the start.
If this Government had been really sincere and had wanted to help young couples, it would have introduced the national housing finance scheme first and worried about this subsidy of £250 later. It would have introduced a scheme which would have enabled young couples to borrow at the lowest possible interest rates with small weekly repayments. Young couples then would have been saved a great deal of money that they now pay in interest.
Let us examine some of the interest rates and see what could be saved if young couples are able to borrow at lower interest rates. The weekly instalment on £3,000 borrowed at 4i per cent, interest over 30 years would be £3 10s. Interest over the period would amount to £2,482 10s. and the total cost of the house would be £5,482 10s. The weekly instalment on £3,000 borrowed at 5& per cent, interest - this rate is charged by some banks and lending institutions - over the same period would be £3 18s. 5d. Interest would amount to £3,142. 10s. and the total cost of the house would be £6,142 10s. A reduction of 1 per cent, in the interest rate in this instance would mean a saving of £660 over the period of 30 years. For every £500 borrowed over 30 years at 4-i per cent., the interest would amount to £413 10s. For every £500 borrowed over 30 years at Si per cent., the interest would amount to £524 10s. The reduction of the interest rate by 1 per cent, would mean a saving of £111 over the period.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) referred to the housing activities of some local government authorities. I should like to refer to a co-operative building society that has been established by the Council of the City of Sydney. That council builds flats which are then acquired by the co-operative. The co-operative in turn sells the flats. This enables the council to build more flats. In order to relieve the housing situation, perhaps the Government could make a special allocation to any municipal or shire council in Australia which wished to build homes through a co-operative. The Council of the City of Sydney does not build for profit. It can build at cost. It can acquire land cheaply by resumption. The people who ultimately buy the fiats built in this way save a great deal of money. The flats are being built in Paddington. They are for sale with strata title. Interest is payable on the money advanced for their purchase at the rate of 41 per cent. The loan is repayable over a period of 26 years. The New South Wales Government allows cooperatives to advance to purchasers 80 per cent, of the value of the home being bought with a maximum advance of £3,750. The prices of these flats- range from £2,600 to £5,900. The deposits range from £530 for a bed-sitting room to £740 for a onebedroom flat and £780 for a two-bedroom flat. The flats built by the council under this scheme are £2,000 cheaper than those built by private contractors in the same area. The Government should give some consideration to advancing money to councils for this purpose. I know that such a scheme would be opposed by private enterprise, but it would assist many young people to acquire a home and would enable the councils to do something to overcome the housing shortage.
There are many houses for sale within the city area of Sydney, but unfortunately their price puts them out of the range of the average person or those on low incomes. These houses are priced at about £1,000 above the Valuer-General’s valuation. Most lending institutions will lend only twothirds of the Valuer-General’s valuation of old homes. Anybody purchasing one of these homes is forced to obtain a second mortgage, on which interest at the rate of 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, flat is charged. A house that is valued at £3,000 is offered for sale at £4,000. The usual deposit is £1 ,000. A first mortgage of £2,000 is available at 8 per cent, interest and a second mortgage of £1,000 is available at 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest. Those interest rates are flat. Anybody who bought a home on those terms would be required to pay £10 or £12 a week off his mortgages. It is shocking that young people should be forced to make such high repayments on their homes, but they have been forced into this position by private enterprise. Many of these homes are purchased by our new Australian friends and two or three families live in the one house. As a result, health standards decline. Migrants are coming into this country at the rate of about 80,000 a year, but this Government does not help the States to house them. The States are forced to provide the money to house the immigrants. These people come to this country as a result of this Government’s policy and it is up to this Government to see that they are properly housed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Wednesday, 20 May 1964
– The bill gives effect to the promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech in November last year. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) and his departmental officers, particularly Mr. Nimmo, secretary of the department, have worked very hard to hammer out something that will work. We congratulate them on their efforts and thank them sincerely for the labour they have put into this bill.
We believe that this bill represents an intelligent approach to the housing problem. The Government’s housing policy was accepted intelligently by the young people in the community, who in great numbers supported the Liberal Party at the last elections. I think they were excited by the idea of being provided for in the Government’s policy. A good deal has been said about the fact that in order to qualify for a grant under this bill a person must be under 36 years of age. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) said that he could not understand how the Government had arrived at the figure of 36. Well, it represents fifteen years after a person reaches the age of 21 years. I imagine it is a suitable age.
There may be some difficulties associated with the administration of this legislation. Many honorable members have had experiences with war service homes. We all have had experiences of constituents who buy a home before seeking the approval of the War Service Homes Division and ultimately find that they cannot obtain assistance from the division. I am concerned lest some people find that they cannot obtain assistance under this bill. I take it that two groups come within the scope of the bill. The first group comprises those people who have already built or who have entered into a contract to build. They must show that they made their savings at least three years before the prescribed date. The second group reminds me of the old story of the chicken and the egg - which came first. I know that the gentleman who drafted this bill gave this matter some thought. Suppose a person wishes to enter into a contract to build and wishes to bridge the gap between his savings and the deposit. How can he sign a contract unless he knows whether he will qualify for the grant, how much the grant will be, and how much of his savings will be acceptable savings? In many cases the homes savings grant will not be critical; but in some cases it will be critical.
I suggest that there should be some recognition of that fact in the bill. The secretary of the Department of Housing could give a letter or a certificate. In war service homes matters most of us are used to a certain procedure. I do not know whether it is provided for in the War Service Homes Act. It may have just grown up. I have not had a chance to check it. When an exserviceman wants to build a house and needs a loan but cannot get it from the War Service Homes Division although the division has agreed that he is eligible for the loan, it gives him a letter. That letter is negotiable. It states that his loan will be ready on a certain date. The ex-serviceman takes it to a bank and the bank manager - a man like my good friend the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), who had a lot to do with these matters when he was a kind and generous employee of a great institution - says, “ I will advance you £2,750 “.
– That is a good one.
– The honorable member should listen to this because he may have to vote on this matter later.
– The bank manager could advance him £3,500.
– That is so. 1 thank the honorable member for Mallee for that correction. The letter comes from the Director of the War Service Homes Division. It states that all the conditions have been fulfilled; that the applicant is an exserviceman under the act; and that his loan will be ready on a certain date. We know that some time ago there was a long delay in obtaining war service homes loans, but to-day the delay is much shorter. This letter is a negotiable instrument. The exserviceman can take it to a bank and borrow the bridging finance that he needs in order to build his house.
When we are debating this bill it is important for us to consider the problems that will come before honorable members. When the legislation is in operation I am sure that people will come to them and say: “ I cannot obtain a loan until I have a prescribed date, which is the date on which I sign the contract; and I cannot sign the contract unless I know the amount of the grant that I will receive “. I propose to move a simple amendment which may overcome this difficulty. I will try to re-state the problem in other words. A mortgage insurance corporation is to be constituted under subsequent legislation. That corporation will guarantee the balance of a home-purchaser’s indebtedness. He will know that he will have that guarantee. He has saved £250 a year for three years, but he cannot pay the deposit because he does not know what grant he will receive. He does not know whether his entitlement to £250 will be admitted. There may be some question about that.
Unless the amendment which I propose to move is agreed to, the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who has just come into the chamber and who is the chairman of the Government members housing committee, may be forced to make representations along these lines: “ In my electorate there is a poor chap who cannot put down a deposit of £1,000. He has saved £750 over a period of three years. But he cannot sign the contract for his house until he has the deposit, and he cannot get the deposit until he has signed the contract.” It is the old question about the chicken and the egg.
– He could be given a chit.
– The honorable member for La Trobe suggests that he be given a chit which, in effect, would be a certificate. lt would be a negotiable instrument which would enable him to go along and sign the contract. He has to sign the contract because he has to get a prescribed date. 1 suggest that this difficulty could be overcome by the addition of a few words to this very simple bill. My proposed amendment to clause 20 reads -
After sub-clause (1.) insert the following subclause: - “ (1a.) The Secretary may, in his discretion, give to a person a certificate in writing certifying that, if a person enters into a contract on a specified date for the purchase of a specified dwelling-house situated in Australia or for the construction by a building-contractor of a dwellinghouse on specified land situated in Australia and the provisions of this Act are otherwise applicable to him on that date, he will be eligible for a grant under this Act of a specified amount.”
I am full of admiration for the honorable member for La Trobe because he overcomes this difficulty by suggesting that a chit be given. In other words, the suggestion is that the secretary of the department should give the person concerned a letter in the terms of the words which I propose should be added to the bill. Such a letter would solve this tremendous problem of which comes first, the contract or the deposit - the chicken or the egg. This problem has to be solved. I know that the Minister for Housing is suffering from a heavy cold at present because he has been up night after night worrying about this problem. The honorable member for La Trobe says that it can be solved by issuing a chit and I say that it can be solved by the amendment that 1 have foreshadowed.
I will now address the members of the Country Party, for whom I have a very high regard. I am speaking now on advice from a gentleman named Mr. H. W. Robinson who on many occasions has been president of the federal council of the Building Industry Congress of Australia. That body is quite important. It goes right back to the time of the Chifley Government. Through architects, engineers, master-builders, steelworks, timber mills and trade unions, it was instrumental in channelling migrants into the steel industry, the building industry and the timber industry. Honorable members will remember vividly that in those days there was a great shortage of building materials. The Chifley Government had to get the building industry going. The Building Industry Congress cooperated with the then Minister for Immigration, lt performed a service through its great private enterprise member organizations. In co-operation with the government of the day, it began to move men, who were the fruits of the immigration programme, into industry. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) may not have been as interested in politics in those days as he is now but 1 am sure that he supports me in this matter.
The congress has had something lo say about this matter. I am informed that Mr. Robinson is thought of very highly by the powers-that-be in the present Government. He is the chairman of directors of Blue Metal Industries Limited, and for many years he was president of the Australian Council of Employers Federations. “Mr. Curtin. - He would be a red-hot Liberal.
– One has to be a man of some substance to occupy those positions.
– Did you hear that interjection?
– I heard a noise; but I did not know what it was. A man who has had many years as president of the Building Industry Congress of New South Wales must be a man of substance. He must know about building. I think the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that building is the barometer of prosperity in this country. Building is important. I think that a statement made by a man such as Mr. Robinson on this subject is worthy of inclusion in “ Hansard He said - 1 believe it would be wrong and virtually impracticable for the Commonwealth to insist upon the requisite savings being accumulated over a period of three years as suggested in the preliminary announcements.
– Hear, hear!
– I would point out that what Mr. Robinson means is that if you have £750, then you ought to attract a home savings grant. I do not know whether the honorable member will say “ hear, hear” to that. Mr. Robinson goes on to say -
What does it matter how long it takes or from whence it comes - provided young people have the required amount in their possession for a deposit on their home. The Prime Minister’s first published statement actually referred to the need of many young people for help “ over the deposit gap” and this would be nullified to a large extent if there were insistence on the three-year plan. Some thrifty and energetic youngsters might manage to save £750 in a single year and should not thereby be denied the £250 subsidy. The scheme was designed, inter alia, as an incentive to thrift, it is clear that young marrieds who get a hand over the deposit gap will need to be thrifty in the future if only to meet commitments inseparable from home purchase and maintenance.
In other words, those who pay a deposit, from wherever it comes, then go on to the treadmill for the rest of their lives paying off their house. They have to pay the interest and what I think is called amortization.
– If they save £750 in three years, surely it will not take them the rest of their lives to pay off the balance?
– The honorable member for Mallee has made a very interesting point. I do not think that a young married couple with a young family can save £250 a year. They would be provided for only in housing commission homes. Therefore, they are in a different category altogether and, in regard to this measure, they are out of consideration.
The people who could save £5 a week would be people without children. Once they have a family it is difficult for them to save because they have to provide for their children. The honorable member for Mallee may have forgotten this, but the moment there is a family involved it becomes a very solid job to save. A mother does not go to work when she is raising a young family. She stays at home and looks after that young family, if there are two or three or more in it. Therefore, she does not become a wage earner. It is from the husband’s wages that any savings must come. He is the only provider for the family, and for the maintenance of the home. It is from his earnings that the home is paid off. It is then that saving takes place. My point is that saving takes place after the deposit required has been covered. The difficulty arises with regard to paying the home off when there is a young family to be provided for. The difficult period in any home is from the time the children are born until they obtain employment, or finish their education, which is at about fifteen or sixteen years of age. The honorable member for Mallee said that if £5 a week can be saved before the family signs the contract, that amount should be able to be saved after the signing of the contract. I am saying that it will not be as easy as all that though I have no doubt that every honorable member hopes it will be as easy as that.
– It should not take the rest of their lives.
– What has this to do with £250?
– The honorable member for La Trobe asks me what this has to do with the grant of £250. The bill provides that if a person saves £250 a year for three years, that person is entitled to the Government subsidy.
– What has this to do with the balance of the money?
– I shall tell the honorable member. One of the elements of this bill is saving. There are other elements also. One is that those applying for the grant must be married. The second is that a contract has to be signed. The third, as 1 have mentioned, is that the applicants must be saving. The fourth is that this saving has to be over three years. What I am saying is that if we accept the principle of the £750, from wherever it comes, then tha savings clement would well be present, because they would be saving over a great number of years and, perhaps, even for the rest of their lives.
Now as to war service homes. The minimum age to enlist in the services is eighteen, and the period for paying off the home is 45 years. In anybody’s language that could be said to mean practically a lifetime. I do not know what proposals will be introduced under the mortgage guarantee bill. I do not know what the period for the paying off of the home will be. The Minister may be able to say whether it shall be 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 or 45 years. I do not know. However, 45 years are allowed for the paying off of war service homes. If it is said that by accepting the £750, from wherever it comes, we are doing away with the principle of saving, I say that the principle of saving is still there because it continues after the deposit is paid. It is when a young couple build a house and begin to pay it off that saving takes place. It may not be for the rest of their lives, but it is for many years. Then, of course, children come along.
Even if the Minister does not accept the amendment he will be faced, and the secretary of the department will be faced, in ordinary circumstances, with members of Parliament coming to them and saying, “ Look, here is a constituent who has the money. He can sign the contract only if he gets a home savings grant. I want the letter of authority “. It seems inescapable that there will be a letter, a chit or a certificate, whatever it is. This seems to me to be necessary for the home builder to sign the contract and build his home. The limit on the cost of the home will be £7,000. There has been some discussion, from the Opposition side, about the high cost of land. Now, anyone who listened to the radio news during the week-end may have heard that some Crown land blocks were sold in or near Sydney, if I remember rightly, by the State Labour Government for an amount of about £2,000 a block. If I am wrong, I will apologise because I wish to have this correct. I think I heard on the news that these blocks sold for over £2,000 and that the reserve on them was so high that a block could not be obtained for less than approximately £1,800.
I think I heard the announcement correctly. 1 have not seen it in the press, because it is not even news now when the Labour Government puts a high reserve on blocks of land for building. But £2,000 was paid for a block of land.
– In Sydney. It was Crown land. The reserve was set by the Labour Government of New South Wales, the members of which are of the same political complexion as the gentlemen who sit opposite. As I say, blocks of land brought £2,000. No ordinary modest house of brick or brick veneer is built to-day for less than £4,000. I am informed that this is about the cost of a house built by the New South Wales Housing Commission. Add that to the £2,000 for the block of land and you get £6,000 for a house of about ten squares. This is not very much below the upper limit of £7,000 mentioned in the bill. Many houses being built in Sydney to-day are costing more than £7,000. A bungalow at Roseville which cost £1,400 in 1938 had attained a resale value of more than £7,000 several years ago. I am referring to these matters because I think the Parliament should consider them. £7,000 is not a very high upper limit. It may be that those who are going to build a home worth more than £7,000 will not be the kind of people who would be terribly anxious about a £250 homes savings grant. Therefore the upper limit of £7,000 may be all right. But I repeat that it is not a very high upper level. When you go to build a house you will find that quite a modest house will cost more than £7,000
I do not need to tell the Minister this, because he knows it. A price of £7,000 is fairly modest when one thinks in terms of building costs and land costs to-day. Yet the Labour Government of New South Wales asked for and got £2.000 for blocks of land auctioned in or near Sydney the other day. I do not remember exactly where it was, it may have been Killara or Collaroy - but it was in the Sydney suburban area. I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this legislation can be improved. I propose to have a shot at these amendments in the committee stage. I ask for the indulgence of the House in this matter because I believe we can assist the constituents of honorable members and also honorable members themselves who may have some connexion with the administration of the legislation.
Mr. HAYDEN (Oxley) [12.53 a.m. - I do not think that honorable members opposite have been justified in serving up to us the rather sickly diet of indigestible sugar that they have produced in praise of this bill. For one thing, it is more than six months late. It is now more than six months since the general election campaign. One would have thought that when the Government informed the people during that campaign of its intention to introduce a homes savings grants scheme it would have already investigated fully the problems and possibilities of such a scheme. Now, six months later, having observed the hurry and consternation on the part of people responsible for the drafting of the measure, one cannot help suspecting that the scheme was proposed at election time as an expedient to gain desperately needed votes.
I do not think there is any justification for claiming a wide sweep of benefits for a large section of the community as a result of the introduction of this bill. Indeed, the benefits for the community will be narrow and sectionalized. As other speakers have pointed out, there will be comparatively few young people who will be able to joint in these benefits, because they will face a tremendous hurdle in saving the necessary £750 to qualify for the maximum subsidy. Over a three-year period, this would work out at about £5 a week.
A person who read the speech of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) in a superficial manner might be forgiven for gaining the impression that the Government, with a superabundance of munificence, had solved the problems of the house-hungry persons who cannot afford to purchase a home to-day - and they are legion. Let me cite a few gems from the Minister’s speech. He said -
It is designed to increase the proportion of national resources available for housing purposes by providing a strong inducement to young people to save in ways which provide funds for investment in housing.
The Minister spoke of providing a strong inducement. This is rather a hypocritical statement because, certainly, there is already a strong inducement in the community. There is a social pressure compelling people to make the maximum effort to save enough money to start to purchase a house. In the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the fault of the people who remain househungry for such lengthy periods that they cannot make themselves sufficiently financially secure to purchase a home. There is a report that has been put out by the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence, which I understand has been circulated to honorable members, dealing with the problem of housing in Australia to-day and of high rents. It points out very realistically that probably the only people who will be able to enjoy the benefits of this scheme in any numbers are married couples when both husband and wife are working. Reading the report one must be disturbed at the upsetting and distorting effect that a working wife has upon home life when young children are in the home. One is also rather disturbed at the break-down in the economic structure of the home which occurs when one of the working members in the joint enterprise - usually the wife - is forced, for some reason or other, to discontinue employment and relinquish the additional source of income.
The housing problem is a very serious one and I cannot see that with this measure the Government is making anything like a major attack on the problem. Certainly the legislation will provide a contribution for some people, but they represent a narrow, sectionalized portion of the community. It is all very well for young people to commence married life with their hopes and ideals, looking at their goals through rosy glasses and never observing the thorns on the way. But when a young family starts to arrive, usually within the first twelve months, there is a tremendous problem in meeting living costs. I could mention my own experience. I was earning about £20 a week or a little more during the first twelve months of my married life. My wife and I were battling to maintain our equilibrium economically. We had a rather frugal savings account on which we hoped to build until eventually we had enough to pay a deposit on a home. At the end of twelve months, when the first infant arrived, we found that we had to eat into this frugal savings account, and this eating away continued in greater proportion as the family increased. This experience of my family is not an isolated one. Indeed, as the report of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence stresses, this state of affairs is experienced by most people in the low-income brackets. Although, according to statistics, the average income is probably around £22 or £23 a week, the brotherhood’s report points out that the average person is earning between £16 and £19 a week. I feel that that is a realistic estimate. I know from my experience as one who comes from a workingclass town, Ipswich, that the overwhelming majority of the people are in receipt of slightly better than the basic wage as they are tradesmen engaged at the coal-mines, the railway workshops, the engineering shops, the woollen mills and other heavy secondary industries.
So we have the problem of a young couple with a family in this income probably paying an average rental of about £5 a week - fairly reasonable in present-day circumstances - and meeting other commitments on household items, endeavouring to save the equivalent of £5 a week over a period of three years. Quite obviously the magnitude of the task, indeed its very impossibility, looms very boldly before us. Unless people who wish to join in this scheme have either amassed sufficient money at the time of their marriage or arc both able to continue working after the marriage, they will not have an opportunity to join in the scheme.
During his second-reading speech, the Minister mentioned two things which affect the housing problem in the community today. He referred to the rising prices of land and the lack of availability of funds from lending institutions. Let me deal first with land costs. The cost of low-priced blocks of land has risen by over 300 per cent, in the last ten years. Prices of £1,000 and more in average areas are very common. In the last few years I have seen land values in Ipswich escalate at a terrific pace from something like £400 to £1,000. And this for land which, apart from housing, is not capable of being used for any remunerative purpose. Merely because of present day speculation in land, the price of these blocks has escalated to a grossly inflated figure. It is a well known fact that people who speculate in land make no contribution to the economic development of the country, nor do they add any strength to the economic foundation of the community.
Like other speakers, I suggest that there is a definite need for the Government to provide land for people who need homes. The Government could do this quite easily, and a number of benefits would flow from it. For instance, if the Government engaged in this activity, it could ensure that maximum benefits were derived from the land, and that maximum efficiency was attained in its use, especially where the facilities usually provided by local authorities are concerned. At the present time one can go to almost any town and see where, because of the inflated prices of land, people are building in a loose fashion, where blocks of land are left undeveloped either because the owners are waiting to obtain higher prices for them or because the prices are already so high that people are not able to purchase them. This leaves in its train a great problem for the local authorities which have to provide such services as water supplies and sewerage over widely scattered areas thus adding to the already high cost burden.
The Commonwealth Government could quite easily enter into this project. The Minister was not completely honest when he said in his second-reading speech that matters such as this are State responsibilities. The Commonwealth Government has power under section 96 of the Constitution to make money available for use by the States for this precise purpose. My suggestion is that the Commonwealth should take over certain areas of land for housing, that it should cut that land up into building blocks, construct bitumen streets, lay the concrete curbing and channelling, and, generally, make the blocks ready for building. I suggest quite seriously that the time is overdue when real estate agents should be eliminated from engaging in the sale of land because they are encouraging the inflation which is a completely unjustifiable feature of the economic structure.
I come now to the second point which relates to the insufficiency- of funds from lending institutions and here I should like to quote some figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician to illustrate my argument. As one example of the insufficiency of funds I point put that statistics disclose that the insurance companies, which should be providing greater amounts of money for housing, have been, in fact, providing smaller and smaller amounts for this purpose over the years. For instance, in 1963 they provided £2,700,000, or half of what they provided in 1962. In 1962 they provided £9,900,000, or less than half of the amount they provided in 1961. All this is due to the fact that the insurance companies are far more interested in engaging in hirepurchase activities at exorbitantly high rates of interest.
I suggest that the Government could exercise a little effective influence upon these insurance companies to induce them to provide more money for housing. It could do this by rearranging the taxation laws. I do not suggest that it should offer taxation deductions to the insurance companies for making a greater contribution to housing; I suggest that it should tell the insurance companies that if they do not contribute more towards housing heavier taxation imposts will be placed upon them. I make these suggestions seriously and I propose quoting statistics later to show that there is a serious backlog in the provision of houses. Indeed, it is so serious that it requires something concrete from the Government on a far wider scale than anything that has been proposed so far, and certainly on a far wider scale than is proposed under this legislation.
The Minister also referred to the age limit of 36 years as being the maximum age at which persons will be entitled to enjoy the benefits of the scheme. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) apparently sees some significence in the formula which adds fifteen years to 21 years and gives a total of 36 years. I fail to see that this in itself provides any justification for limiting the age to 36 years. I cannot understand why it has been deemed necessary to limit the age to 36 years. I have pointed out already - and it certainly bears reiteration - that the number of people over 36 years of age who could join in the scheme would not be very great. I feel that I must emphasize that these people who are over 36 years of age are just as entitled to a house as is anyone else in the community. If they are able, over a period of three years, to save £750, then there is every justification for allowing them to join in the scheme and purchase a home. Indeed, many of these people may have encountered difficulties which have prevented them from amassing sufficient money to purchase a home before they turned 36 years of age. To them, the problem of purchasing a home is far greater than it is for the young people because we must realize that if these people entered into a 30-year or 35-year contract for the purchase of a home this would bring them well into their retirement period and they would then be left with the problem of meeting regular weekly repayments in a period when they are in receipt only of a retirement income.
– Why can’t they claim it as a tax deduction?
– The honorable member for Watson has just made an interesting and appropriate point on this subject. The Minister said in his second-reading speech, as reported at page 1 529 of “ Hansard “ -
The sooner saving commences, the easier it will be to accumulate maximum acceptable savings of £750.
I do not think that this could have been said with any sincerity at all. 1 do not know that capacity to save will be immediately accelerated by the knowledge that the need to save £250 lies ahead, particularly if you are to be confronted with medical bills for yourself and your children and the necessity of purchasing commodities for the home, or durables and consumer goods. I do not think the Minister was sincere when he made that statement. This was the rosy tint or gloss with which he was trying to imbue the whole scheme in presenting it to the House. Later in his speech the Minister refused to provide this grant for the most needy - those who are compelled to apply to the State housing commissions. The honorable member for Macarthur found virtue in this, but I cannot understand why. After all, theirs is a very real problem. Those who are really in need are the ones in the community that we should be looking after. We should be endeavouring to meet their wants. Unless we attack this problem, which affects the overwhelming problem of housing in the community, we will not make any appreciable improvement to the situation now prevailing.
The Government states, through the voice of the Minister in his second-reading speech, that the scheme will apply to war service homes. The Minister tries to justify the rather paradoxical and contradictory fact that it will not apply to housing commission homes, but will apply to war service homes, on the ground of repatriation. Once again I find these two factors hard to relate wilh any justice at all. The approach by the Government is that it is already making a contribution with the money that it provides under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and is reducing the interest rates charged under the housing commission schemes in the various States. The interest rate charged on the war service homes scheme is something over 3 per cent. This returns millions of pounds each year. Surely it should be possible also to effect a similar scheme for the benefit of the wider mass in the community.
I should like to refer again to the problem of inflated land prices, because I have some interesting figures which appeared in a quarterly statement published by the Housing Industry Research Committee of the Australia and New Zealand Bank in January, 1964. I am sure that this publication has been received by all honorable members. I propose to cite two extracts from it. It states that between 1960 and 1963 -
It will bc noted that while the average price of low cost land has risen by 30.5 per cent, in the period, the rises in average house costs has been only 11 per cent, (all types), 6.9 per cent, (brick veneer) and 6.7 per cent, (weatherboard). In other words low cost land has been rising at the rate of about 10 per cent, per annum, compared to rises of from 2.2 per cent, to 3.7 per cent, per annum for average house costs. In 1960, low cost land represented 25.9 per cent, of the total cost of an average priced weatherboard home on a low priced block of land, but by 1963 land represented 29.9 per cent.
A little later the report states -
In 1957, the Victorian Housing Index stood at 122.8 and in 1963 at 161.1, an increase of 31.2 per cent. The All-Groups Index figure rose by 9.7 per cent, during this period. The average weekly earnings moved from £18.78 in the March quarter of 1957 to £23.93 in the same quarter of 1963, an increase of 27.4 per cent. This shows that over the past six years, the cost of housing has not only increased at over three times that of all prices combined, but has exceeded the rise in wages, so that housing must now be taking a much larger share of the weekly wage.
Indeed, this theme is developed to some considerable extent in the following two paragraphs of the report. This is a clear exposition of how the cost of land is looming very largely as an influence on the price of housing to-day. The fact that the cost of land is not influenced by the cost of production or by the cost of living, but solely by speculation, surely must be a source of the severest criticism and must compel action from a thinking government which feels responsible to the community.
To illustrate how the costs of housing have risen I should like to refer to some Queensland figures for 1954 and 1963. The average value per 100 square feet for houses of brick construction rose in that period from £237 to £283, an increase of 17 per cent. The value of timber houses per 100 square feet rose from £197 to £270, an increase of 37 per cent. For fibro-cement construction the increase was from £174 to £240, an increase of 29 per cent. The increase in prices for houses has been at a faster rate than the increase in the capacity of people to meet the costs. Housing costs are getting beyond the range that can be met by most people. The Government adopts an approach which contributes a rather minute dilution of the overall seriousness of this problem. Certainly the approach made by the Government will not make an appreciable improvement in the need to catch up with the outstanding demand for houses. The State housing authorities have outstanding applications for housing. At 30th June, 1963, the number outstanding in Australia was 62,392, and in the year 1962-63, 48,1 13 applications were lodged. At this rate, of course, the problem will become worse and worse, and what the Government is now proposing will not have any worth-while influence on it.
I should like to mention a few housing schemes operating in other parts of the world. I believe that we can apply some parts of these schemes here with profit. In Germany the housing scheme is wholly subsidized for people who are earning a wage not exceeding £13 15s. a week plus an allowance of £1 10s. for each child. Those figures, incidentally, are in sterling, which means that a person who receives no more than £A.16, or £A.20, if he has a wife and two children, would benefit from the scheme. This is a matter that could be looked at. People whose income is greater than the amount I have mentioned are able to obtain money for the purchase of homes from three sources. They are able to obtain 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the amount required from the State at the interest rate of per cent. This is a very attractive proposition. They can obtain 30 per cent, from the banks and the remainder from various other sources, including trade unions which band together to form a kind of credit union organization, employers who are able to obtain tax deductions for money advanced for this purpose, and a number of other sources, all of which provide the additional finance at a very reasonable interest rate for all members of the community.
I refer next to the scheme in the United States of America. I do not wish to deal extensively with this scheme, because the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) dealt informatively with it. In the United States of America a deposit of only 3 per cent, is required on homes costing up to 15,000 dollars - at least, that is the figure given in a report in the United States periodical of July, 1963, which I read. The Federal Housing Administration in the United States accepts its responsibility on a very wide scale and undertakes an attack on the problem of housing very vigorously. It does not restrict itself to providing housing loans to young people or to providing only new houses; the scheme extends to slum clearance on a large scale and provides homes for rental by the aged. It ensures that finance is available for the construction of houses for rental by the aged at very reasonable weekly rental rates. It provides low-rental apartments for members of the community, and even goes to the extent of fixing the rental rates. This is very interesting, because we are used to hearing honorable members opposite criticizing any suggestion of a necessity for rent fixing as being radically socialist. This is merely accepting the responsibility of safeguarding the mass of the members of the community who are not in a position to defend themselves from unscrupulous landlords who have no compunction about extorting the absolute maximum in rental from members of the community. If any one wishes to obtain an insight into just how serious is extortion by unscrupulous landlords he should spend a few minutes reading from the report of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. It deals with some rather disgraceful examples of how people have been charged exorbitant rents for apartments which should have been condemned. There are even many instances of landlords who are prepared to reject possible tenants solely because they have committed the sin of having young families. In other words, they have accepted the responsibility of increasing the population and of trying to build a better future for this country.
The Federal Housing Administration scheme in the United States of America is another scheme which surely should be examined by the Government with profit for its supporters and for the community generally. It provides finance up to a maximum of 10,000 dollars for improvements to be carried out on existing homes which are owned or are being purchased by borrowers. Where a borrower has a mortgage upon his bouse on which he wishes to carry out improvements he is able to obtain for the purpose a maximum amount which does not exceed his equity in the house. It is interesting to note that about 72.5 per cent, of mortgages on homes in the United States are obtained at less than 6 per cent, interest. I understand that in Australia approximately 75 per cent, of housing mortgages are obtained at an interest rate of over 6 per cent, and quite a number are obtained at very much higher rates. That more than 60,000 applications to State housing authorities for accommodation are outstanding indicates the seriousness of the problem and shows the paucity of effect that this bill will have upon it.
Very many people have low incomes. The figure has been conservatively estimated in the report of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence at over 182,000 families. I suspect there are many more than this number. I repeat that out of an average income of about £19 a week these people are required to pay in rent from £5 to £5 10s. a week. In order to qualify for the subsidy it is necessary for them to save £5 a week. It becomes abundantly clear that their opportunity of benefiting from this scheme is non-existent. There is a great need for a broad national plan to attack the housing problem. It would be rewarding for Government supporters to study the scheme operating in Germany where an interest rate of li per cent, is charged by the government on loans it makes for housing. I think we should start by providing money for housing to members of the community without the necessity for them to pay a deposit if their annual income does not exceed £1,000. We could work on a scale so that a maximum deposit of about £100 is required where the annual income does not exceed £1,500 or £1,800. I am taking a rather broad and loose look at the question which could well be examined more intensely for the benefit of the community.
.- -I support the bill and congratulate the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) on his achievement in mastering a difficult situation and presenting to the House a bill which is most comprehensive, constructive and readily understandable, despite the half-hearted protests of honorable members opposite. None are so blind as those who will not see. In their endeavours to deride the value of this bill, and at the same time lacking the fortitude and courage to oppose the bill outright, the members of the Opposition are seeking some method of supplanting or hiding its outworn dogmas and platform of socialization. The originator of this great piece of humanitarian legislation is to be congratulated on his broad expanse of vision and his understanding of the needs of young people. The scheme has captured the imagination of the young people of this country. They have embraced it with enthusiasm. Already young people who felt that it would take some years to accumulate sufficient funds to pay a worthwhile deposit on a home have been encouraged and stimulated to set out on a savings campaign.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If, as it appears, the honorable member has his speech fully prepared, am I in order in asking for leave for him to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Young people will become the proud possessors of a home. They will become home-owners - or as the Opposition would prefer to have them dubbed - little capitalists. The great desire and ambition of most Australians is to own their own homes. A government that assists them to achieve this ambition will gain their respect and support for many years to come. This Government has won respect and admiration, as is evidenced by the mandate received on 30th November last. Through this bill the Government is giving young people the incentive of home-ownership. By amending the savings bank regulations last year to allow savings banks to lend up to 35 per cent, of their depositors’ balances in housing loans, the Government made more money available at bank interest for homeseekers.
A bill such as the one before us will require the constant attention of the Minister and his department. Already many individuals and organizations within the community are prepared to exploit the subsidy for their own purpose and for that reason I would like to see inserted in the bill a clause making it illegal for any vendor or agent to advertise that the subsidy authorized by the bill will be taken in part consideration of the purchase or erection of a home. It should be the aim and endeavour of this House to ensure that the people this bill sets out to assist receive the whole of the grant for their own personal benefit and that it is not swallowed up in increased profits for vendors or in other costs. The basis of all home ownership is the price of the land on which a house is erected. In the socialized State of New South Wales home lots that could be purchased before the advent of the Cumberland County Council for £300 and £400 are now realizing £1,500 to £2,000. [Quorum formed.] In the Blacktown area, at Plumpton and Rooty Hill, thousands of allotments with made roads and water and electricity services have been zoned in the green belt to prevent homes from being constructed thereon. These lots are near shopping centres, railways and other amenities and services.
Once the law of supply and demand is artificially interfered with, as supply is being interfered with in this instance, prices become inflated. The people whom this bill sets out to assist are in the main those who suffer from such artificial interference. For many years, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because of arbitrary regulations and, in some instances, the disinclination of lending authorities to advance money against security, existing houses some years old could not be financed by recognized or approved lending authorities. Many of these homes are available for purchase and young couples would bi well advised to look at them with the idea of purchasing instead of entering on the long-drawn-out process of buying land and constructing a home on it. This would reduce the inflationary pressure and be a deterrent to rising costs.
I come now to another point relating to supply and demand, Sir. First, Australia is short of tradesmen. Many Australians are particularly well suited to the building trade, having a natural bent in carpentry, joinery or bricklaying. These men should be co-opted into the industry and prevailed on to attend trade schools. Building materials will be in great demand, and price increases should be resisted but not controlled. Many people who will be building or buying homes for themselves have not the slightest idea of values and are mere pawns in the market. Further, some lending authorities could not care less what a buyer pays for his home so long as his security is sufficient to cover the money advanced. This is a poor, miserable view. A lending authority that seeks to assist a home buyer should ensure that the purchaser receives a fair deal and should advise him accordingly. The people who will receive the grants to bc made under the terms of this bill are the backbone of the country and, for that reason, should be assisted by advice in valuations and methods of procedure to be adopted in the purchase or construction of a home. I would establish advisory authorities to assist home purchasers.
– Hold up your head.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made a gibe at me. He said that, in another place - I take it that he meant in Blacktown, where I was manager of the Bank of New South Wales branch - I had demanded a deposit of £2,500 on the purchase of a home. This is humorous, Sir. I was responsible for the erection of 1 ,500 homes by the sub-contract method. I organized the whole business for the customers, and the great organization to which I belonged financed the construction. Only a few of these houses cost more than £3,000. Many of them were similar in design and size, and much superior, to dwellings erected by Mala Homes Proprietary Limited, which were financed almost exclusively by the Rural Bank of New South Wales. The point that I want to make is that Mala Homes adopted the same methods of construction adopted by my clients, but sold the homes at £600 to £800 more than my customers paid for the construction of their homes. This proves that the Mala company made a cash profit of £600 to £800 on each home sold, plus profit on the land if a home was built on the company’s land. Another point that I want to make is that the name “ Mala “ is “ Alam “ spelt backwards. Mr. Alam is a representative of the Australian Labour Party in the New South Wales Legislative Council. I understand that he is regarded as the fairy godfather of the Labour Party in New South Wales.
A lot of play has been made on increases in land values. Increases in land values in New South Wales are the responsibility of the New South Wales Government, which could not care less. That is a stark and irreputable fact. For the benefit of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I point out that I hold up my head as I say this. Even now, after thirteen years of bitter experience, the New South Wales Government is still bringing forward socialistic legislation that will continue to increase the price of residential land. For instance, on a £1,000 block of land, water services add £90, sewerage costs £50 and contributions for parks and playgrounds cost £100, making a total of £240. No one is foolish enough to believe that a sub-divider does not add these impositions to the selling price of the land. So, in effect, the purchaser pays for work that should be paid for by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. The most iniquitous feature, however, is that the owner of the land still has to pay the same water rates as are paid by people who have had water reticulated to their homes free of cost.
One could understand the New South Wales Government resorting to such methods if there were no other solutions to the problems. But there are other solutions. I should like to mention one. Many big construction companies, both in Australia and overseas, will provide water services on a deferred-payment scheme, wilh payments over twenty years at a rate of interest less than that now paid by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. Further, the work would be carried out more expeditiously and probably at a much lower cost than at present.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for describing me as an oracle on housing and referring to my grey hair, of which I am most proud; it denotes experience and wisdom. Honorable members may observe, Sir, that neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has any signs of grey hair.
In conclusion, may 1 bring to notice statements by some honorable members opposite concerning the interest paid on a loan of £4,000 over a term of 45 years. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) stated that a person borrowing this amount would pay £5,360 in interest. Of course, the prudent and thrifty person would discharge the obligation long before the end of the period of 45 years. But accepting that a person with such a loan did not do so, he would still be much better off financially than if he elected to pay rent instead of owning his home. I would like honorable members opposite to listen to this point. He would pay in rent on such a home a minimum of £6 a week or an aggregate of £14,046. As an owner, he would pay interest of £5,360 - I use the figure given by the honorable member for Griffith - rates of £1,800, repairs and renovations of £1,500 and insurance of £530.
– What about land tax?
– There would not bc any land tax on this.
– There would be in Victoria.
– I am talking about New South Wales. I want to try to educate honorable members opposite. If they listen to me they will learn something worthwhile. I am trying to show that if a man paid rent for a home he would pay an aggregate of £14,046. If he purchases the home, he would pay interest of £5,360, rates of £1,800, repairs and renovations of £1,500 and insurance of £530, making a total of £9,190. Even if he took the full term to pay off- the loan, he would be £4,856 better off in cash and he would own the house. Would it not be better for him to borrow the money at this rate of interest? He would be £4,856 better off and he would have an asset. Over the past 100 years, the tendancy has been for the value of land and houses to increase. A little obsolescence, of course, may have to be taken into consideration.
– What would happen if he was out of work?
– He could manage that because he would have a fair equity in the house after he had been repaying the loan for a short time.
– You forgot about repairs.
– I did not. I had included an amount for repairs and renovations. I have given these figures in case young people, hearing the speeches of Opposition members, may be influenced to remain tenants rather than undertake home ownership.
.The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) commenced his speech with a very profound statemeint. He congratulated the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who introduced this bill. I suppose the honorable member for Mitchell can be excused for doing so. One would expect honorable members on the other side of the House, whether they agree with the legislation or not, to congratulate the Minister. The honorable member for Mitchell went on to say that he believed the bill was a very simple bill to understand. I know that the Minister does not agree with him on this point, because the day after the Minister introduced the bill into the House he made this statement -
I would not understand a word of this myself if I were not the author of it and its principle.
The Minister made that statement publicly. He hardly agrees with the contention of the honorable member for Mitchell that this bill is not difficult to interpret. I find it very difficult to understand and that is the experience of all honorable members on this side of the House. Indeed, people outside the House have had this experience with the bill. If the Minister can understand the bill only because he wrote it, how does he expect young people anxious to receive the promised benefits to know what they are entitled to receive? I do not know how they can understand a sentence such as this -
The forms chosen are in aggregate those in which the great bulk of personal saving for a time is accumulated.
The plain fact is that the bill takes nineteen pages to say what honorable members on this side of the House have been saying throughout the debate, and that is that the bill is limited and will restrict assistance to a very insignificant part of the population. The Minister has not given the House any idea of the number of people who will benefit by this legislation and certainly has not told the House of the extent to which the taxpayers will be committed by it.
One would have expected the honorable member for Mitchell, who, I understand, has had considerable experience in banking, to have dealt with interest rates when speaking on legislation of this nature. He failed to point out to the House that interest rates probably more than any other factor have resulted in the high cost of homes to-day. 1 have no reason to disbelieve the statements made inside the House and outside about interest rates. The honorable member for Mitchell served in a bank for many years, but the bank to which he belonged charges one of the highest interest rates in the country. It charges 5i per cent. I ask the honorable member to compare the interest rates charged by the bank that he holds up as an example with the interest rates that were charged in this country before this Government took office.
I want to deal now with the bill. The proposal contained in it was first mentioned by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) during his policy speech almost six months ago. Quite obviously, the reference to it in the policy speech was intended to be a vote-catcher and undoubtedly it served its purpose. I do not want to take any credit away from the Prime Minister or the Government for devising such a vote-catcher. It undoubtedly brought to the Government as a whole a considerable amount of support from a large section of the community. But at that stage the Prime Minister had only intimated basically the principles that would apply. He left a good deal to the imagination of the people. Six months later we have the legislation in the House and obviously the benefits will be restricted to a limited number of people. One would have expected the Government in preparing legislation of this nature to have given some thought to the great majority of people who are looking for accommodation and who have never been able to find it during the period of office of this Governmenet. It was merely a blanket promise. We know that a promise was made that if a man saved £750 the Government would provide a subsidy of £250. But very few people realized how restrictive the legislation would be. They are now aware of the restrictions.
Let me refer now to a matter which the Minister has not dealt with in the debate or in answering questions asked in the House. The Minister has been asked how people will fare under this legislation who have put their savings into a home which they are building themselves. Perhaps the Minister will answer that query at a later stage. Many people in Australia are to-day building their own homes and they are entitled to know how they stand under this legislation. I defy the Minister to point to any part of the legislation which shows that these people will qualify for the grant. The Minister must agree with me. I know that some honorable members opposite would agree that if a young couple have been able to save £750 over the last three years and have spent their savings in building a home of their own, they should be eligible for the grant. This point is not clear. I want the Minister to make it clear.
We are told that the bill is designed to help young couples obtain a home of their own but there are limits to the assistance that may be granted under the bill. Those limits have been dealt with by honorable members on this side of the chamber. There is no necessity for me to recapitulate their arguments. For example, a grant will not be )aid to an unmarried person.
– Quite right.
– Well, there are many instances in Australia of young men supporting their aged parents. These young men want to provide a home for their aged parents. Surely a man in this category is entitled to the subsidy, provided he is under 36 years of age. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), should realize that these people will contribute in the form of taxes to some of the subsidy that will be paid to young couples.
– Let them get married:
– It is true that there is no restriction on these people marrying, but there may be very good reasons why a young man in this situation does not want to marry. Because he does not want to marry should not deprive him of the benefits of this legislation.
To qualify for this grant a married couple or a young couple planning to marry will have to save an average of £4 16s. 4d. a week for three years. If they do this they will qualify for the maximum grant of £250. One or both of the couple must be under the age of 36 years. They are faced with the prospect of waiting at least three years before they qualify for the subsidy. The Minister has not given any valid reason for the imposition of the age limit of 36 years. Why not make it 37 years, 38 years or 34 years? No honorable member opposite can tell me why a couple both of whom are aged 37 years should be disqualified under this legislation. The figure of 36 years has been conjured out of the air. The Government has said, “ We must start somewhere, so we will make it 36 years”. There should be some scientific reason for determining the age limit of 36 years. The Minister has not provided us with any scientific basis for the age limit of 36 years. This provision has earned a good deal of criticism. The provision is unjust to many people. I do not know any logical reason why the Government should have arrived at an age limit of 36 years. Obviously the legislation will benefit only a limited number of people. Certainly the legislation will help those people who are fortunate enough to have a reasonable income. It will help those couples who both are earning a reasonable income. It will help those couples who may receive some indirect assistance from their parents. Those are the only categories of persons who will receive assistance under this legislation, provided they qualify in other respects.
Let us take the case of a young couple who have married and who have been saving lo purchase a home of their own. The Minister has indicated that this legislation will apply largely to those young couples where both partners are earning a reasonable income. Let us take the case of a young couple with a young family. Is it possible for a wife with young children to seek employment? Can they save £750 in three years at the rate of £4 16s. 4d. a week? It is completely unrealistic for the Government to expect them to do so. Couples in this category will never be able to qualify for the subsidy, but they will make their contribution by way of taxes towards the grants that will be paid to less deserving members of the community.
I again stress that there are injustices in this legislation. The legislation excludes the great bulk of the Australian people who require assistance and who have accepted the responsibilities to which I have just referred - home ownership, maintaining a large family and populating this country - and which they have been encouraged by the Government to accept. But what encourage ment do young couples receive to marry and raise families? If they accept those responsibilities they are in difficulty, first, because of lack of income with which to support their families and, secondly, because they are unable to secure suitable accommodation.
We members of the Opposition know only too well how people are affected in that way. If we go to any large city of the Commonwealth we find that young married couples, who have families and are looking for accommodation, find it difficult to secure accommodation of any kind unless they are able to purchase homes for themselves. If they are in difficulties, their difficulties arise because of their family responsibilities. What action does this Government take to assist such people? It takes no action at all. This Government, during its term of office, merely has allowed land prices to rise, has allowed the deposit gap to widen, and has placed impossible burdens on the shoulders of young people with family responsibilities in securing suitable accommodation. Many of them may have reasonable incomes. I have just referred to the deposit gap. Even a reasonable income does not enable people to secure finance with which to purchase homes of their own. Unless they can provide a deposit which is sufficient to attract the maximum advance that is available through the Commonwealth Bank, the private banks or any other approved lending institution, they are not able to secure homes of their own.
The honorable member for Mitchell referred to land prices. He dealt with New South Wales. I am not concerned merely with that State. I frankly admit that the same problem exists in Tasmania, where there is another Labour Government. But the same problem arises in Victoria and also in Western Australia. Let us be honest about inflated land costs. Only one government can accept responsibility for these matters, and that is the central government. But it has never concerned itself with inflated land costs or the high building costs which plague Australia to-day.
The “Housing Finance Information Bulletin “ published by the Housing Industry Research Committee in Melbourne in January, 1964, made some very interesting comments on land prices. It dealt not only with land prices but also with the deposit gap. It showed quite conclusively that land prices to-day are beyond the reach of the great majority of people, and that the widening of the deposit gap in recent years has placed the average home beyond the reach of the great majority of home-seekers. The bulletin stated -
It will be noted that while the average price of low-cost land has risen by 30.5 per cent, in the period-
That is between 1960 and 1963 -
That refers to the average price of low cost land throughout Australia. It is not restricted to one State. All States are affected in this respect. The bulletin continued -
In other words low cost land has been rising at the rate of about 10 per cent, per annum, compared to rises of from 2.2 per cent, to 3.7 per cent, per annum for average house costs. In 1960, low cost land represented 25.9 per cent, of the total cost of an average priced weatherboard home on a low priced block of land, but by 1963 land represented 29.9 per cent.
There was a phenomenal increase in that period. No State Government is responsible for that increase. If there is any blame in that respect, it must be laid at the door of this Government. This Government is responsible for the increase in land costs and for increases in costs throughout Australia. The bulletin went on to say -
The deposit required to buy different types of homes at average prices on low priced land as at June, 1963, were -
Each of those deposits is far beyond the reach of the types of people whom we have in mind. If the deposit required for a brick veneer home is £1,948 and one accepts the principle of this subsidy, savings of £750 attract the subsidy of £250 from the Commonwealth Government, making a total of £1,000; but that leaves £948 which must be obtained from somewhere before sufficient finance to build a home can be obtained from a bank or one of the other approved lending institutions.
I turn now to the War Service Homes Division. The Minister for Housing made quite a point of this in his second-reading speech. He pointed out that eligible persons under the War Service Homes Act would be eligible to receive this subsidy. The complete stupidity of that statement has been shown already by members of the Opposition. Honorable members on the Government side know only too well that very few ex-servicemen will be able to qualify for this assistance. At the same time, the Minister refuses to recognize the claims of people who have commitments to State housing authorities. Why is there this discrimination? After all, it is almost twenty years since the Second World War ended. On one hand, the Minister discriminates against people who live in housing commission homes or who want to purchase housing commission homes. On the other hand, he says that all exservicemen should be eligible under this legislation. It is obvious that very few ex-servicemen will qualify under this legislation; but a great many people probably would be able to qualify for this subsidy if it were extended to purchasers of housing commission homes. Why does not the Minister accept that proposition? I say that the Government is completely dishonest in its appoach to these matters.
If the Minister wants to deal with war service homes, why does he not consider the abolition of the waiting period which has applied since 1955? I remember proposing a motion for the adjournment of the House in 1955 in order to point out to the Government that it was forcing young ex-servicemen to take out second mortgages at exorbitant rates of interest in order to obtain temporary finance. That position obtained in 1955 and the Government still maintains it to-day.
When this legislation was first mentioned as part of the policy speech of the Prime Minister, we were told that a mortgageinsurance corporation would be established. If the Minister is prepared to enable people who already have mortgages on their properties to transfer those mortgages in order to secure better rates of interest and more reasonable terms of repayment, I now suggest to him that he should honour the provisions of the War Service Homes Act and abolish the regulation which was issued by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) and which restricts the right of ex-servicemen, who are eligible under the War Service Homes Act, to discharge their existing mortgages. Let honorable members on the Government side of the House stand up and defend the Government’s action in that respect.
Prior to 1949, any ex-serviceman who desired to transfer his existing mortgage from any approved lending institution to the War Services Homes Division was allowed to do so. But since this Government has been in power, merely by a ministerial direction ex-servicemen who are eligible under the act are denied this opportunity. Provisions such as this should be incorporated in the legislation. This legislation completely ignores those people who are eligible to receive consideration under the War Service Homes legislation. The Minister knows only too well, as I pointed out a few moments ago, that very few ex-servicemen will be able to take advantage of the subsidy provided under the legislation now before us. I suggest that when the Minister closes this debate he answer the questions that I have referred to him. First, will the Minister say whether couples who have been able to build their own homes from their own savings will qualify under this legislation? Secondly, will he tell me what he intends to do about the mortgages of ex-servicemen which they want to discharge or transfer to the War Service Homes Division? Thirdly, if the Minister wants to assist ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes legislation, what does he intend to do about the waiting period that has applied since 1955 which gives some exservicemen who purchase their existing homes no alternative but to seek mortgages through approved lending societies and, sometimes, second mortgages through financial institutions at very high rates of interest? This condition should not apply twenty years after the end of World War II. The War Service Homes Act did not foresee or provide for this type of legislation.
The Opposition does not deny that some people will benefit as a result of the legislation we are now debating. I have no doubt that those people appreciate that this Government is to provide them with a subsidy of £250 on the basis of their savings of £750 over a period of three years. But the Opposition says that the legislation is far too limited. We say that the Government at this late stage should be attempting to assist a far greater number of people who will never have the opportunity of saving £750, but who, nevertheless, are entitled to every consideration from this Parliament in meeting their housing require ments. They have not been able to secure the priority they have desired throughout the period this Government has been in office. Conditions have been far too difficult. There is the problem of the deposit gap to which I have referred. These are the matters with which the Government ought to have been concerned.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Mr. Speaker, I express my disapproval, before addressing myself to this bill, of the manner in which the affairs of this Parliament are being conducted by this Government. The farcical situation is that we are sitting at this time of the morning, 2.15, so that legislation can be pushed through the Parliament in order that the House may adjourn one day earlier. I maintain and express my opposition to this procedure. I believe that the Parliament should conclude its business at a reasonable time so that honorable members can deliver speeches in which full consideration can be given to the legislation, instead of legislation being pushed through in this fashion.
– Even Mr. Speaker looks worn out.
– All honorable members, including Mr. Speaker, look tired. The main objection I have is that this procedure is now being followed after we have been sitting here week after week debating legislation of no particular importance. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), who spoke a short time ago, took the opportunity in his speech to give a free commercial for the bank for which he worked prior to his being elected to this Parliament. He made reference to what this bank had been doing in providing housing for the people. If the honorable member has a look at page 2537 of “Hansard” of 30th October, 1963, he will find a question which I asked in relation to the profits that are being made by various private savings banks. He will find, if he peruses the answer, that in 1962, which is the last year for which figures arc available, his trading bank showed a profit of 34.7 per cent, on its paid-up capital. In 1961, its profit was 50.6 per cent.; and it was 46.1 per cent, in 1960. The honorable member can see there the exorbitant profits this bank has been making as a result of the money which it has been advancing through its savings bank. The honorable member has nothing to boast about as far as the money that his bank has made available for housing is concerned. Once again, if he consults the question reported on page 2537, he will find that his bank contributed only 20.3 per cent, of its total deposits for housing. If the honorable member’s bank was really desirous of making money available, it would have increased its loan allocation to people who wish to obtain homes. At the same time, it would have reduced its interest rate instead of charging one of the highest rates of interest at the present time. The position is that the honorable member for Mitchell’s favorite bank has nothing to boast about in regard to what it has done towards overcoming the housing problem to-day.
I turn to the second-reading speech of the Minister wherein he referred to - .. . the establishment of a mortgage-insurance corporation to insure mortgages up to a high proportion of the value of a house and land.
This legislation discloses the lack of interest this Government has had in housing since it was elected fourteen years ago. This is the first time in fourteen years that the Menzies Government has been prepared to consider the serious question of the shortage of homes in Australia. The first piece of legislation to deal with this problem that is received for consideration by the Parliament is an election gimmick. That is the only way the £250 grant can be described. It is only an election gimmick produced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) when he realized that his hide was in danger and that, to preserve it, he had to pull something out cf the bag. So this election gimmick of the £250 grant was brought forward for the people to consider. The proposal was not fully explained. As Senator Sir William Spooner indicated, the Government was not prepared to outline to Australia the substance of what it was going to bring forward in this Parliament. Had this proposal been fully explained earlier, all the people who are adversely affected by it would have had nothing to do with it whatsoever.
To my mind, the Government has no housing programme but, as I have mentioned, has a shocking record in regard to the number of homes which have been built in the years it has been in office. By way of illustration, I point out that in 1955, 75,868 homes were built. In the following year the figure declined to 67,978. It increased year by year until 1960, when it was 97,090. In 1961 the figure was down to 80,044. What is the explanation for this rise and fall in the number of homes built each year? Does it indicate that there is a falling-off in the demand for homes? Of course not. If the Government examined year by year the applications received by the various housing commissions it would find that the number of people applying for housing commission homes has increased year by year. The Government finally realized that there was a housing shortage and, as an election gimmick, brought down this proposal. If it had not been in danger of defeat I am confident the Government would not have thrown even this gimmick into the ring for consideration by the electors in November of last year. The Government has nothing to boast about or to be proud of in its housing record during the fourteen years that it has been in power.
As to the bill itself, I believe the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would, if accepted, have brought much greater benefit to more people in the community. In his policy speech on behalf of the Australian Labour Party the Leader of the Opposition said that we believed in reduced deposits and reduced interest rates. The socialist Labour Party believes in cheap interest which will permit people to own their homes much more quickly than they can under the present high-interest-rate policy of this Government. Let me here give a few comparisons to show how the Labour Party’s proposals would have compared with the Government’s £250 election gimmick. We did not bring forward our policy of cheap money overnight, nor as an election gimmick. It has been the policy of the Labour Party for years. We believe that people should be able to build homes with money borrowed at reasonable rates of interest and not at the exorbitant rates they have had to pay under this Government’s administration. At the present time, the Commonwealth Bank charges the lowest interest rate of all banks operating in Australia to-day. The rate for housing loans is 4J per cent., and, as honorable members know, there are three repayment periods, 22 years for a weatherboard home, 26 years for a brick veneer home and 32 years for a brick home. On a loan of £3,500 at 4* per cent., over a term of 22 years the interest paid would amount to £2,148. If the interest rate were reduced to 4 per cent., the total amount paid would be £1,768, giving a saving of £380. If the interest rate were reduced to 3 per cent. - and even that rate, I believe, would be too high although it would be much more reasonable than the existing rate - the interest paid would amount to £1,285, giving a saving of £853.
Similar comparisons can be made for the 26-year and 32-year repayment periods. On a loan of £3,500, over a period of 26 years, the total interest paid, at the present rate, would be £2,601. Reducing the interest rate to 4 per cent, would reduce the total interest paid to £2,135, giving a saving of £466. If we reduce the interest rate to 3 per cent., we find that the total interest becomes £1,545, giving a saving of £1,056. Just completing the figures, £3,500 borrowed at 4J per cent, over 32 years requires a total interest payment of £3,315. If the interest rate is reduced to 4 per cent, the interest payment becomes £2,710, giving a saving of £605. A rate of 3 per cent, produces a total interest payment of £1,949, giving a saving of £1,366.
It is obvious that much greater savings would be achieved by reducing the interest rate, as proposed by the Labour Party, than by offering the subsidy that the Government now proposes. Honorable members opposite rise in this House, with crocodile tears streaming down their faces, telling us how the costs of housing have increased because of higher wages. They make no comment whatever about the exorbitant costs that the homebuilder has to face because of the Menzies Government’s policy of high interest rates, which represents the most significant contribution so far to the maintenance of high housing costs.
The subsidy of £250 proposed by the Government will go to a limited number of people in the community. What about all the young people who, during the last three or four or more years, have married and purchased their own homes? Is the Government prepared to give them any assistance? It is obvious that in deciding on the figure of £250 for its gimmick the Government has tried to keep the costs of this proposal as low as possible. So it has restricted the legislation to cover persons under 36 years of age purchasing their first homes. The Government will not help all the young people who have already purchased their own homes with money borrowed at high interest rates. If the Government had tackled this problem reasonably and was really keen on helping young people, and every one else, to own their own homes, it could have taken the practical step of making cheap money available. Instead, the Government decided to produce this gimmick on the eve of an election.
Who are the people who will be most affected by this offer of a subsidy of £250? The first requirement is that you must have £750. How many are there in the community to-day, particularly amongst young people, who have been able to save £750? Why should £750 be the qualifying amount? In any case, why should the amount of subsidy, the election gimmick, have been £250? Where did the Government get that figure? What was the basis of it? This proposition concerning a subsidy of £250 is obviously nothing but a gimmick produced by the Government. In reality, the Government is not trying to assist young people, and the people as a whole, to own their own homes.
I do not want to take up all the time available to me, but I shall take the opportunity to refer to a number of objectionable clauses in this bill. First, I ask: Why did the Government select the limiting age of 36 years? I join with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in asking what was the basis of the decision to choose the age of 36. Did the Government just think of a number? Was it another one of the facelessthirtysix propositions that Government members thought of, created for them by their propaganda machine? It seems to me that the Government had to think of some number and it wanted to keep it as low as possible so as not to involve the Treasury in too great expenditure.
A great number of people are affected by this decision to set the limiting age at 36 years. Consider the case of policemen, for instance, who have to move around in the course of their duties if they are ambitious enough to seek for promotion in their profession. My old friend, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) had to move from city to city to improve his position in the police force. These people, who cannot stay for too long in one place, are now debarred in their later years from participation in the benefits available under this bill. A policeman came to me recently. He was 52 years of age and had decided to settle down in the place at which he was then stationed. He is automatically debarred from the benefits available under this legislation. Why is this so? He has been prepared to carry out his duties as a police officer over the years. But policemen represent only one such section of the community. Schoolteachers, both men and women, find it necessary from time to time to move from place to place if they want to be promoted. They are not stay-putters who stay in the one place all the time. I refer to such people as railway officers, public servants and bank officials who, in following their careers, move from place to place. They are excluded from the bill. When they are getting on in years and decide to settle down they will not be entitled to receive their share of the subsidy. This is indeed a sectional subsidy1 - a subsidy to be paid only to a privileged few in a community.
I come now to the question of the exclusion of those people who are desirous of buying housing commission homes. I ask the Minister for Housing why these people should be debarred from enjoying the subsidy that was promised and which is available to other people. After all, I cannot see that to include the tenants of housing commission homes would give them any particular advantage, especially when we examine the figures. I remind the House that, a person who buys a housing commission home costing £3,450 over a period of 45 years at 4i per cent, interest will be required to make a total repayment of £8,397. In other words, he will be required to pay a total interest charge of £4,947. I cannot see how he would be given any preferential treatment by being included in this scheme. The only way in which he is favoured, if there is any preferential treatment, is that he is allowed to pay off his home over a period of 45 years instead of being required to pay it off over 22 years, 26 years or 32 years, according to the type of home, when buying through a bank or other institution.
People desirous of buying housing commission homes are entitled to the same consideration as are persons who are buying homes under other schemes. It must be acknowledged that, generally speaking, people living in housing commission homes are in more necessitous circumstances and need more government assistance. Therefore, if they are able to save £750, why can they not be given the same treatment as the others? I ask the Minister to give this matter serious consideration, especially in view of the fact that in 1962 a total of 15.4S1 tenants were occupying housing commission homes while the number of new purchasers totalled 1,927. So, in all, 17,408 people are being excluded from the benefits to be derived from this election gimmick of a subsidy of £250 on a total saving of £750. There is no more justification for the Government’s withholding the subsidy from these people than there is for saying that those who are building homes in Canberra or those who are building homes through building societies are entitled to the subsidy. People purchasing homes from housing commissions are just as much entitled to the subsidy as is any one else. In my opinion, this is one of the anomalies that arise under this measure and I do ask the Minister to give serious consideration to it when we are discussing the bill in committee. He admitted in his second-reading speech that he realized that the bill is not perfect. He said that there will be mistakes but that they will be rectified at an early date. I believe that here we have a blatant anomaly which must be corrected, not at any early date, but immediately.
The bill provides that any migrants coming to this country must reside here for at least three years before becoming eligible for the subsidy - and this despite the fact that the Government boasts from time to time of how it encourages people to come here and how when they come here it does everything possible to help them. I ask the Minister why he has included in the bill a requirement of three years’ residence in this country. If a migrant to this country can save £250 in the first twelve months that he is here he should be entitled to receive a subsidy of one-third of that amount. If this provision is not discrimination against migrants I should like the Minister to explain just what it really is. I ask him to give serious consideration to that clause of the bill.
As to the requirement that the money saved must be in a housing account, I can only say that it is merely a comical, farcical provision, because all a person needs to do to qualify is to open an account with a bank, building society or other savings authority and have it marked “Housing Account “. There is nothing to stop the person concerned from using the money lo go on holidays, to buy a motor car, to go to Randwick or for any other purpose. Therefore, to any person who has any sense at all, this requirement that the money must be placed in a housing account is merely making a farce of the bill.
There is one final point to which I would like to refer. It relates to widows and here I feel there has been a very serious omission from the bill. We all know that men are killed in industry from time to time and that their widows are granted a lump sum as compensation. These payments vary according to the provisions of the compensation acts in various States. Also, husbands are killed in motor car and other accidents. In those cases, damages are awarded the widows. Almost invariably, the widows are left with children. If a widow is under 36 years of age and intends to build a home and reside in it, why should she be excluded from the provisions of this bill? Immediately a widow receives compensation for the death of her husband, she may decide to put a roof over the heads of her family, but under this bill, she is entitled to no benefit at all.
– Even a war widow is excluded.
– As the honorable member for Bass says, even war widows are excluded from benefit under this bill. This is a serious omission and I ask the Minister to give some consideration, either when the bill is before us in committee, or when it is in another place, to having in it provision entitling widows to the subsidy. If they are prepared to erect a home and reside in it, I submit they are entitled to be regarded as being married. They certainly were married but, possibly due to circumstances over which they had no control, they were not able during the lifetime of their husbands to save enough to enable them to obtain finance for their own home. I repeat that this is a serious omission and again I ask the Minister to give consideration to having included in the bill, either when it is in committee here, or when it is in another place, some protection for widows, for I believe that there is every justification for doing so.
– in reply - I would say that a very large part of this debate has roamed over territory which is not covered by the bill. As has been pointed out, the bill does have a limited purpose. It does not set out to cure completely the whole of the housing problems of Australia. It is addressed specifically to the young people of Australia who are ready and willing to help themselves, and it should be considered in that light.
Many other matters could be introduced into the debate. The need for special housing arrangements for people on low incomes is a great problem, and I am afraid that it will remain with us for some considerable time. But that problem is not tackled in this bill, nor is there any intention that such problems should be covered specifically by it. If anything, the lower-income groups are covered by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and by the operations of the various State housing commissions. The Commonwealth currently makes £50,000,000 available each year at subsidized rates of interest, and those who acquire or rent housing commission houses do so at subsidized rates. The honorable member for Newcastle raised the point that people purchasing housing commission homes are not eligible for this grant. One of the reasons is that these people are already receiving a subsidy and it is desirable, on the whole, that those who can help themselves and can afford something better should not buy housing commission homes which should be available for people in a less fortunate position.
One or two misconceptions have cropped up in the course of the debate. One is as to the £750 that has to be saved. The proposal is for a grant of £1 for £3 saved and £750 is the maximum amount that will attract the grant. Any amount less than £750 also will qualify and attract the grant. Much play has been made of the claim that it is necessary to save £5 a week for three years. This is a minimum period. People can save for a longer period and still qualify. One of the main objects of this bill is, as has been well pointed out by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), and other members on this side of the chamber, to achieve a saving on the part of young people. If the boy and the girl both start saving as soon as they have started work after leaving school, it is remarkable how quickly they may achieve savings of £750 - £375 each. I stress that there is no limitation on the time in which the amount may be saved. These are elementary things.
Efforts have been made also to belittle the value of the £250 grant. It is true that any extra amount of money injected into housing must increase the demand for housing and thus have some affect on the price, but the £250 makes its impact on the deposit which is to be put down. So, even if the price of a house does rise, the deposit to be put down as a percentage of the total does not rise at anything like the same rate. Therefore, this £250 must be a considerable contribution. Just to give some idea: If a couple got a grant of £250 instead of having to borrow for a term of 25 years at 5i per cent. - not an unusual rate - they would be saved a total repayment of £452. If £250 were borrowed from a building society for 35 years at 6 per cent. - again, quite a common experience - £601 would have to be repaid. With the grant, this total repayment of £601 would be avoided. Unfortunately, some people have to obtain money on second mortgage and are required to pay a flat rate of interest. If instead of receiving the grant a young couple borrowed £250 for ten years at a flat rate of 6 per cent., their total repayment would be £400. This is a substantial amount.
This bill is not complex. Basically, it is quite a straightforward and simple measure. The complications, if any, arise from the fact that there are certain transitional periods before the proposal gets fully under way. We have endeavoured to meet the positions of people who could not have known until recently that the bill was to come into force, and in this way savings over a wide field will be brought into the picture. What happens when the draftsmen turn what is a simple conception into legal language is, of course, not always so straightforward or simple.
I should like to say something about credit unions because I have had a number of representations from them. Office bearers of credit unions, and several honorable members, including the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns), have expressed an interest in this aspect of the proposal. I have received widespread representations from office bearers of credit unions that these bodies should become approved institutions for the deposit of eligible savings under the homes savings grants scheme on a permanent basis. These representations have been submitted to, and have been given very careful consideration by, Cabinet.
The useful part which credit unions play in mobilizing deposits for the benefit of their members is widely acknowledged. These unions vary considerably in size and scope and in the efficiency with which their affairs are conducted. In the main, they provide purchasing power for consumers’ durable goods, including furniture and other household equipment. Loans are also made to meet the cost of repairs or extensions to a home. Some loans, usually in the form of second mortgages, are made to help members buy a home. The maximum loan that a credit society may make is £1,000 - in some States it is £500 - and loans must be repaid within five years. The rate of interest offered on deposits is between 5 and 7 per cent. Loans are offered to members at about 10 to 12 per cent, per annum, although naturally, these rates vary among the different societies.
Because of the nature of the purchases to be made with them, most loans are small, and because of the community of interest, most loans are unsecured. Because of the short-term nature of the deposits, most lending is short term. The management of a credit union usually requires skills quite different from those needed in lending for housing. So far, the credit union movement has not set out specifically to encourage personal saving for the purpose of acquiring a home, and has not contributed significant funds for new home construction. The function of credit unions has been rather that of providing finance to members on a co-operative basis for purposes similar to those for which loans are made by hirepurchase companies.
One of the basic purposes of the homes savings grants scheme, on the other hand, is to encourage savings for homes in institutions which provide long-term finance for housing, and thus to increase the supply of housing finance of this character. The institutions in which all new savings for the purpose of this scheme must be deposited after 1st January, 1965, have been carefully selected to achieve this purpose. For these reasons the Government has decided that credit unions, as they operate at present, cannot be accepted as eligible institutions on a permanent basis. However, new deposits made in credit unions up to 31st December this year will be regarded as eligible savings, and balances outstanding at that date may be retained and remain eligible up to 31st December, 1967.
In commending this bill to the House I should like to give some estimates. Much has been said about those who will not benefit. Our best estimate is that once the scheme is in operation about 40,000 married couples will benefit each year, that is, about 80,000 individuals. This, in an ordinary operating year, will cost about £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. Because the operation of the scheme is to be so generously backdated, the cost will be about £10,000,000 in the first year. I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message received from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the Homes Savings Grant Bill 1964 announced.
Message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of amendments to the Homes Savings Grant Bill 1964 announced.
Clauses 1 to 13 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
A person is an eligible person for the purposes of this Act if -
– Mr. Chairman, I believe that this clause is the key to the bill. It provides that applicants for the subsidy must save for a period of at least three years. When speaking previously I pointed out that representatives of the building industry said that they thought it would be wrong and virtually impracticable for the Government to insist upon the requisite savings being accumulated over a period of three years as was first suggested. The representatives were reported as saying -
What does it matter how long it takes or from whence it comes provided young people have the required amount in their possession for a deposit on their own home. The Prime Minister’s first public statement actually referred to the need of many young people for help over the deposit gap and this would be nullified to a large extent if there were insistence upon the three year plan. Some thrifty and energetic youngsters might manage to save £750 in a single year and should not thereby be denied the £250 subsidy.
I add to the statement that it might be possible for young farmers enjoying a good year and harvesting a good crop to save the required amount, but in the two following years they could lose it. In other words, the effect of saving it in one year could be nullified in the two following years and they would be barred from receiving the subsidy of £250.
– But you are stuck with it.
– The honorable member interjects that we are stuck with it. Does he mean that we all ought to go home now? What are we here for? Why is the Parliament sitting? I take it that the committee is discussing clause 14, but if the House wished I could move that the debate proceed at another time. If the legislation is to be made a joke, we can go home. The legislation will work, we can discuss the amendment and I am entitled to discuss it without interjections. Mr. Chairman, there are young people who may have been attracted to buying a motor car. The statistics released in the last few days show that more money is being spent on motor cars than ever before and less is being spent on food and clothing. Motor cars are in the hands of more people and some young people might think that the time has come to sell their motor cars and add the proceeds to their savings to buy a home. That would be a good idea, but the clause we are discussing would disqualify all but £250 of the total amount in determining whether the subsidy is payable. I am taking the time of the committee at this hour of the morning to raise these points. This is the time to do it, unless the House is willing to go home and start again to-morrow.
Having made those points, I move -
Omit paragraph (d).
– Mr. Chairman, I take a point of order. I submit that the amendment proposed is out of order.
– The Minister has raised a point of order that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Macarthur is out of order. The amendment is out of order as its effect would be to increase the appropriation recommended by the Governor-General. Therefore, I uphold the point of order raised by the Minister.
.- Is the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to be a paper tiger again? We have seen him back down so often in this chamber when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has turned his fiery glare on him. Is the Minister prepared to give the proposal some consideration? Not only are farmers entitled to consideration, but so are workers who run into a trot of overtime, for example, and are able to accumulate in one year more than the maximum of £250? Are they not entitled to some consideration?
If a person can establish that he has genuinely saved money and that it was not received as a grant, why should that money not be taken into consideration?
– How does he go if his fat aunt leaves him a legacy?
– That is right. Is not this just another clause that has been written into the bill in order to write down the total cost the Government will be required to meet as a result of this legislation?
Motion (by Mr. Jeff Bate) negatived -
That the clause be postponed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
(3.) For the purposes of this Act, the acceptable savings of a person to whom this section applies as at a time after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-four, and on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven, are, subject to this Act, the moneys that were saved in Australia before that time by the person and -
in the case of moneys saved on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-four -
in the case of moneys saved after the thirtyfirst day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-four -
– I move -
Omit sub-clause (3.), insert the following subclause: - “(3.) For the purposes of this Act, the acceptable savings of a person to whom this section applies as at a time (in this sub-section referred to as ‘ the relevant time ‘) after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixtyfour, and on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixtyseven, are, subject to this Act, the moneys that were saved in Australia before the relevant time by the person and -
in the case of moneys saved before the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five -
in the case of moneys saved on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five -
When I moved that the bill be read a second time I said - we are also proposing that money saved and accumulated in any form for home purchase up to the end of this year will be acceptable, provided the savings are deposited or invested before then in any of the approved forms of saving.
There is some doubt as to whether the bill does require these savings to be deposited or invested in acceptable forms before 1st January, 1964. The proposed amendment will ensure that the Government’s intention is carried out.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 19 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 20. (1.) Subject to this section, the Secretary may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, make a grant of moneys in accordnace with this Act to an eligible person.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who is interjecting, is inclined to be a little irritated, but he asked to be elected to the Parliament and he should do his job. If he is not prepared to do his job, he should go home. Otherwise he should sit quietly and take it. I move -
After sub-clause (1.) insert the following subclause: - “ (1a.) The Secretary may, in his discretion, give to a person a certificate in writing certifying that, if the person enters into a contract on a specified date for the purchase of a specified dwelling-house situated in Australia or for the construction by a building-contractor of a dwellinghouse on specified land situated in Australia and the provisions of this Act are otherwise applicable to him on that date, he will be eligible for a grant under this Act of a specified amount.”.
This certificate will merely be a letter which sets out in writing the position from the point of view of the Minister or the secretary of the department. This amendment is necessary. As I pointed out earlier, a home-builder cannot get a home savings grant unless he has first entered into a contract. But he may not be able to enter into a contract unless he knows that he can get a grant.
– He has to enter into two contracts - a contract of marriage and a contract for the construction of a house.
– I am referring to a contract to build. As I read the bill, a building contract is not necessary for the home savings grant to be attracted. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) will bear with me on this point, I should like to say that it is a question of which comes first - a home savings grant or a contract. I sympathize with honorable members who find it difficult to interpret the measure at this hour. My point is that a dilemma arises. I suppose the lawyer members of the Parliament could suggest a way to do what is needed. What we need is a contract that will have effect only on condition that a home savings grant is available. The unfortunate home-builder wants in writing a statement that he will receive a home savings grant.
– Could not the honorable member tell us that outside this chamber?
– I want this matter to be clarified in the measure. I could not tell the honorable member outside the chamber with any advantage, because, as far as I know, this is the place where the necessary provision must be made in the bill. 1 believe that we ought to provide for a necessary precaution at this stage. If my amendment is not accepted by the committee, the Department of Housing will have to do as the War Service Homes Division does and give an applicant a letter stating that he is eligible, so that he can go ahead with a contract, because the money will be available only after he has signed a contract.
– Mr. Chairman, this amendment, too, is not acceptable to the Government. No amount can be determined until a contract to build or buy has been entered into. Provision otherwise could be made only if the bill were largely redrafted. The problem is that people want to know beforehand what the grant is likely to be. All the conditions imposed by the bill will be known and none of the parties concerned should be in any difficulty about being aware of his position. So, this problem, which may appear considerable, becomes quite theoretical when closely examined. We could not in fact precisely determine a grant before a contract was signed. Therefore, as I have said, the amendment is unacceptable.
.Mr. Chairman, earlier in the consideration of this measure, I asked whether the significant date in respect of a war service home would be the date of the signing of the contract between the er.dor and the purchaser or the date on which the War Service Homes Division granted a loan. This relates not so much to the construction of new houses as the purchase of existing homes. The Minister said that the date of signing the contract and not the date on which the loan was made would apply.
– There then arises the question: Could a person eligible for a specific amount use it as part of the deposit, and would the War Service Homes Division accept it?
Mr. BURY (Wentworth - Minister for Housing) 13.6 a.m.]. - The grant would become part of the applicant’s equity and the War Service Homes Division would take that into account in making the loan.
– Mr. Chairman, this is a pretty difficult matter to clarify. The Minister has a cold and is not speaking with his usual clarity. I am not sure that I heard correctly what he said, and I do not want to neglect the opportunity to have the matter cleared up. I think the Minister said that until a contract is signed the amount of the grant will not be known.
– A person’s position could change between the time of the amount being notified and the signing of a contract.
– That would be only a few days. Until the amount of the grant is known, a person may. find it difficult to sign a contract. Honorable gentlemen opposite are inclined to smile. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) appears to be smiling superciliously. I do not know whether he means to give that impression.
– I am showing the utmost good humour. The honorable member cannot expect to be taken seriously.
– When the honorable gentleman says that, does he mean that he is quite satisfied that the bill will work satisfactorily? If he is, I am encouraged. However, for my part, I fear that the measure will not work satisfactorily. Until the amount of a grant is known, a person may not be able to sign a contract. The Minister put the matter the other way and said that the amount of a grant could not be determined until a contract had been signed. Surely there is no need for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to smile about this in so peculiar a fashion. This is something about which we need to know. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter and to say exactly how a person can sign a contract without knowing what the amount of the grant will be and without having even an estimate of the amount. The amount could affect the conditions of a contract. The Minister suggests that the position could change during the lag of a few days until a contract is signed. A person could lose some of his savings, the price of a house could be raised above the £7,000 limit, or some other factor could change.I should like the matter cleared up now. A person may need to know the amount of a grant before he signs a contract.
– Mr. Chairman, there will be no difficulty about any applicant ascertaining what he is entitled to and putting himself in a position to sign a contract. What the amendment seeks, however, is the insertion of a provision that the Department of Housing supply a certificate in writing stating the precise amount. That is not possible, because the circumstances could change. There will be no difficulty about the matter. We have consulted a number of authorities who have been engaged in the practical matter of making settlements for houses and the construction of dwellings and the like, and they say that there will be no difficulty in administering the measure as it is drafted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 . (1.) An application for a grant under this Act in respect of a dwelling-house -
– I move -
After sub-clause (1.) insert the following subclause; - “ (1a.) Where an applicant for a grant under this Act furnishes to the Secretary with the application a declaration in writing stating any facts relating to the amount of the acceptable savings of the person or of his or her spouse as at a specified time, the Secretary shall treat the declaration as evidence of those facts unless he has reasonable cause to believe that the declaration does not correctly state those facts.”.
The amendment proposes that the secretary of the department, the Minister or the Government shall treat the applicant for a homes savings grant as an honest person. If the applicant makes a declaration, it should be accepted unless there is reasonable cause to believe that he is dishonest. A person who furnishes an income tax return furnishes a declaration that the facts contained in it are true and the declaration is accepted until it is found to be untrue. I ask that a declaration signed by an applicant for a homes savings grant, which in most instances will involve much less of the Government’s funds than a tax return would, be accepted by the Government as evidence of the correctness of the claim until it is found to be otherwise.
I am told that a person with an account at a bank can present a cheque at the bank and have it cashed without any check being made of his account. The reason given for this is that so many people are honest that it is cheaper to cash the cheques without checking the accounts. So few cheques are not backed by funds that it is not worth checking the accounts. The teller normally cashes a cheque when it is presented.
– I would like to know what bank that is. I would bank there.
– Ledgers are not even held in some of the city branches of banks. They are held in a central office and cheques are paid on demand. I am asking that’ people - my constituents and the people of Australia - be treated as honest. In this amendment I ask that there be no unnecessary probing into the private affairs of people.
– Is there a similar clause in the income tax legislation?
– There is a declaration on an income tax form which has to be signed.
– I know that, but is there a similar clause in the legislation?
– The income tax legislation is pretty extensive. I do not know all of it. You would need a legal man to answer your question.
The declaration on an income tax form is accepted until it is found to be inaccurate. A cheque presented at a city bank is cashed if the person presenting it has an account at the bank. A tremendous amount of probing will be done into applications for homes savings grants, and this will be costly. Hundreds of people will look at these matters. I do not know how many days or weeks will be taken in examining an application, but there will be a considerable amount of checking. I know that this will take time. The amount involved is not very large. The maximum would be £250. I suggest that a declaration, perhaps accompanied by photostat copies or other copies of bank statements, should be sufficient and should be accepted by the secretary as evidence unless he has reason not to accept the declaration.
– This amendment is not acceptable. Once the transit period is overcome, applicants will obtain balances from their banks, building societies and so on. This will be a fairly limited form of certificate, which will be produced to the department. All the officers in the Department of Housing are sworn to secrecy. The applicant merely passes on to the department information that it would collect anyway. This is a natural safeguard, as at present drafted, of the revenue of the country. We could not accept the amendment; it would open up the procedures to the danger of malpractive.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22. (8.) For the purposes of this section -
– I move -
After sub-clause (8.) insert the following subclause: - “ (8a.) A reference in paragraph (a) of the last preceding sub-section to a savings year shall be read as a reference to a savings year commencing on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five, and not to any other savings year.”.
Sub-clause (8.) provides that the savings of an eligible person whose savings period concludes after 31st December, 1964, will be acceptable only up to £250 in any one year. However, the bill also provides that savings of more than £250 in a year may be accepted if saved by a person whose savings period concludes not later than the end of December next. It is our intention that all savings before 31st December, 1964, be acceptable to the same extent whether the savings period ends on or before 31st December, 1964, or after that date.
I propose, therefore, that my department be given a discretion to determine the amount of acceptable savings of an eligible person in any savings year which commences before 1st January, 1965, irrespective of when the period of saving ends. The proposed sub-clause (8a.) of clause 22 will give effect to this intention.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 31 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 32. (1.) The Secretary shall, as soon as practicable after each thirtieth day of June, furnish to the Minister, for presentation to each House of the Parliament, a report as to the administration and operation of this Act during the year that ended on that date. (2.) The Minister shall cause a copy of each report of the Secretary to be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the receipt of the report by the Minister.
– I move -
At the end of the clause add the following subclause: “ (3.) The first report under this section shall be furnished as soon as practicable after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixtyfive, and shall relate to the period commencing on the date of commencement of this Act and ending on that thirtieth day of June.”.
Clause 32 requires the preparation and presentation of annual reports. As this bill will, we hope, be assented to before 30th June next, a report will be required for 1963-64. It is proposed that the secretary be absolved from preparing a report on operations in respect of the current financial year. The effect of the proposed amendment will be that the first report will not be required to be furnished until after 30th June, 1965, but will cover the period from the commencement of the act until that date.
.Once again the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has shown how poorly considered this legislation was when he has had to move such an obvious amendment at this stage. It is certainly necessary that annual reports should be submitted under this measure. There are very few acts in which so much discretion is left to the person who has to administer it. Honorable members will notice this discretion is to be exercised in clauses 6, 9, 10 and 14, Clause 20, subclauses (2.) and (5.), clause 21 sub-clause (I.), paragraph (c), clauses 23 and 24 and now in the last five minutes sub-clause (8a.) of clause 22. lt is necessary therefore that the House should have the opportunity of knowing promptly how the discretion is being exercised under this legislation. The remaining unsatisfactory feature is that the Minister is required to lay the report of the secretary of the department on the table of the House only within fifteen sitting days after he receives the report. Admittedly there must be some time limit within which a Minister must table reports. Wc know how sloppy departments get when there is no time limit. For instance, the Public Service Board has not presented its reports for the last three financial years. I do not know what the board has to conceal.
– Ask it.
– It can answer only with the consent of the Prime Minister, to whom it is responsible.
In recent years the Government has been extending the time within which Ministers must present their reports. A few decades ago it was customary to give Ministers seven days within which to present reports. The current period seems to be fifteen sitting days. This means five sitting weeks. Since we have now formed the habit of sitting for three weeks and going into recess for one week, it means that the Minister does not have to table the report for, say, six or more - often seven - sitting weeks. The consequence is that the House does not have the opportunity of receiving this information at the relevant time for debate. I will illustrate this difficulty by referring to the debate on the Estimates last year. The Minister for Civil Aviation must present the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission within fifteen days of receiving it. Last year the report was tabled on 28th October. The debate on the relevant estimates expired on 9th October. The Minister for Primary Industry has to present the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty return within fifteen days of receiving it. In respect of last financial year the return was tabled on the first day we sat this year. The debate on the relevant estimates concluded in mid October last.
– You do not know when the return came into the hands of the Minister.
– No, but it presumably was given to him some time within fifteen sitting days. Even that time might have been after the debate on the estimates had concluded.
The report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has to be presented within fifteen days. It was presented on 30th October last - a fortnight after the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health had concluded. The report of the Stevedoring Industry Authority has to be presented within fifteen days. It was presented on 28th October last - eleven days after the debate on the estimates had been concluded. The concluding example I wish to give is that of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, whose report has to be tabled within fourteen sitting days. It was presented on the second day we sat this year. The debate on the estimates concluded on 23rd October last year. The point quite clearly is established that the fifteen sitting days within which the Minister must table the report of the secretary of the department are not likely to be sufficient to give the House an opportunity to debate the report in the financial year which is debated in the Estimates each year. That is, we can examine the exercise of discretion by the secretary only fifteen months or more after that discretion has been exercised.
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) thinks it is appropriate to discuss this matter at this time of day let us see at what point the fifteen sitting days start. They start after the secretary of the department submits his report, which is as soon as practicable. I do not know what the words “ as soon as practicable “ mean. They could mean six months. If that is what they mean the fifteen sitting days will not start until some time in February. Will the Minister at this late hour say what “ as soon as practicable “ means? Does the phrase mean one month, two months, or six months?
– The expression means precisely what it says - as soon as practicable. As far as I am concerned I will endeavour to produce the reports early.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 33 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill being presented and a motion being moved for the second reading of the bill.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairhall, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In its report on nitrogenous fertilizers which I have just tabled, the Tariff Board has recommended an increase in the rate of bounty on sulphate of ammonia from £2 per ton to £4 per ton, and that the increased bounty should operate for three years. The Government has approved the board’s recommendation for an increased rate of bounty but has decided that the increased bounty should operate only until 31st March, 1966, at the latest. The bill now before the House is designed to put this decision into effect. The bill also provides that the bounty may be terminated by proclamation at an earlier date, but not before 1st April, 1965. However, such action would only be taken by the Government should circumstances in the industry warrant it. The question will, in any event, be reviewed by the Tariff Board and the Government before the expiration of the extended bounty. As under the present act, the bounty is payable to Australian producers on domestic sales of sulphate of ammonia for use in Australia as a fertilizer. The increased rate of bounty is to operate as from 21st May.
The cost of the measure is estimated at about £400,000 to £450,000 a year, based on present production of just over 100,000 tons per annum. An annual limitation of £450,000 on bounty in a full year is prescribed in the bill. The provision in the present act for a profit limitation of 10 per cent, will continue. The inquiry which led to the Tariff Board report followed representations from the industry for increased assistance on the basis that the prices of imported sulphate of ammonia fell soon after the last inquiry. Imports have, in fact, increased considerably, and the industry claims that it has been forced to reduce its prices by £2 10s. per ton because of import competition.
Because of the adverse affect on the cost of primary products competing on world markets which a duty on imports of sulphate of ammonia would cause, the board has recommended an increased rate of bounty as being the most appropriate form of continuing assistance to the industry. The Australian producers of sulphate of ammonia are the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited of Risdon, Tasmania; the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited of Port Kembla and Newcastle; the Australian Gas Light Company Limited of Sydney; and, in a comparatively small way, Australian Fertilizers Limited of Port Kembla. Funds employed in production amount to approximately £3,000,000 and employment is given to about 400 people. For the most part, the industry uses industrial by-products which otherwise would be wasted. I commend the bill lo honorable members.
– Before I move that the debate be adjourned, I ask the Minister when it is intended to proceed with the second-reading debate.
– I have not consulted the Leader of the House on this matter; but I should think that the debate will proceed this afternoon.
– Is a bill involving the handing out of about £400,000 a year to some of the wealthiest and most prosperous industrial concerns in Australia to be introduced at this late hour and debated this afternoon?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 3.33 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
i asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Within its terms of reference the Committee is required -
” to make a thorough and factual examination of, and to report on, the costs of transportation to, from and within northern Australia, with particular reference to the costs of transporting goods, and the effects of such costs on the development of northern Australia, and
to examine possible means whereby such costs might be reduced and to report on the practical and economic feasibility and the implications of each means so examined.”
Within those limits the Committee is free to investigate and analyse existing rail services or proposals for modification or addition of new ones.
Transport in Northern Australia. (Question No. 271.)
on asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are . as follows: -
on asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Transport in Northern Australia. (Question No. 273.)
on asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
The limitations in regard to in-patient treatment in repatriation hospitals for chronic or incurable diseases are considered reasonable, having regard to the fact that the conditions are not due to war service and also to the general responsibilities of the community for treatment of this class of patient. It is also pointed out that for a small contribution the patient may participate in the quite substantial benefits of the Commonwealth Government’s national health scheme.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
b asked the Minister for Repa triation, upon notice -
In cases where the children of war widows are full-time students, will he consider continuing the payment of allowances in respect of these children up to age 21?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Where war widows’ children are receiving education allowances under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, present provisions allow for the continuation of these payments throughout secondary education, and beyond that for the whole of the time during which the student is engaged full time in a course of specialized study, for example, professional, agricultural or other tertiary studies.
Moreover, where the war pension of such a child who is being educated under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme ceases when the child reaches sixteen years and is still at secondary school, the child thereafter receives at the age of sixteen a substantial increase in the rate of education allowance.
Postal and Banking Facilities at Repatriation Hospitals. (Question No. 242.)
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Branches of the P.M.G. Post Office are located at -
Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, South Australia.
Macleod Repatriation Hospital, Victoria.
At other institutions suitable arrangements are made for mail collection, (b) Full-time agencies of the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia are located at the above branches of the Post Office. A part-time agency also provides facilities at Lady Davidson Hospital, Turramurra, New South Wales.
Commonwealth Trading Bank -
Repatriation Genera] Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
Commercial Bank of Australia and Commercial Savings Bank of Australia -
Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
Bank of New South Wales-
Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, South Australia.
Lady Davidson Hospital, Turramurra, New South Wales.
Kenmore Repatriation Hospital, Queensland.
Edward Millen Hospital, Western Australia.
Rosemount Repatriation Hospital, Queensland.
Newspaper vendors -
Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg,
Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, South Australia.
Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
Hairdressers - male and female salons -
Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
In addition, hairdressers visit the following institutions on a pre-arranged basis when required -
Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, South Australia.
Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania.
Lady Davidson Hospital, Turramurra, New South Wales.
Macleod Repatriation Hospital, Victoria.
Kenmore Repatriation Hospital, Queensland.
Repatriation Hospital, Birralee, South Australia.
Edward Millen Hospital, Western Australia.
The only other non-governmental organization operating is the Red Cross Society which provides an ancillary service to patients at all Repatriation Hospitals.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Ordnance Factor, Bendigo. (Question No. 302.)
n asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The suppliers to the Australian National Line ships of chandlery such as paint and other stores and purchases from these firms during each of the last five years were as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The cost of all significant general overhaul and repair work carried out on Australian National Line vessels for the years 1959-60, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63 and for the first eight months of 1963-64 is set out in the table hereunder: -
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640519_reps_25_hor42/>.