25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The House will be aware that the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), has recently undergone surgical treatment. He has informed me that he will not be able to resume his duties as Minister for some weeks. Until Senator Paltridge returns to office, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) will act as Minister for Defence.
The absence of Senator Paltridge will necessitate some changes in the ministerial representation in the Senate. The Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) will represent me in matters other than Education and Research. Senator Gorton, the Minister for Works, will represent the Acting Minister for Defence. Senator McKellar, Minister for Repatriation, will represent the Minister for Housing, and Senator Anderson, Minister for Customs and Excise, will represent the Minister for National Development and the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that on a recent visit to Papua and New Guinea the Minister refused to grant any Press interviews or answer questions? If so, would the Minister explain to the House the reasons for his reluctance to give information to the Press and state whether this is because, in the words of his own Department, he is accident prone?
– I do not know the sources of the honorable member information but they are completely wrong. I had a most excellent Press conference.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Did the Minister say at a meeting during the weekend that Government action had collapsed Communist activity on the waterfront? Has the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions attacked this statement as prejudicial to the coming waterfront conference? Could that be so? Is it true that such criticism indicates that the approach to this situation by the Australian Labour Party is to co-exist with Communism and to protect it from criticism, just as President Sukarno has done?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for giving me the opportunity to answer this question. I did speak at a meeting in Sydney on Sunday. This was the gist of my speech: I said that we, in the Government, were opposed to brutality and tyranny wherever it might appear and whether it was tyranny in the form of Nazism or in the form of Communism. I went on to say that Nazism had been defeated and that Communism now was the greatest danger that the free world faced. I would like to know whether any member of the Opposition objects to that kind of statement.
– Answer the question.
– 1 am answering it. Sir, this has nothing to do with the Leader of the Opposition; he is not the Speaker. I then went on to point out that there was a danger that we in the free world are apt to over rate the powers of the Communists, whether in a military sense or in terms of ideals or ideology. I mentioned examples of confrontations on a military basis. In World War II the Nazis were defeated or turned back, and later, in West Berlin and in Malaysia, the Communists were defeated. Equally too, on the basis of ideologies and ideals, when there has been confrontation the free peoples have usually triumphed. [ fail to understand how anyone could take exception to that kind of statement. Particularly I do not know how in this context exception could be taken to my reference to the collapse of the Communists on the waterfront.
– Was the honorable gentleman misreported or not?
– No, I was not. I was accurately reported but not completely reported. I find it a matter of great regret that, without having a complete report of what I said and without knowing the context in which I spoke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions should have seen fit to make a public statement of the kind he made.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been directed to the appointment of a liquidator of H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Ltd. and the writing off as a loss by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd. of £8.6 million invested by it in that company? Did this loss include an additional £H million of life assurance funds invested by the M.L.C. Assurance Co. Ltd. in H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Ltd. last May, after the Company’s disclosure of prior losses of £4 million? In view of the quasi-fiduciary capacity in which life assurance companies accept the savings of their policy holders, will the Treasurer now accede to my request in a question to him in this House on 24th May 1965, that he ask the Insurance Commissioner to investigate all of the circumstances under which such investments were made? What are the Treasurer’s proposals to prevent the recurrence of such fiascos?
– I think that it will be obvious that an answer to the question which has just been asked or to any other question relating to this matter should be stated with precision and care. I hope at a later stage of the afternoon - perhaps just before question time has concluded - to receive some information which is on its way to me from the Treasury. I do not say that it will necessarily cover all the aspects raised by the honorable gentleman, but I shall give the House such information as I am able to give. I shall see whether I can cover the honorable gentleman’s question adequately in my reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. What travel privileges are extended to national servicemen to enable them to return to their home cities when a reasonable leave entitlement occurs? As travel distances are not uniform, will the Minister investigate the possibility of subsidising fares or providing concessional fares for servicemen from the most distant States in order to establish a reasonable uniformity of expense and enable these young men to take full advantage of their leave?
– Leave entitlements are uniform throughout the Army, and I think, throughout all three Services. No discrimination is made in any way between national servicemen and regular soldiers. In general, soldiers are granted annual recreation leave of three weeks, and the cost of travel to and from a serviceman’s home town is met at public expense. In addition, the position of soldiers serving in the eastern States, who live in more distant places such as Perth, is recognised. Not only is the cost of travel met but their annual leave is exclusive of the time taken in travelling. In other words they have their full entitlement of leave on the spot, whatever distance they have to travel.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Evans. Will the Minister undertake, for the duration of the all-in conference on waterfront problems, not to make further and needless and deliberately provocative statements or indulge in what the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, yesterday described as political outpourings designed to ruin the conference?
– I would have thought the explanation I gave would have penetrated even to the Leader of the Opposition.
– That just shows how stupid you are.
– You asked for it and you will get it. If you cannot take it that is your business. I gave what I thought were fairly complete details of the substance of my speech at the opening of Captive Nations Week. I did not think my speech would have been interpreted by the trade unions as provocative and I did not think it could have been interpreted as in any way affecting the substance of the discussions that will take place today at the all-in conference. I want to make it abundantly clear that I do hope that success will attend this meeting and the subsequent meetings that will take place. Consequently, I will go to great lengths to ensure that I am not provocative. When I say I will not be provocative, I hope that our political opponents will not take advantage of every opportunity to be provocative themselves in order to create trouble on the waterfront.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to a statement made last Thursday by Mr. Callaghan, the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, drawing attention to the serious and endemic shortfall in Australian savings as accentuating our balance of payments problem and our unhealthy dependence upon overseas capital. Will the Treasurer discuss with his colleagues in Cabinet the possibility of some early alleviation of the means test which operates as one of the most serious impediments to saving in Australia? When he is introducing amendments to the income tax legislation later in this session, will he include special provisions directed towards increasing the rate of local saving?
– The honorable member for Mackellar has, I think, given a rather abbreviated account of the thoughtfull speech made at some length by Mr. Callaghan on this general question. I have not seen the full text of the speech, but there was quite a full report of it in the “ Financial Review “. The theme of the speech, as I have gathered it, was that in Australia there needed to be a higher level of saving for investment purposes if we were to be able to play as large a part in our national development as most Australians would wish to see. Mr. Callaghan did point out that the current level of saving is such that 90 per cent, of total investment in this country comes from our own savings. I suggest to honorable members that that is quite a high level by comparison with that of most other countries. No doubt there are opportunities in some of the large development projects that we would like to see filled to a greater extent by Australian investment, but this is not possible because of the present demand on our savings for our own development and defence purposes. The honorable gentleman has suggested some particular ways in which savings might ba encouraged. I feel that these would require some study. Certainly it would not be appropriate for me to attempt a policy statement on them at this time. However, I underake to study carefully what the honorable gentleman has put to me.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does his Department compensate young men called up for medical examination in connection with military service if they lose a day’s pay from their employer as a result of such attendance for examination? Does the Department provide a fare home by public transport? What is the position if the public transport has ceased to run by the time the examination has finished, as has happened in Rockhampton?
– As I understood the procedure, although I shall make a check on this, we try to carry out the medical examination at a time which will not interfere with a man’s work. We try to carry out examinations outside working hours or on a Saturday. Nevertheless, if the honorable gentleman would provide me with particulars of the case he has in mind I shall have it investigated. As to the other part of the question which refers to the payment of fares and transport. I do not know what the practice is. I shall look into these matters for the honorable gentleman and supply him with an answer.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. As the Government has established 3 dollars 50 cents a barrel for Moonie crude oil, have State Governments pressed for more drilling activity by certain exploration companies? As a result of this decision, is it possible for the Government, if need be through the States, to place more stringent conditions on companies which hold exploration rights over large tracts of prospective areas in Australia?
– The allocation of licences to drill for oil in Australia is undertaken by the State Governments, except in the Northern Territory where it is undertaken by the Department of Territories. Hence the Commonwealth Government does not have the right to say what conditions should apply to leases. Naturally one would like to see as much drilling as is possible, but in many cases if companies are forced to drill to an excessive extent their financial liquidity may be affected. Very often the result is that, they have to farm out leases to another company and perhaps lose some of their tenement. This is a matter for the State Governments to undertake - not the Commonwealth Government.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is it true, as reported, that the Minister for Labour and National Service has yielded under pressure and persuasion from him to enter into a matrimonial contract? Is he aware that under the law a contract entered into under duress can be declared to be null and void? Has the Prime Minister taken any precautions to avoid such an unhappy ending?
- Sir, it gives me great pleasure to answer in strictly biblical terms: “He is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.”
– My question to the Minister for the Interior refers to continued representations made to successive Ministers for the Interior for a reticulated water supply at the village of Hall which had been promised by a previous Labour government but which had not been implemented at the time that government was defeated. I ask: Does the Minister recall making a visit to the village of Hall early in April this year when hediscussed with members of the progress association of the village quite a number of matters of community concern, but particularly that of the provision of a water supply? As some six months have passed, can he say whether any steps have been taken at least to plan for the provision of a water supply? Can he give any encouraging words at all to the people of Hall?
– The honorable member will recall that with him I visited Hall some months ago. On that occasion I promised the residents that I would have the matter of a reticulated water scheme for Hall re-examined. I also said that if we did supply water it would be likely that there would be certain financial obligations that they would have to meet, either by way of increased land rates or by water rates. I am pleased to inform the honorable member that my Department, the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Works have thoroughly examined a possible scheme. The financial implications are now being studied by my Department and I hope to be able to make, in the not too distant future, a full statement on a prospective proposal for Hall.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Totalisator Agency Board is able to operate in Victoria only through the enterprise of racing clubs providing racing programmes? Does he know that as a result this Board is annually paying sums of money to racing clubs, which money, with the general revenue of the racing clubs, is expended chiefly in prizes and in providing improved amenities for patrons? Will the Treasurer further consider allowing the amount of this expenditure as a tax deduction to racing clubs which are nonprofit organisations?
– Is the honorable member speaking of improvements that are made on Crown land held by the racing clubs?
– This is a matter of interest to a number of members from both sides of the House and I should like to give a reply that, I hope, will cover the matter thoroughly.
– This is a Dorothy Dixer.
– I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that this matter was of interest to honorable members opposite. I am trying to service their requirements as well as the requirements of my friend. Expenditure on improvements is an outgoing of a capital nature whether it is made on land owned by a club or on land leased by a club from a private lessor or the Crown. Capital expenditure is not generally an allowable deduction for income tax purposes, and amendments made to the legislation last year placed freeholders and leaseholders in the same position in this respect in relation to capital expenditure on buildings, et cetera. If the Government made an exception of capital improvements made by race clubs on land leased from the Crown it would be discriminating between clubs with Crown leases and clubs that have private leases or own their own land. It would also be making a departure from principle which would be difficult to justify in relation to taxpayers who take Crown leases for commercial or industrial purposes. In replying to these representations I have indicated that the Government has very carefully considered the matter. It has reached the conclusion that there should be no departure at this stage from principles that, after much thought, have been adopted.
– I ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs. Has he noticed a speech by the Prime . Minister of India about the severity of the food shortage in that country as a result of the drought and of the conflict between India and Pakistan? Has he also noticed statements that assistance to India is being refused because of a desire to exercise political pressure on that country? Will he say whether the failure of the Australian Government to continue a provision in the Budget, similar to the provision last year, for assistance to India will be reviewed in view of the great shortages prevailing in India, and will his Government consider granting some immediate assistance?
– The Australian Government is, of course, well aware of the whole broad problem of food supplies for the Indian sub-continent, including both India and Pakistan, and it is a matter that gives the Government concern. Last year, in response to a request by India that arose in a particular situation, the Australian Government made an outright gift of certain quantities of wheat. That gift caused an item of £3.8 million to be placed on last year’s Budget. In this year’s Budget there is no corresponding item because no similar request has been made and no similar situation has arisen. The honorable member will be aware that the main source of external grain supplies to India is the United States of America, and it was because those supplies broke down that the request was made to Australia last year and was met by Australia. So far as we are aware the external grain supplies for India now continue to be forthcoming.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, ls he aware of any connection between the demonstrations that have taken place in Australia against the war in Vietnam and similar demonstrations in other countries?
– It is well known, I think, even beyond Government circles that early this month the Communist Party at Hanoi decided that, commencing on 15th October and lasting until 15th November, it would concentrate a special propaganda effort on what it termed “ Hate America Month”. As an outcome of that decision in Hanoi, shortly after 15th October almost identical demonstrations, using identical propaganda and having identical targets, were reported from various cities of the world, and demonstrations also took place in Australia. It is quite a remarkable thing, calling for the sober attention of Australians, that not only did these demonstrations take place in many capital cities, but also that they were reported very fully on all media of communication even in cases in which the demonstrators might have numbered only 300 or 400 in countries with populations running to millions. There is no doubt at all that this campaign, the so-called “Hate America Month” to last from 15th October to 15th November, initiated by decision of the Communist Party in North Vietnam, is having its effect in Australia, and that the propaganda originating there is to be used in Australia. I want to be clearly understood; I do not suggest for a moment that every Australian who takes part in these demonstrations in Australia is a Communist, but I do suggest that behind the majority of these demonstrations is an initiative that is carefully contrived by Communists in Australia.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it a fact that a trade agreement between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Australia has been signed? Is it expected that agreements will shortly be signed with the Communist Governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria? Is the purpose of these agreements to facilitate the flow of manufactured goods, particularly motor cars, to Australia? When will the text of agreements arrived at by Australia with European Communist countries be made available to this House?
– As announced a few days ago, an agreement has been signed between the Soviet Union and Australia. The agreement is for most favoured nation treatment and it gives treaty recognition to existing practice with regard to most favoured nation treatment. When the representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry left Moscow after having the discussions which led to this agreement, they continued their journey and had some talks in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, but no treaty has emerged as a result of those talks, nor was a treaty intended to emerge immediately from them. The reference to particular commodities such as motor cars is not well founded. We do not expect any immediate change in the pattern of existing trade, but we do hope that as a result of this agreement for most favoured nation treatment there will be increasing opportunities for the sale of Australian products in the Soviet Union and corresponding opportunities for Soviet Union products in Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Knowing the right honorable gentleman’s belief that all statements on matters of public policy should be made in Parliament when Parliament is sitting, and being aware of his strict adherence to this principle - he referred to this matter on 23rd March last - I ask him how the Minister for Civil Aviation came to announce in a Press statement last Thursday, when both Houses sat throughout the morning, afternoon and evening, the Go vernment’s approval for the purchase by airline operators of new jet aircraft. Will . the Prime Minister arrange for the House to debate a proposal which involves the largest batch of aircraft orders, announced at any one time, the importation from the United States of America of aircraft which Cabinet itself has determined could have been as well imported from Britain, and a great increase in Commonwealth expenditure on airports?
– I would like an opportunity to look closer at this matter. I know that the decision in this matter was taken late on Thursday night, when Cabinet was meeting. It could well be that at that stage it was not feasible to announce the decision in the House. As honorable members know, I always make a point of announcing decisions in the House unless the House is in recess and the matter has some urgency. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to observe this rule. The decision in this matter having been taken late on Thursday night, I fear, in the light of human experience, that there would have been great difficulty in keeping it quiet until the following Tuesday. Somehow, things do get out. I have no doubt that my colleague felt influenced by that point. I will see whether there is any further light to be thrown on this subject. As to whether honorable members should have an opportunity to debate this matter, I am prepared to discuss with the Leader of the House whether an opportunity for this purpose can be found.
– Has the Treasurer observed in the national Press upwards of ten different advertisements by finance companies offering up to 8? per cent, interest on money invested in the companies? In the public interest, will the Treasurer warn investors that the higher the interest rate, the greater the risk?
– I think the honorable member has himself given that warning by articulating what is a well established maxim. Although I have not counted the number of companies offering these higher rates of interest, I keep a close watch on the movement of lending for hire purchase purposes and I assure the House that interest rates have been fairly steady over a long period of months. I think we may take some comfort from the fact that, in the present state of the economy, there is an absence of the speculative atmosphere and even the fever which marked some earlier periods when the economy was running at a very high level of activity. The monthly rate of increase in hire purchase lending has not been of an inordinate nature. Certainly, we do not wish to see interest rates get so high in this country that speculation would be unduly encouraged or that the cost burden on the people would become unduly onerous. The position, therefore, does require constant watching, as I am sure the honorable gentleman would recommend.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. I refer to a statement by the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry that the Commonwealth Government will take a more active interest in rural extension activities and that, when announced, such Commonwealth participation will constitute one of the most important agricultural developments for a number of years. As there is a great deal of scope for Commonwealth action in this matter, I ask: When may the House expect a statement on the decision which the Secretary of the Department indicated last week has already been taken?
– I have stated in this House previously that the Government has sympathetically reviewed its policy on rural extension services and is prepared to expand activities in that field. However, I must warn honorable members not to expect expeditious expansion. The greatest difficulty in the way is the lack of trained personnel needed to expand extension and advisory services. The Government proposes to ensure that more people are trained so that the field of these services may be widened. We shall be making further statements on the matter before 30th June next when the period for current votes expires.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Has he any official notice of a charge by the Dalai Lama that China is still pursuing a course of ruthless genocide against the Tibetans - that males are being systematically emasculated and women forcibly married to non-Tibetans - and of a statement by the Dalai Lama that he is also gravely concerned about the welfare of the Panchen Lama? Will the Minister consider the plight of refugees from Tibet and the possibility of increasing our present small grant of aid to them? Will he seek to obtain a full picture of the situation and inform the House accordingly?
– From time to time we receive reports on conditions in Tibet. These accord with the situation implied in the honorable member’s question. So far as I am aware, the Australian Government has received no recent communication from the Dalai Lama. I shall check on that point with my Department. I shall also follow up the honorable gentleman’s suggestion regarding further Australian assistance to Tibetan refugees.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is he aware that despite a steady increase in the marriage rate there has been a marked decline in the birthrate over the past two years? Has the Cabinet any plan in mind to assist in restoring the birth rate to a normal percentage?
– Looking about the House, I see a few hopeful prospects.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to a recent announcement that an office of the Department of External Affairs has been established in Adelaide for consular and administrative purposes and to meet the needs of welfare of, hospitality for and liasion with overseas students. As offices of the Department are now functioning in all mainland capitals except Brisbane, I ask the Minister whether he and his Department will consider establishing an office in that city for similar purposes?
– These, of course, are arrangements made by the permanent head of the Department. They do not require ministerial decision. However, now that the honorable gentleman has directed attention to the fact that there has been some oversight in respect of Brisbane, I shall discuss the matter with the Secretary of my Department and see that the honorable member is given an answer.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is he aware that no provision exists to permit students who miss the Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships Examination to be considered for these scholarships, a situation that often has disheartening and frustrating consequences? May I here make the comment that it is hardly just of those who organise this important examination on a national basis to hold it in Tasmania in July in the middle of winter when sickness and absenteeism are at their highest. Could this examination be conducted at a more suitable time and could provision be made to enable candidates who are prevented by sickness from sitting to undertake the test at a later date?
– As the honorable member knows, I am not myself administering the details of this scheme. Therefore, I shall be grateful if he will put his question on the notice paper. I shall then ask the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, Senator Gorton, to advise me about the facts and the reasons for any decision that has been taken.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. Do groups displaying banners and providing speakers, which congregate on the lawns in front of Parliament House require permission to do so? ls this area, which is 100 yards or more from Parliament House, controlled by the Department of the Interior? If so, will the Minister state what rules govern the granting of such permission and whether any permission for such gatherings has recently been given?
– The honorable member’s qestion involves two points, The first relates to gatherings within 100 yards of Parliament House and the other to the assembly of persons at points more than 100 yards from Parliament House. It is illegal for more than 20 people to assemble for an unlawful purpose within 100 yards of Parliament House, and “ unlawful purpose “ can be interpreted as covering the airing of a grievance. If the honorable member requires further explanation of the legislation covering the matter, a question would be better directed to the Attorney-General under whose jurisdiction this legislation comes.
My understanding is that there is no objection to the assembly of persons more than 100 yards from Parliament House. A spot more than 100 yards from Parliament House is a public place and people may assemble at such places provided they behave themselves.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General in his capacity as Acting Minister for Defence, ls Sir Frederick Scherger about to be superseded as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee? Was it the Navy’s turn to provide the Chairman when Sir Frederick’s term was extended? If Sir Frederick is to be superseded, is the Government able to say who will take his place?
– I am sure honorable members will appreciate that, having been asked to look after this portfolio only half an hour ago, I am not in possession of all the details. I suggest therefore that the honorable member put his question on the notice paper. But I can assure him that there is no question of superseding anybody in this matter. An appointment as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is for a certain period. The only question is what is to be done when that period of appointment expires. I shall look at the details involved here if the honorable member will put his question on the notice paper.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he can advise the House when the report of the committee which is investigating transport costs in the north will be available. I direct his attention to the fact that a short time ago he told me that the report would be available to the Parliament before the end of August.
– I do not know whether I was ever optimistic enough to say that it would be available before the end of August, but I have been asking about this report myself. I can assure the honorable member that as soon as I can get my clutches on to it and have a look at it I will do my best to see that it is made available for debate during the course of this sessional period.
– I preface a question addressed to the Treasurer by referring to the financial assistance of 36s. a day paid by the Commonwealth to State Governments that admit pensioners free of charge to public hospitals. Does the right honorable gentleman know that it costs the Government of South Australia almost £8 10s. a day to provide a bed for a pensioner, for which it receives 36s. a day from the Commonwealth? Does he also know that in order to qualify for the £500,000 odd which it received from the Commonwealth Government last year for hospitalisation of pensioners, the State Government had to find something like an additional £2 million? In view of the fact that all pensioners are now to be given medical entitlement cards and that, in normal circumstances, this will mean that 16 per cent, more pensioners will be entitled to treatment in State public hospitals, and in view of the fact that the additional cost to the States will be about £500,000-
– Order! The honorable member is making his question far too long.
– I appreciate that it is a long question but I have almost finished. Will the Treasurer, or, if he intends to refer my question to the Minister for Health, will the Government give favorable consideration to making a complete review of the present amount paid to State Governments in respect of pensioners in order to obviate the need for those Governments to increase hospital charges or raise the level of the means test?
– I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my reply will not be as lengthy as the question. The system of payments for pensioners - the 36s. a day which is paid to public hospitals and the £1 a day which is paid to prescribed nursing homes - is intended to assist the hospitals and to minimise the expense of hospitalising persons within this category. 1 will look into the details of the costs mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and will consider the points raised by him. I can assure him that the Department of Health has been examining this question and I would imagine that any variation in costs that have been incurred as a result of the services provided by the States have been kept closely under review and that’ the Government will take into consideration every aspect of the situation from time to time.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Sturt asked me whether I would be prepared to direct that the notice paper be headed “The Parliament of Australia “ instead of “ The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia”. The proposal is also material to the heading used on the votes and proceedings, Parliamentary papers, bills, and other House publications, such as the list of names and addresses of members. It is interesting to note that, in the early years of the Parliament, publications were headed “The Parliament of the Commonwealth” but that the words “ of Australia “ were added later with, I assume, the object of indicating that the Parliament was that of the Australian Commonwealth.
Although the words “ Parliament of Australia “ are used on House stationery and are not inappropriate for this purpose, it is necessary, in my opinion, that the heading of official publications of the House which, I might add, could conceivably be produced in a court of law, should follow the Constitutional descriptions of the Parliament. These may be “The Parliament”, “The Parliament of the Commonwealth “, or “ The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia “. An additional reason is that there could well be objection from the States if our official documents inferred that there was only one Parliament in Australia. I regret, therefore, that I cannot accede to the suggestion of the honorable member. However, I am grateful to him for raising the matter as the inquiry revealed that bills before the House are headed “The Parliament of the Commonwealth “ only. The words “ of Australia “ will be added in future.
– I present the following papers -
Forty-fourth Report of the Commissioner of
Taxation, dated 1st October 1965. Taxation Statistics, 1963-64. and move -
That the papers be printed.
As a result of the proceedings in the High Court in the McGrath case it is not desirable that copies of the report be made ‘available to honorable members or published until the Parliament has given the necessary authorisation. I raised this aspect with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and I understand he agrees not to oppose the motion in order that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Regarding the matter raised earlier today by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), 1 have been made aware by the Commonwealth Actuary and Insurance Commissioner that he has been informing himself about investments made by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd. in H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Ltd. He has been having discussions with the assurance company in relation to its general investment procedures. Whether any more formal action should be taken subsequently by the Commissioner is a matter to be determined in the light of the information obtained by him and its bearing on the interests of the policy holders. Perhaps, however, I should add that it is important that this matter should not be allowed to get out of perspective. I have been given to understand that investments by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd. in H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Ltd. represent only a very small fraction of the total assets of the assurance company.
– by leaveI thank the House for granting me leave to speak on this matter. Might I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) ask the Insurance Commissioner to make similar inquiries concerning investments by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd. in A. J. Benjamin Ltd, which also has gone into receivership this week? Might 1 suggest also that he ask for a report from the Commissioner on the general situation brought about by the changing pattern of insurance investments? I draw a comparison between two figures: As at the end of December last, it appears from the Commissioner’s report, tabled on 13 th May that insurance companies had £352.2 million invested in debentures and shares of various kinds, and that this sum amounted to 23.7 per cent, of their total assets. I draw a comparison with the position of 10 years before, appearing, in the Commissioner’s reports of that time, when £68 million was so invested, amounting to only 8.8 per cent, of their assets, lt will be seen that over the last decade insurance companies have quintupled the amount and trebled the percentage of their investments in debentures and shares. While nobody could doubt the solvency and prosperity of such a large company as the M.L.C. - I believe it is the second largest in Australia - nevertheless there may be other companies which could make equally grievous mistakes, lt would appear to be an appropriate case for the Government to consider amending the taxation laws to encourage companies to invest in better based investments or to introduce insurance laws comparable to the banking laws, ensuring that they do so.
– The matters raised by the honorable member will be brought to the attention of the Commissioner.
– by leave - A detachment of Royal Australian Air Force Sabre aircraft from Butterworth is being deployed to Borneo for a period as part of Australia’s contribution to the defence of Malaysia. This deployment is a normal rotation of air forces and provides Australian pilot’s with additional training and experience. They will be employed on the same basis as their British counterparts in the defence of Sabah and Sarawak.
– by leave - 1 desire to inform the House of certain decisions reached by the Government concerning the Navy’s three year programme, 1965-66 to 1967-68. The decisions involve some variations to the present approved programme, as announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in the course of his defence review on I Ott November last. The revision was initiated by the Naval Board, which submitted certain proposals to vary the programme, in the light of its assessment of the requirements of the fleet to meet the developing strategic situation, and to carry out the Navy’s present commitments and likely tasks.
The first variation concerns the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ and the Fleet Air Arm. In the review of November 1964 an extensive half-life modernisation was approved for H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “, which was planned to begin in mid- 1967 and take 18 months to two years to complete. The estimated cost was £9.6 million. As stated last year, it was always intended that commencement of this work would depend on the international situation existing at toe time. The Government has now decided that it would be undesirable, in the present situation, to have “ Melbourne “ unavailable for operations for up to two years. Instead of laying the ship up for this period, it is intended to put her in for a slightly extended normal refit in 1967, which will be completed within six months. Essential modernisation work, including that necessary to operate the carrier’s replacement aircraft, will be undertaken at that time, at a cost of £2.5 million, and will proceed progressively thereafter during the ship’s normal annual refits.
Honorable members will recall that the present naval programme provides for the replacement of H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne’s “ Gannets by 14 S2E Tracker aircraft, at a cost of £16.5 million. These highly efficient anti-submarine aircraft will be de livered by November 1967. Royal Australian Navy aircrews are currently undergoing conversion training on Trackers with the Royal Canadian Navy, which, like the United States Navy, operates these aircraft. Like the Gannets, the Navy’s present fighter aircraft, the Sea Venoms, will reach the end of their service life by 1967. The completion of certain tests overseas, of detailed studies by Royal Australian Navy technical experts, and actual trials carried out by H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ herself earlier this year when she was in South East Asian waters, have demonstrated that the Skyhawk A4E aircraft can operate from H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “. This aircraft, which is currently in service in the anti-submarine carriers of the United States Navy, is a versatile fighter/ bomber which can be armed with a wide range of weapons, including 20 mm. guns, sidewinder air-to-air and Bull Pup air-to-ground missiles and rockets, according to requirements for particular tasks.
It has been decided to purchase 10 Skyhawk A4E aircraft to replace the Sea Venoms. Two of these will be two-seater trainers. The total cost of this project will be £9.2 million. The aircraft will be delivered in the latter part of 1967, to be available in time to join H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ on completion of her extended refit in early 1968. The Skyhawks will provide the carrier with a proven counter against hostile reconnaissance aircraft and with a limited strike capability against surface force attack in convoy operation. Their acquisition will round out its capabilities and increase further its anti-submarine capacity.
The present naval programme provides for 14 fast patrol vessels, nine of which will serve with the Royal Australian Navy and five with the Navy’s Papua-New Guinea division. As announced at the end of last month, a contract has been let for the construction of these craft by a combination of two Queensland shipbuilding firms. Designed by the Royal Australian Navy for service in Northern Australia and island waters, these vessels will be most appropriate for patrol and surveillance duties. The minesweepers, though they have operated most efficiently in this role in Malaysian waters, were not designed for patrol work, and this is starting to cause undue deterioration and excessive maintenance in these highly specialised units. The patrol craft project has therefore been accelerated in the naval programme to provide the earliest possible relief for the minesweepers. The employment of six of the craft for this purpose will leave a deficiency in the programme for replacement of over-age search and rescue craft, general purpose vessels and seaward defence boats. To meet this deficiency, and to permit the deployment of patrol vessels to additional areas in Australian waters, including the north and west, it has been decided that an additional sue patrol craft will be built for the Royal Australian Navy. The cost of this project will be £3.2 million.
The acceleration of the present patrol craft programme will make earlier demands on manpower for these vessels. This, coupled with the employment of six additional patrol craft in the surveillance and anti-infiltration roles, makes their manning a higher priority in the present situation than keeping all six of the present squadron of minesweepers in commission. Accordingly, it is intended to place four minesweepers into reserve as the patrol craft come into service and to delete from the programme the two new minesweepers which it was planned to purchase in the United Kingdom in 1968. The two minesweepers remaining in commission will be used to keep minesweeping techniques alive in the Royal Australian Navy, and will be rotated with the four in reserve in order to maintain the readiness of the six minesweepers at a high level. This procedure of having such ships in reserve ready for quick use in emergency is followed extensively by the British, United States and Canadian navies.
The programme announced last November included a fleet replenishment ship, which was planned to commence construction in 1967 and complete in 1970. Like the fleet replenishment tanker currently in service, and the escort maintenance ship now building at Cockatoo Island dockyard, the addition of this unit would increase the fleet’s logistic self sufficiency. However, it would not add directly to the fighting strength of the fleet, but would create further demands on skilled manpower which could be better used in other projects, such as I have mentioned, that have a higher priority in present circumstances. The Go vernment has therefore decided to defer construction of the fleet replenishment ship.
These amendments to the Navy’s three year programme will require an increase in the manpower establishment from the present target of 16,700 to 16,990 by the end of the programme period at June, 1968. This increase in numbers will require additional accommodation, and a sum of £500,000 is being provided for this purpose. From the overall financial aspect, the net effect of the approved variations to the Navy’s programme will require an expenditure of £1.5 million over the three year period, additional to the programme estimates announced last November. This increase will be spread over the Navy’s allotments in the appropriate years. The general effect of the decisions I have announced will be to increase as quickly as possible the effective fighting strength of the fleet, even though this means deferment of certain ancillary and support units. 1 feel sure honorable member will agree that this is a highly desirable objective in present circumstances.
I present the following paper -
Naval Programme - Ministerial Statement, 26th October 1965. and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1965-66 of special grants totalling £20,885,000 to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. The payment of these amounts has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirty-second report which has already been tabled. The Bill also authorises the payment of advances to Western Australia and Tasmania in the early months of 1966-67 pending the receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and the enactment of new legislation.
A similar provision has been included for a number of years in the legislation authorising the payment of special grants to the claimant States.
In arriving at its recommendations for 1965-66 the Commission has continued to apply the principle of “ financial need “ under which special grants are designed to enable the claimant States to provide services at a standard not appreciably below that of the standard States, provided they make comparable efforts in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. As in the four preceding years the Commission has taken New South Wales and Victoria as the standard States for the purpose of these comparisons. The Commission has also adhered to the method of recommending grants composed of two parts. One part represents an advance payment based on the Commission’s assessment of a claimant State’s financial needs for 1965-66 and is subject to final adjustment two years later when the Commission has completed its examination of the audited Budget results of the States for that year. The other part of the grant represents a final adjustment of the advance payment made two years earlier - in this case, in 1963-64.
The special grants recommended for payment in 1965-66 are compared with the grants paid in 1963-64 and 1964-65 in a table which, with the concurrence of the House, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “.
As honorable members will see from this table, the recommended final adjustments to the advance payments made in 1963-64 are higher than the final adjustments recommended last year. Normally the Commission’s advance payments are designed so as to leave only a relatively small adjusting payment to be made two years later. However, when recommending the amount of the advance payments for 1963-64 the Commission worked on the basis that the budgets of the standard States for that year would reflect large deficits and consequently that the claimant States should be left with budget deficits that would be relatively comparable. In fact, the Budget results of the standard States were better than anticipated and the Commission has adopted as the Budget standard for 1963-64 a deficit of only 10s. 6d. per head so that the recommended adjustment to the advance payment made in 1963-64 is rather larger than normal. These adjustments reflect the Commission’s assessment that, taking the budgetary position in 1963-64 as a whole, Western Australia made “ above-standard “ efforts to raise revenue and control expenditure, while Tasmania’s efforts were about on a par with those in the standard States.
The effect of adopting the Commission’s recommended final adjustments for 1963-64 would be to give Western Australia a total final special grant for that year of £7,419,000 an increase of £859,000, or 13 per cent., on the final special grant paid for 1962-63. Tasmania would receive a total final special grant of £5,766,000, for 1963-64, an increase of £375,000, or 7 per cent., on the final special grant paid for 1962-63. In the case of both States this rate of increase in special grants is considerably faster than that of the financial assistance grants paid to them under the formula laid down in the States Grants Act 1959.
The advance payments recommended for 1965-66 are based on the Commission’s forecast of the amount of financial assistance likely to be required for this year. After examining the Budget prospects of the two standard States of New South Wales and Victoria the Commission concluded that, in order to place the claimant States in a comparable financial position, a small deficit Budget standard would be appropriate for 1965-66. Consequently, the advance payments recommended by the Commission would, on the basis of preliminary estimates submitted to it by the claimant States, leave both of them with the prospect of Budget deficits for 1965-66. These payments will, of course, be subject to adjustment in 1967-68 when the Budget results of the claimant and standard States for 1965-66 have been reviewed.
The advance payments recommended for 1965-66 are nearly £4,000,000 greater than the advance payments made last year. This follows the comparatively large increase of £3,700,000 in these payments for 1964-65 which now, however, seems to have been inadequate to meet the needs of the claimant States in that year. Tentative estimates published in the report of the Commission suggest that the final adjustment to the advance payment made in 1964-65, which will form part of the Commission’s recommendations next year, may be as much as £3,000,000. If this should prove to be the case, the advance payments recommended for 1965-66 will show only a small effective increase. In addition, of the total increase of £4,000,000 in the advance payments recommended for 1965-66, £1,200,000 is on account of payments by the claimant States to the Commonwealth in respect of their shares of capital losses under the war service land settlement scheme.
Under the war service land settlement arrangements with the “agent” States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - the States are required to pay their shares of any capital losses under the scheme to the Commonwealth. The claimant States have, in recent years, met these payments from their Budgets and in consequence they have, in effect, been included in the special grants recommended by the Commission. It is expected that substantial capital losses will be determined in the next few years under the war service land settlement scheme; and to avoid unduly inflating the special grants in any single year, I have agreed with the Treasurers of the claimant States on arrangements under which each claimant State will pay, from its Budget, its share of the estimated total capital losses in approximately equal yearly instalments during the period of the new financial assistance arrangements. On the latest estimates available, this would require total annual payments by the claimant States of about £1,700,000 in each of the years 1965-66 to 1969-70. The advance payments recommended by the Commission for 1965-66 reflect the first of these instalments.
In my speech introducing the States Grants Bill 1965,I referred to the fact that, under the new financial assistance grants arrangements agreed at the Premiers’ Conference in June, both Western Australia and Tasmania are to continue to be eligible to apply for special grants. Over the five years 1965-66 to 1969-70 in addition to the financial assistance grants payable under the improved formula incorporated in the new arrangements these two States may therefore continue to receive special grants as recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
In conclusion, I would like to pay a tribute to the work of Professor Wilfred Prest and Sir Alexander Reid, C.M.G., I.S.O., the termination of whose appointments as members of the Commission was announced recently. Professor Prest and Sir Alexander Reid both served four terms on the Commission and both made significant contributions to its work. Both undoubtedly assisted materially in maintaining the respect which the Grants Commission enjoys at both the Commonwealth and State levels. Honorable members will agree, I am sure, that the appointment of Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., and Mr. H. J. Goodes, C.B.E., to replace Sir Alexander Reid and Professor Prest will ensure that the high standards of the Commission are maintained. The Grants Commission’s recommendations have been adopted without amendment in each year since the Commission was established in 1933, and the Government considers that they should be adopted this year. I therefore commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 2 1st October (vide page 2144).
Department of Housing.
Proposed expenditure, £1,988,000.
Upon which Mr. L. R. Johnson had moved by way of amendment -
That the proposed expenditure (or the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.
.- The expenditure proposed by the Department of Housing is a subject that concerns many people living in Australia for we have great housing problems. In Australia today there is a great housing shortage and many people are living under slum conditions. Many people are dependent on State housing commissions for decent accommodation because they cannot afford the rents that they are now paying. Housing is an important problem in Australia and we of the Australian Labour Party are greatly concerned about it. However, I cannot say the same about Government supporters because I believe that only one honorable member opposite will speak on housing during this debate. This lack of interest by honorable members opposite represents a slur on the people of Australia. It’ gives one the impression that the Government is not concerned about the great housing problems that confront the people. We know that today we have in Australia a great many couples who will never own their own homes. Because of the high rents which they are paying it is impossible for them to save enough to put a deposit on a home.
Last night I was approached by a constituent who wanted me to help him get a home. He informed me that he was living with his wife and four children in one room for which he was paying £8 10s. a week in rent. He was looking for better accommodation, but his only chance of obtaining it was through the Housing Commission. He told me that he had been waiting two years for a house from the Housing Commission, but naturally I had to tell him that he would probably have to wait another three years before he could obtain one. There are many similar cases throughout Australia today. But this is only one aspect of the housing problem. In a lengthy article on this subject in the “ Australian “ recently the President of the Melbourne University Students Representative Council stated that the housing problem among university students was driving them to drugs and drink. He maintained that in some instances students were living under slum conditions.
He mentioned some Filipino students who had come to Australia for an education and who were paying £2 10s. a week for one room containing a small cupboard. In one instance the accommodation was well below standard and the student had been living there for three years. As a result his education has probably been greatly affected. This situation occurs not only in Victoria but also throughout Australia. As members of the National Parliament we should be greatly concerned about this problem. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has moved as an amendment -
That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.
The purpose of this amendment is to try to bring some light to the subject and to ensure that some justice shall be given to people in Australia who need to buy or rent a home. Over the last few months there has been a decline in home building, brought about mainly by the tightening of finance.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) stated in the Budget debate that there will be a general shortage of finance for home building. As a result of that shortage we find there has been a decline of more than £1 million in the value of homes that were built during September and that 800 fewer homes were built during that month. But there cannot be a slump in home building without a great many other industries being affected. I believe that the decline in the rate of building could lead to a serious recession in allied industries. A great many industries are involved and, probably, in the near future if the business is not available we will see a laying off of employees in those industries. We have seen a similar situation recently in the motor vehicle building industry. Because of the decline in sales of motor cars other industries have been affected and have been laying off employees. A similar situation could arise also in the building industry. We should be greatly concerned about this because in that event not enough work will be available for those now employed in the building industry.
Over the weekend I read an article which stated that in Canberra alone, as a result of the reduction in housing finance, more than 100 persons applied for jobs with one of the big construction firms when vacancies for carpenters and labourers were advertised. A surplus of labour in the building industries has not been experienced for a number of years, but it is happening now, and while it is happening we should be greatly concerned about it. We know that in certain parts of the capital cities much development is occurring, but the financiers behind the development are mainly great insurance companies. They are building great blocks of offices in the cities, but the capital cities, especially Sydney, have no shortage of office space. Owners of office blocks cannot attract sufficient tenants. However, although offices cannot be let, people are still investing in large construction projects of this type at a time when there is a serious shortage of housing. The Government should do something to get these people to lend more money for home building purposes. If they transferred to home building the money they are spending on big developments it would assist many people.
One of the greatest slugs today is finance. . It is not hard to borrow money if the borrower is prepared to pay exorbitant interest rates. Not many people nowadays can afford the high rates charged. Financiers are quite prepared to lend money on second mortgage to people who want to buy homes, but the borrowers and their families have to go without many things to pay the interest rates. Many of my constituents have had to purchase homes with second mortgages, and some have to pay £10, £12 or £14 a week. I have heard of some paying up to 20 per cent, interest on money they have borrowed. This is wrong, and the Government should do something about it. We have heard much of the proposed Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The Chairman of the proposed Corporation stated that it will be operating by the end of November. We are all waiting to see what assistance this will offer to the people who need it.
The Minister for Housing recently issued every member of the Parliament with a booklet entitled “ A Grant For Your Home “, which gives details of how to obtain the £250 grant that the Government will give to young couples who save £750. I am con cerned about the owner builder. 1 have spoken to the Minister about this. The booklet stipulates what an owner builder must do to be eligible for the £250 grant. It states that after the house has been completed the Department will assess its value. The Minister has informed me that the owner builder is credited with a builder’s fee of 10 per cent, of the value of the house. I believe that this is totally inadequate. About 60 per cent, of the cost of a home is represented by labour charges, so the man who builds his own home can save up to 50 per cent. - say 40 per cent. Admittedly he has to sublet certain contracts as prescribed by law, primarily for licensed plumbing and electrical work, but if he is a carpenter or bricklayer and builds his own home he naturally saves a lot in labour costs; yet on a home that the Department values at £5,000 he is credited with a builder’s fee of only £500. A builder’s fee is the profit a builder makes from a job. lt is net profit. It is not good enough to allow the owner builder who is prepared to devote his time to building his own home and saving himself considerable expense only 10 per cent, of the valuation. The master builders’ organisations issue information bulletins that are available to the public in which is published the present price of building commodities, and an examination of these prices indicates how much is entailed in labour costs in building a home. So I think that the Minister, or his Department, should allow a little more to the owner builder as a builder’s fee.
The latest available report of the War Services Homes Division dated 31st December 1964, indicates that the Division assesses the value of a brick home at £446 a square, a brick veneer home at £423 a square, an asbestos timber frame home at £392 a square and a weatherboard home at £352 a square. I know of a man who built his own home. He was a bricklayer. After he had completed his house he applied for the £250 grant. The Department valued the home and land at over £7,000. Admittedly it was a 12 square home and was of brick construction. It contained about 60,000 to 70,000 bricks, most of which were laid by the man himself. The Department assessed the house at the current market value and all it allowed the man for his labour and work was a paltry £500, which is not enough.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– 1 think that I am the first speaker from the Government side on this subject. I heard some, and read the other, speeches made by Opposition members when the matter was discussed last Thursday. We have just heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine). He, of course, simply repeated the same sort of statement that was made by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), who apparently was authorised by the Opposition to move the amendment that is now before the Committee. It would appear from the statements of Opposition members that they have three principal complaints. First, the lack of finance; secondly, the shortage of housing; and, thirdly, the decline in the building trade. These three points seem to be inherent in their complaints. It is regrettable to me that the Australian Labour Party does not get down to tin tacks and properly study and understand the housing problem, because the Labour Party does not understand it. I have been watching Opposition members for years. I have listened to them in this Chamber for years. I know the attitudes of the Party both Federally and in the States. The Labour Party, as a political organisation, does not understand anything at all about the housing problem, otherwise it would have taken action. I propose to show how, as a political party, the Labour Party is responsible for many of the housing evils from which we suffer today.
Let us deal with some of these matters briefly. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) will no doubt deal with them effectively when he closes the debate. On the question of the availability of finance the Minister has stated quite clearly - and we all know this - that there is a slight tightening of finance in Australia today, but that this situation is not expected to remain static. The availability of finance varies in accordance with the economic changes that take place from time to time. We do know that there has been tremendous pressure upon imports. Our overseas balances are causing some concern and there has been a tightening up in the availability of finance. At all times the members of the Opposition try to relate the position to that which existed during the last financial year, ignoring the fact that figures in relation to housing during the last financial year were unprecedented and it would not be expected, nor would it be necessary, that those figures would be repeated in this financial year.
I can say from practical experience that there is a slight tightening of finance, and no doubt the Government and the Minister for Housing are watching the position very carefully; but there is nothing to become panic-stricken about. Practically every person who wants to buy a home today can find the required finance. 1 have experience of these matters and I know of no case at the present time in my own business of a client waiting for finance and who cannot be accommodated. I do not say that finance is readily available everywhere. Some may find it difficult to obtain a loan. There has been a slight tightening, but nothing to get into a panic about. The position is not as serious as that. I suggest that Labour is simply trying to use this discussion in Committee as a political vehicle to try to deceive innocent people who just do not understand the subject.
The members of the Opposition keep on repeating that there is a shortage of housing. They do not seem to realise there is no real shortage of houses in Australia today, as can be seen when one relates the number of houses available to the total population. The only field in which there may be said to be a visible shortage of houses is in the rental field. Most of the houses available are, of course, for sale. There is a distinct shortage, particularly in New South Wales, of lower priced rental houses. This does not mean that there are not houses available, because there are many thousands of houses vacant in Sydney and also, I believe, in most other capital cities. The building programme has been proceeding very rapidly. But there is a shortage in the lower priced rental field.
This is not, of course, the responsibility of the Federal Government; it is the direct responsibility of the States themselves. I asked a question in the House a week or two ago on this ve;, subject and it is interesting to note that as at 30th September of this financial year the State Governments had called on a little more than £5.5 million while in the corresponding three months period from 1st July to 30th September last year they had called on more than £9 million. The money is available to them if they wish to activate themselves in this field. There is nothing that honorable members opposite can charge this Government with having failed to do.
As I have said, it is only in the lower priced rental field that one can say there is a shortage of housing. The problem is a difficult one and the difficulty has been contributed to in the past by the Labour Party. Labour tries always to create the impression that private enterprise has failed to provide sufficient housing for the people. This is the argument of members of the Opposition and has been for years. They say that governments have to come in and take over, provide the finance, build the houses and let them to the people at subsidised rental rates. We are told that governments must exercise rigid control over the operations of private investments. This is Labour’s policy and it has caused a great deal of difficulty for this country. I would call it glib tongued Socialism, and it is the kind of propaganda that has been disseminated over the years to try to convince the members of the younger generation, who are not aware of what has happened in the past, that there has always been a shortage of houses. This, of course, is not true.
To give point to their argument, Opposition members say: “Look at the waiting lists with the housing commissions “. Of course it is ridiculous and absurd to base an argument on those waiting lists. Anyone who says that the number of names on a waiting list in one of the housing commissions is the number of people waiting for houses is quite wrong, because on those lists there are hundreds of names of people who already have decent accommodation but who are trying to obtain cheaper accommodation, subsidised accommodation, at government expense. Many of these people whose names are on waiting lists are, of course, genuinely in need of accommodation, but my point is that these waiting lists have, been used in a false way by Labour governments for political purposes.
The fact is that there never was a shortage of houses in Australia’s history until Labour came to power and governments started to interfere and tried to control the situation and to build houses. Honorable members opposite can go back as far as they like. Older people who can remember conditions from the turn of the century to the end of the Second World War in 1945 know that there was always a plentiful supply of houses in every State and in every capital city. In fact there were surpluses on many occasions and competition on those occasions to get tenants to take available properties. During the war period a very large proportion of properties were vacant. In Sydney about one house in every four was vacant during the war. It was only when wartime controls were continued after the war that shortages of housing appeared. In those earlier days controls did not exist at all and no government took part in the building of houses, except, of course, for war service homes after the First World War, until wartime control became necessary in 1939. It was not until the Federal Labour Government tried to gain complete national control over housing and continued the wartime controls that the housing commissions appeared.
The Labour Party in this National Parliament tried to implement a nationwide campaign which gave no rights to the people and no encouragement to them to become home owners. It was the desire of the Labour Party and part of its Socialist objective to create a tenancy community in Australia. Yet the members of the Opposition now talk about finance for home ownership. They were never in favour of home ownership and they never tried to encourage it in any shape or form. Whenever I speak on these matters I recall what happened when Mr. Dedman, then the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction in the Labour Government, introduced legislation immediately after the war. Let this never be forgotten by the people of Australia. When the Minister was challenged on that legislation by members of the parties that now sit on this side of the chamber he said: “We do not want to make little capitalists in Australia “. In other words, no provision whatever was made for home ownership. The people were to become a tenancy community, directed as to where they would live and having no choice in the matter. Rents were to be subsidised. This
Is still the attitude of the Labour Party the members of which are now moving and supporting the amendment.
The present Government has done a magnificent job in the housing field. It has caught up with the shortage brought about by the Labour Administration when it was in power. Building activity is at a very high level. It is most difficult to get good bricklayers or good tradesmen of any kind. There is no need for panic at the state of the building industry. As the Minister has said, the economy must be watched carefully. The building trade is operating at a high level. The shortage of land for building purposes has led to high prices being paid for building land. The entry of governments into the field of building has been a factor in the rising cost of land. If governments had allowed proper competition in building instead of interfering, the housing problem would not have been as great as it is. The increased cost of housing is attributable to many factors. One factor is the enormous burden on local government authorities which must obtain some of their revenue from increased land rates.
Two moves by this Government related to housing deserve commendation. 1 refer to the homes savings grant scheme and to the establishment of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The homes savings grant scheme not only assists young people to own their homes, which is its fundamental purpose, but also encourages them to save for a deposit on a home. Despite the merit of the scheme, some honorable members opposite have engaged in carping criticism of it. As regards the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, although we must tread warily at the outset’ I look to the Corporation to encourage the lending for building purposes of a great deal of private money. I am sure that the Corporation will bc an incentive to this end. In the past, the incentive to lend for housing has been killed by Labour legislation and once investors lose their incentive it takes many years for them to regain it.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Last Thursday the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), in the usually competent manner in which he approaches the subject of housing, moved -
That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.
The honorable member said that he had moved this motion as a mark of concern at the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. In those words, the honorable member for Hughes expressed the feelings of every honorable member on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) made no worthwhile contribution to the debate. The greater part of his speech was devoted to what he claimed a former Labour Government did not do in the field of housing, what it should have done and what it might have done. The honorable member did not point out that a Labour Government was in office in Australia during the greater part of the war years and the immediate post-war years and was responsible for the rehabilitation of all Australians who had served, directly or indirectly, in Australia’s war effort. The Labour Government also was responsible for introducing the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The level of building activity in the immediate post-war period was higher in proportion, having regard to the population and post-war difficulties, than it is today.
– That is absurd.
– The honorable member for Bennelong should refer to the figures showing the number of applications for housing assistance received by the various State housing instrumentalities. The figures for 1963-64 - the latest available - show that in New South Wales, the State from which the honorable member comes, 16,688 applications were received for housing assistance. Ten years earlier the number was 14,175. So the honorable member might concede that the number of applications for assistance received by the State housing authorities has been increasing steadily year by year. The situation in Victoria is similar to that in New South Wales.
The honorable member for Bennelong dealt with the Labour Government’s record in the war years and the immediate postwar years. He did not tell us that in the immediate post-war years we were beginning to feel the effects of Labour’s immigration programme. The Commonwealth must accept full responsibility for war service homes but I point out that, in this field, this Government has not discharged its responsibility in the way that the legislation originally intended.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Bennelong say that there is no housing shortage in Australia. All the statistics available to honorable members show that there is a grave shortage of homes in Australia. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has told us that in this financial year less money will be available for building purposes than in earlier years. Surely the Minister can do something to improve the situation. Shortage of finance for housing is not the only problem confronting prospective home owners. The amount of deposit now required in purchasing a home and the high interest rates charged on loans are heavy burdens on people seeking to acquire a home. I trust that the Minister will pay some attention to these matters when he speaks in the debate.
In September this year the Minister referred to the variety of reasons for the increased demand for housing in Australia. He said that each year there would be about 170,000 marriages. No doubt the number of marriages next financial year will exceed 170,000. On the Minister’s reckoning, we can expect that this year 85,000 newly married couples will seek housing accommodation. The Minister stated also that owing to the Government’s immigration programme, 100,000 newcomers to this country will require accommodation. Surely, in all the circumstances, the Government will concede that the demand for housing will increase. The Opposition has claimed that there is a grave housing shortage. The Government has already indicated that less money will be available this financial year for home construction of all kinds, and it apparently contentedly accepts this fact. I should think that it would discharge its responsibilities in these matters, for it has a very grave responsibility for providing accommodation for those who are in need of it.
A few moments ago, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I referred to this Government’s responsibility for housing in a field in which this Parliament has accepted responsibility since the end of the First World Warwar service homes. This financial year £35 million will again be made available for war service homes. The sum provided in. 1964-65 was £35 million, the same as in the preceding year. In 1962-63 the Government provided an additional £24 million, making a total for that financial year of £37i million. In the current financial year, however, the allocation will be limited to £35 million. The number of outstanding applications for war service homes, it is true, has been declining each year in recent years. But even today a large number of applicants is waiting for assistance from the War Service Homes Division. The latest figures are available in the report of the Director of War Service Homes for the financial year 1964-65. It can be seen that there is a great demand for assistance from the Division. But, as I have already indicated to the Committee, only £35 million is to be made available this financial year.
The maximum advance that this Government provides is £3,500. Even on the Minister’s own figures, which were given to the Parliament when he was speaking on the Housing Loans Insurance Bill earlier this year, the average cost of a house and land in Australia can be calculated at £5,000. On the Minister’s own assumption, this leaves £1,500 to be provided by each applicant for assistance from the War Service Homes Division. Earlier this afternoon the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) referred to the cost of home construction as outlined in the Director’s annual report. It shows that the average cost of a house and land in New South Wales is £5,223. This is £170 more than in the previous financial year, and almost £1,500 more than eight years ago. How do the Minister, and the honorable member for Bennelong, who spoke in this debate earlier this afternoon, explain this enormous increase in the cost of homes? How does the Minister explain the substantial increase in the deposit required not only from those who are applicants for assistance from the Division but also from those who are endeavouring to obtain assistance from other financial institutions?
As I have already pointed out, the deposit required for a war service home today is almost £1,500. In the Australian Capital Territory, however, according to the figures supplied by the Director of War Service Homes in his report for 1964-65, the deposit required is £1,773. Under the original war service homes legislation it was intended that the deposit required of an ex-serviceman should not be more than 10 per cent, of the capital cost of a home. On the latest figures it is obvious that the security required today has increased from 10 per cent, to more than 30 per cent, in some instances. But the Minister gives the Committee no explanation for this. Indeed, it can be seen, as I have demonstrated, that this Government has failed those who are eligible for assistance under the terms of the war service homes legislation.
It is now 20 years since the end of the last war, and there is still a lengthy wait for some kinds of assistance under the war service homes scheme. Surely the honorable member for Bennelong would not hold this up as an example of the Government’s approach to housing and as evidence of the truth of its claim to a great record in housing. Surely he would not hold up as an illustration of the Government’s merits the fact that so long after the end of the war the Minister still authorises a waiting period of 1 7 months for assistance for the purchase through the War Service Homes Division of some kinds of houses. In fact, the waiting time has been reduced, I think, from 24 months to 17 months since this Government first introduced a waiting period. But no waiting period was ever expected to be applied when the original war service homes legislation was enacted.
I know that the Minister will say that the Government intends that new homes shall be built. But if one examines the figures that I have given and home costs as outlined in the report of the Director of War Service Homes one must concede that there has been a substantial increase in the deposit required. This increase means that more than half of those ex-servicemen who are waiting for assistance from the Division will turn to the purchase of existing homes. But the Minister imposes a waiting period of 17 months from the time when an existing home is purchased until finance is made available. This is the policy of the present Government. We say that its attitude is quite wrong.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I support the amendment proposed by my colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), on Thursday evening last. He moved that the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing, which we are now considering, be reduced by £1 as a mark of concern at the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. I am astonished at the remarks made a little earlier by the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), who is a responsible member of this Parliament and who has had long experience in public affairs. Like most honorable members on the Government side, he has now left the chamber. Apart from the Minister, who sits at the table, there is only one member of the Liberal Party present to hear the discussion on this grievous social problem of housing. I felt some indignation at the remarks made by the honorable member for Bennelong, and I wrote down several of them as he made them. He said, for example, that there is no real shortage of housing in Australia. Later he stated that there are many thousands of vacant homes in Sydney. What an astonishing statement to come from the honorable member for Bennelong, who has had so many years of experience in public life. The honorable member then contradicted himself for he went on to say that any shortage that there was in housing was attributable to the Federal Labour Government which was in office during the war years.
Let us examine the position. In Canberra, where the Commonwealth Government has full authority to meet the housing needs of the people, the waiting period for a house is two years. This has been pointed out frequently by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and is well known to all honorable members on this side of the Committee, and no doubt to honorable members on the Government side. If the waiting period in Canberra is not two years, I should like the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) who is sitting at the table, to contradict what I say when he rises to close the debate.
I understand also that on a populaion basis the number of people waiting for homes is greater in Canberra -than in any other part of Australia. Yet the honorable member for Bennelong dogmatically states that there is no real shortage of housing in Australia. Does not a two year wait indicate that there is a shortage? A friend of mine, a plumber, who lived in my electorate, took employment in Canberra. After some time, he finally managed to get a home for his wife and children at Queanbeyan. He is paying £11 a week rent. This Government tries to pass responsibility for this sort of thing on to the Labour Government which held office during the war years. The present Government has been in office now for approximately 16 years.
– Too long.
– Far too long. But for the mighty power of the propaganda media in this country, but for the enormous power of those friends of the Government who control radio, television and the Press, the Government certainly would not be in office today. Before passing from this point, I should like to refer to something mentioned by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who made many important submissions to this Parliament. I speak of war service homes, for which this Government is solely responsible. Although it is responsible for the provision of homes for our returned servicemen, we find that there is a waiting period of 18 months or more for those applicants who seek finance from the War Service Homes Division to purchase an existing home.
That reminds me of a very close friend of mine who lives in Newcastle. He served overseas in the Royal Australian Air Force during the war years. His marriage broke up as a result of his joining the Air Force. He remarried recently and when he applied to the War Service Homes Division for a loan he was told there was a two year waiting period. Unwisely, he went to a finance company for temporary accommodation with the result that he is now paying a shocking interest charge of, I think, £2 10s. or £3 a week. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) reminds me that there are 8,000 returned servicemen in a similar position. This Government claims to look after the returned servicemen.
During the war years, its promise was: “You shoulder a gun, go overseas, and we will look after you till the end of time.” What a lot of rot and piffle that was.
In the eyes of the Opposition, this Government has adopted an indifferent attitude towards meeting the nation’s housing needs. Not so long ago we were reminded in this Parliament that the number of applicants for homes in Australia was approximately 100,000. This is a shocking disgrace to any government, and this Government should bear the full responsibility. It is not making sufficient funds available to the States to meet this urgent and important social need. The seriousness of the position should be pointed out as forcibly as possible in this National Parliament.
The figures that are available to members of the Federal Parliament disclose a serious fall in the number of loans approved from a peak of 10,128 in the September quarter of 1963 to 8,286 in the quarter ended June 1965. They disclose also that the number of approvals per month is lower now than it has been for the past two years. Loan money being made available for housing has dropped from a peak of £31.5 million for the quarter ended September 1963 to £26.9 million for the quarter ended June 1965. Experts on statistics, the Reserve Bank, the “Financial Review” and others have forecast that there will be a very serious fall in the moneys made available to home seekers for the quarter ended September of this year. Most thinking Australians now realise that the Commonwealth Government’s housing grant scheme was an election gimmick because it is so complicated and has so many strings attached to it. Further, to my mind, the recent Housing Loans Insurance Bill, which was designed to insure private loans to home builders in the hope that this would induce financing companies to release more money, has proved ineffective.
I believe housing to be the most important social problem facing the community today. The inadequacy of housing contributes to nervous breakdowns amongst members of the family unit, to a greater indulgence in drugs, tranquilisers and intoxicating liquors, to divorce court proceedings, and, most important of all, to child delinquency. I would say that the two honorable clerical gentlemen in this Parliament would have great practical experience of how lack of proper housing contributes to child delinquency in the community. Because of child delinquency, parents are burdened with high court costs. Further, medical bills for the family unit soar as a result of inadequate housing. If the unfortunate offspring of a union is required to go before a criminal court, then, as there is nothing warmer than a mother’s love, the parents are faced with the cost of retaining a lawyer to look after the interests of the delinquent. All these things are the offshoots of lack of proper housing.
In the short time at my disposal, let me give some instances of how inadequate housing is leading to delinquency and crime, in this country, in the United States of America and in our motherland, Great Britain. One magazine which I have before me points out that a recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report from Washington shows that major crimes increased by 13 per cent, in America last year. Another magazine dated 22nd August refers to crime in New York City. It states that in 1964, New York City crime increased in every category. It points .out that the number of murders increased from 549 in 1963 to 637 last year.
– Some of them came from the best homes.
– Not necessarily from the best homes. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says that a number of criminals come from good homes. I respect him as a member of this Parliament, but his view on this matter is entirely different from that held by Lord Packenham who made a great study of crime in Great Britain and who published a book entitled “ The Causes of Crime “. I have marked five passages in that book, but unfortunately have not time to read them to honorable members. But, in that book, Lord Packenham stated that he was satisfied, after haying conducted a vast amount of research, that one of the main contributing causes of crime and child delinquency was inadequate and improper housing. If the honorable member for Mallee were prepared to read that book he might withdraw the remark that he made by interjection a short time ago.
I am reminded by my colleague, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen), of a leading article which appeared in today’s issue of “ The Courier-Mail “ - a fairly reputable newspaper - and which, under the heading “ Home loan project to be tested soon “, stated -
It has taken a long time, but the Government’s 1963 Federal Election policy promise of a Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is about to be fulfilled.
To refresh readers’ memories, when the scheme was first mooted the idea was to help overcome home-seekers’ problems of filling the gap between the available housing loan and the cost of a home. By setting up a corporation which would ensure low deposit housing loans on up to 95 per cent, of valuation it was hoped that home buyers would be able to avoid second mortgages on oppressive terms.
I do not have time to read the complete article, but it concludes with the statement -
That was two years ago. The need today for helping young people to secure homes is as great as it ever was.
It is apparent to me that the honorable member for Bennelong is not aware of the real problems in relation to housing. He is out of touch. He is airborne. His feet are not on the ground or else he is deliberately misleading the Parliament. I would remind him of the seriousness of misleading a parliament. I remind him of what happened to a Tory member in Great Britain several years ago who was-
– The honorable member for Bennelong was Minister for the Army.
– Yes. He is now an exMinister for the Army. The Tory member to whom I referred was a Minister at the time, but he had to resign from Parliament for having made a misleading statement to it. I ask the honorable member for Bennelong to be kind enough to come back into this chamber and withdraw the statement he made that there was no housing shortage in Australia.
.- I cannot understand why the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) should have become so upset about the remarks made by the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). I say that because the honorable member for Bennelong has been making similar statements in this chamber during housing debates for a number of years. A couple of years ago when the Australian Labour Party was in office in New South Wales, the honorable member for Bennelong said that as soon as the Labour Government was defeated the housing lag in that State would be attacked and would dwindle away. This forecast is proving reasonably correct at the moment because of the change of policy towards applicants for Housing Commission homes in New South Wales. People who have been on the waiting list for a number of years are now being told that’ because of the aggregate income coming into the home, earned by themselves and by their children, they should be capable of building or purchasing a home of their own. When the figures concerning the number of applicants waiting for homes in New South Wales are released later on this year, or early next year, there will be a large decline in the number of applicants before the Commission. But the Government of New South Wales will not have solved the problem at all. lt is merely putting a means test on the people who might apply for Housing Commission homes. It is not helping in any way to solve the housing problem.
The Commonwealth Government, which is of the same complexion as the Government of New South Wales, has talked around this subject for a number of years. About 12 months ago the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced the establishment of a Ministry of Housing. Since that time, we have had a great deal of talk about housing matters, insurance corporations, the Homes Savings Grant Act and so forth but still the housing situation deteriorates. There are thousands of families throughout Australia who live in substandard accommodation and have very little prospect, if any of ever getting out of those dwellings unless they are assisted by the Commonwealth and State Governments.
Other honorable members of the Opposition have spent some time in criticising the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), his Department and the Government generally for faults in housing administration. It is interesting to note that all speakers in this debate except one have been from the Opposition side. I would like to stress this point and I would like the people of Aus tralia to realise that members of the Liberal Party and Country Party in this chamber are in no way interested in the housing problems that confront the people. I do not intend to spend any more of my time in dealing with the general faults of the Government in dealing with Australia’s housing situation. That has been done more than adequately by the honorable members for Bass (Mr. Barnard), Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and East Sydney (Mr. Devine), and others from this side of the chamber who have spoken in this debate. They have stressed the faults and have backed their arguments with factual information taken from speeches by the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Housing and from various Government documents. They have also stressed the fact that the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, released recently, show that in the quarter ending September, 30,163 new homes and flat’s were approved whereas, in the same quarter last year, the figure was 34,222. So there has been a decline of about 4,100 in the number of homes and flats built at the present time compared to the number under construction at this time last year. 1 intend to ‘spend the remainder of my time in this debate on the one aspect of housing for which the Commonwealth has sole responsibility. I refer to war service homes. I leave aside the other housing responsibilities which the Government has in the Australian Capital Territory where the record is worse than that of any State in the Commonwealth. I will not refer to that matter because undoubtedly the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) will deal with that subject when the Committee discusses the estimates for the Australian Capital Territory. Part V of the War Service Homes Act is headed “Advances on Mortgage for Purposes of Homes”. Section 20(1.) states -
Subject to this Act and to the directions of the Minister as to matters of general policy, the Director may, upon application in writing, make an advance to an eligible person on the prescribed security, for the purpose of enabling him -
to erect a dwelling-house on a holding of the applicant;
to purchase land and erect thereon a dwelling-house;
to purchase a dwelling-house, together with the land on which it is erected;
to complete a partially erected dwelling- house owned by him;
to enlarge a dwelling-house owned by him; or (0 to discharge any mortgage, charge, or encumbrance already existing on his holding.
All honorable members will appreciate that that part of the Act gives very wide coverage to the Minister and to the War Service Homes Division. I do not think I exaggerate in any way when I say that none of these powers are being administered without complaint from ex-servicemen and ex-service women. The war service homes scheme is an excellent one. It deserves to be fostered and not hindered. If full use were made of that part of section 20 which I have just read I feel certain that this Government, and any Government which administered this scheme properly, would receive the plaudits of all sections of the community and, indeed, of all nations of the world.
Dealing with these points one by one, first of all, mention is made of an advance. The advance under this scheme at the moment is £3,500. Anyone who has given the matter a moment’s consideration will agree that a loan of £3,500 is much too low under present circumstances. The average costs of dwelling houses and land are given in the “ War Service Homes Report 1964-65”. At page 24 of the report it is stated that in 1963-64 the cost of a house and land in New South Wales was £5,053; in Victoria it was £5,099; in Queensland, £4,692; in South Australia, £5,376; in Western Australia, £4,925; and in Tasmania it was £4,41 1 . The figure for the Australian Capital Territory is £7,388 for a dwelling house only. For 1964 the average costs were: New South Wales, £5,223; Victoria, £5,233; Queensland, £4,702; South Australia, £5,905; Western Australia, £4,984; Tasmania, £4,368; and Australian Capital Territory, £5,481, the last for a dwelling house only. There is a note at the bottom of the page to the effect that in the Australian Capital Territory the cost of land is not taken into consideration because only leasehold land is available. Only the capital cost of the construction of the dwelling house is taken into consideration. The Division has apparently overlooked the fact that in the Australian Capital Territory before a person can obtain a block of land he has to go to an auction and pay a premium on the value of the land he obtains. Accordingly, I believe that the figures in the report should show as well the average cost of the premium paid in the Australian Capital Territory. Admittedly it might be difficult to obtain the average cost of land in the Australian Capital Territory because ‘the price appears to be going up by £500 per block at every auction. This is one of the places where land, even though it is leasehold, is perhaps more costly than is the case in any other place in Australia.
The figures I have given show that the average cost of a home and land is lowest in Tasmania, where it is £868 above the maximum war service homes loan available, and that the average cost is highest in South Australia, where it is £1,405 above the amount of loan available. Accordingly, because the loan is below the lowest cost by more than £800 and below the highest average cost by more than £1,400, many applicants for war service homes have to obtain second mortgages on which some of them have to pay exorbitant rates of interest. I believe that the Minister for Housing is endeavouring to do something about housing problems in Australia, but he is undoubtedly hamstrung by other Ministers in the Cabinet. I ask him to do something about increasing the loan available under the War Service Homes Act, and for that matter the amount available from private banks and building societies.
Section 20 (1) (b), which I just read out, provides for the purchase of land and the erection of a house. The amount of loan available is insufficient when compared with the figures I have just given. Very few applicants are able to purchase land and erect their own dwelling house when the loan available is, at the least, £868 below the lowest average cost of a house and land. The present provision is not worth while because very few can purchase a block of land and erect a dwelling house on it while the loan remains at £3,500. Section 20 (1.) (c) applies to houses already erected. There is a delay of 17 months on applications under this provision. The War Service Homes Division claims that there is no delay in the case of the erection of a new home, but, nevertheless, some time is taken before the loan is actually paid to the applicant. Certain builders and estate agents in the various States will not consider a war service homes purchaser for a new home because of the fact that they have to wait so long to obtain their money. This is possibly one of the reasons why only 26 per cent, of the approximately 800,000 eligible ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war have applied for homes under this scheme. It is ludicrous that only 26 per cent, of exservicemen of the 1939-45 war would have taken advantage of this scheme when the rates of interest and the insurance provisions are so good.
The Director of the War Service Homes Division states in his report that there has been a decrease in the number of applications received. He also states that the decrease in demand will continue. I believe that one of the reasons why the number of applications is falling year after year is the 17 months’ waiting time during which temporary finance has to be obtained. It is much better for an ex-serviceman to go direct to a building society and obtain a loan which will be paid over immediately, lt is also better for an ex-serviceman to go to a building society if he wishes to purchase a new home, particularly in view of the fact that estate agents and builders refuse to have dealings with war service homes applicants, because of the delay involved.
Section 20 (1.) (e) is also one, the operation of which has been drastically curtailed. lt covers now only those things which the Director calls essential extra accommodation and the installation of certain approved utility services. I understand that the approved utility services are restricted to the connection of sewerage and hot water services. This decision is made irrespective of the amount of the original loan or the length of time that it has been current. Even if the applicant has to provide laundry facilities when the present facilities do not meet the standards of local government legislation in certain States, the Director will not grant an additional loan. It must be recognised that certain ex-servicemen were compelled by financial restrictions to build or purchase smaller homes than they desired. The opportunity should be given to them now to enlarge their properties. I wish to mention also the need for second assistance where a person has had to move from one home to another because of illness in the family or a change in his employment, or where his land may have been resumed by a local government or State authority. I have a case of that kind before the Minister at the moment. 1 hops that the Minister will give it his sympathetic consideration and approve granting second assistance to the person concerned. I would very much like to deal with other matters, such as the amount of money made available and the receipts that are received each year by the War Service Homes Division. These things need to be discussed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When I first addressed myself to these estimates I had the opportunity towards the close of my remarks to refer to the War Service Homes Division. This matter has been touched upon by the honorbale member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). Many of the matters I intended to deal with have been referred to by him but there are one or two to which he did not refer which I believe ought to receive the sympathetic attention of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). The honorable member for Lang quite properly brought to the attention of the Committee the methods by which a successful applicant to the War Service Homes Division can secure assistance. He referred to a number of ways in which a home can be purchased. I think that there are three distinct categories. First, an applicant can apply to purchase a new home; secondly, he can apply to erect a home; and thirdly, he can apply for assistance to purchase an existing or second class home. By that I mean a home that has been previously lived in. The Act provides for assistance in each of these categories to be given to successful applicants.
The matter to which I want to refer first is that which was touched upon briefly by the honorable member for Lang - the discharge of an existing mortgage. The Committee has been told that provision is available under the Act for an existing mortgage to be discharged by an ex-serviceman, but since the advent of this Government, in 1949, as a result of ministerial direction this form of assistance has been denied to ex-servicemen. One would have thought that the Government, in the time that it has occupied the treasury bench since 1949, would have intimated to ex-servicemen eligible for assistance under the Act that they can apply for the discharge of an existing mortgage. I am sure the Minister must appreciate that this anomaly is unfair to many ex-servicemen. Naturally, some ex-servicemen must apply for the discharge of an existing mortgage if they are to receive assistance from the Division. But as a result of the ministerial direction this form of assistance is denied to exservicemen.
Recently I asked the Minister to tell me what was the waiting period that now applied to finance for existing homes and the Minister said that the waiting period that has operated since 1st October, which was about the time of his answer, is a period of 13 months. There has then been a reduction of the waiting period from 17 months to 13 months, as at 1st October 1965. One might ask how long the requirement of a waiting period is to be continued. The War Service Homes Act does not provide for a waiting period. This again is done by ministerial direction only. The Opposition believes that the Government should remove these two anomalies.
I said earlier in this debate that the number of outstanding applications had been reduced. I said that, at 30th June 1965, 8,000 applications were outstanding. Of these, 5,112 were applications for finance to purchase existing homes. I have already outlined the procedure that must be followed by an ex-serviceman in these circumstances. He must apply for temporary finance, if his application is accepted by the War Service Homes Division under the normal provisions of the Act. The Minister has said that the waiting period is 13 months. This means that the ex-serviceman must obtain temporary finance at a much higher rate of interest for at least 13 months. Even when finance does become available, there is the question of a second mortgage. I asked the Minister to state the sources from which an ex-serviceman whose application for a loan from the Division had been approved could obtain finance to meet the difference between the maximum advance of £3,500 and the average cost of a home, which was given earlier by the honorable member for Lang. The margin between the maximum, advance and the average cost of a home varies between £1,500 and £1,700 and is possibly more in the Australian Capital Territory. This is the amount of deposit that ex-servicemen require and most of them must apply for a second mortgage if their application for war service home finance is approved.
In a question I addressed to the Minister I asked -
What rate of interest are applicants paying for temporary finance, and from what sources cun the finance be obtained?
One would think that the Minister, who is the head of a Department for which the Commonwealth Government is solely responsible, would be able to supply some information from the records of the War Service Homes Division showing how many ex-servicemen had applied for a second mortgage and how many had received a second mortgage that had been approved by the Division. The Minister’s reply was -
No information is at present available which would enable this information to be provided.
I say to the Minister and to honorable members on the Government side of the chamber that the Minister is obviously evading the question. Undoubtedly this information is available in the Division, but the Minister does not want to disclose the sources from which second mortgages are obtained and certainly does not want to reveal the high rates of interest that exservicemen must pay if they accept assistance from the Division in these circumstances. This information ought to be readily available to honorable members.
The point I want to make to the Minister is that the suggestion that the maximum advance be increased, which was referred to earlier by the honorable member for Lang, ought to be considered sympathetically by the Government. Obviously the maximum advance is too low when compared with the cost of a home and the other factors I have mentioned, such as the second mortgage and the waiting period, which are all bound up in this question. The Government should also consider increasing the amount of finance it makes available to the Division each year. As I said earlier, the amount to be made available this year again remains at £35 million. This means that the waiting period must be continued and the Government must continue the restrictions that it has imposed by ministerial direction. These restrictions apply not only to the waiting period but also to the discharge of existing mortgages and the need for ex-servicemen to obtain second mortgages at high rates of interest. The Government ought to consider immediately increasing the maximum advance available to an ex-serviceman from £3,500 to a more realistic figure. In addition, the overall allocation to the War Service Homes Division should be substantially increased from £35 million to a figure that will enable the anomalies to be removed. 1 do not want to deal at any greater length with this matter, but there is one other point to which I want to refer in the time that is now left to me. This is an anomaly that has been continued by the Government. I do not say that this Government is responsible for the anomaly in the first place. I admit quite frankly that the responsibility lies with the previous Labour Government. I refer to the anomalous position in which Salvation Army representatives are placed under the War Service Homes Act. The Minister will recall that I referred this matter to him and that he replied that the Government was not prepared to amend the Act to provide assistance for Salvation Army representatives. What is meant by their request? I think honorable members should understand that ex-servicemen who volunteered for overseas service are eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. However, Salvation Army representatives are not eligible, whether they served overseas or not. Let me make my point perfectly clear. An ex-serviceman who volunteered for overseas service but did not leave, say, Tasmania and had a TX number is eligible for assistance under the Act. One does not deny him that right. He enlisted and volunteered for overseas service, though he did not leave the State. Let me consider the case of the Salvation Army representative who enlisted for and had overseas service. A great many of these people did leave Australia and serve with units overseas. I referred to this matter during the debate on the Repatriation Bill and what I said on that occasion applies equally now.
I shall cite the case of three representatives from the Salvation Army who, in 1940, volunteered to serve overseas with the Salvation Army. They all went overseas. One of them was accepted as a chaplain, but the other two went overseas as representatives of the Salvation Army. The chaplain served in the Middle East, in Syria and in Greece, and became eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. The other two representatives remained overseas. One was a prisoner of war for a number of years and the other served in Europe, but neither is eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. I do not believe that it should be necessary for me to debate this case at any length. I merely point out to the Committee the very great anomaly this exists in the Act as a result of the Government’s decision to deprive Salvation Army representatives of rights which they enjoyed after the 1914-18 war. Salvation Army personnel were eligible for assistance after the 1914-18 war although none of them applied for assistance. I conceded earlier that a previous government amended the Act and thereby refused the right to assistance from the War Service Homes Division to Salvation Army representatives who served during the Second World War. I believe, and I am sure that my opinion would be shared by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, that there is a grave anomaly and a grave injustice as a result of that decision by a previous government.
I have referred already to the three Salvation Army representatives who gave long and meritorious service overseas and I have said that one was eligible for benefits under the War Service Homes Act because he became a chaplain but the other two were not eligible. But many ex-servicemen who enlisted for overseas service and remained in Australia are eligible for benefits under the Act and can obtain assistance from the War Service Homes Division. I hope that the Minister can explain adequately, not only to me and to honorable members but also to the people of this country who would agree with the contention which I have expressed on behalf of Salvation Army personnel, why these people are not entitled to more consideration than they have received from this Government in the past.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
has shown his customary interest in the War Services Homes Act and has spoken in his usual fashion. He has said that a great deal more money should be provided for war service homes. He has suggested that, with this apparently unlimited Budget, all these various awkward points which arise could be eliminated. He referred to Salvation Army personnel. I assure the honorable member that Salvation Army personnel were not eligible for war service homes after World War I for the simple reason that there were none. A few personnel from the Young Men’s Christian Association served during World War I, but the case of Salvation Army representatives did not arise. This is a matter that has been reviewed by a series of governments since the Second World War. For better or worse, each succeeding government has seen fit to distinguish quite clearly between those who enlisted for fighting and those who enlisted for voluntary services. However, as I have already indicated so far as the future is concerned, this is one matter which will be reviewed within the next few months prior to changes in the War Services Homes Act which I expect to bring in early next session.
The honorable member for Bass mentioned that the waiting time for finance for the purchase of existing homes has been reduced. It has long been one of the prime objectives of our policy to reduce the waiting list within a budget ceiling which it is adjudged that the country can reasonably afford. The waiting time is now 13 months and it will be reduced progressively in the future. Reference was made also to second mortgages. We conducted a survey towards the end of last year and it was then apparent that only about one in eight applicants for war service homes needed to resort to second mortgage finance. We investigated also the interest rates which were charged on second mortgages and we found that in 1 per cent, of cases a rate of more than 10 per cent, was being charged. We found that most were being accommodated at fairly reasonable rates. Perhaps the reason why only one in eight requires a second mortgage is that most ex-servicemen are now in an older age group and have resources accumulated.
The amount of the advance on war service homes is subject to review from time to time, but it is quite clear that the amount advanced does meet the requirements of seven-eights of the cases quite satisfactorily. Most of the other points mentioned by the honorable member are old matters which he has brought up before. I refer particularly to the discharge of an existing mortgage. If finance were available for that purpose, it is quite clear that the contingent liability could amount to well over £100 million. Of all of those who are eligible for war service homes because of service during the last world war, only about one in four has been accommodated. So there is an almost insatiable demand for war service homes, particularly when money is advanced at 3* per cent, for 45 years. Most of those who are eligible would naturally like to discharge their existing mortgage and receive finance under the War Service Homes Act. lt is not that the Government would not delight in becoming popular by extending this kind of finance indefinitely. The facts of life are against us and we have to work within a National Budget and establish rough justice and priorities between classes of people.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) mentioned some other points, but he also brought up some old ones. He referred to the New South Wales means test for Housing Commission homes. I suggest to the honorable member that it is very important to have this test. One of the great housing problems is to provide sufficient accommodation - particularly rental accommodation - for those in the lower income groups. Others are in a better position to look after themselves. In a situation where, clearly, the total activity of a housing commission must be limited, it is only reasonable to impose a means test so that those whose needs are greatest and who cannot afford to go elsewhere receive priority. I should like to see the means test extended more widely in government housing than it is at present. Otherwise cheaper housing is made available at the expense of the taxpayer to those who ought properly to finance their own affair*.
The main standpoint of the Opposition in the debate on the vote for my Department is to reduce it because of the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) mentioned some little while ago in the House that there might be a need for this. I assure him that we have not been idle in the meantime. I had indicated somewhat earlier our concern at the diminishing rate of increase of savings bank deposits. Subsequently the Reserve Bank took up this question. Perhaps I should remind the Committee of a statement made by the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, because it is an important statement and it may well have escaped the attention of many honorable members. A report of his statement was as fallows -
Funds for lending by the savings banks are derived mainly from two sources - new deposits and the repayment of existing loans. The volume of funds accruing from repayments is growing. On the other hand, the growth of deposits, which had been at a record level in 1963-64, and had continued high into the following year, has been smaller in recent months.
Mr. Phillips said it was agreed that, in the allocation of their funds, the savings banks would aim to maintain a steady and substantial volume of lending for housing. Notwithstanding the possibility that the lower rate of growth in their deposits would continue, the savings banks were confident that they would be able to maintain their housing loan approvals at about the same levels as in recent months.
Mr. Phillips went on to say that the Reserve Bank and the savings banks would continue to watch the position closely and would confer as necessary.
Clearly the Reserve Bank in conjunction with the savings banks will endeavour to offset the trend for the growth of deposits to decrease further and so endanger the flow of finance for housing. Of course, the flow of finance for housing cannot be divorced entirely from the activities of the building industry as a whole. As a whole, the building industry is running at record levels. Although there has been some small decline in housing this has been more than compensated for in other directions. The latest complete statistics we have for employment show that at 30th June last the total number employed in the building industry had increased to 157,835. Whereas in the previous quarter there was a slight fall in the number employed on housing of about 2,000, overall, that decrease was more than compensated for by the increase in other forms of building. Taking into account housing, flats and all forms of buildings at 30th June we had a record volume of buildings worth £628 million under construction. This compares with £540 million 12 months earlier and £442 million the year before that. The rate of increase in building activity is tremendous.
Other honorable members referred to other forms of building activity, including office construction. However, other forms of building comprise a great range, including hotels, hostels, education establishments - schools, colleges, kindergartens, libraries, universities - religious establishments, health institutions, hospitals, nurses’ quarters and so forth. Offices, of course, feature largely, but they are only part of the picture. There has been a huge increase in other forms of building and this must make available resources, particularly of skilled manpower, more difficult to obtain for the housing sector. The latest figures, which appeared over the weekend and which honorable members no doubt have seen, show that for the three months ended September 30 the value of new buildings, other than houses and flats approved, was over £100 million. Admittedly, one cannot look at this too closely. The figure is inexact because a lot of these proposals ultimately prove abortive, but it is an indication of volume. This figure of £100 million can be compared with the figure of £74 million for the corresponding quarter last year. There has been an increase of about one-third in the volume of non-housing forms of construction in a year.
– There is no shortage of those buildings, but there is a shortage of houses.
– A lot of people would argue that we are still short of schools, hospitals and other facilities. Honorable members may argue that we could do with fewer office blocks. That may well be so, but one must remember that the Commonwealth Government has very limited powers to deal with anything outside the housing field. Office blocks and other forms of construction are under the control of State Governments, and only the State Governments can take the necessary action. The Commonwealth Government has its own building programmes, of course, which swell the total, but in this picture the only sector that is subject to Commonwealth control is the Commonwealth Government’s own building programme. In these circumstances naturally it would not make sound sense to inject a very large increased volume of finance into house building, because if it got beyond a certain point it would merely be abortive and would increase prices.
Cottage builders and builders of other forms of construction are generally different people, but there is tremendous competition between the two sectors for skilled labour, including bricklayers, carpenters and plumbers. The real point now is not to rush in immediately with more finance but to make sure that plans are laid for any downturn that might occur. Latest approvals in the non-housing sector indicate that the pressure on the building industry is likely to continue at a high rate for some time to come.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. L. R. Johnson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman Mr. Brimblecombe.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed expenditure, £19,756,000.
.- The estimates for the Department of Immigration provide for an expenditure this year of £19,756,000. The Opposition has what it believes to be some rather important suggestions to make to the Government in regard to changes of policy, but before outlining them I would like, as Chairman of the Immigration Committee of the Opposition, the members of which, besides myself, are the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who is the Secretary of the Committee, and the honorable members for Bass (Mr. Barnard), Lang (Mr. Stewart), East Sydney (Mr. Devine), Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), Port Adelaide (Mr. Birrell) and Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), and Senator Fitzgerald, to express the thanks of the Committee to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and the officers of his Department at all levels for the cooperation they have given us in the various States and in Canberra in our investigations of the very important national programme of immigration. We feel that we are indebted to them for their co-operation.
Let me also say that I have at times resented the attitude of the Press to decisions made by the officers of the Department on matters on which those officers cannot give answers except officially, and when only one side of the particular question is presented. I think the newspapers of this country, with one or two exceptions, have done an injustice to our great immigration programme and the officers administering it when they have refused to print the facts and in so doing have misled many members of the public and given an entirely false impression abroad concerning certain aspects of our immigration administration. These are frequently matters in which a point of view can be very damaging to Australia.
I have noted in the estimates for this Department an item of £425,000 for the education of migrants. This section of oar migration programme is possibly one of the most important, particularly when one considers the major disability that a migrant suffers in this country when he is unable to understand the language. Having had the opportunity of investigating at first hand recently the activities of the education secion of the Department, let me congratulate the officers of that section on their efforts and wish them success in their arduous and responsible task of educating migrants, not only in the English language but also in all other matters relating to Australia. I believe the money spent on this activity is very well spent and that we should not criticise this expenditure, provided, of course, that it covers the full range of matters upon which it is necessary for migrants to be educated.
The Opposition desires to make two suggestions to the Minister. First we suggest that the renunciation of allegiance to the migrant’s nation of origin should be eliminated from naturalisation ceremonies. Secondly, we suggest to the Minister and the Government that there should be a right of appeal from decisions of the Minister or the Department in respect of naturalisation, admittance and other matters which are of concern from time to time. I do not have enough time to deal with the second matter, which will be left to the honorable member for Newcastle and others, who will express their views on the type of appeal tribunals that we think should be set up, consisting of a Commonwealth judge and two other persons completely independent of the Department and able to make decisions on relevant matters impartially. We believe that the establishment of such tribunals would eliminate some of the disabilities inherent in the present system. I intend to refer mainly to the matter of renunciation of allegiance. This is the first matter dealt with on the naturalisation form. The person seeking to be naturalised declares -
I renounce all allegiance to any sovereign or State of whom or of which I may be a subject or citizen.
That is a serious and grave statement for any person to make. This matter was widely discussed by the various discussion groups formed at the 1965 Australian Citizenship Convention. The Convention had as its theme “ Every Settler a Citizen “. As the Minister is aware, the fact that 250,000 immigrants had not sought naturalisation received a lot of attention from delegates to the Convention. The Opposition firmly believes that anything that will encourage more migrants to become naturalised deserves to be considered. At the Convention, Sir John Allison referred to the matter of renunciation of allegiance and said -
However, there are 250,000 people in Australia who have not bothered to become naturalised. The Department of Immigration has made a special survey of the situation to find out why this is so. I should like to suggest that among the reasons is the present practice in the naturalisation ceremony for settlers to renounce allegiance to their old country before swearing allegiance to Australia and the Queen.
The Minister is aware from the contents of the excellently produced digest of the Convention proceedings that Sir John Allison’s view was supported by almost every member of the various discussion groups. It was supported, for example, by Rev. Father M. J. Rafter of the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee and by Mr. Albert Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Many delegates to the Convention expressed the opinion that more immigrants would seek naturalisation if they did not have to renounce allegiance to their former sovereigns or states. The Minister himself acknowledges that the renunciation of allegiance has a bearing on naturalisation figures. The digest of the proceedings at the 1965 Australia Citizenship Convention contains the following report -
Concluding the Convention, the Minister for Immigration, Mr. Opperman, said delegates could be assured that he had noted the strong trend of their thinking on renunciation of allegiance at naturalisation ceremonies. “I can assure you that I and the Department will give early consideration to your advice,” he said.
It is obvious that many of the people present at this representative gathering of citizens firmly believed that more migrants would seek naturalisation if they did not have to renounce their former allegiances. The Opposition seriously suggests that some action should be taken along these lines and we would like to hear the Minister’s views on the subject.
The matter of naturalisation is important. I have studied reports of the debate in another place on the estimates for the Department of Immigration. I was pleased to see the number of questions asked on various aspects of the Government’s immigration programme and I was pleased also to note that the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration endeavoured to give full information on this nationally important subject. The proceedings in another place are worth studying for the information that they contain.
Since this year’s Citizenship Convention was held, the Minister has had further investigations made into why migrants do not seek to become naturalised. I am indebted to the Department of Immigration for the results of its survey into this matter. Listed as one of the reasons why migrants may not wish to become naturalised is the matter of renunciation of allegiance, but the Department has advised me that in many cases renunciation of allegiance has no effect on a migrant. The Department has advised -
Information furnished to the United Nations by the governments of various countries reveals that of the European countries from which Australia has received numbers of migrants, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Roumania, Switzerland, the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia have provided in their laws that their citizens do not automatically lose their citizenship upon acquiring another nationality. However, citizens of these countries may apply to their governments for a release from their original nationality.
In other words, former nationals of those countries are not affected by a renunciation of allegiance. There may be other migrants in a similar situation, so to abandon the renunciation of allegiance would not in any way make such migrants less worthy citizens.
Anything that we can do to induce migrants to become naturalised is worth considering. We offer to newcomers all the benefits that we ourselves enjoy in this country. It has been suggested that citizenship might be conferred automatically on migrants after ten years residence here. I am inclined to agree that you cannot bring pressure to bear on migrants to become naturalised. Naturalisation should be a voluntary matter. It is strange that in many cases these people who enjoy all the benefits of living in Australia balk at becoming naturalised. One matter that may tend to reduce the numbers seeking naturalisation is military service. In this country persons who are not naturalised are not called up for compulsory military service. This is quite contrary to the practice in America, where migrants not only enjoy the benefits that flow from living in the country but also must put up with the disadvantages. This is another matter that the Minister might investigate. I was interested in the following information conveyed to me by the Department -
The survey also indicated that the proportion of applications for naturalisation was higher amongst persons over 40 years of age.
At the time of the 1961 Census approximately 21% of the alien population was in the 40 years and over age group. However, approximately 30% of persons naturalised during the last three years were 40 years of age or over.
It is felt that the main reason for the higher rate of naturalisation amongst the older age groups is the fact that they have settled down and acquired homes and business interests and have decided to make their permanent home in Australia. There would of course also be those who with advancing years wished to ensure that they qualify for any Social Service benefits for which they may later become eligible as Australian citizens.
I trust that the Minister will later tell us more about the Department’s survey. About 65 per cent, of migrants coming to Australia became naturalised. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall have incorporated in “ Hansard “ the following table showing the percentage of migrants in what are termed “ major nationalities “ who have become naturalised -
The table shows that the percentage is as high as 89 per cent, in the case of Latvians and 88 per cent, in the case of Russians, but as low as 36 per cent, in the case of Swedish migrants. The Department has supplied me with particulars of naturalisation in other English speaking countries. The figures show that America has more than 3,250,000 registered aliens. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall have incorporated in “Hansard” the following table showing the number of registered aliens and the number of persons granted naturalisation in other English speaking countries -
According to the Canadian High Commissioner’s office about 40 per cent, of alien migrants who entered Canada during the past 10 years and are eligible for citizenship, have become naturalised.
This is vital statistical information that has been compiled by the Department of Immigration. I introduce it only to show that the problem of naturalisation of aliens in Australia is not of a magnitude that compares unfavorably with the situation in other countries. This is a problem everywhere. We believe that anything that will promote the naturalisation of migrants is worthy of the Government’s consideration. Therefore I suggest to the Minister that at this stage, even before the next Australian Citizenship Convention, he state what he proposes to do about a suggestion which, we believe, will have the support of a great many people in this country. I hope that when the honorable member for Newcastle and other honorable members have expressed further views on matters such as the establishment of an appeal board and on this matter that I have discussed, the Minister will see fit to adopt our suggestions. We believe that they are constructive and will add further to the progress of a great programme which generally speaking has the support of those on both sides of politics in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Immigration 1 desire to devote the short time that is available to me to dealing with Australia’s immigration policy. I believe that Australia has one of the finest immigration policies in the world; bur our image with respect to that policy is appalling. The reason why our image is bad is partly, I believe, our own fault. I do not think we can place the whole blame on the Press or the radio commentators who weekly, or almost nightly, misstate or misquote our policy. I believe that it is up to us, particularly through our Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and our Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) to state in the clearest of terms what our Australian immigration policy is.
From time to time, it is referred to under various names such as restrictive migration, selective migration and whits Australia, all of which are erroneous and misleading and fail to do justice to our excellent immigration policy. The last authoritative statement that I can find on this matter was that made as far back as I960 by the then Minister for Immigration, the Honorable A. R. Downer. What appals me is that almost every distinguished visitor who comes to Australia and who is interviewed by Press or radio personalities is asked: “ What do you think of our white Australia policy?”. In fact, we have no white Australia policy.
In examining our policy, the first thing we must ask ourselves is whether we have the right to determine our own immigration policy. The answer to that is: “Definitely yes “. Every country claims the right, and exercises that right, to say who shall enter it and who shall be refused. I do not believe there is any nation in the world that denies our right to decide who shall come to Australia. Under our Immigration Act, we place the discretion in the hands of the Minister for Immigration; but when people come to Australia and are interviewed by the Press, there . is always the suggestion that our policy is based upon race or colour, when, in fact, that is not true.
I believe that we must state clearly what our policy is, and I shall endeavour as best I can to state our immigration policy as I see it. 1 believe that, having decided that the decision as to who may come into Australia and who may not rests with the Minister for Immigration, the guiding principle which has been laid down as the one upon which the Minister must act is the ability of the prospective migrant to be successfully integrated into the community. If he can be successfully integrated into the community within the overall target, there is no reason why he cannot be granted a permit to migrate to Australia. If he cannot be successfully integrated into the community, or if the Minister feels that he cannot be, then, of course, he should not be granted a permit.
Ability to be integrated into the community is the all important principle. We would not make a happy and contented Australia if we simply transformed this country into a little Italy, a little Germany, a little Africa, or a little Asia. We want it to be a great Australian nation. We want it to be built up and added to by people from various countries who can be and will be successfully integrated into this community. I believe that if we state clearly and definitely that our guiding principle on migration is ability to be integrated into the community we will overcome many of those criticisms that are levelled at us today because of the use of the term “ white Australia “ which, if it ever was a policy, was abandoned many years ago.
The honorable A. R. Downer pleaded with the people to discontinue using the expression “ white Australia “ but, unfortunately, his appeal was of no avail. Therefore, a clear and definite statement must come now from the Prime Minister and our present Minister for Immigration appealing again to commentators on the Press and radio to discontinue the use of this obnoxious term and to state clearly and definitely what Australia’s policy is.
How do we interpret this principle of ability to be integrated into the community? First of all, we must recognise that the Government must set an overall target from year to year and that, in setting that target, it has to take into account economic conditions in Australia, employment opportunities in Australia and the accommodation that is available for our new migrants on arrival. How futile it would be to bring people here if there were no jobs for them, and if there was nowhere to house them. Therefore the Government has decided, as it must continue to do in the future, the ceiling target or the maximum number who can be admitted after taking into consideration economic conditions, employment opportunities and accommodation available.
Having decided the overall target, I believe that we must state quite clearly that Australia is entitled to retain a reasonable measure of homogeneity in its population and that its migrant intake should not upset our fundamental standards and ways of living. Our intake must be governed by our capacity to absorb the migrants harmoniously and without friction. We must recognise the fact that it is easier to integrate people from some countries than it is to integrate people from others. That does not mean that we have a preference for the people from one country over the people from another. What it does mean is that, our basic principle being ability to be integrated, we recognise the facts as they are.
We recognise, for example, that people from the United Kingdom who have a common background with us, a common religion and the same language are naturally easier to integrate than are people who do not possess these attributes. Similarly, we know that people from some countries in Europe where the language has a common origin with English, will pick up the English language quicker than will people coming from elsewhere. We also know that in some countries the standard of education is similar to that in Australia and that in some countries it is very much behind. We know that in some countries the religions are similar to the religions of Australia but in others they are diametrically opposed to ours. Although neither religion nor education are reasons why we reject people, they are factors that cannot be ignored in deciding whether a person can be successfully integrated into this community or not. It would be futile to bring hundreds or thousands of totally illiterate people to Australia and expect them to be successfully integrated into the community. The reason why they could not be integrated would not be their colour or race but the fact that their educational standards were not comparable with educational standards within Australia. Therefore, although I say that colour should not be a bar to migration to Australia, it is a factor that cannot be ignored when deciding whether people can be successfully integrated into the community or not.
Certain people are refused admission for the reason that they are so fat that they could not get a job in Australia. We are sorry for those people. We do not refuse them because of their size but because, unfortunately, they cannot be successfully integrated into the community. Some people are so tiny - almost pigmies - that they cannot be successfully integrated. I believe all these things have to be taken into consideration and given proper balance and proper weight. None of them is the deciding factor but all have to be taken into account when considering the question: Can this applicant be successfully integrated into this community or not? If the Minister, with the advice of his experts, comes to the conclusion that a person cannot be integrated successfully into the community, then that person must be refused admission.
We must take into account, also, that our way of life is based upon the family. That being so, we must also give preference to reuniting families and the admission of a family as a family coming to Australia. Again, realising that our way of life is based upon the family, we must see that in the intake of migrants there is a reasonable balance of the sexes. We could not have a happy and contented community if we brought in only men and did not enable them to find mates so as to enjoy the family life that is part of the Australian way of life. I believe that migrants from all countries should be required to satisfy standards of health and character. I believe, however, that we have a certain humane responsibility on compassionate grounds to admit a member of a family when the rest of that family are here or about to come here if that person suffers, unfortunately, from a disability which would not normally allow that person to come. I believe that we have to accept our responsibility in the world and permit families to come even though one of the children, for example, cannot measure up to the high standards that we set.
All migrants, once accepted for permanent residence in Australia, should be entitled to become Australian citizens after the same period of time and on the same conditions. It is before we admit a person to Australia that we should say whether or not they are entitled to become permanent residents. It is then that we must be satisfied that tHey can be integrated successfully into the community.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There are several matters on which I should like to touch while speaking to the estimates for the Department of Immigration. Some of them concern improvements which, I believe, could be effected to the Migration Act. I also wish to express my appreciation as a member of the Opposition’s immigration committee, as did the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) before the suspension of the sitting, to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and to the officers of the various branches of the Department of Immigration who have given the committee every co-operation and assistance when it has inspected immigration facilities in various cities throughout the Commonwealth. The assistance given was of first class order. I wish also to express my personal appreciation to the officers of the Department in Sydney with whom I transact most of my business. The assistance I receive from the Sydney office is first class.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) who has just resumed his seat, dealt with the whole question of Australia’s immigration policy. I do not think there is any great difference between the attitude of the Labour Party and that of the Government. There are some differences of opinion, such as that which occurred in this chamber recently when members of my party disagreed with the Government’s refusal to grant visas to people from behind the Iron Curtain who proposed to come to Australia to take part in sporting events, while at the same time the Government permitted people from those same areas to come here to trade. It was a case of allowing them here if their money was good enough while refusing to have them here to take part in sporting events whereby they could understand our way of life and we could get to understand theirs.
Referring again to the question of policy, I believe that the Government has not changed to any great extent the immigration policy laid down by the Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government who is the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). There has been no great change in our policy in the years that have elapsed. The Labour Party’s immigration committee is putting forward in this debate two proposals. One has been outlined already by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). It is that the oath of renunciation should be deleted from the naturalisation ceremony. I do not propose to deal with that matter because the honorable member for Grayndler covered it fully. I propose to put to the Committee a suggestion that an immigration appeals tribunal should be appointed, consisting of three appointed members, one of whom shall be a Commonwealth judge. This tribunal would deal with appeals against the rejection of migrants and the rejections of applications for naturalisation, appeals against deportation of migrants, and appeals related to other subjects concerning migrants.
At the present time, the Minister for Immigration has the final say. When his departmental officers have examined a matter it then goes to him for final decision. When he makes that decision there is no right of appeal against it. Let us consider the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunals. Last year, 1 1 per cent, of appeals against decisions of the Repatriation Commission relating to ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war were upheld, 20 per cent, of appeals relating to ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war were upheld; and 21 per cent, of appeals relating to ex-servicemen from the Korean and Malayan campaigns were upheld. An average of 19 per cent, of appeals lodged by ex-servicemen from all the wars in which Australia has taken part were upheld and those people were found entitled to repatriation benefits. Notwithstanding the regard in which officers of the Department are held by members of the Labour Party they still make mistakes because they are human beings. It does not matter where you go, if human beings are handling business they will make mistakes. I believe that there should be some means whereby people aggrieved can appeal to an independent tribunal, and the Labour Party advocates that some form of judicial committee be appointed by the Government. The Minister could appoint a Commonwealth judge to preside over such a tribunal, just as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) appoints the personnel of tribunals under the Repatriation Act; but at all times there should be an independent tribunal which can review the decisions of officers. I want to give an example of the effect of an appeal to an independent tribunal. I quote from the “ Economist “ of 9th October 1965, which is certainly not an Australian newspaper. Part of an article referring to a case heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1950 reads -
In 1950 the Supreme Court heard the case of Miss Ellen Knauff, a German war bride brought home by an American army sergeant. She was stopped at Ellis Island for reasons that the Immigration Service and its ultimate head, the AttorneyGeneral, would never disclose. Miss Knauff claimed that she had a right to know the charges and to contest them in a hearing that comported with due process of law. She lost in the Supreme Court by a vote of four to three. Justice Jackson, dissenting, put the argument for considering deportation cases by independent tribunals.
This is what the learned Judge had to say -
The Government tells the Court that not even a court can find out why this girl is excluded. . . Even if we cannot get any reasons for it, we must say it is legal; security requires it.
Security is like liberty in that many are the crimes committed in its name … I am sure the officials here have acted from a sense of duty, . . . and no doubt upon information which, if it stood the test of trial, would justify the order of exclusion. But not even they know whether it would stand this test.
I do not propose to read further. Even though the court held that this young girl was not entitled to know the reasons for her exclusion from the United States of America the Attorney-General decided finally, on his own motion, to admit her to the United States. No reason was given in the first instance for her exclusion, but after the court had dealt with her case one of the learned judges expressed that opinion in opposition to the decision. Still no reasons were given, but the Attorney-General changed his mind and admitted her. Forever afterwards, while that girl remains in the United States there will always be a cloud of suspicion surrounding her as to why she was excluded in the first instance from entry to the United States of America. I believe that a position similar to this exists in Australia today.
As a member of Parliament I have had numerous people come to me because their applications for naturalisation or their applications for the admission of relatives to Australia, or some other such application, have been rejected. 1 shall refer to one man who made application for his mate to come to Australia. He himself was already naturalised. He had been in this country for a considerable time. When I learned that the application had been rejected on security grounds I said to this man: “ Has your mate been a member of any political party?” He said: “ No “. I said: “ Has he had any trouble with the police, or been in prison?” He said: “ No “. 1 said: “ Has he been a member of the Fascist or Nazi parties?” He said: “ No “. I said: “ Has he ever been a member of the Communist Party?” He said: “ No “. 1 said: “ How do you know that he has not been a member of the Communist Party?” He said: “ Because
I was a member of the Communist Party and I know that he was not a member “. That conversation is as true as the fact that I stand here. It is one example of many that could be brought to the notice of the Committee. This was a case of a man who had been himself naturalised and had nominated a friend to come to Australia.
Let me cite the ease of a man in Newcastle who some years ago nominated a relative to come to Australia. Two years later the nomination was rejected. He told me that there was no reason whatever why his nomination should have been rejected. Some time ago he was acceptable to the authorities and then in a couple of years time he was unacceptable. He holds a responsible position in industry; he is a staff foreman. He has challenged the Minister to go to his place of employment and to confer with his employer as to his integrity, knowing that if he is found wanting in integrity he will be dismissed. I checked him with his union and the officials gave him the all clear. This is the type of anomaly that could be referred to some independent authority other than the Minister. This tribunal could decide whether persons should be eligible for naturalisation, and whether persons who have been nominated should have the right to come into this country.
While 1 am dealing with the question of naturalisation I should like to refer to a question I asked and an answer that was given by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). It is reported on pages 2124 and 2125 of “Hansard”. With the concurrence of honorable members 1 incorporate the report in “ Hansard “. It’ is as follows -
asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) Figures showing the number of applications for naturalisation rejected or deferred are available as from 1st January 1949. The figures for each year and for the quarter ended 31st March 196S are as follows-
The various reasons! for rejection or deferral were -
Honorable members will notice that the answer to the question sets out the reasons why applications for naturalisation had been rejected. The figures given under 2 (a) are for the period 1st January 1961 to 1st March 1965. For example, 196 persons were rejected because they were not of full capacity, 25 were rejected because they were unable to meet residential requirements, 958 because they were not of good character and 7,286 because they had an inadequate knowledge of English and/or inadequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. There were 155 rejected on security grounds. What is involved in the case of the 7,286 who were rejected because they had an inadequate knowledge of English and/ or inadequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship? These 7,286 who have been rejected for naturalisation on those grounds should have some right of appeal against the decision. Surely the Minister will agree with members of the Opposition that an independent tribunal should decide whether people should be accepted as immigrants to this country or whether, having come here, they should be granted naturalisation?
The grant of naturalisation means something to these people. Irrespective of the fact that a person has been in this country for, say, 10 years, he or she, if not naturalised by the age of 65 years in the case of a male, 60 years in the case of a female, would be ineligible for an age pension. In the same way he or she would be ineligible for an invalid pension even if they were able to qualify for it. Something that many people do not realise is that a child who applies for a Commonwealth scholarship is ineligible to receive it if the parents are not British subjects. In other words, the sins of the parents are visited on the children, if it is a sin not to be naturalised - and I do not think it is. The only way that these children can become eligible for Commonwealth scholarships is for them to write to the Office of Education, giving the reasons why - if they know them - that their parents have not become naturalised. In this way they may become eligible to receive Commonwealth scholarships. Also, an unnaturalised person cannot become a permanent employee of the Commonwealth Government. To become a permanent employee of the Commonwealth Government a person has to take the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. A person not naturalised is not a British subject or an Australian citizen. A lot is involved in this question and I believe that the only way to get over the many problems is to have some form of independent tribunal.
I pass very quickly over the other benefits that derive from naturalisation. One of the most important of all these benefits is the right to vote. In my opinion, that is one of the most important rights that a person can have in any country. The old saying is: “ No vote, no tax. If you do not give me the right to vote, you must not tax me. If I do not have a say in the way the money will be spent, I do not think I should be taxed.” When all aspects of naturalisation are considered, it must be conceded that an appeal to an independent tribunal is a fair and reasonable proposition. On the rejection of nominations, I should like to mention the case of a young fellow recently who had jumped the border of the country in which he lived.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) that it is very good that substantially the same policies of immigration have been carried on through the years by successive Ministers from both sides of the Parliament. I believe that is a happy circumstance for Australia and a good augury for the future. I support wholeheartedly the plea made by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), earlier tonight for a complete restatement in the clearest possible terms of our immigration policy. I think it is time that this was done and I support the request by the honorable member for Sturt that this be done by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) as the head of the Government and by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) so that all the world may know exactly what our policy is and where we stand. I believe that it is a good policy, but unfortunately many people outside Australia, and also a good many people inside Australia, do not really understand what our policy is. I believe that all areas of misunderstanding on this very important matter should be removed and inaccurate and misleading statements and slogans should, in Australia’s best interests, be abandoned forthwith.
I congratulate the Minister for Immigration and his Department on the splendid result for J 964-65. I am very pleased, as I am sure other honorable members are, to note in the estimates now before the Committee that the appropriation for 1965-66, the sum of £19,756,000, is greater than expenditure for the previous year by £621,044. In other words, our immigration programme is expanding all the time. I believe that the tour abroad of the Minister, with the Secretary of his Department, during the winter months of this year could have done nothing but good for Australia. I am sure that the impact they made on the various migrant source countries during their very intensive tour overseas will do a lot of good and we will see the results at this time next year when we consider the achievements of the previous 12 months.
The original target for 1964-65 was 127,000. In November 1964, the United Kingdom assisted passage target was increased by 15,000, making a total target programme of 142,000 settlers. The actual settler arrivals for the year ended 30th June 1965 totalled 140,157. In other words the result was only 1 ,843 short of the target. Shortfalls occurred in both the assisted and unassisted components. These shortfalls, however, were partly offset by an excess over the target for general assisted passage scheme migrants. These figures are important, I think, because I am one of those who believe that the present and the past project themselves into the future and, as we are discussing the estimates for the current financial year, we can be assisted by a consideration of the achievements over the past 12 months. The total net migration after allowing for permanent and long term departures was 100,553. Departures have been increasing at a rate almost equal to the increase in total arrivals. Settler departures remain relatively constant and there is only a small net loss on visitor movements. The main loss, it appears, occurs in the movement of Australian residents, principally in permanent and long term movements and to a lesser extent in short term movements of Australians going abroad. I understand that this position in relation to settler departures and Australian resident departures is being carefully examined with a view to establishing exactly whether there is a real net loss or whether, as I personally believe it is, this is only a temporary trend.
Of the total settler arrivals in 1964-65, 88,616 were assisted and 51,541 were unassisted. These figures emphasise the extent to which the achievement of our immigration target is dependent upon the United Kingdom assisted passage scheme. It is, I think, fairly well known that our overall aim in immigration is to increase our Australian population by approximately 1 per cent, per annum. But, as my friend the honorable member for Sturt pointed out earlier, our programme being dependent on a variety of social and economic factors must necessarily be flexible. Our intake, as be pointed out, is related to the employment and the housing situation in Australia from year to year, from quarter to quarter and indeed from month to month. We must, as he said, continue to maintain reasonable balances in all respects. For some time past, the main emphasis has been on bringing to Australia as many skilled migrants as we can, particularly migrants skilled in the metal and electrical trades, the building trades and people with professional qualifications. The dominant feature of the current economic situation appears to be the insistent and growing demand for workers over a fairly wide range of occupations and industries. It is a fact that labour shortages have in some fields actually been retarding our rate of industrial development here and there. This is inevitable, I think, in a growing country.
More and more of the people we need most urgently have been brought by air. I am sure we are all very pleased about this and I have no doubt that the Minister intends to continue this policy, which has been so successful. In addition to our own absorptive capacity, our intake is, of course, governed very considerably by the availability of suitable migrants from the various source countries. An analysis shows that in some cases the figures are fairly static, in some cases there is an increase over last year’s figures and in others there is a decrease. However, the overall result is eminently satisfactory. A feature of assisted migration in relation to certain countries - not all of them - is a high level of withdrawal of applications. My assessment of this is that it is probably related to the very buoyant economy of West Germany, where good pay and conditions attract many workers from other European countries, thus depleting the numbers that might otherwise be available to come to Australia.
I feel certain that the important role of immigration in the strengthening of our economy and the development of our resources and our industries will continue during the current financial year. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that a statement made some years ago by the Prime Minister is still true. He said that immigration is the greatest single dynamic factor in our economy. I think that expresses very well what we all feel about immigration. On 18th August last, the
Minister for Immigration made a detailed statement. I will not attempt to reiterate it, but I would like to quote one or two important passages from it to refresh honorable members’ memories and to put on the record again the essential features of our programme for the current financial year. The Minister said that the Government intends to maintain the marked upward trend in the immigration programme. He said that the aim for 1965-66 was at least 145,000 settlers - 5,000 more than last year’s net result. The Minister then went on to give details of estimated numbers of assisted and unassisted migrants. I should like to quote the two final paragraphs of the Minister’s statement because I believe that they sum up the hope which we all believe will be fulfilled. He said -
It is a considerable achievement that, in these days of prosperity and comfort in Britain and Europe, Australia can still attract migrants in increasing numbers.
As in the past, the progress of the programme will be kept under review and the flow increased if the opportunity offers.
I believe that that was a very positive approach on the part of the Minister. He did not say that this was the final word in relation to the 1965-66 programme; he indicated clearly that, in his mind, the programme was still flexible and would continue to be flexible, and that the Government was prepared to raise the figure if economic and other circumstances permitted over the months ahead.
I should like to pay a tribute to all the various people in Australia and to all the organisations who play an important part in our immigration programme. I have already paid a tribute to the Minister and to his Department. I should like to pay a tribute to my friend, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who, as all honorable members know, has done an outstanding job over the years as Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council. Those of us who have attended the annual Citizenship Conventions here in Canberra each January - that is when they are usually held - will appreciate the wonderful job that is done by the honorable member for Sturt in chairing the Convention. It is a great Convention of people. Some are migrants, most of whom have settled happily and successfully in Australia and who are anxious to make a positive and worthwhile contribution to its future; many others are native born Australians who are interested in Australia’s growth and future and in the welfare and integration of our migrants. It is wonderful to see the Convention at work in the general assembly and in the discussion groups, which I believe are invaluable. I am sure that the Minister, who takes a special interest in the Conventions, will agree with what I say.
The Good Neighbour Councils throughout Australia do a splendid job in helping migrants, calling on them, taking a personal interest in them, helping them with their problems and guiding them along their way. It is very important to maintain this close personal contact with our migrants so that they will be happily settled in the minimum possible time. In addition there is the Immigration Publicity Council under the Chairmanship of Dr. Darling. I pay a tribute to that Council. I felt very honoured recently when the Minister asked me whether I would accept for a second term the Chairmanship of the Immigration Planning Council. I was very happy to accept the appointment for a second term and I have been very proud over the last three years or more to have been very intimately associated with what I regard as a remarkable programme of immigration for Australia. I feel certain that this success over the years gone by and over the years that we are just reviewing will be projected into the year ahead. I wish the Minister and his Department and all those who are helping him every success in their very fine efforts on Australia’s behalf.
.- I support the remarks made by my two colleagues from this side of the chamber who have spoken in this debate. They have dealt with the estimates for the Department of Immigration which, in the current financial year, will provide about the same amount as was provided last year and, therefore, will provide for about the same number of new settlers to come to Australia during 1965-66 as came here during 1964-65. Immigration debates in this place have usually been kept on a very high plane. The debate this afternoon and this evening has been no exception. Two honorable members from the Government side of the chamber have spoken during this debate. The first was the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) who, as the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) mentioned, is the Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council. He made a very thoughtful contribution to the debate. The honorable member for Ryan, who has just resumed his seat, is Chairman of the Immigration Planning Council, as he said. I have no doubt that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) has every reason to appreciate the advice and the assistance which he and his predecessors have received from that body in recent years. The Opposition offers no criticism on questions of immigration. We find ourselves in general agreement with what has been expressed by honorable members opposite on this very important matter.
One or two matters were raised by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and supported by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). 1 support what was said by those two honorable members concerning the two important ‘amendments which they suggested should be made to the Migration Act. I shall return to those matters later in my address. The honorable member for Grayndler said this afternoon that the Australian Labour Party has a committee which deals with immigration matters for the Labour Party. He is Chairman of that committee and the honorable member for Newcastle is secretary. The committee, which comprises a number of members from this side of the chamber and is representative of most States of the Commonwealth, has made a great contribution to the general question of immigration. I admit at once that we have received the cooperation and assistance not only of the Minister but also of those who are responsible for policy within the Department. I join with speakers on this side of the Chamber and with honorable members opposite who have paid a tribute to the secretary of the Department of Immigration, Mr. Peter Heydon, and those who assist him in the Department. I believe that they enjoy a very high reputation not only among new settlers in Australia but also among the general public. I believe that everyone in this country has reason to appreciate the manner in which the Department of Immigration discharges its responsibilities.
One must appreciate immediately that many of the problems that come within the jurisdiction of the Department can be dealt with only on an individual basis. I am sure that when these cases arise the Immigration Department - particularly the Secretary and, I have no doubt, the Minister also if a final decision must be made by him - gives sympathetic consideration to and makes a sympathetic determination in these cases. I join with those honorable members who have paid a well deserved tribute to the Secretary of the Department and his officers. The high standard of this Department is maintained not only in Australia but also overseas. Those of us who have had the privilege and the very great pleasure to study the immigration departments in other countries would concede that overseas, as in Australia, the standards set by officers of the Department are very high. I now return to the matters that were raised by honorable members on this side of the House.
It was pointed out on behalf of the Opposition this afternoon by the honorable member for Grayndler and this evening by the honorable member for Newcastle, that frequently the Department of Immigration is called upon to make a very difficult decision concerning an isolated case of a new settler in Australia. It has to decide whether a person should be admitted to Australia or whether the period for which a person has been granted a temporary permit should be extended. I believe, as the honorable member for Grayndler said, that in such cases the Minister sometimes has a very difficult decision to make. Sometimes he is not in a position to make public the full facts of a case. I believe that in these circumstances the Press throughout Australia should be more concerned that responsible decisions are made rather than with sensationalism as it very often is. So we find ourselves in sympathy with the Minister when questions of this nature arise. I agree with the honorable member for Sturt that this Government - indeed, any future Government - has the responsibility and the right to decide the immigration policy that is in the best interest of Australia. This is a matter that must be determined by Australians for Australians, and I do not believe that we should be stampeded by people from other countries who suggest that our immigration laws ought to be altered to suit their requirements. It is generally appreciated by Australians - certainly by the Australian Labour Party - that the countries that very often are most critical of our immigration laws themselves have immigration laws that are far more rigid than ours.
I turn now to the immigration programme that was decided upon by the Department of Immigration for the financial year 1964-65. I think the honorable member for Ryan referred to some of the statistics relating to the Department’s target for that year. He said that initially the target was 127,000 new settlers but that this figure was later increased by 15,000 additional British settlers to 142,000. Of this number 90,000 came under the assisted passage scheme and 52,000 were unassisted. Of those who were assisted to migrate here 70,000 came from the United Kingdom and 20.000 from other countries. He said that ultimately a total of 140,152 settlers came here. However, as a result of the short term arrivals and departures, the net gain - and I do not think he mentioned this figure - in 1964-65 was actually 100,553. This figure was nearly the same as the figure for the preceding year when the net gain was 99,342. There has been a drop in the number of people coming here from some of the countries that in the past we have regarded as traditional sources of immigration. No doubt the Minister will be able to offer some reason for the decrease. It may be due to the failure of those responsible for immigration matters in those countries to renew agreements that have previously applied between them and Australia. For example, the target last year for Italian migrants was 2,000, but only 158 arrived. This seems to me to be a substantial decrease and possibly the Minister may be able to explain it. After all, the number was 1,842 short of the target of 2,000. The target for Spanish migrants was 1,000, but only 49 arrived. This is an insignificant number when compared with the target. It is possible that the Minister, as a result of his recent overseas trip, particularly to Italy and Spain, to discuss immigration matters will be able to explain why these figures reveal such an alarming decline in recent years.
The question of naturalisation has been referred to by several speakers. Many reasons have been offered, and will continue to be offered, not only in this Parliament but by organisations and people outside who have some association with immigration matters, why more than 280,000 have not applied for naturalisation. I do not believe that great importance ought to be attached to this matter. The Department of Immigration is responsible for advising immigrants that certain opportunities will accrue to them if they become naturalised citizens - in other words, if they accept full citizenship responsibilities in Australia. Once that is done I believe that the Government’s responsibility ends, because no doubt there are a variety of reasons why people who come here are not prepared to become naturalised. I know one or two reasons myself. The Department recently conducted a survey and it ascertained several reasons why these people do not apply for naturalisation. One must also consider the number of people who apply for naturalisation in relation to the target figure that was set by the Government five years earlier, because the number that come forward will be governed by the number who came here five years before, since a person must be resident in Australia for five years before he can be naturalised. In 1964-65 a total of 32,601 people applied for naturalisation, whereas the arrivals in 1960-61 totalled 41,741. There was a substantial difference in the number of people who applied to be naturalised and the number who arrived in Australia five years earlier. In 1956, 75,961 people came here from countries other than the United Kingdom, but last financial year only 49,692 came from those countries. This will be reflected in the number who apply for naturalisation in later years.
The main point advanced by the Opposition during this debate relates to people who have been refused naturalisation. We believe that far too many new settlers are refused naturalisation. The honorable member for Newcastle said that 958 new settlers who applied for naturalisation were rejected because, it was stated, they were not of good character. I believe that if a person is ultimately to be refused naturalisation on the grounds that he is not of good character an investigation should have been carried out before he came here. There is no reason why five years after his admission to Australia a settler should be refused naturalisation on the grounds he is not of good character.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In supporting the appropriation of funds for the Department of Immigration I would first like to commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and the officers of his Department for the tremendous work they are doing. It is indeed good to hear honorable members on both sides of the Committee expressing appreciation of the work of the Minister and his Department. I hope the expressions of goodwill and support indicate that in future he will not be subjected to political attacks of the kind he has experienced sometimes in the past when he has had to deal with very difficult questions and has dealt with them very ably and in the right manner. The departmental officers are always most helpful to members of this Parliament when we bring problems to them. They have shown a deep devotion to duty not only in the departmental offices in the various States but also in migrant camps, on board ship and in the Department’s offices in various overseas countries. Their dedication has to be seen to be appreciated. It has resulted in their making a tremendous contribution towards the success and efficiency of our immigration programme.
Australia’s greatest needs today are for men and money, and the contributions that the Department of Immigration has made over the years to meet the need for men have been invaluable. It serves as rather a refutation of the contention of the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry that we should restrict our migrant inflow. Government policy is to try to increase the inflow of suitable migrants. Suitable migrants are becoming very hard to come by. The recent prosperity of this country has dated, I think, from the time of the introduction of our immigration programme. A large inflow of immigrants, of course, creates all sorts of problems. Growth in any country or any business creates problems but without growth no business can prosper and no country can stand. I remind the Committee of a plea made recently by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that more migrants be allowed to land in Western Australia without first going to the eastern States. Western Australia, as well as the other States, has a tremendous shortage of skilled artisans of men for employment in industry and of men for employment on the land. Rather than restrict our inflow of immigrants at this time we should be looking for ways and means, as the Department of Immigration is looking, to expand the inflow of suitable migrants.
In this connection I would refer the Committee to the experience of the United States of America. What was the period of that country’s greatest progress and prosperity? It was the time when it had a tremendous inflow of migrants. This inflow created tremendous problems in that country but it has eventually made the United States the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. Looking at our own history we see that in the days of the gold rush many thousands of people were attracted to this country, some of them perhaps being not very desirable immigrants. This inflow created demands for development of our food producing potential in many new areas. Until that time it was believed that we had only a narrow fringe strip around the coast that could be developed profitably. It was in the days of the gold rush when people went inland seeking gold that we found that many of our inland centres were capable of tremendous development, and we have learned as no other nation has learned to farm a dry continent.
There has been a certain amount of criticism of the decline in the number of immigrants from some countries, particularly European countries, but I remind the Committee that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get them because of the economic boom in Europe. Some European countries actively disapprove of our seeking any migrants at all in those countries. Others look upon our efforts to attract their most skilled workers with anything but approval. The reason for the decline in the number of immigrants from countries like Spain and Italy has been very largely the tremendous prosperity being experienced in Europe.
We need migrants in many sections of our community. We are short of skilled artisans and we are short of workers in almost every section of industry. I am sure the Postmaster-General’s Department could do with some skilled artisans. We are. told that it has the equipment and materials but is short of skilled personnel. Here is a government enterprise that could surely use far more migrants. The whole of our national developmental programme depends on our ability to attract more people to this country. Again I refer to the advice of the Vernon Committee that we should restrict the inflow of capital and of people, and I remind honorable members that without either we cannot progress.
One of our main problems, and one that has been much discussed in the Press of late, is that of naturalisation, of persuading our immigrants to become Australian citizens. Let me tell the Committee that we have achieved a far higher rate of naturalisation than any other country in the world. About 65 per cent, of our immigrants eventually become naturalised and this is almost double the achievement of any other country. It is not easy to persuade these people to become naturalised and perhaps we Australians are very much to blame in this connection. We do not always do all we might to encourage our new settlers to become assimilated. One of our main problems is with the womenfolk. Because of traditional outlooks in European countries the women are inclined to be reserved and kept out of the broad picture to a very great extent. They do not acquire fluency in the English language and are sometimes unacceptable for naturalisation. If the mother of the family is not accepted the other members of the family hold back. Here I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for our Australian womenfolk to do something to assist these people to become true citizens of Australia.
I do not think we should ever reach the point, as has been suggested, of trying to force these people to accept citizenship, lt should be treated as a privilege and an honour to become an Australian citizen, and I think that most of our immigrants who do become naturalised look upon citizenship in this way. Whenever we are looking for migrants we must consider very carefully the ability of those offering to become assimilated. This is very important indeed. There are many reasons why migrants come here. Many come for political security, to get away from the unrest in Europe. Many come because they see better prospects for their children. Many bring with them funds and skills. They leave good positions in the old world because they believe that this is a brighter and freer country in which to bring up their children - a new world and a new life. When these people come here the children whom they bring with them very quickly accept our way of life, but it is not so easy for the older ones, and I think that rather than criticise new Australians for not accepting citizenship we should make a greater effort to encourage them and to draw them into our own community centres and our own social life.
The matter of national service training has often been raised. I know it has been raised by the Returned Servicemen’s League on more than one occasion because that organisation feels that a number of younger migrants who are of the age which would make them liable for national service training if they were naturalised are avoiding service to the country of their adoption. It has been suggested that after a certain period pressure should be brought to bear on them. Here again I think that persuasion is much better. It should be remembered that there are numbers of these new citizens coming forward and voluntarily joining our Citizen Military Forces. I think the Returned Servicemen’s League itself could do much to help these people. We should do all we can to impress upon them the responsibility that citizenship of this country entails. 1 wish to refer to one other matter touching on assimilation of migrants. I have raised this matter on previous occasions, because I think it is of importance. Many young migrants in my electorate have done a tremendous job for Australia. Many working on the Snowy Mountains project have contributed largely to the success of the project. They are accustomed to working long hours for six days a week. Certainly they earn excellent wages. Like any normal young man, these men want to settle down, but many of them have difficulty in finding suitable girls to marry. I do not think our immigration programme is complete until our new settlers are married and rearing families in this country. I suggest that young male migrants who are unable to find a mate in this country should be permitted to return to the country from which they migrated and if they can there find a bride, we should break with tradition and pay the passage back to Australia of the migrant and his bride. I have made this suggestion on other occasions and it is receiving increasing support in my area. The children of migrants become dinkum Aussies in a very short time. Any child born in Australia is a better Australian than any migrant can ever hope to be, no matter how hard he tried. I urge the Minister to consider my suggestion.
Finally, I add my support to the suggestions of delegates to the Australian Citizenship Convention that migrants seeking to be naturalised should not be required to renounce their former allegiance. We are told that in law the renunciation means nothing. I have seen on the faces of many fine people signs of sorrow and almost shame at having to renounce the country of their origin. I do not think renunciation serves any real purpose. As I have said on other occasions, many a Scot considers himself to be the best of Australians, but would he ever be prepared to renounce his allegiance to Scotland? If the newcomer to our shores has been a good Italian, Frenchman or Spaniard and is prepared to take the oath of allegiance to our Queen and our Government, surely that is adequate. It is in law. If this suggestion were followed it would greatly help many migrants to decide whether they should become naturalised.
I join with other honorable members in expressing my appreciation of the work done by the Minister and his departmental officers. They have given sympathetic consideration to honorable members who have approached them’ with problems affecting the assimilation of people from all over the world.
– I am well aware of how unpleasant it is for migrants to have to renounce their former allegiance when seeking naturalisation. I have always felt some embarrassment when, at naturalisation ceremonies, our new citizens are asked to renounce their former allegiance. We know that many of these people come from war torn Europe. When they are asked to renounce their former allegiance memories of the things that have happened to those who were near and dear to them come flooding back. There is no device capable of looking into the mind. I think that sometimes our migrants refrain from becoming naturalised because of the likelihood of being called up for national service training or becoming involved in a war. Many of them have seen so much of war in the past.
I want to remind the Parliament of some of the wicked atrocities that many of our new Australians witnessed or learned about, but before quoting from a book entitled “ Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945 “ I wish to refer to a matter that disturbed me considerably when listening to the 7 o’clock national news on Friday night last. As all honorable members know, a peace rally associated with the conflict in Vietnam was held in Sydney last Friday. About 50 persons were arrested and subsequently appeared in Central Court of Petty Sessions. The news reader, James Dibble-
– Order! The honorable member seems to be getting away from the estimates for the Department of Immigration.
– I will link my remarks directly with the estimates, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I may have your indulgence for a minute or even for less than a minute. The news reader, Mr. James Dibble, stated that allied with an anti- Vietnam peace rally was the Democratic Labour Party and a Croatian movement. This Croatian movement which unfortunately exists in Australia was brought to the attention of the Parliament by my esteemed colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), who alleged that certain Croatian people in Australia belong to the Ustashi movement. I would like the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) to tell me how these people got into the country, having regard to the facts disclosed by the honorable member for Yarra. I would like to know also how many of these persons and members of the D.L.P. were arrested by police at the rally in Sydney on Friday evening and how many are on bail awaiting trial.
Let us see what this Ustashi movement is. I propose to quote from a book entitled “ Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945 “, written for the American Institute of Balkan Affairs.
– At which page of the Estimates is this item to be found?
– I do not think the honorable member deserves a reply to that question. The book states -
The greatest genocide during World War II, in proportion to a nation’s population, took place, not in Nazi Germany but in the Nazi-created puppet state of Croatia.
Members of the Ustashi came to Australia. I say that they were not sufficiently screened by the Department of Immigration. Here Is the sort of thing for which they were responsible, as described in this book -
Right in Kosinj the Ustashi assembled about 600 Serbs - men, women and children - and turned the place into a slaughter house. A mother was forced to hold the basin to catch the blood of her four sons.
I ask the Minister whether he will have thorough inquiries made to ascertain the facts relating to the report read to the nation by James Dibble on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news at 7 p.m. on Friday last. How many of the Croatians in Australia belong to the Ustashi or are its followers? I endorse the remarks made by my colleague, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), and the submissions by other Opposition speakers proposing the establishment of a tribunal to ventilate the reasons why the Department will not allow certain people to enter Australia. I say that those people are being tried by gossip and hearsay. I suggest to the Minister, with the greatest respect, that he is taking notice of this very dangerous form of evidence that is being collated and served up to him as ground for preventing certain people, who in my opinion are honorable, from entering this country.
– Or being naturalised.
– Or being naturalised. On the other hand, a man named Spiteri was allowed into this country by the Department. He shot the hand off a young police officer and murdered a woman in a gun battle at King’s Cross. When his fingerprints were taken and checked it was found that he had served 10 years in gaol in Malta before being allowed into this country. Can the Minister tell the Committee how that man got into Australia? Was he screened? I have mentioned in this chamber before a man named Viks who is now living in Sydney and who has been tried before a court in another country in his absence because we would not release him to the authorities that sought him. He was found guilty by that court of the murder of some 2,000 people in his native land. In view of what I have read about him, he seems to me to be undoubtedly a war criminal. I should like to know how he came to get past the Department’s screening officers.
On the other hand, Sir, there is the case of a man on whose behalf I made representations through the former member for Robertson. He is Mr. Tom Belcheos, who in my opinion is a very reputable person. He left Greece on 27th July 1947 following the Greek revolution and is now living in one of the southern republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He is a qualified carpenter, 39 years of age, and has two children. All members of the family are in excellent health. My searching inquiries indicate that this man is not and never has been a member of the Communist Party or any other political party. Yet the Department of Immigration refuses to allow him, his wife and his children to come to Australia to join his near and dear relatives. 1 put it to the Minister that, on his recent return to Australia from an extensive trip overseas, his greatest joy when he arrived back was to be reunited with his wife and family. I have not the slightest doubt that that was his greatest joy from that trip. So I ask him to put himself in the position of Mr. Belcheos an apparently decent man who left his war torn country. The Soviet authorities are prepared to release him. He is a qualified carpenter. Only today I heard an honorable member on the Government side of the chamber - I think it was the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) - say that we are still badly in need of qualified tradesmen. I believe that no tradesmen are more urgently needed than carpenters are. I ask the Minister to re-examine the papers in the Belcheos case. I do not raise it here for the express purpose of embarrassing him. He and I have had exchanges of correspondence on this case for some time, but his department still adheres strongly to the decision that this man shall not be allowed to come to Australia to join his near and dear relatives.
I wholeheartedly support the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
– Order! No amendment has been moved.
– I am sorry for my error, Sir. I wholeheartedly support the Opposi tion’s submission that the Minister consider deleting from the naturalisation ceremony the requirement that migrants renounce their allegiance to their native land. At naturalisation ceremonies that I have attended in the Newcastle district I have frequently noticed that emphasis is placed on telling new Australians: “ You are expected to shoulder arms for Australia whenever necessary “. If I had time to read more passages from the blood curdling book on genocide in Croatia which I mentioned earlier, and which I believe is factual, the Minister would realise how necessary it is that no reference to war and the shouldering of arms be directed at new Australians in naturalisation ceremonies as part of the ritual through which they have to go before they take the oath of allegiance to the Queen of this, their new land. I trust that the Minister will earnestly consider the submissions that I have made to him in the brief time available to me during the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Immigration.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Committee has been discussing the vast and complex matter of immigration. I say it is vast because we have immigration posts all over the world where our officers deal with migration problems to see that satisfactory people are brought to Australia. This is a complex matter because it relates to human beings who have different languages, different capacities and different outlooks and who have arranged to come here because of different circumstances. All these varied factors in their outlook and their lives become apparent to members of this Parliament, to committees and to organisations of all kinds concerned with immigration and finally, as we have seen this evening, they have their influence in this chamber on suggestions for the alteration of our immigration laws.
I am glad to have the general appreciation of our migration programme expressed by honorable members. I am pleased also, in a way, that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) raised a discordant note in the speech that he has just made. For the good book says: “ Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” Honorable members, in expressing their general approval, particularly of the Department of
Immigration and its officers, and to a lesser degree of me, all were speaking well of us. The success that we can proudly claim for our immigration plan is due to the dedication of the officers responsible for administering it. Those officers have never lost the enthusiasm because they believe that the plan is designed in the best interests of Australia. Perhaps the approval that the plan received from both sides of the House is due to the fact that, basically, it is the same as the plan that was inaugurated shortly after the end of the last war. Because honorable members on both sides have shown such interest in ensuring that everything possible shall be done to settle migrants harmoniously and happily in this country, I think it fitting that I should comment on what they have said.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other honorable members on both sides of the Committee were concerned about the fact that migrants who were becoming naturalised were required before taking the oath to renounce allegiance to their country of origin. I have such great respect for the opinions of the Citizenship Conventions at which this matter was first raised, and I can say now that it is still under consideration.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) advocated a right of appeal against refusal of visas to enter this country. Let me emphasise that persons to whom visas are granted are not citizens of this country. A right of appeal is allowed only to a person who already has rights in a country. Frequently when visas are refused at overseas posts, requests are made by interested persons in Australia for a review, and such requests are not idly put aside. Reviews are made sometimes at the cost of a tremendous amount of trouble. Everything humanly possible is done to discover whether the people concerned should be allowed to enter this country. I have at my disposal all the files relating to every case. I have also the benefit of the advice of my officers and full details of the results of investigations carried out not only in Australia but also overseas.
– I know the Minister always gives special consideration to a spouse who has been refused.
– I cannot say that I give special consideration to any particular section, but every request for a review is given thorough consideration. Let me point out here that our practice is similar to the procedure adopted in Canada and the United States of America.
The honorable member for Newcastle referred to character and various other reasons why migrants are refused naturalisation. It should be perfectly obvious that we want as many as possible of those migrants who are in the country to become naturalised. To attract them to seek naturalisation, we carry out special drives. We send letters to them at the appropriate time and do everything possible to bring to their notice the benefits of naturalisation. Honorable members will understand, therefore, that we do not refuse naturalisation just on an idle whim. It is essential that applicants have some knowledge of the English language and are able to understand the oath.
– What about a migrant who has lived here for 30 odd years, who has no police record and whose only offence is that he sells copies of the “ Tribune “ on Saturday mornings?
– All I can say is that if such a man has been refused naturalisation it has been for reasons far more serious than that mentioned by the honorable member. I repeat that our decisions are not made idly. There is always a very good reason for what we do.
The honorable member for Newcastle referred to a migrant who was refused entry to America and the only reason given was security. This is an example of how another country which accepts migrants realises that it is necessary to accept as international practice the principle that an alien overseas just cannot demand the right of entry into a country and that the executive government of any country should not be forced to disclose security information.
As I said earlier, appeal tribunals are usually provided only when the rights of a citizen are in question. We do not capriciously refuse the entry of people to this country. On the one hand, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) complains about people being allowed in the country, and on the other hand he complains about the screening which prevents people from being admitted. His arguments just do not balance.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) suggested quite moderately that the reasons why certain people are refused naturalisation should have been known to the authorities before those migrants came to this country. I have examined a large number of files, especially those relating to migrants who enter this country at 17, 18, 19 or 20 years of age. At the time of entry, they have been of good character and have been rightly allowed into the country. But, just as some Australians change in outlook and character after passing the ages I have mentioned, so do some migrants. Therefore, the question is not one of these young people having records or being of bad character before coming to Australia. The position is that in the five years following their coming to this country, they have conducted themselves in such a way as to make it necessary for us to refuse to allow them to become naturalised.
The honorable member for Bass also referred to the number of migrants who were applying for naturalisation. It is interesting to note here that over the last four years the proportion of migrants applying for naturalisation has increased from 54 per cent, to 64 per cent.
The honorable member for Hunter made certain allegations concerning Croats, the Democratic Labour Party and so on. He will know that the people to whom he referred are citizens of Australia. He of all people should know that they can be dealt with effectively under the law. It is not a function of the Department of Immigration to deal with those matters.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt) suggested that it would be a good idea to pay the fares of Italian men who wished to go abroad to select a wife and then return. If the concession could be confined just to that compartment there might be some merit in it but a scheme involving payment of return passages for migrant’s whose original fares to this country had already been paid by the Commonwealth could become so complicated that it would be impossible for the Department to administer it effectively.
After my recent visit to 11 of the countries from which we receive migrants, I am very pleased to be able to say there are still opportunities overseas for the recruitment of skilled workers but one thing that was impressed upon me most strenuously was that we will have to work harder to attract them to this country.
– Then keep in Australia the men we now have working for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
-That concerns another aspect of Government policy altogether. My objective is to bring people to Australia. My talks with the Intergovernmental Committee for European migration and the United Nations Commission for refugees in Geneva and the Governments of the other countries concerned with immigration left me in no doubt that Australia has gained internationally a high reputation for its treatment of migrants and refugees. One can say that with the greatest confidence. I am also convinced from personal observations that Australia is foremost in the minds of potential migrants as the land of opportunity. When moving through Europe I do not think one would find a country that is so well and instantly known as Australia.
– It is the land of milk and honey.
– We do not represent it as the land of milk and honey. I believe that we have almost two million migrants here and they write back to their own countries. The people overseas do not need other recommendations. We do not sell those people on milk and honey; we sell them on the fact that they will get milk and honey if they knuckle down and work. Wherever our immigration missions are established overseas, as I said at the outset, I found efficient teams of Australian officers dedicated to the task of securing for Australia the best migrant material available.
On my tour overseas, we signed agreements with three countries, Malta, the Netherlands and West Germany. As far as Malta was concerned there was never at any time a greater favourable reaction. They are having trouble there in finding employment and the opportunity of migration to Australia was welcomed. The agreement with Malta will run for five years and was the first entered into by the Maltese Government since that country gained independence. The Dutch agreement is to remain in force for five years and thereafter until one year after the date on which notice of intention to terminate is given by one party to the other. Holland has no need to send migrants at the present time. It is importing labour. But because of the good image which Australia has created for migrants and because of the population expansion in such a small country, its Government wishes to retain its links with Australia for migration in the future. The West German agreement will operate for an unlimited period retrospective to August 1962 and will be subject to termination by one year’s written notice from one party to the other. In Germany, as in other European countries, one of the most outstanding factors experienced was that it still had an appreciation of the fact that Australia took migrants in volume - in thousands - when their value to Australia was not as apparent as it has become in these latter years. Although these countries do not need to send migrants to Australia these links built up with Australia in the past still exist. We are now waiting for Italy to submit a draft agreement. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) mentioned migration from Italy. The position is that Italian workers and migrants can go into other parts of Europe at the present time. We are hoping that eventually we will get an agreement with Italy, Our relationship with that country is extremely friendly. In the meantime, the Italian Government has given approval for the recruitment of 400 unskilled workers and 80 electrical and metal tradesmen for our iron and steel industry. This has enabled us to resume, on a limited scale, the movement of Italian workers and their dependants under assisted passage arrangements. In 1964-65 assisted migration from Italy was limited to the dependants of Italian migrants who had previously settled in Australia as assisted migrants, and to a very small number of workers. As well as the assisted migrants we have had a substantial flow of unassisted migrants joining friends and relatives in Australia. This has continued without interruption.
Referring to Spain, we have had first class migrants from that country, although not in big numbers. At the present time, there is no agreement between Australia and
Spain, but there is a very friendly feeling there. We are still issuing visas to a modest number of Spanish people - about 800 - who are likely to arrive in 1965. There was a reluctance on the part of the Spanish authorities to agree to a resumption of assisted migration, but the door has not been closed to future negotiations.
Living conditions in Europe have never been better. The claimed economic buoyancy is a reality and there is a vast migration surge throughout Europe at the present time. About 350,000 have moved out from Greece into European countries and there are one million guest workers, as they are termed, in Germany. The only thing is that they are single workers and there is no family migration as we have it in Australia. These guest workers are employed for a limited period, usually of two years. As time goes by, the authorities find it difficult to meet the demands of returning workers who wish to bring their families with them. These people, once they have been out of their own country, become accustomed to living in other countries and find it irksome to be without their families. Australia is taking advantage of that feeling to put before them in their own language the facts as they exist in Australia. We feel that we will maintain a flow of migrants, in addition to those who are nationals of the country concerned, from these guest workers in various countries of Europe. We must face the fact that these countries have opportunities and attractions balancing the opportunities available in this country which is 12,000 miles away.
In an endeavour to obtain more of these workers, we have extended to them our general assisted passage scheme under which the Australian Government offers unilateral assistance towards passage costs to the extent of £71 for an adult and pro rata for a child. So we may have the opportunity of gaining some of these guest workers from European countries. We may have to make this assistance more generous as time goes on and may have to invest more heavily to face world wide competition if we are to secure the number and type of settlers which Australia needs.
In the circumstances of 1965, bidding for migrants is not just a matter of hard cash. Hard facts are just as necessary - hard facts about specific jobs that are available. These days, because of the situation in Europe, we find it is not just a matter of offering jobs. We have to go into great detail about wages, overtime, working conditions, housing, social services, prices, transport and amenities in the areas in which the migrants will be living. They want to know these things. The Department is providing for this by expanding its publicity and information services. But as I have said, I feel that employers will have to play a more active part in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the immigration programme to attract to Australia the type of workers they require. They can do this by making personal nominations, by the selection of workers and by giving them specific details about the areas in which they will work. They must not only employ the workers; during the early stages, they must take a personal interest in them. One need only be 12,000 miles away from home to put one’s self in the same position as these people coming to Australia, without any knowledge of the country except for what they have been told in pamphlets and books, and to realise their fears, trepidations and apprehensions during the. first 12 months. Then one realises what it must mean to these people to have somebody of status to take an interest in them. We are endeavouring, by extending our publicity and information services, to provide all the information that is required. It might be of interest to the Committee to know that in Europe we are not allowed to advertise directly, as we are allowed to do in England. Advertising has to be done by more subtle processes through television, films and newspaper and magazine articles, in the preparation of which officers of the Department have become adept. If they had not, we would not still be attracting migrants. I repeat straight out advertising for workers is not allowed in Europe, although it is allowed in the United Kingdom.
– Is it not allowed anywhere in Europe?
– It is not allowed anywhere in Europe. Anything looking like advertising would be received with disapproval in the country in which it was displayed. We are recruiting Australian journalists whose principal task will be to add to the flow of material about Australia through all possible media - British and
European newspapers, radio and television, exhibitions, displays, lecture tours and film evenings. We need also to widen the scope of the information leaflets we give to prospective migrants, and not merely to maintain the standards already set. Application rates in Britain for the first six months of 1965 are running ahead of the level reached in the same period in 1964. This is regarded as most satisfactory, but the achievement of the current programme will be dependent on new applications, whereas last year’s programme drew on a backlog of earlier applications. While, from the viewpoint of individual migrants and their sponsors, elimination of lengthy periods of waiting for a passage is desirable, and indeed helpful to the programme, the present position means that departures will be more regulated by current applications.
The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) mentioned the airlifting of migrants. The Department is bringing 50 per cent, of its migrants by air and I can assure the honorable member that that procedure will continue. In Southern Europe prospects for unassisted immigration have been enhanced by the recent decision made by me that cousins and friends will henceforth be eligible for nomination from Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. This is very satisfactory, because previously only close relatives - engaged people and single women - were eligible for sponsorship. This move has brought Mediterranean countries into line with northern European countries in the sponsorship of unassisted settlers. I should like to mention at this stage that the people we have had from southern Mediterranean countries - and they have come in large numbers - have been of tremendous assistance in the development of Australia. Australia’s immigration scheme is recognised throughout countries interested in immigration as’ being the best in the world for the combined advantages of paying of passages, placing in employment, allocation of hostels and reception by local people. Never before have such numbers of different nationalities been settled in one country with such harmony as has been the case under our immigration scheme.
While the Department of Immigration’s estimates are before the Committee I should like to take the opportunity to acknowledge personally, on behalf of the Government and the Department of Immigration, the splendid services rendered to the cause of immigration in a voluntary capacity by public spirited citizens in many walks of life. I have particularly in mind the army of voluntary workers who make up the Good Neighbour Movement. Nothing like this movement exists in any other country and people overseas were astonished to hear about the movement from me. I pay a tribute also to the Immigration Planning and Advisory Councils and the Immigration Publicity Council. These men and women, as members of organised bodies and as individuals, are making their own distinctive contribution to the longest sustained and most successful immigration programme this country, or any country, has ever known.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority .. ..14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed expenditure, £3,579,000.
– In addressing ourselves to the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service, I think we should go back to the time when the Department was established immediately at the conclusion of the last war. This Department, under the guidance of the Chifley Government, in the years 1945-46 and 1946-47, transferred back into the work force the 200,000 men and women who had come out of the Services. The Department was organised to handle a situation that was without precedent in the history of this country. Yet in 1949-50 the salaries paid to officers of the Department totalled £490,000. I think we should consider carefully the growth of this Department in the post-war years at (he hands of this Government, which gained office with a policy of full employment. The Department was originally formedto deal only with the one problem that I have mentioned. Under this Government, the expenditure on salaries paid to officers of the Department has grown from £490,000 to £2,285,000.
I am concerned to note that as this Department has grown it has been given a power that is unprecedented in our history and a power that has not been vested in any other Department. The Parliament should be concerned about the tremendous growth of this Department. In my view, this growth was never intended, because when the Department was formed originally it was charged with responsibilities that are stated in its title - labour and national service. In 1949, it had one secretary, two assistant secretaries and 379 employment officers to deal with the vast problem I have mentioned. In 1960-61, a period that all honorable members will recall, 110,000 people were unemployed in the middle of the year. But the Department still had only one secretary, six assistant secretaries and 579 employment officers. The Department has grown since then, and this year we have another assistant secretary. Today the Department has a secretary, eight assistant secretaries, 81 administrative officers and 663 district employment officers to deal with 47,607 unemployed persons. This figure was given recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon).
I question the growth of this Department in this fashion, because with its growth has come power. Let me repeat that its growth is unprecedented in the history of this Parliament. I have given the matter deep thought and I say that the Department should not be allowed to continue to have the power that it has. It controls unemployment. It decides whether a worker will work or not. With unemployment standing at 47,607 persons, we now have a Department with one secretary, eight assistant secretaries, 81 administrative officers and 663 district employment officers. This year, the salaries paid to the district employment officers alone total more than £1 million, and this is twice the amount that was voted for the salaries of the whole of the Department by the Chifley Government when it left office. I mentioned the power of this Department in another debate recently. It now decides whether an unemployed person will work or not. It instructs the district employment officer in these terms: “ If Bill Jones falls by the wayside and loses his job, it is not sufficient for him merely to report to you. He must go to industry himself and if he fails to go to a given number of employers that you may decide, you will determine whether he will be paid unemployment relief or not.” This Department controls the national service call-up. Here is the controlling factor in the marble of death that has been referred to in this chamber.
The Department also influences Governpolicy in relation to the basic wage cases. Honorable members will recall that quite recently I said in this chamber that the Department advised the Government to change its policy after the Government’s policy had been stated in the recent basic wage case. The Minister denied this and issued a challenge to me. He said: “I have the transcript. What the honorable member for Blaxland says is not correct.” I throw this back in the Minister’s teeth tonight and I will quote from the transcript. At page 31 of the transcript of the last basic wage case Kerr, Q.C. for the Commonwealth, is reported as having said -
In this particular matter it is not the desire nor intention of the Commonwealth to make submissions about what the Commission should do … it is not the Commonwealth’s intention to make submissions on any aspect that arises for decision . . . but what the Commonwealth submits is not something that goes directly to the result. . . .
That was said by Kerr, Q.C. for the Commonwealth, on 2nd March 1965. On 11th March, at the end of the proceedings on that day, Kerr, Q.C. for the Commonwealth, said - this is at page 375 of the transcript -
Essentially for these reasons, and intervening as it does in the national interest the Commonwealth believes it cannot do otherwise than say to the Commission that an increase in the basic wage at this juncture would be fraught with great danger for the economy.
I now ask the Minister: Does he not understand that that was a complete reversal of policy in the middle of a basic wage case, at the behest of the Department. I ask honorable members to keep in mind that this Department has complete control of employment and unemployment in Australia. In its hands has been placed the authority to register, deregister and reregister trade unions. But where does that take us? We have built up in Australia an organisation which, in future, will be the authority which recommends to the Executive that a union be registered, deregistered or reregistered. If at the point of reregistration there has been a falling off in the economy and Bill Jones reports to this Department for work in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, the Department may say: “ There is a job for you on the waterfront. You are to take it or you do not eat.” This will be the power of the Department - a power built up under this Government. Let me make it quite clear that in giving the Department power over the individual such as was never intended in a democracy we are taking a long stride along the dictatorial course.
Employers in Australia are awake to the responsibility that resides with this Department. I have in my hand a circular issued by the Western Australian Employers’ Federation (Incorporated) in Perth on 3rd March 1965. It warns all employers against following the mad wage policy of employers in the eastern States. It goes on to say -
Greater success will be obtained if all employers will record their specific labour requirements with the Commonwealth Employment Service to show the Commonwealth Government the extent of the need for migrant labour.
I now wish to refer to the next paragraph of the circular which is headed “Indented Labour “ and which states -
Under this arrangement, an employer contracts wilh a worker in another country to work in this Slate for a specified term of years, advances the fare and guarantees the return fare if this is required. Should the worker not remain with the employer he could be liable to repay the fare. Where a labour force is required for a short or limited term, indenting is recommended as it satisfies an immediate need without making inroads into the established work force or migrant intake. As some of the workers may not return to their native land it could well lead to a substantial increase in permanent settlers.
In this circular the employers in Western Australia were advocating a policy of indentured labour from countries such as Malta, Turkey, Mexico and Lebanon, and already were organising. But the Department of Labour and National Service stands idly by and, so far, has not refuted or attempted to refute the suggestion that indentured labour of the type advocated for employers in Western Australia will be permitted. I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that this Department has, over the years, gained a power that should be examined in the closest fashion by a democratic parliament. One department cannot be left with the power to say whether a man shall eat or work. One department should not be permitted to determine whether a trade union shall operate on the waterfront or in a railway service, or whether it may be filled with scabs. One department should not be left in a position in which it can say to a man that he must scab to eat, that otherwise he shall not eat. But that is the power that is now vested in the Department of Labour and National Service. In the estimates that are now before us we see that the growth of a department that should have diminished, if in fact the policy of this Government is one of continued full employment in Australia.
I say to the Minister at the table, who will soon marry, that if he runs his home as he runs this Department he will not be boss. He is certainly not the boss of the Department. I do not mind that very much, but I am concerned about the power which is given to the Department and which is unchallenged at Cabinet level. If its power were challenged it soon would be reduced. We now have one central power vested in one department which is to be the recommending authority to the Executive on the registration, deregistration and reregistration of trade unions. When the Employers Federation in Western Australia is able to talk in terms of indentured labour in a democracy such as ours our country is being set back to accepting conditions which prevailed at the beginning of this century. This will be the situation unless some action is taken very soon. I ask the Minister, for goodness sake, to take note of what is happening in his Department. If he has not time to do so in the early part of his married life, I suggest that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) should relieve him of his duties for a year and appoint another Minister to see what is happening in this dictatorial Department which is being built up in Australia at the present time.
In my view it is not good enough to have one department that has the authority to advise the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the fixation of wage levels. It is not good enough to have a department which was originally set up to deal with employment and unemployment problems and to handle about 200,000 applications for employment each year at an expenditure of £i million increasing in stature, when it should be diminishing, and spending more than £3£ million. If this Department is allowed to go on increasing its power and gathering force year by year in the way that it has done over the last 10 years, I hesitate to think what will happen to Australia if we should experience some economic decline, unless some action is taken to remove from the Department the power to decide whether a man shall eat, whether he shall scab or whether he shall work. Unless some action is taken to destroy that kind of authority, democracy in Australia will suffer as a consequence.
– As was mentioned by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), we are now debating that section of the Appropriation Bill 1965-66 which is concerned with the Department of Labour and National Service. As the honorable member said, this is a fairly costly Department, but I remind him that many highly qualified personnel are employed because the problems handled by the Department are very complex. The Minister and the Government must be assisted by technical information provided by highly qualified staff. I thought that the honorable member tried to frighten me with his vigour in the presentation of his case, but I am sure that the Minister at the table will be able to deal with the matters raised in an appropriate fashion at the conclusion of this debate. The honorable member for Blaxland said that the Department of Labour and National Service has too many staff and too much power. It is my belief that the Public Service Board keeps a close rein on the number of staff employed by any Commonwealth department. I am sure that the Department of Labour and National Service has its troubles with the Public Service Board and does not get an increase in staff too readily.
It is true that the Department is now costing the taxpayer about £3,579,000 as was stated by the Temporary Chairman at the beginning of the debate on the estimates for this Department. I remind the Committee that, in addition to handling unemployment problems in Australia, the Department deals with vacancies registered by industries that need labour. It administers also the stevedoring industry charge which is estimated to cost the stevedoring industry in Australia for the ensuing year a further £5,400,000. One of the first facets of the Department’s responsibility relates to that section mentioned by the honorable mem ber for Blaxland, that is, unemployment. The honorable member said that in 1961 there were 110,000 people registered for employment. I am sure that the honorable member would be the first to criticise the Minister, the Government and perhaps the Department if they did not do their utmost to ensure that the unemployed were able to obtain jobs in Australia at reasonable rates of pay. In fact, the statistics issued by the Department on 1st October show that the vacancies registered totalled 52,866, comprising just over 35,000 vacancies for male labour and just over 17,000 for female labour. Registered unemployed at the same time totalled 35,641, comprising 19,334 males and 16,307 females. This represents less than 1 per cent, of the number of those who are working. This is a remarkable effort. It is remarkable that the Government has been able to instill into the economy sufficient confidence to ensure that unemployment should be so small.
I suggest that honorable members opposite look at what Mr. Albert Monk said in May 1961 at an Australian Citizenship Convention in Canberra. It was his view then - and I am sure it still is his view - that 1.5 per cent, of the work force is a reasonable figure that any Australian should accept for unemployment at any given time. In other words, with a total work force of over 4,400,000 we could expect about 65,000 persons to be registered for employment. Today we heard much discussion about what should be done with housing and how much money should be injected into that field by the Government, lending authorities and others. The information given by the Department of Labour and National Service shows that in building and construction work the vacancies registered by employers total 1,960 whereas the men registered for employment in that field total 702. In other words, there are about three times as many jobs in the building industry as there are employees offering, yet honorable members opposite insist that more money should be. injected into this field. In my thinking it is fallacious to assume that by adding more money to the building industry, or to any other industry where there is not sufficient labour to keep the money in circulation, we will rectify the situation.
I am sure that the skilled personnel of the Department devote their energies to the matter raised by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). Of course the Department has to keep itself well aware of the present possibilities of conciliation and arbitration, and it has to use its radar to look into the future to ensure that the problems that beset industry in Australia are properly handled when they come before the Parliament. As a Government we have always said, and we will continue to say, that the broad aim of our policy includes a high standard of living, full employment - which we now have - strong external balances and, more importantly from the Australian worker’s point of view, stable prices. It appears to me that it is this latter factor, the lack of stability in prices that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioners - and the Parliament - should have a good look at before continuing to increase the basic wage year by year or every two or three years, because as wages represent such a big proportion of the gross national product it is inevitable that wage increases affect prices. As mote than 50 per cent, of our gross national product is represented by wages, which wage earners justifiably receive, this is a major factor in causing instability in prices of commodities that the ordinary householder needs. So far as I can see from their judgments, some of the Commissioners take the view that they must give the highest levels of pay to workers. With this I would not argue, but I certainly believe that the national interest is best served by not prejudicing stability in prices of commodities that the ordinary household requires.
Some of the Commissioners take the view that they can and should increase wages to a level determined by their judgments at given times and that if prices are varied - certainly if they are increased - that is the responsibility of some other department or of the Government itself - some other department, for creating a demand for goods, or the Government, for not clamping down on rising prices resulting from increased costs. It takes but a simple mathematical calcula te to show that when, as happened in the 1964 basic wage case, £100 million is injected into the economy without one additional £1 of produce resulting from it, prices must be affected somewhere along the line. As the Commissioners said in their judgments, between 1961 and 1964 there was little, if any, variation in the price structure. If honorable members examine judgments, particularly those handed down by the President, Mr. Justice Kirby, and the VicePresident, Mr. Justice Moore, they will see that they specifically said that between 1961 and 1964, there was a variation of only 0.7 per cent, in retail prices. In fact, the estimates that we received from the Bureau of Census and Statistics showed there was not only a tendency to a decline but a real drop in wholesale prices during that period. There was also an indication that retail prices were dropping between 1961 and 1964.
I believe that the Commissioners should be in a position to adjust wages when there has been an increase in prices, which is what they have done this year, but the real cause for the spiralling of prices in my view stems from the basic wage decision handed down in 1964. In their judgments the Commissioners said that in the three year period there had been no appreciable rise in prices, so I cannot see any real justification for increasing wages beyond the productivity that the men injected into industry in those three years. Of course, we want to give the men and women of Australia the highest wages that the country can afford, provided our exports can compete in overseas markets with those of countries like Canada, Japan, England, West Germany and Italy, which export, in competition with us, not only primary produce but secondary manufactures as well. If we could say to those countries: “We are about to inject £100 million into our economy and we will have to pass the increased prices on to our customers when we are quoting for the goods they need, so you also should inject a similar amount into your economy “ that would be all right for us; but these things do not happen, because the Japanese, Italians and West Germans want to be as competitive as they can be. They will take from us, and they have taken from us, many of the markets that we should be serving not only with primary produce but with secondary manufactures as well.
I believe that the Commissioners should have a good look at the way they spelled out their judgments in 1961, when I. thought their reasoning was fair enough, and compare it with what they said in 1964. It was the incidence of the additional £1 a week in the basic wage in 1964 that seems to have caused the spiralling of prices since June 1964. Any of us who had a look at the newspaper reports following the basic wage increase will remember that the first increases in costs were those imposed by Government departments. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board said immediately after the basic wage increase was granted that another £4 million would have to be obtained from the travelling public in Victoria to cope with the higher wages that would have to be paid. Hospitals in all States find it difficult to cope with increased wages costs because SO per cent, of their costs are represented by wages. These increased costs are carried right down the line and the people most affected by the increased basic wage injections into the economy are those receiving pensions and those who are superannuated. It seems to me that it is no part of the function of the Department of Labour and National Service or of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to do anything about people on pensions or superannuated people who are so much affected by increases of the basic wage.
I say again: Let every man get as much for his day’s work as the country 7an afford, but when an increase affects so many people other than those who receive the increase I would like to see those other people also receive the increase. Let me take a specific case. If the waterside workers want £3 a week increase and they receive it, that increase will beneficially affect 22,000 employees. But there are in Australia more than three million employees, and I contend that if the £3 a week extra is justified for the waterside workers then it is justified for the three million workers who are affected by the increased costs resulting from the increased wages received by the waterside workers.
.- Listening to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn), one would believe that the fixation of wages is the source of all evil. In point of fact the situation is precisely the opposite and the honorable member’s speech was a typical example of the obfuscation in which his party indulges. Wages are always chasing prices in this country and have never yet caught up with them. Today, as a result of the recent basic wage decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, wages lag further behind prices than ever before. The honorable member of course, touched on one of the most sensitive nerves of the economy at the present time when he spoke of price increases, but those price increases are not associated with wage increases and the remarkable fact is that price increases are continuing today on an almost astronomical scale.
I regret that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) was not present in the chamber when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) spoke, because he touched oh a matter on which the economy of my district is acutely sensitive. The Minister referred to the need to inform migrants of the living conditions, wages and the like that they can expect in Australia. The days of mass immigration and of herding people into a promised land have passed. Today the image of Australia is being very seriously damaged by reports of family unemployment that have been going from my district to overseas countries and particularly to the United Kingdom.
This is a matter I have raised in the House before and I intend to raise again. I hope that the Minister has, for his own edification, read a letter which appeared in the “ Daily Mirror “ today from a lady at Albion Park who referred to the fact that there were 5,000 unemployed women and girls within the City of Greater Wollongong. The Minister in the past has suggested that this was a State responsibility. The new Government in New South Wales has done precisely nothing about it; nor does it intend to do anything about it; nor has it any plan for doing anything about it. Certainly it has no compassion for the plight and the dilemma in which many of my constituents find themselves. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to a proportion of H per cent, of female unemployed, and he claimed great credit for the Government for this position. The situation in my electorate is that one third of the available female work force is vainly seeking employment, and the main reason for their inability to find it is the low wages being paid to unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the steel industry. The Minister is well aware of this fact. There is no more important industry in Australia than the steel industry. It turns out a torrent of wealth for this nation. Last year its production was valued at £283 million. According to official statistics, the contribution of the average industrial worker in the City of Greater Wollongong was of the order of £3,412 per year. He received between £1,050 and £1,100 in wages. The balance went either to the Federal Treasury or into the coffers of the various major combines.
As to what we can expect from the New South Wales State Government, which runs a parallel course to that of this Administration, that can best be exemplified by the attitude of the State Minister for Decentralisation and Development, Mr. Fuller. He visited Wollongong. He interviewed people. He told them that he can do nothing for them because he is interested only in decentralisation. He classifies the areas to the south of Wollongong - Oak Flats, Albion Park .and Warilla - as rural areas, although there are many industrial workers in them. He classifies the City of Wollongong as being outside any funds under his control.
On the question of wages generally and wage fixation, 1 think that new ground has been broken in Australia in the General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. case which is currently being considered. I certainly do not intend to canvass the merits or demerits of the case, but it is interesting to note the comment and report which appeared in the “Australian Financial Review” today. Mr. E. S. Patterson, the advocate of the American United Automobile Workers Union who was brought to this country, gave evidence that has shaken the very substance of industrial arbitration. Great credit must be given to the motor vehicle union which brought him here. Mr. Patterson pointed out that the rate of profitability of General Motor-Holden’s was even greater than that of the parent’ company in the United States of America. He took the parallel still further. He said it was possible for General Motors-Holden’s, not merely to reduce its profits, but to reduce the price of its cars, pay a decent wage to the employees and still make a very good profits for its shareholders.
The figures that Mr. Patterson gave are astonishing. In his evidence he said -
If real wages had moved as fast as productivity during this period, G.M.H. workers would have received an average of £36 a week. …
He contrasted the wages paid to automobile workers in the United States of America with those paid to automobile workers in Australia. He said that at the present time the average hourly wage paid by General Motors-Holden’s to its production workers in Australia is 12s. 5d., and that the production workers in the United States were receiving £1 lis. lOd. per hour. In addition to that, he pointed out that the fringe benefits which are paid to the workers in the United States are substantially in excess of those paid to their Australian counterparts. That is the type of robbery that is going on in Australia today. It is being perpetrated in the name of the system of arbitration and wage fixation.
We live today in an era of industrial technology and in an era of the all powerful international corporation which spreads its branches and tentacles right throughout the world. It is obvious to me that the leadership of the union in the steel industry will bring to Australia similar witnesses to Mr. Patterson of the United States. Mr Patterson said that the tempo of production and the rate of growth of production in the automobile industry in Australia were equal to those in the United States. A parallel applies with even more force in the case of the steel industry. The Australian steel industry technically is far superior to its counterpart in the United States. It has the advantage of the oxygen steel system of production. It has the advantage of some of the world’s richest deposits of iron ore. Undoubtedly there will be a further example of international trade union co-operation. If the industrial corporations can spread their tentacles throughout the world, so too can the trade unions. There are many other industries in Australia in which action similar to that taken in the vehicle building industry could be taken.
What is the position so far as basic wage hearings are concerned? The Minister for Labour and National Service has to his discredit the complete destruction of the present system of wage fixation in this country. At the last basic wage hearing all pretence of impartiality on the part of the Government was abandoned. The Commonwealth briefed counsel to tell the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that it would be against the national interest to give workers the increase in wages which was long overdue. The Minister, in lending his support to this action, was implementing part of a blue print for a recession and even for a depression. The Government is in financial difficulties. This afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) told us that there was a short fall of about 10 per cent, in investment from overseas, but it so happens that the amount by which living standards are to be depressed because of the Budget is exactly the amount required for further investment. In other words, the section of the community least able to bear the sacrifice is being asked to do so. This is in conformity with the general technique and traditions of an anti-Labour, Tory, antitrade union Government.
Australia suffers from a certain amount of immaturity in terms of industrial relations. In every other major industrial country there is a system of bargaining as between employer and union, but here, for the purpose of controlling the trade union sheep and shearing them, we have interposed a system of arbitration, which has long since ceased to be arbitration in fact. Arbitration means a meeting of equals, submitting their differences to an appointed umpire and agreeing to abide by his decision. Today in Australia arbitration means to the trade union movement coercion and the certainty that economic factors will not be taken into account. Section 106 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for the establishment of an Office of Economic and Industrial Research, but such an office has never been established. Under the Act the office was to collect and compile, at the direction of the Chief Judge, information which might assist the court or conciliation commissioners in the exercise of their powers and functions’, to keep information so collected and compiled up to date; to carry out research into such matters as the Chief Judge might direct; and to furnish that information as prescribed to any organisation which might wish to obtain it.
Let us get down to economic realities. At present we expect lawyers to discharge the functions of economists. The result is an absurdity of economic injustice for the people least able to bear the sacrifice. Yesterday the Minister for Labour and National Service received from the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions a well deserved and stinging rebuke. In pushing his coercive stevedoring industry legislation through the House the Minister was not satisfied merely to be arrogant but was insulting and provocative. He deserved the reprimand that he received. In the present situation what we want is commonsense. There is a limit to the provocation that the trade union movement will stand, and I am afraid that the Minister will provoke the trade union movement beyond its limit.
– That is what he wants to do.
– Precisely. The Minister has yet to learn that Australians may be led but cannot be driven. He has some quite unique achievements. I should say that he will go down in history noted for three things. First, he has destroyed the system of industrial wage fixation. Secondly, he has introduced legislation which is capable of destroying the whole system of trade unionism in Australia. Thirdly, because of this Government’s inability to control wages and prices, the Minister will, as a result of his other two achievements, destroy his own Government. He will go down in history as McMahon the wrecker.
.- A few weeks ago the Minister for Labour and National Service called for a change in attitude to the employment of married women in Australia. It is regrettable that many housewives and mothers in these days of high costs are forced to go out to work to enable their families to be adequately clothed, housed, fed and educated. This is the unfortunate effect of the two-pay-packet economy of this Liberal-Australian Country Party Government. The Minister’s motive in making the speech to which I have referred was to secure the employment of unused resources in our work force. I now want to discuss a problem which concerns another section of our population which also constitutes a reservoir of unused resources. My motive is the seeking of relief of personal tragedy. I refer to the position of the disabled and partly disabled in our community.
Time is short. Therefore, I want to confine my remarks to those who are members of the work force and who are disabled by illness such as a heart complaint, arthritis, or one of the many other illnesses that can afflict any man or woman in the community. I wish to embrace in my remarks those who as the result of road accident or accident in the course of their employment are prevented from continuing in their normal employment. The action that I seek could equally assist those who have been disabled in other circumstances. I am fully aware of the provision that is made to assist these unfortunate people. I am fully aware of the work of the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services. That section does valuable work, but there is ample scope for expansion of its activities. This section retrains people and fits them for other occupations which, in their changed physical state, they can perform. I am aware also of the existance of sheltered workshops and of the fact that in the larger district employment offices which are under the control of the Minister’s Department there is an officer who has the special task of placing disabled and partially disabled people in employment. In passing, I compliment those officers upon the work that they do.
However, there still exists in our community a large number of disabled and partially disabled persons who are unable to obtain suitable employment. I do not know how many there are in the Commonwealth. I certainly know that there are many in the Bendigo district. There are perhaps 30 or 40 in the city of Bendigo alone who fall into this category. I speak from some experience as a former officer of the Victorian Department of Labour and Industry, and from experience and personal contact as a member of this place for five years or more.
Let us look at the chain of events as they occur in such cases. I could name specific persons whose experience is like the one that I shall now recount. Let us take the case of a man who worked in a grocer shop, who has a wife and two children, and who suffers from a heart condition. Perhaps this condition does not attract workers’ compensation. Then let us suppose that he was hospitalised for a month or two and his family had the desperate experience of living on the sickness benefit, which at the present time for a man, his wife and two children would be a total of £8 12s. 6d. a week. Perhaps this man had purchased a washing machine or refrigerator on hire purchase and the family has had the humiliating experience, as a result of having to live on a necessarily reduced income, of receiving threats of re possession from the hire purchase company. Then let us suppose that after a period of some months he was declared by his doctor to be fit for light work. In the same boat there may be a boilermaker who has had perhaps 15 or 20 years in his job. He may have been engaged on prefabrication work that necessitated heavy lifting, and as a consequence he may have injured bis back. When he is declared fit for light work again, his worker’s compensation will cut out.
For both the grocer and the boilermaker the struggle really starts then. They have to search for light work that is entirely different from that which has been their lifetime occupation. Perhaps the former employer has no suitable work available. Surprisingly enough, I know of a number of cases in which even the Commonwealth in such circumstances has failed to take back employees, even those of long standing. An employer may already have a considerable proportion of his employees nearing the end of their working life. In factories, shops and other establishments, such workers do the light work about the place. So the grocer and the boilermaker are thrown on the labour market. Who want* them? A few employers go out of their way to help but, for many, the basic requirement is fitness to do the work. Overriding everything is a fear by employers that they will be caught for compensation for a recurrence of the old illness or injury. There is the fear that they will be liable, that their insurance company will be reluctant to accept them as a reasonable risk or that the company, after insuring them - workers’ compensation insurance is compulsory in all States - will reject a claim on the ground that an injury was an old one not caused by current employment.
So employers steer clear of injured and partially rehabilitated workers. The inevitable result is that such a worker becomes almost permanently registered for unemployment benefit; or perhaps, after months in receipt of unemployment benefit and after seeking light work in vain, he applies for and receives an invalid pension. He may be only in the 40 to 50 age group and may have children of school age. Like all other honorable members, I have run across a number of men in this category. They are far from finished as productive workers in our society. This sort of situation strikes a tremendous psychological blow at the bread winner. He has the capacity to perform work and earn his living and to provide for his family. He has a great and natural desire to be independent and to take his place again as a productive member of society. But he has this soul eroding experience of being unwanted in the community. There is a need to create among employers a greater awareness of the plight of these people and of their capacity to fit in and become productive employees again. Indeed, the Commonwealth itself would set a better example by making a greater effort to re-employ persons who sustained illness or accident while in its employ. As the Committee of Inquiry into Public Service Recruitment, which was known as the Boyer Committee, recommended there should be greater opportunities for the disabled in the Commonwealth Public Service.
In my experience, the greatest limiting factor militating against the employment of injured and rehabilitated workers is the fear held by employers, rightly or wrongly, that somehow they will be made responsible for the payment of compensation claims, perhaps through civil action, or that as a result of their employing partly disabled persons their insurance premiums will be sharply increased. These fears, whether or not they are validly held, are present. In many instances, they result in a refusal to employ those who seek to return to work after illness or injury. My suggestion to the Minister for overcoming this situation is the creation, in co-operation with the States, of a special Commonwealth compensation fund to cover the employment of such persons and the risks appertaining to it. The existence of such a fund could relieve employers of their responsibilities under the workers’ compensation legislation in the various States and remove their reluctance to employ those whom they now regard as too risky to employ. As I see the situation, such a scheme would not cost the Commonwealth a penny. Already, many who could benefit are being paid either unemployment benefit or the invalid pension. A return to work would end those payments. For the partly disabled, there would be a greatly enhanced opportunity for employment, together with independence and a chance to end their struggles on a diminished income. I suggest that many of these persons have young families. Of my personal knowledge, their financial position is desperate; not prosperity but poverty is their constant companion. On their behalf I make a pica to the Minister to consider the suggestion as a possible means to overcome their difficulties. From a national point of view, if we are to develop our resources properly and adequately, we need to employ every available Australian. Whether from an economic or social aspect, it is plain good sense to make every effort to return disabled persons to productive and remunerative employment.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer in respect of the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service relates to the arbitration inspection service; in particular, as it appertains to Victoria. My last information is that six officers were employed in that service in Victoria as inspectors. There were moves to appoint more inspectors. In Victoria, inspectors of the arbitration inspection service, who are stationed in Melbourne, are required to cover the whole State. In my opinion, that is an impossible task. The service is charged with the responsibility of inspection of conditions of employment and the general policing of various Federal awards. It is my belief that in this matter the Commonwealth is falling down on its responsibility, and so is the Minister. Probably 50 per cent, of the Australian work force is employed under Federal awards. It is clear that this meagre force of inspectors has a mammoth task of advising on and ensuring adherence to Federal awards in many hundreds of factories and other establishments -employing hundreds of thousands of workers. Of course, my comments are. in no way a criticism of the inspectors. They are experts in their field and they do their job well. My complaint is that their numbers are too few and that no inspectors are stationed in country areas.
An agreement exists between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, Tasmania, and Western Australia for the authorisation of State inspectors employed by the State Departments of Labour and Industry to police Federal awards. In reverse, it is agreed that Commonwealth inspectors shall police State determinations. I have not been able to ascertain why no such agreement has been drawn up between the Commonwealth and Victoria. Perhaps the Minister could tell me why that is so. In the absence of such an agreement, surely the Commonwealth should properly shoulder its responsibility. As part of its inspection duties, the arbitration inspection service should not only police awards and ensure compliance with them, but also be readily available to supply advice and guidance to employers and employees alike. This advice is only as far away in Melbourne as the telephone, but is virtually non-existent in the country areas.
Because of the limited staff, inspectors visit country towns and provincial cities only once or twice a year. Awards are now very complex. They cover wages of various tradesmen, sick leave, long service leave and many other provisions. Countless problems arise upon which employers need advice. They cannot readily obtain that advice unless they approach local representatives of the State Department of Labour and Industry, the local Trades Hall or a trade union secretary. Employees complaining of underpayment or seeking information find their way to the same sources, each of which endeavours to assist in the best way it can.
Again I say that I speak with experience as a former officer of the Department of Labour and Industry in Victoria, and one who has had continued and close contact with the trade union movement. Trade Union officials and officers of State Departments of Labour and Industry are accepting responsibilities that belong properly to the Commonwealth. In the time left to me I cannot quote what the Minister had to say on this aspect. He said that people could approach the local district employment office for information and guidance on conditions of employment. That is not so. Those officers do not have specific and detailed knowledge of Federal awards. This is entirely wrong. My suggestion - and surely it should be adopted - is that the Department should station officers in at least the three big provincial cities of Victoria - Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. From there, they could cover a wide area. They would be available to offer advice and to arbitrate between employer and employee. Under present circumstances, the secretary of the Bendigo Trades Hall Council, for example, on many occasions does the job that the Commonwealth should do. Indeed, in doing it, he has to buy copies of the Federal awards himself. These are not even supplied free by the Department.
I suggest that the Minister should look into this matter. I can say from personal experience that many hundreds of complaints made under Federal awards never reach the offices of the Federal inspectors because they are 100 miles away and the people concerned know that it might be three, four or five months before an inspector will be in the area again.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
Small craft of less than 1,500 cubic feet for which the Minister for Shipping and Transport
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The Tasmanian Promotions Appeal Committee is constituted by -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - - Has the National Radiation Advisory Committee reported to him on fallout in the Australian environment since June 1962?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Since its extensive Report to me in June 1962, “ A Detailed Assessment of Fallout in Australia “, the National Radiation Advisory Committee .has continued to keep the position under review. Until recently, however, the National Radiation Advisory Committee has not deemed it appropriate to prepare a further major document on fallout, although it has reported to the Government from time to time on specific questions and problems. A major Report is now in preparation and will be submitted to me in the near future; an assessment of fallout in Australia is included.
m asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What expenditure did his Department incur in the last financial year in each State?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Department of Supply incurred expenditure against appropriations and Trust Accounts in the last financial year 1964-65 as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
State in 1965 for Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Dry Dock Sites in Western Australia. (Question No. 1359.)
d asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Normal Naval hydrographic surveys have been, and are being, conducted on the north-west coast of Western Australia. The honorable member may recall that in June of this year I announced that four ships of the R.A.N. would survey 20,000 square miles of sea off the north-west coast of Western Australia to establish safe routes for coastal shipping and for ocean going vessels carrying iron ore from Port Hedland.
However the Navy is not responsible for the survey of ports; this responsibility is vested in the local harbour authorities or the State Government concerned. The selection of a site for a dry dock on the Western Australian coast would be the responsibility of the authority wishing to construct one.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Publication of Documents of State.
.- On 28th September 1965, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asked me a question without notice concerning the British Government’s policy on access to public records.
Although the 1964 Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Public Records in Britain recommended that readier access be given in some respects to scholars wishing to undertake research on public records, I am advised that there has been no decision to change the policy of the British Government on this matter. The relevant British legislation, which was enacted in 1958, requires that records in the Public Record Office are not to be available for public inspection until they have been in existence for 50 years, except as prescribed by the Lord Chancellor in relation to any particular class of records.
b asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows -
Under the Agreement imports of cheddar cheese will be limited to 400 tons in the first and second years and 800 tons in the third and fourth years. In the fifth and subsequent years the quantity which may be imported will rise to a ceiling of 1,000 tons.
Annual consumption of cheese in Australia has shown a steady upward movement and is now about 10,000 tons higher than ten years ago.
As a further safeguard, the Agreement provides that the price of any cheddar cheese imported into Australia from New Zealand is to be determined by consultation between the New Zealand Dairy Production and Marketing Board and the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Yes. 3. (a) Under the terms of a bulk purchase contract for butter and cheese between the Australian and the British Governments, the British Ministry of Food was responsible for the insurance of the butter and cheese it purchased from Australia during the period from 1950 to June 1955, when the contract terminated. The General Secretary of the Australian Dairy Produce ‘Board has advised my Department that annual figures are not available, but that the premium income from July 1955 to June 1965 was £479,497 Sterling and that claims paid amounted to £458,444.
Export of Motor Vehicles. (Question No. 1238.)
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions - 1, 2 and 4. Separate statistics are not available for exports of the vehicles in question. These vehicles are grouped in official statistics as follows-
Panel vans and trucks are included in the statistical group which covers commercial road vehicles such as trucks, utilities, vans, omnibuses, jeeps, landrovers, ambulances and hearses. This item excludes special purpose road vehicles not built on normal chassis. See Appendix “ B “ for details of this item.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19651026_reps_25_hor48/>.