26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain residents of Australia praying (hal the Australian Government use its influence to achieve the release of all political prisoners in Greece and take steps to prevent further intimidation of Greek migrants in Australia.
Petition received and read.
– The Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, left Australia yesterday to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. He expects to return to Australia about 13th October. During Mr Hasluck’s absence the Minister for Air, Mr Freeth, will act as Minister for External Affairs.
– Has the Minister for Defence any information about the reported crash of another FI 1 1 A aircraft in the United States? I refer the honourable gentleman further to his statement in this House on 10th September that fatigue tests on ihe FI 1 1 would take another 8 or 10 days. Have these tests now been completed? Has the honourable gentleman received a report on the tests from Australian experts at Fort Worth? Can he make a full statement to the House on whether these tests would mean modifications to the FI I IA and consequent delays in delivery to Australia?
– 1 shall answer the question. I regret that there has been another Fill A aircraft crash in America. The circumstances are briefly that the aircraft was approaching to land and at a height of about 100 to 200 feet the pilot reported a pitch-up and loss of control. The crew, one of whom was an Australian, ejected safely, and investigations are proceeding into the cause of the accident. The House will already be aware that the United States Air Force is currently examining the fault disclosed in a fatigue test. The results of that examination are not yet to hand. We do not propose to accept any further aircraft until the position is much clearer. My colleague the Minister for Defence has already made this point. These are all the circumstances relating to this accident that 1 can give to the House at the present time.
– I. ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to the statement on 8th September by the parliamentary leader of the Australian Labor Party in South Australia in which he advocated the entry into Australia of some thousands of coloured immigrants every year. Is it true that Australia’s policy is ‘as stupid as it is unchristian’ and is there in fact a white Australia policy as stated by Mr Dunstan? Is it the Government’s aim to implement a multi-racial policy? Finally, has the Minister any indication that this advocacy of a large scale coloured immigration programme by the leader of the Labor Party in South Australia, who is sometimes described as the generalissimo and who is a delegate to the Australian Labor Party Federal Confer.nece
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– ls this to be the future policy of the Labor Party in Australia?
– The Governments policy on this matter has been made clear on a number of occasions. Specifically in March 1966 a statement was made in which it was made clear that our policy would he to accept non-European migrants, based on their capacity to settle, their capacity to integrate into our community and their possession of skills of positive value to the Australian community. The purpose of this policy is to maintain the homogeneity of the Australian people and to avoid the creation of enclaves of bitterness or dissension which have bedevilled so many other countries. I am sure 1 can say that the mainstream of thought in Australia would support that policy. I am quite sure that the
Australian people would not wish the Government’s policy to be aimed at creating a multi-racial society. It certainly does not do this.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. To make it as intelligible as possible to him I bring to his attention the serious unemployment in the Macquarie electorate which has been aggravated by the dismissal of approximately 66 employees from the cement industry at Portland in New South Wales. I ask the Minister to take action to ensure the re-employment of those who have been dismissed, many of whom are home owners and lifelong residents of the district. With the object of securing employment for unemployed workers generally in that area, will the Minister seek the co-operation of the New South Wales Government for the early implementation of promised State undertakings and industries?
– I am not aware of the specific situation to which the honourable member has referred but T shall certainly make inquiries about it. I feel confident that my Department will be on the job to find alternative employment for these men. I am not now in a position to say precisely what programme the New South Wales Government has before it, or what opportunities are currently available in Lithgow without these men having to leave their homes, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honourable member.
– I address my question to the Minister for National Development. I refer to recent statements by him concerning overseas ownership of Australian assets and also to the prompt action which the Government is taking to prevent a take-over of capital in the field of insurance. Has the Minister seen a statement that 60% of all land in the Darwin and Katherine districts is now owned by Americans and that an estimated 20% of all pastoral land in the Northern Territory is owned by overseas based companies? This statement, reportedly made by Mr H. Brennan, a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, also claimed that as much or more land in Queensland and Western Australia had passed into the hands of overseas interests. Will the Minister inform the House whether the statement is a correct appraisal of the situation? What action could the Government take to encourage Australians to pia) a more active part in land development in the north?
– 1 have seen the statement attributed to Mr Brennan. I made a similar statement not very long ago. I believe that a considerable proportion of the high rainfall area of the north has been taken over by what one might call overseas interests, although in some cases this amounts to Americans coming to this country with their wives and families and settling on the land. They bring capital with them, develop the land and in time become, we hope, Australians. It is hard to get accurate figures relating to this matter, but broadly speaking about 15% of land in the Northern Territory is owned or managed by United States interests and about 10% by United Kingdom interests. The Government is particularly anxious to see Australians play a major part in the development of this area.
With this objective in view we established the Commonwealth Development Bank and, more recently, the Farm Development Loan Fund, in order to make finance available to Australians who wished to develop particular areas. I hope that Australians will take advantage of the finance that is available for land development and that they will make every use of the opportunities offering in the Northern Territory. I am sure that the honourable member would not want to see a position created whereby the owner of land in the Northern Territory who wished to sell it was prevented from doing so simply because the prospective purchaser came from overseas.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to the question just answered by the Minister for National Development. As the Government has decided to take action to preserve some Australian equity in at least one Australian insurance company, will it take similar action to prevent the wholesale sell-out by the New South Wales Government of a coal mine for about SI Om to the Daniel K. Ludwig company, an overseas firm that already has substantial interests in Australia? As the Government proposes to secure an interest in an overseas shipping line as an additional means of promoting Australian owned industry, will the right honourable gentleman as a matter of urgency have a thorough investigation made of all capital inflow and its effects on the Australian economy?
– The answer to the second part of the honourable member’s question is that he is mixing up a general question with a particular question. The one on which he began to speak was the protection of the very considerable capital assets of a company which at the present moment is under Australian control and the capital assets of which are therefore under Australian control. It is clear and it always has been clear and it has been made clear by the Government that we wish the greatest amount of overseas capital inflow to this country so that we can develop it as quickly as it needs to be developed. We need this capital inflow and we welcome it warmly for the development of new industries or enterprises or for the furtherance and expansion and improvement of existing industries; but there is a difference between overseas capital inflow coming into this country for these purposes and the use of Australian capital already here for these purposes. It was to protect Australian capital so that it was not used by overseas companies for these purposes that the Government took the action that it did.
– J ask the Minister for National Development whether the proposed extension of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme to the York-Corrigin area is included as one of the six additional projects under consideration for approval for the special loans to the States for water resources projects referred to by the Minister in answer to the honourable member for Mallee at question time on 19th September. If not, can the Minister give any indication as to the future of this project?
– The project referred to by the honourable member for Moore is not one of the six that is listed for closer investigation under the national water resources development programme. The position is that the Commonwealth Government has made two allocations of funds to Western Australia - firstly a grant of $10m for stage 1 of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme and now, secondly, a long term loan of $10½m for stage 2. The second stage of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme still has about 4 years to run. Therefore, the Commonwealth did not look so closely at a request for an extension to this scheme. The mere fact that this pro.ject has not been included in the present list for final close investigation does not mean that at some time it might not be included or that it might not attract State funds, because the responsibility basically for the development of water resources lies with the States. The national water resources development programme allocation is an amount to supplement State funds to ensure increased water conservation in Australia. The six projects referred to have been selected on economic merit and a considerable amount of work is now being undertaken by way of cost benefit analyses to see what the benefits and the costs will be before a final decision is made.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth Government has wide powers over insurance in terms of section 51 (xiv) of the Constitution and that these powers extend to all forms of insurance? Is it not also a fact that, apart from some fields of underwriting and reinsurance, Australia should be capable of funding all foreseeable risks in the life assurance field and in the mercantile fields as well? Thirdly, do not the recent happenings with regard to MLC Ltd point to the need radically to revise existing Commonwealth legislation regulating insurance? In particular, should not foreign insurance companies operating in Australia directly or indirectly be subject to guidelines in their conduct of Australian business as are foreign owned banks in the banking field?
– It is true that the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner, has considerable power over the operation of insurance companies in this country. They are, to the best of my knowledge, already subject to certain kinds of regulations of the sort to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred. So 1 am not quite clear what the point of the question is.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation informed the House last week that the Australian delegation to the recent International Civil Aviation Organisation conference in South America had submitted a paper asking for an investigation into the problem of aircraft noise. I ask the Minister whether he has had any information as to the result of the Australian request.
– It is a coincidence that this morning 1 received advice on this matter. The reply indicated that in the committee session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Buenos Aires our resolution received approval, with some very minor amendments. This means that it has been approved by more than one hundred nations attending the conference, lt has to be subject to the formal approval of the final plenary session before the report is adopted, but this is a formality which we accept. This means in effect that, when the report is adopted, a special conference of ICAO will be called to deal with the subject matter of our resolution and proposing that at a later stage a separate annex to the convention of the Organisation will be adopted.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General and relates to a question I asked last week. Will the radio transmitters that will be placed at Hughenden, Mossman and Weipa give service to the areas of Normanton and Croydon and also Burketown, which will now come into my division following the redistribution of electoral boundaries?
– When the honourable member asked me a question on this subject about a fortnight ago I said that no advice had been given to me by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. That still is the position, but I have been able to discover that certain information of a confidential nature was handed out to the journal to which he had referred, and certain action is being taken in relation to it. 1 can give no confirmation of the view that the places mentioned by the honourable member will in fact receive broadcasting frequencies.
– 1 address my question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. The Attorney-General has observed that the United Nations has double standards, that it does not impose sanctions against Russia. Now that Russia proposes to enter the Australian overseas shipping trade, 1 ask whether sanctions or restrictions imposed against Russia can prevent. Russia from gaining any loading allocation in Australia’s overseas shipping trade. Is the Minister prepared to recommend to Cabinet that Australia’s contribution of $7m per annum to the United Nations be suspended until Russia has paid her contributions to the United Nations? I understand that Russia’s payment is well overdue. Will he recommend to the United Nations Security Council that it take precautionary action to prevent Russia from attacking West Germany?
– Australia’s views in relation to Russia are briefly these: We would hope that Russia’s attitudes would modify and Russia’s policies would moderate. We see no point in isolating Russia or imposing sanctions against it. This is not likely to bring Russia into closer co-operation with other nations. I do not see how the United Nations will function as a body if because one member is in breach of its arrangements with the United Nations all other countries use that as an excuse for not making their contributions to the United Nations. The honourable member referred to shipping. I understand that the Russians, as a matter of trade policy, approached the Australia-United Kingdom shipping conference. This is a matter of trade policy rather than one of international relations.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. What repatriation cover, if any, have aircrew personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force who become involved in accidents, fatal or otherwise, while learning to fly Fill aircraft in America?
– This is a matter that will have to be examined by my colleague in another place. I will refer the question to him and let the honourable member have a reply.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. Is he aware that even before the increase in age pensions has been received by senior citizens there are reports that some of the institutions and organisations that built flats and homes for the aged with Commonwealth subsidy are contemplating increasing rents? What control has the Federal Government over rents charged for those dwellings built for the aged with a Government subsidy? If it has not any control, as I feel sure there must have been some understanding about rent and rent increases between the Federal Government and the organisations before the subsidy was granted I ask the Minister what that understanding was.
– The Government does not interfere, in general, in the affairs of aged persons homes, but leaves them to negotiation and arrangement between the management of the homes and those who come into them. The homes are non-profit organisations. Any moneys that they receive from any source are used either to carry on their normal maintenance and repairs or perhaps, in some cases, to make refunds. In many cases they are used to pay part of the cost of nursing homes which many of these institutions propose to add with, of course, the $2 for Si Government subsidy. As I said before, aged persons homes are non-profit organisations. At present the Government is looking into the question of agreements for the future, but I would not anticipate any great interference in the administration of the homes or in their independence. The Government, however, is anxious to see that the homes are conducted in a way that gives the maximum accommodation to those most in need in conformity with the Government’s own policy and with the express desire of those who carry out the management and organisation of these homes.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. When will the right honourable gentleman be able to table in either House the Fill contract which was signed by the late Athol Townley in Washington on 23rd October 1963 and which was discussed by the United States Senate TFX Investigation Committee on 18th November 1963?
– I think 1 should make it clear that I am not prepared to accept the definition of this document by the Leader of the Opposition as a contract. I think I should also make it clear that the discussions held, to which he refers, before the United States Senate involved the production of no documents whatever. Having made both those points clear, I answer the honourable gentleman’s main question by saying that 1 hope to be able to do it - I cannot go further than that - before Parliament rises for a week’s recess.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The effects of the cessation of our beef exports to the United States have been felt far more quickly and more acutely than was expected, particularly as they threaten the livelihood of so many workers at meatworks and on cattle stations. Already one company in my electorate, Tancred Brothers Pty Ltd, has announced that it will soon close down its meatworks. In view of this, will the Minister clarify the position and indicate, firstly, whether the cessation of exports to the United States is only temporary and, secondly, what is the general marketing situation in other areas?
– I cannot give the reasons for the closing down of the meatworks in the Kennedy electorate. It is normal in the northern regions of Australia for meatworks to close in September or October because it is the end of the season. There certainly was some downward movement of cattle prices at sales in Sydney and Melbourne yesterday - $2 to $3 per 100 lb dressed weight. I would like producers to look at this situation in its full perspective and I warn them against any panic selling, lt is only a short-term measure that we have adopted, lt means there will be restrictions on exports of meat from this country for a period of possibly 2 months. Shipments can recommence about the beginning of December to arrive in the United States at the beginning of January, which is the commencement of the new import year, lt is only a short term period, but also there are opportunities to make sales on other markets during this period of time.
The Japanese announced on Saturday a quota of 4,900 tons relating to 1968-69. When one realises that 60% of the beef actually produced in Australia is consumed domestically one sees that plenty of opportunity exists for getting rid of most of our beef. The other point that I would like to make is this: Although prices have come down slightly at sales, they have been abnormally high. In fact, they have been at record levels. The prices for September of this year as against September of last year are about $2 to S3 per 100 lb up.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. This is supplementary to the question asked by the ‘ honourable member for Moore. I ask the Minister: Why was the Burdekin scheme omitted from the six development project priorities which are being investigated under the national water resources development programme? The answer that the Minister gave to the honourable member for Moore was that the six had been chosen on the basis of economic merit. I ask the Minister: Will he explain to the House now what he means by ‘economic merit’? Who were the departmental authorities in the Commonwealth who carried out the investigation to determine the six priorities?
- Mr Speaker, naturally one does not disclose who carries out the economic assessment of this work for the Minister. All I can say is that the Departments of Primary Industry and National Development in particular have been concerned in assessing the economic benefits that can bc achieved hy the use of additional funds made available by the Commonwealth under the national water resources development programme. As the honourable member knows, allocations have been made. The Queensland Government placed as its No. 1 project the Emerald Dam scheme. This has been agreed to by the Commonwealth. The Queensland Government itself placed as its No. 2 project the Kolan Dam scheme. But on the assessment of Commonwealth authorities this was not rated as the highest priority. Naturally where one has applications for twenty-eight different works and only a relatively small amount of money is available to go round compared with the total cost of the twenty-eight different works, it is necessary to allocate priorities. These priorities are based on an assessment of the income and also of the additional produce that will be produced and whether the produce will be saleable in the world market.
At the present moment, the Burdekin scheme, to which the honourable member referred, is listed to be looked at by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority after it has completed work on the BowenBroken scheme in that same basin. The Commonwealth has said that at a given time when it is ready it will start a fuller assessment of the Burdekin scheme. But certainly at the present moment this scheme was not listed high by the Queensland Government which, as I say, listed the Kolan scheme as its No. 2 project. But we have had to make an assessment of priorities based on the best available information and on the result of those priorities the Burdekin scheme did not corns in.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the situation of drought stricken farmers throughout Monaro and the South Coast is day by day getting more and more desperate, and that fires with fronts reported as totalling more than ISO miles, are now raging through mountainous country from Batemans Bay to Moruya? Is he able to say when he will be able to give a decision on the specific request from the Premier of New South Wales for an extension of Commonwealth drought aid to the Monaro and South Coast areas?
– As 1 informed the House, I believe in answer to a question from the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the Treasury last week received a request from the State of New South Wales to consider continuing drought relief assistance to the area declared. There was no mention of any fire damage. Indeed, that probably has occurred later. The consideration of this and of the supporting information put forward by the New South Wales Government has taken, and will take, some more time yet. It may well have implications for the Commonwealth going far beyond the mere single electorate of Eden-Monaro. I would draw to the honourable member’s attention the fact that in the statement made on the Commonwealth’s attitude to drought relief it was indicated that after a quite unprecedentedly generous action by the Commonwealth in drought relief, in which approximately S41m will be paid to New South Wales by the Commonwealth, with the cessation of the acute drought situation all over the State the Commonwealth would not expect that all State assistance for drought relief should cease. But having said that, I can only answer the honourable member’s question by saying that I will give him an answer as soon as I can.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy. How many Skyhawk aircraft have been delivered to the Navy? How many of these are available for immediate service? Have sufficient spare parts been ordered to keep all aircraft serviceable, or is it necessary to cannibalise other Skyhawk planes to keep a maximum of three or four aircraft serviceable? Is it a fact that only one Skyhawk type personnel face mask oxygen hose is available for the whole of the Skyhawk squadron? If the Minister is unable to answer my questions will he obtain the information from his Department and make it available to the House?
– I cannot give the honourable member the detailed answer that he requires. It is a fact that we have had some trouble with Skyhawk aircraft backup spares but at (be moment this position seems to be improving. I will give him a considered answer after I have had a look at the situation in detail.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether any decision has been made yet as to the provision of naval facilities at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia following the feasibility study that was carried out by a private firm under direction from the Commonwealth Department of Works?
– The quite extensive report put in by the consultants on the Cockburn Sound proposal has been under study by the relevant departments - Navy, Defence and Treasury. Their conclusions and any plans arising from them will be submitted to the Government for consideration in connection with the possible new 3-year programme which will itself be considered after the strategic appreciation has been dealt with.
– Does the Prime Minister’s reply to the honourable member for Scullin mean that he welcomes foreign knowhow serviced by foreign capital but not foreign knowhow serviced by Australian capital for developing Australia? Secondly, as his overnight response to the directors of the MLC company without consulting Cabinet, State governments or the friendly governments involved is in marked contrast to the Government’s usual rate of response to the country’s urgent needs, will he recommend to the Opposition that in future all requests for a reversal of Government policy should be channelled through Australian company directors controlling investment capital?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question is no, and it is ridiculous for him to suggest that the Government would be opposed to the use of Australian knowhow serviced by foreign capital. Indeed, it has surely been made plain, often enough, that what we seek is an inflow of overseas capital to develop new industries, to help to expand existing industries, to bring into this country new skills and new knowhow and to utilise Australian skills and knowhow which can be employed and made more effective by the capital inflow to which I am referring. Indeed, we have also made it perfectly clear that we welcome and wish for Australian equity participation in such inflow. We have also made it clear - and I seek to impress this on the honourable member who asked the question - that we wish for Australian capital not to be raised on fixed interest terms by overseas countries instead of them bringing overseas capital here for the developments to which I have referred. The action which we took was for the purpose of seeking to ensure that Australian savings and Australian capital were not subjected to this danger, and T believe that that is the right approach and one which most Australians would endorse.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether the Copeton dam on the Gwydir River is at present the subject of a cost benefit evaluation by the Commonwealth? Did the New South Wales Government furnish this Government with a cost benefit analysis of this project when it submitted its claim for the Copeton dam to bc granted portion of the promised $50m grant for water conservation works by the States? When does the Minister consider he will be in a position to confirm acceptance of the Copeton dam as part of the Commonwealth scheme?
– The proposed dam on the Gwydir River at Copeton is one of the six projects which have been listed for closer investigation under the national water resources development programme. I hope that much of this work will be completed by the end of this session. I cannot give the honourable member a guarantee on this particular project, because of the six that are listed it is the largest and probably the one which will cause the most study to be undertaken. Nevertheless, we are studying the benefits. The Commonwealth may place on various crops and other aspects an emphasis different from the emphasis of the Stale Government. I cannot promise the honourable member that the proposal will be accepted, but it is one of those listed for closer study, and an announcement will be made at a later date.
– Does the Prime Minister intend his remarks this afternoon on the control of the entry of foreign capital to Australia to mean that the Government will discourage this capital only if it is to take over an existing Australian structure? Does this apply only to insurance, or to other concerns as well? What method does the Government use to discover these takeovers? Does it rely on the directors of concerns to appeal for assistance, or does it have its own independent means of finding out what is going on?
– There are many ways in which overseas capital can be used for the development of Australia, and it would be quite absurd to endeavour to enumerate them all in answer to a question of this kind at question time. What the honourable member for Yarra can construe my remarks as meaning this afternoon is that I believe it was right to take the action which the Government took to preserve the capital controlled by this Australian company from falling under overseas control. As to the second part of his question, if he is meaning by that to ask are there other ways in which it can be discovered who the beneficial owners of shares are - or were in this particular case - then the answer is that under existing legislation there are no provisions for discovering this. In regard to the particular matter to which we are referring, the Insurance Commissioner made some confidential investigations and could not get the answers. Tn those circumstances it seemed better for the answers to be secured by the Parliament of Australia so that the information would become public in that way.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, deals with the noise level at airports. Has the Minister been informed that some, if not all, of the residents of the suburbs of Cloverdale, Kewdale and Belmont in the electorate of Swan have their normal hours of sleep rudely disturbed in the early hours of the morning by jet aircraft? Will the Minister have a complete analysis made of all complaints received by his Department?
Will he endeavour to give protection to the residents adjacent to the Perth Airport by applying a ban, similar to that which applies at other capital city airports, on the movement of aircraft during specified hours?
– I will certainly arrange for an investigation of any individual complaints that are received. This is the normal practice and it will be continued in the future. Also, I will carefully look into the matters raised by the honourable member to see whether any further information can be provided.
At Penh some domestic services, and certainly a number of international services, must operate at night. Approach paths there are designed to provide the least possible interference with the convenience and comfort of residents in that district. Night flying is strictly controlled, in certain circumstances between certain hours at night aircraft are not allowed to make circuits on their approach. They must make a direct approach unless there is some emergency which calls for other action. Also, they must climb as quickly as possible to a certain height at which the noise problem becomes relatively low. Pilots are under instruction to gain height, by the use of additional thrust, far more quickly than they would at other airports in Australia or in similar conditions in daylight hours. Everything possible is done, within the bounds of restrictions and safety, to try to avoid the nuisance mentioned by the honourable member. However, as I said, I will again look closely at the points raised to see whether anything further can be done.
– by leave - The Government has for some time been concerned with an increasing trend towards a concentration of control of broadcasting stations arising from transactions in shares in licensee companies or in companies which are themselves shareholders in licensee companies. In 1963 and later in 1965, legislative action was taken to deal with a similar situation in respect of television stations and it is now proposed to deal with the matter of broadcasting stations.
The Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1967 now provides that a person shall not own or control, directly or indirectly, more than four stations, including one metropolitan station, in any one State, and more than eight stations, including four metropolitan stations, in Australia. In this context the Act does not define ‘control’ as is the case with television stations and, in respect of shareholding changes, the provisions do not extend beyond the beneficial ownership of shares in a licensee company. It has been necessary to provide for transactions of an indirect character through conditions of licences - an unsatisfactory procedures.
It is not proposed to change the present limitation on the number of stations which may be controlled but it is proposed to restrict the interest which may be held, directly or indirectly, in any additional licensee company. This will be done by extending to broadcasting stations sonic of the existing provisions of the Act concerning television stations - in particular those relating to the concept of ‘control’. Briefly, this will mean that no person or company will be permitted to hold an interest, in the widest sense, in excess of 15%, directly or indirectly, in any licensee company beyond the number now permitted.
Consideration has been given to the position where present shareholdings would result in a breach of the Act, when amended. Shareholding arrangements existing at the date of this announcement will not be invalidated and will not by reason of the amendment constitute an offence against the Act. The amending Act will apply to changes occurring after the date of this announcement. I. present the following paper:
Broadcasting and Television Aci - Ownership and Control of Broadcasting Stations - Ministerial Statement, 24 September 1968. and move:
Thai the House lake note of the paper.
– Last Thursday I drew the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) to the situation that has arisen in Western Australia. On 11 September the Minister told me that West
Australian Newspapers Ltd already controls four licences for radio stations in Western Australia and that there was before him an application from TVW Ltd for the control of four additional licences. Of course, TVW Ltd controls about 48% of the shares in West Australian Newspapers Ltd. Last Thursday I asked the Minister:
Is he aware that West Australian Newspapers Ltd and its nominees control more than 48% of the shares of TVW Ltd and the remaining 52% are widely distributed among the general public? Is he aware that under section 92(b) of the Broadcasting and Television Act a person is deemed to be in control of a company if he is in a position to exercise more than 15% of the total votes? Is there any limitation in the articles of association of TVW Ltd, which has been brought to his attention, which would prevent West Australian Newspapers Ltd exercising more than 15% of the votes in TVW Ltd?
I went on:
If there is not, why has he not yet rejected the proposed acquisition which will enable West Australian Newspapers to control two stations in the metropolitan area and eight within one State, which clearly is in breach of section 90 (1.) of the Act?
The Postmaster-General replied:
My understanding is that West Australian Newspapers Ltd has a 44.4% shareholding interest in TVW Ltd. This question, and the one asked of me on 11th September last, refer to interests in radio stations as distinct from television stations. The Broadcasting and Television Act provides that 15% shareholding interest is a controlling interest in relation to television stations. In relation to radio stations k is 50% plus 1. So there is a substantial difference between the interest which a person can hold in a television station and the interest which he can hold in a radio station, to be regarded as a controlling interest. Therefore, under the Broadcasting and Television Act, West Australian Newspapers has a controlling interest in TVW, but in fact TVW has no interest in radio stations. A 50% interest would be required before West Australian Newspapers could be regarded as having control of radio stations held by TVW.
It appears that this amending legislation is to bring the broadcasting section in line with the television section. What I would like to know, of course, is whether the amended Act will apply to the application from TVW that ls now in the hands of the Postmaster-General for the control of four additional licences. If the application that is before him has not yet been granted does he intend to reject this application which, if granted, would clearly enable West Australian Newspapers to control two stations within the metropolitan area and eight within Western Australia? In the latter part of his statement the PostmasterGeneral said:
Consideration has been given to the position where present shareholdings would result in a breach of the Act when amended. Shareholding arrangements existing at the date of this announcement will not be invalidated and will not by reason of the amendment constitute an offence against the Act. Hie amending Act will apply to changes occurring after the date of the announcement.
I point out that when I raised this question and the Minister gave me an answer the application had not been agreed to. He did not say definitely that it had been rejected. If I remember correctly, he said that it was under consideration. That was on 11th September. I would like to know whether the amending legislation means that the application will not be granted.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chaney) adjourned.
– I would like to make a slight correction to Hansard in respect of a speech I made on social services.
– Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I wish to make a personal explanation. The passage appears on page 1282. When speaking to the Social Services Bill on 19th September I had this to say:
I do not profess to delve into facts and figures in a great way in respect of pensions because, as I mentioned earlier, percentages just do not buy butter, tea and sugar or pay rent.
That is what I said, but this is what Hansard printed:
I do not profess to delve into facts and figures in a great way in respect of pensions because, as I mentioned earlier, pensioners just do not buy butter, tea and sugar or pay rent,
I ask Hansard to correct the passage in due course by inserting the word ‘percentages’ in lieu of the word ‘pensioners’.
-The matter raised by the honourable member will be looked into.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1968-69 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 19 September (vide page 1337).
Proposed expenditure, $5,165,000.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Housing, I point out that in 1937 in Victoria, as you would remember, Mr Deputy Chairman, the Housing Commission was established. Its purpose was to eradicate substandard living conditions. At that time it was estimated officially that there were 6,000 slum homes within a 5-mile radius of the General Post office in Melbourne. Then in 1946, I think, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was introduced. But since 1937 we have had a world war, our nation has expanded and the discovery of tremendous mineral resources has brought us wealth. But what improvement has there been generally in home building and slum reclamation? Nearly 32 years have gone and conditions have not improved substantially, despite claims by the Government to the contrary. In 1957-58 the Victorian Housing Commission declared 513 houses to be unfit’ for human habitation and ordered 440 homes to be demolished. In August 1967 conditions were not much better, as I will show later.
Tt is officially estimated that those in the 20 to 24 year age group numbered about 830,000 in 1965 and that the number would increase to 1 million in 1970. This is a vita] factor influencing the demand for housing. It is vital because it means a tremendous increase in the number of young marriageable Australians within the next 3 years. This will, of course, increase the demand for homes, but unfortunately the demand is not being met at this stage. Instead we again seem to be falling behind in the rate of home construction, and flat construction has taken precedence over the much needed amenity, houses. Despite the claims of the Government that the housing problem has been overcome the problem still exists and the need for housing is steadily increasing. Indeed, the increase in the number of new homes built annually has not been significant since 1958-59. In 1958-59, 78,797 houses were completed. In 1966-67, only 81,960 homes were completed. This is an increase of 3,163 over the figure for 1958-59. But in the same period, from 1958-59 to 1966,67, we admitted into this country 624,321 new citizens. This is the population gain through migration. Many of these would, of course, be children, but even if half of these people were children they and their parents need homes. Yet in 1966-67 only 3,163 more homes were completed than had been completed in 1958-59. In 1958-59 the number of newly married couples was 74,182. In 1966-67, this figure had increased to 97,500. To accommodate the increase of 23,318 newlyweds, we extended our efforts to the completion in 1966-67 of 3,163 more homes than we did in 1958-59.
These figures reveal the inadequacy of the Government’s efforts to encourage home construction. Government supporters may ask: ‘What about flats?’ I reply that in 1958-59, 5,361 flats were erected. In 1966-67, 29,932 flats were completed. In fact, the number of flats under construction in Melbourne and Sydney at present would exceed by far the number of new houses being built in those cities. On the one hand we endeavour to attract new settlers to our country to increase our population and on the other hand the Government encourages the erection of the type of dwelling that discourages the newly-weds from having families and thus provide the natural increase that is so vital to Australia.
The Government is quick to tell people of the increase in the amount of money made available for housing, but no mention is made of the increase in the price of a home. In 1958-59 in Victoria the average price of a house and land was in the vicinity 0t $7,700. In 1966-67 the average price had risen to $10,619 and today stands at about $13,000. These figures reveal a very serious problem and show quite clearly that all is not well in the housing industry. This trend will continue while the Government is prepared to allow finance that should be used largely for new housing to be used for flat construction. The trend is even more alarming when we consider that 75% of the flats erected are for rental purposes only. The economic and social consequences of this sort of policy are very far reaching. Another aspect of the housing problem can be seen in the inability of the State housing authorities to cope with the demand that is being made on them for rented premises. The average delay throughout the nation for State housing accommodation still stands at about 4 years. This is the situation after 19 years of Liberal Government. 1 now turn to a statement made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) on 16th September of this year when he was speaking to a convention of the Printing and Allied Trades Employers Federation. He said:
In little more than 30 years, the ‘New Australia’ will have 28 million people.
I ask: Are any plans being made to house them? He went on to say:
One in four of us is a migrant or a member of a migrant family - before long perhaps it will be one in three.
With 40% of our people under 21 we already have the advantage of a youthful base. From our young people and a continuing high intake of migrants we can expect a flow of new ideas and demands.
The greatest demand will be for homes. The Minister continued:
In the human field, our aim must not only be the cure of the ‘social casualty’ but the removal of the conditions which crippled him. Awareness of increasing community responsibility must grow among us and we must seize the opportunities which advances in sociology are giving us today.
I would remind the Minister that the greatest social casualty can be found in the bad housing areas. Remove these conditions and we remove the casualty. The Minister added:
We must study our children more and the effect of our ways upon them. Our education system must prepare them to meet the greater responsibilities and. at the same time, to appreciate more fully the new opportunities forleisuretime activities. Our cities and towns must be planned now for living in the 21st century.
I refer now to a report that appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 8th February 1968. It is in part a reply to the Minister’s statements and dispels the vision of a Utopia that he created. The ‘Age’ reported:
Thirty-one thousand sheds, huts and tents were being used as dwellings in Australia at the June 1966, census.
I said earlier that in 1937 there were 6,000 slum dwellings in Melbourne. On 23rd August 1967, the Melbourne ‘Sun’ published an item under the heading: ½ mil. dwellings ‘unfit for use’,
Australia has 200,000 to 250,000 occupied dwellings not St for habitation by modern standards.
A survey by the Economic Research Committee of the Housing Industry Association shows this.
The committee said many other people living modern’ were not in the type of accommodation they required.
Sub-standard houses would increase.
Yet we are informed that the housing problem has been overcome. Over the period from 1958-59 to 1966-67 the annual number of completed homes increased by only 3,163. The fact that one-quarter of a million dwellings are unfit for use makes a mockery of the word ‘home’.
The slum problem remains and high density housing is now the order of the day. People are condemned to live their lives as cliff dwellers and children are a responsibility they are loath to assume. Coupled with these unhappy conditions is the plight of our elderly citizens. Their plight is a social problem of the highest magnitude. Referring again to slum clearance, it is reliably stated that it will take 50 years to complete the rehabilitation of the Melbourne slum areas. By the time this period has elapsed there will be another batch of slums on our hands. It becomes evident in spite of the glowing words of the Minister for Immigration and other Government members, that there is in Australia a very great housing problem. As every hour goes by, as every day goes by. this problem increases. The housing problem is of great national significance; it is a problem that only a national housing inquiry can solve. 1 refer again in my closing remarks to the words of the Minister for Immigration, who said:
We must study our children more and the effect of our ways upon them. Our education system must prepare them to meet the greater responsibilities and, at the same time, to appreciate more fully the new opportunities forleisure-time activities. Our cities and towns must be planned now for living in the 21st century.
I ask: What plans has the Government to achieve this paradise? Are we to infer from statements such as the one I have just read that great plans have been prepared? If they have been prepared, why have they not been brought to the notice of this Parliament? I feel that the time has arrived, in view of the reports and the figures that are shown to us from time to time and from day to day, for this Government to institute immediately a national inquiry into the housing situation.
– I rise to make one or two remarks on the estimates of the Department of Housing. 1 want to refer specifically to what appear to be serious anomalies and discriminations in the operation of the homes savings grant scheme. Marginal cases are increasingly developing in this field. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) indicates that discretion does not rest with her in a lot of cases in which, I believe, grants should be given. The value of the homes savings grant has already been added to almost all urban land. This means that whether a person obtains the grant or not he will have to pay an amount equal to it in extra land and construction costs.
There are too many cases in which people are denied the grant because of technicalities. I would like to cite one or two cases. One concerns a migrant who was extremely anxious to get on with his home. In his enthusiasm he dug the foundations for his new home and lay the concrete for these foundations about 4 weeks before his 3-year period was up. His enthusiasm cost him $500 because he was not eligible for the grant. Another case concerns a person who, rather than build a garage to live in while waiting to obtain sufficient funds and qualify for the home savings grant, built one room of what was proposed to be the future home. In fact, the original plan had to be completely altered and new plans had to be drawn up when this man finally commenced construction of his home. But because the room he had built was deemed to be part of the house the construction of the house was considered to have commenced before the 3-year qualifying period had expired, and so this man was not eligible for the grant.
I believe another requirement which should be looked into rather seriously by the Minister is that of the designation of bank accounts. It is necessary under the existing legislation for an account to be designated a homes savings account. I think many members know of cases - too many cases - of people failing through ignorance or in some cases through bad advice from banks to have their accounts so designated. In some cases, pressure has been brought to bear on a bank manager to do what is not the honest thing and back-date the designation of the account. This is of concern to people working in the banking industry. Some bank managers feel that in some cases they have given wrong advice or have not given full advice. They feel that they are in some way responsible for people missing out.
J think we should make it easier for people to qualify for the homes savings grant. If the Government genuinely wishes to assist people to establish their own homes, surely it will not continue to invoke technicalities to deny the grant to a person who lays concrete for the location of a house 4 months too early, although he has religiously saved for 3 years in order to qualify for the grant. This person missed out because there is no discretion under the Act. This is purely a matter of technicality. The whole operation of the homes savings grant scheme is bound up with technical points which very few people understand. The scheme can be understood only after someone explains it very carefully. A booklet has been published and if an applicant has a lawyer assisting him he is pretty certain not to miss out on a grant. But a lot of people do not have lawyers to assist them. A lot of new Australians who do not understand English very well arc missing out on the grant to which they are entitled.
The whole basis of any civilised community is the family home, lt is becoming increasingly difficult for people and for young families especially to become established in a home. The chance of young people renting any sort of reasonable accommodation when they wish to settle down and establish a home is practically nil. They are not eligible to be listed with State housing authorities until they actually have a family. If they seek to enter into purchase agreements, the costs of these will make it absolutely essential for the wife to stay at work for several years after marriage. In many cases the economic standards which are established by a wife staying at work militate against the raising of a family. It becomes economically impractical for the people concerned to settle down and have a family.
The cost of a house is much greater than the actual bill presented at the outset. Only those who are extremely fortunate can afford to pay cash for their land and their new home. Most people who purchase housing commission homes, whether they be new or established, must obtain finance through a bank or through building societies. All those organisations are doing a good job in providing this finance. But the capital cost of housing commission homes has reached the stage where it is now neces-. sary for them to be sold with repayment periods of 45 years. This in effect means that the purchaser is paying interest and practically nothing else.
I can quote a case, lt is rather personal because it is my own case. The house cost less than half what it would cost at present market values. The payments on this housing commission home over a 9-year period are approximately $500 per year. But the actual reduction in the capital debt is less than $100 per year. Most likely it will be said that this is better than renting a place. I can say quite unequivocally that it is better than sleeping in a tent because that is practically the alternative for most people if they do not have the opportunity to rent a house.
I wish to refer to the economic problems which may affect people who are moving into certain areas. Geelong is a case in point. In the 1950s, an economic boom took place in Geelong. That economic boom is no longer existent. In fact quite desperate steps are now being made in some instances by people who wish to sell their homes so that they can go to a capital city where both husband and wife can obtain employment. These people are placed in a situation where they have made a capital investment in a home but have little or no chance of recovering their capital investment now. I think that they are left holding the bag. It is not economic for them to invest so much capital in a home unless they can be almost guaranteed employment over a long period in the area in which they purchase. They have been caught up in this problem as have been people in other areas. I quote the example of Wonthaggi in Victoria where a few years ago the price of houses had fallen to nothing and people whose whole life savings were in homes there suddenly found themselves desolate because of the reduction in values.
The rate of interest is the most important thing in the purchase of a home. I urge the Government to do everything possible to prevent continually rising interest rates making it impossible or almost completely impossible for people to purchase homes. Just recently, an increase took place in general interest rates on loans for home purchases made available by housing societies. An increase of one-half of 1% in interest rates means that almost all the people who are purchasing homes with housing society finance and who will be affected by this increase will have to meet an additional payment of approximately another $2.50 per month in repayments.
What is the situation of people who are on the breadline and struggling to meet their repayments? I refer especially to people who entered their commitment at a time when they were married but without children. When those people felt that they had reached an economic situation where they could afford children, they undertook to start and to maintain a family. I believe that this is the right and the responsibility of every couple in the community. But those people now find that by the mere stroke of a pencil they virtually have to find another $2.50 per month. There is nothing to say that they will not suffer exactly the same fate next year, the following year and the year after that.
Long term purchasers do obtain a benefit to some degree through inflation in that their capital repayments reduce as a percentage of their wages when those wages rise. But if this benefit is taken up by ever-increasing interest rates, the benefit disappears very quickly. I feel that it is absolutely essential that more consideration be given to the provision of housing for and maintenance in housing of persons on low incomes. Private rental is an impossibility. Public rental - that is, through the various government organisations - is fast reaching a similiar situation. There are people in the community - it does not matter how we look at them - who periodically have periods when the normal overtime on which they depend to augment their income disappears.
This year in Geelong large numbers of people were affected by the economic consequences of the drought. There are hundreds and, most likely, thousands of people in housing commission houses who, each year, receive quit notices because their economic circumstances have changed rather radically and, most likely, for a temporary period. Those people have no hope of ever catching up with their repayments because most of them are spending the last dollar of last week’s salary at least 2 days before they are due to receive this week’s salary. So, they have no hope of catching up lost payments which they may incur. If they get behind in payments, they will be behind for a long, long time. There was at one time a fixed ratio whereby it was considered that the rent that a person should pay was approximately 1 day’s amount of the weekly income. The ratio now is far greater than that. To the extent that it is greater, concerning low income earners at least, it is a burden which means a reduced standard of living. It cannot mean anything else.
Finally, in the last few moments available to me, I wish to raise one other matter. This is the position of pensioners who, when they receive a rise in pension rates, automatically are penalised by State authorities who increase their rent charges. This practice is totally wrong. I believe that, if it is at all possible, the Commonwealth Government should raise this situation with the State governments and ask them to show a little more humanity towards these people who are on the breadline now and who are finding great difficulty in providing the food, clothing and warmth that they need without the State governments using them as a revenue raising instrument.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity of referring to the estimates of the Department of Housing. I direct my attention first of all to page 25 of the Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1969 and then to page 96 of that same document. At page 25 we find that charged against the National Welfare Fund there is a provision for homes savings grants. The Homes Savings Grant Act is administered by the Department of Housing. The provision for 1968-69 is $13.7m. This amount is provided for the operation of the Homes Savings Grant Act, a piece of legislation introduced by this Government some years ago.
– And never thought of by Labor.
– There was never a thought, I am sure, in the mind of the Opposition, as I am reminded by my colleague from Queensland, that this be introduced. This was the germ of an idea by this Government. It has been faithfully implemented and well administered. 1 have here a very interesting report. I refer to the fourth annual report of the Secretary of the Department of Housing which deals with the distribution of these grants to young married people. In addition to this amount vested in the Department of Housing, there is the responsibility for the direction of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the negotiations and the relationship between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments.
On page 96 of the Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure are set out details of salaries in the Department of Housing. In an earlier speech on the Estimates I referred with appreciation to the new form of presenting salary details. This presents me with the opportunity of looking at the functional distribution of personnel in the Department. I have one distinct query. I find only one officer listed under administration in the functional summary. I am nonplussed to think that in the whole of this Department only one person can be listed as having been actually employed on administration last year, and it is estimated that only one person will be employed in that area during this year. This compares with 24 personnel who were employed in the policy and research sections last year and the 30 for whom provision is made this year. I should appreciate the Minister clarifying, for my curiosity, why only one person is listed against administration in the functional summary.
My interest is primarily in the research area. For many years the Commonwealth did not have a Department of Housing but with its introduction it was found that housing statistics throughout Australia were not thorough. Fundamental research had not been carried out by other organisations. We naturally hoped that statistics would become available as a result of the establishment of this Department. I am pleased to note an apparently adequate provision of personnel on research work. I remember attending in Perth - not at the request of the Minister but because of an invitation - a most vital meeting of permanent building society representatives with persons from overseas who had a wealth of experience in the administration of permanent building societies. The visitors, particularly those from America, were able to help us with their analysis of the explosion in the field of housing finance primarily through building societies. They were quite amazed at the paucity of research material available on housing in this country. I suppose it is natural that the relationship I had with those visitors and the discussions that, took place should alert me to a continuing interest in the research activities of the Department of Housing.
The appreciation I have for the scheme to provide grants to young married people is easily understandable when one reads carefully the details supplied in the fourth annual report of the Department of Housing. It contains an analysis of the methods of financing homes. It is pleasing to note that of the 32,518 applicants who last year received grants, 78.5% financed the acquisition of their homes with the assistance of a first mortgage loan only. Some 5,231 or 16.1% required both first and second mortgage accommodation. It is gratifying to note this desirable trend. The Committee would be well aware that not so many years ago one of the great problems was the high cost of second mortgages to young people and others who wanted to acquire homes. I emphasise that people are being assisted by grants, and not loans. I am sure that this is the first time since federation that a government has made grants to encourage young people to acquire homes. This has been an incentive to save. In addition young people ate being encouraged more and more not only to save for the purpose of attracting this grant but also to save through a home building account with a permanent building society savings bank or some other organisation, and as a result they arc finding that they can manage with first mortgage finance only. This situation has been assisted greatly by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. I would commend to members of the Committee the fourth report of the Department of Housing. I trust that my mentioning of the report will also lead many people in the community to take a greater interest in the trends that are revealed in it.
One problem in Western Australia - and it is probably not peculiar to Western Australia - is the cost of a block of land for housing purposes. This resulted in a special report being prepared at the request of the Western Australian Government. The report has become known as the McCarrey report, and it deals with land taxation and land prices in Western Australia. Two university personnel - Treloar and Worthington - have recently reviewed that report. While I have not the time to deal with their helpful analysis in detail, I want to quote the conclusion to their report. It states:
We must conclude by referring once more to the difficult problem the Committee faced. It was directed to inquire into prices paid for land. These prices are essentially transfer payments between individuals for a commodity that is forever marketable. No matter what their recommendations, some people will benefit from them more than others. Will present holders of vacant land benefit from the recommendations now or in the future relatively to those without land, or vice versa? Which of the immediate past generation of young home builders and future generations of young home builders, to take the group very much in the Committee’s mind, will benefit the most? The very vexed question of whether one can compare benefits or decide who should benefit amongst today’s groups and which generation should benefit the most, must surely tax the minds of all who read this document or try to put its recommendations into action. . . .
The Committee appears lo have been wholeheartedly on the side of present-day prospective, home builders who are to be given an unfettered choice of locations in a maker free of speculation. The Committee doubtless feels that all it san prescribe for the future is sound town planning and control over aberrations of the market today in the hope that the future can in other way* take care of itself.
That conclusion to a very valuable report still leaves us very much up in the air. II indicates to me that the Commonwealth Department of Housing, through its research section, might do the country a great service by continuing investigations into the cost of land, because the building of homes is dependent naturally upon the acquisition of building blocks. It is for this reason that the grants to young people make possible first the acquisition of a block; then their continued savings may enable them to build a home of their choice.
In the time that remains to me I want to reply to the challenge to me issued by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) during the Budget debate. He questioned my comments about housing in general in Western Australia. I replied then that we would have a more appropriate time to debate this, so I now fulfil my promise by referring to the situation in Western Australia. During the 1967-68 financial year, in Western Australia the number of homes commenced was 27% greater than the number commenced in the previous financial year. I point out to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is waiting to speak for the Opposition, that that 27% increase in Western Australia compares more than favourably with the 6% increase for the whole Australian Commonwealth. That surely ought to satisfy to some extent the honourable member for Stirling. He and 1 come from a State with this magnificent achievement: Compared with the previous year, there has been a 27% increase in the number of commencements of new houses and fiats - and this runs on to the completion of houses and flats - as compared with 6% for the rest of Australia. Turning to the figures for Western Australia in the period from 1963- 64 to 1967-68, we find that the numbers of new houses and flats completed are as follows: 8,500, 9,200, a slight decline to 8.800. an increase to 10,000 and, last year, 12,300. These figures are very hard to criticise. 1 was happy to support the application by the Premier of Western Australia for an infusion of some extra money into Western Australia, because with the immigration intake Western Australia is finding that the demand for new housing is severe. The Premier and the Government of Western Australia have not yet had the benefit of the infusion of S5m that they sought by way of a special housing grant. I still feel that notwithstanding these impressive figures it is logical to point out that there is a need to clear the building pipeline. There is still the difficulty of obtaining housing finance for people who desire to buy a home. If this extra grant were made available I believe it would clear the building pipeline and would permit many more commencements to take place. I am sure that Western Australia has made reasonably adequate research into the point that I am making.
– How has the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation worked in your Slate?
– lt is pleasing to know how great has been the assistance provided by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The permanent building societies in Western Australia have paid a tribute to the fact that since they have turned to the Corporation they have been able to grade higher advances to people. The honourable member for Hindmarsh will remember the point 1 made earlier, that this has reduced the necessity for second mortgage loans. I am drawing attention to what I believe would mean a vast improvement in tha housing situation not only in Western Australia but in the whole of Australia. 1 trust that the encouragement that my State seeks may be forthcoming in the not too distant future.
– We are getting to the point where one has to take the risk of being cut out of the debate altogether. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) is sitting there pretending he has something to say for the Australian Country Party, but evidently he is hanging off until the bitter end in the hope that he will be cut out of the debate altogether. He need not worry, because I want to talk about a few things that will show that the Government of which he is a supporter could have done a lot more for housing than it has done over the last 1 9 years.
One of the biggest difficulties for people wanting to build a house today is to find a suitable block of land at a decent and respectable price. The cost of land has reached an absolutely ridiculous point. In my State of South Australia it is not unusual for people to pay $3,000 for a block of land before they start to build their home. Ordinary young married people who are working for a living just cannot afford to pay this sum for a vacant block of land on which to build their home. Lest the Committee may think that $3,000 is an exaggeration of what, in real’ity, has to be paid, 1 remind it that if one wishes to buy a block of land in the area of Lockleys or Brooklyn Park the price is not $3,000 per block, but $6,000. Recently a block of land at Henley South was sold for $10,000. Something has to be done about this, because it is fast becoming a greater problem than the exorbitant costs of building. 1 bel’ieve that there is only one answer. It is provided in the policy of the Australian Labor Party in South Australia. It is the reimposition of an unimproved land value tax upon unimproved land values, with a reduction in the indirect forms of taxation, such as sales tax and the like, which bear so heavily now upon the young family man. The amount of additional tax which a family man would then have to pay upon an ordinary suburban block would be about one-tenth of the amount that he would save by no longer having to pay the exorbitant indirect taxes that now apply in the sales tax and excise fields.
In South Australia we have a system where various municipalities have the sight to decide whether they will have land value rating or adopt the rental value system of raising local government revenue. Although this is only a very small area in the field of taxation compared with land tax levied Federally or levied by the State on a level sufficient to take out profit from land speculators it has, nevertheless, had a very marked effect upon the price of land in the municipalities where the unimproved land value system was adopted. 1 refer, for instance, to the municipality of West Torrens which for many years followed the ordinary rental value system of raising municipal rates. In those days huge areas of broad acres were left vacant in the names of land speculators. The Adelaide Development Co. Pty Ltd and other companies purchased broad acres and held them out of use for years. They could do this because they did not have to pay very much State land tax upon these areas and because there was no municipal rating imposed on them, other than for the pure rental value, which was very little. 1 purchased a block of land in one street, which had penetrated into the centre of a large open area of country owned by land speculators, only to find that immediately I built a home upon my block of land the municipal rates were increased to approximately £12 a year, whilst they were only 12s per year on the vacant blocks of land on both sides of mine, and behind and in front, which were still undeveloped and which were held by land speculators. So the council was levying tax upon people who built upon their blocks of land and it was letting off scot free, virtually, people who held their land out of use. Eventually we changed the system and almost overnight these land speculators who had hundreds of blocks of land held out of use, waiting for the day when the pressure of the law of supply and demand would force prices up, were forced to put the blocks onto the market at a cheaper rate, because they found that they could not afford to pay £12 per year per block of land kept out of use. lt is a matter of historical record that immediately the council introduced its unimproved system of land rating more blocks came onto the market and the price of land in that municipality fell. This is only a very minor example of what happens but it is an indication of what would happen if an inimpoved land value tax was imposed upon land speculators who are now making such exorbitant amounts of money out of the need for people to have blocks of land upon which to build their houses. This is a very great need. This Government is responsible for having abolished the scheme of unimproved land value taxation which had .previously been applied by the Commonwealth. It did so under the pretext of helping the small farmers. In point of fact, the small farmers do not pay very much in the way of unimproved land value tax because the unimproved value of their land is not great. A farmer in the Mallee who owned a thousand acres would not pay one-hundredth as much as would properly be imposed on one building block in Collins Street in Melbourne. The honourable member for Mallee need not jump up but should listen to what I say.
The people who benefited most by the Government’s decision to abandon its land tax were the wealthy speculators, the banks, the insurance companies, the emporiums and the hotel owners in the big cities. I am sorry I have not more time to talk about unimproved land values. This is a subject upon which I and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) think exactly alike. The Minister does not talk about it much now because he is so busy dealing with other matters such as the Fill aircraft. However, we both agree that unimproved land value taxation is one way in which to bring about a reduction in the price of building blocks and thereby to chop out the large profits which land speculators are now able to make at the expense of the family man who wants to buy a block of land upon which to build a house.
I want to make a passing reference to the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. This is a really wonderful institution. However, too little is known about it. The
Government ought to be doing more to tell the people of the great benefits that are in store for many of them through the operations of the Corporation. It is possible - this is not generally known - for a person wishing to borrow money for housing to secure a loan of up to 95% of the cost of the home he intends to buy, with a limit of $15,000 on the value of the house. This scheme enables him to obtain a first mortgage loan for the entire cost of the house without having to raise a second mortgage and consequently to pay the heavy rates of interest which attach to second mortgage finance. A list of approved lending institutions is set out at the back of the document I have before rae. I am agreeably surprised to note the large number of building societies in Western Australia which have been approved as lending bodies. When I asked a question by way of interjection of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), I did not realise the full extent to which the Corporation had recognised building societies in that State. I congratulate the people who administer the Corporation; they are doing a very worthwhile job. 1 am sorry to say that I cannot offer the same congratulations to the people who administer the Homes Savings Grants Act. I can recall - I am sure the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) can do likewise - the speech he delivered in this place on the night he told us all about this scheme. He was frank enough to admit - I admire him for his frankness - that he did not know the first thing about the Bill he was introducing. He said: ‘It sounds very involved.’ I do not know whether his words are recorded in Hansard but he certainly said, in my hearing: ‘As a matter of fact, I do not understand it myself.
– Oh no!
– If Hansard does not record that remark then I do not blame it. I would not like to have such a foolish remark recorded against rae, but it was made nevertheless. The Minister was speaking the truth, because nobody else understands the scheme. People often come into my office and tell me that their application for a homes savings grant has been rejected. This seems to suggest that most of the 2,400 applications which were rejected were lodged by people who live in my electorate. The number of rejections which come to my notice seems to be far out of proportion because I represent only one seat out of about 123 that are represented here.
– That is right.
– I am pleased to hear the Minister say that what I suspect is correct. It seems to me a coincidence that this should be so. I am inclined to think that many of the people who have been told that they could not get a loan have just not bothered to apply and that consequently the correct number of rejections are not shown in the corporation’s report. I am sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service is no longer the Minister for Housing, but I ask him why he was so niggardly at the time this scheme was introduced. The Minister cannot blame the lady in the other place, the present Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), for what is going on today. He was the architect of this scheme. The Government introduced it as an election gimmick to try to buy votes. Unfortunately it did get a lot of votes from people who believed that it was going to do what it promised, only to find when they came to make their application for a grant that all sorts of things had to be contended with. They find now that very involved questions, for example, as to the name of the bank account, are immediately fired at the applicant. Even if the bank account was established prima facie for the purpose for which the Act was introduced, that is to encourage young people to save for a house, young people still cannot get the grant unless a certain name is attached to the account. And a person over 36 years of age cannot get the benefit of the grant.
The Government also decided that it would not pay the grant if a person wished to buy a house worth more than $15,000. That value includes the land and the house also. Has the Minister ever tried to buy a house for $15,000 in most of the inner suburban areas or the newer better class areas where many working people live? It is not possible to buy the kind of house that many people want, particularly those with large families. That is not a proper provision to be incorporated in the Act.
The report of the officer administering the Department of Housing has stated the main reasons for rejection of applications in order of significance. The first reason was that the savings concerned had not been held in an approved form throughout the required 3-ycar period. However, I am glad to note that the person who prepared the report was honest enough to say that these were the reasons for rejection in their proper order of significance. There is no doubt that the first reason mentioned is the ons which disqualifies people from receiving the grant. A large number of disappointed people have come to me and have said: Look, my application has been rejected because of some technical point’. When the point is explained to me it just does not make sense. 1 have written letters to the Minister for Housing but have said to the person concerned at the time that I might as well write to an ink-well because the Minister will do absolutely nothing.
– Order! The honourable member’s rime has expired.
– 1 wish to move that the honourable member for Hindmarsh be granted an extension of time.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will have another opportunity to speak if no other honourable member rises.
– I have no general complaint to make about the housing position but there are one or two specific cases I want to bring before the Committee. Everybody knows that rising costs in Australia and overseas have forced up the price of houses. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) did not speak about what causes these things. I am not protesting about these rising costs because I know this is happening throughout the world. The labour cost for building a house is one of the chief ingredients which is forcing up prices. I believe a man is worthy of his hire and if he is a carpenter, a skilled man, he should be paid appropriately for the work he does. Nevertheless, if one investigates these things one cannot blame the Government for the very simple reason that this is a world wide condition. We have to fight it as well as we can. We have to provide some sort of compensation to the people of Australia, as well as in other countries, who are affected by these conditions. I wish to refer specifically to a Mildura firm of structural, mechanical and agricultural engineers known as Andys Engineers Pty Ltd. The firm gives great service not only in and around Mildura but in places further afield. The manager of the firm is Mr Laurie Andriske. On quite a few occasions he has written to me pointing out the difficulty of obtaining skilled workmen for his company. In a recent letter he stated:
The annoying part is of course that the workers arrive here. Mostly they like the place and are willing to stay, but of course there just is not any housing of any sort here to be had.
There is no suitable housing in Mildura for the men he desires to employ. Mr Andriske does not envisage any difficulty in getting men for his company if housing is available in the area. He has been in regular contact with me seeking ray assistance to obtain housing so that he may attract workers to his firm.
– And the honourable member has done nothing.
– On many occasions I have said in this House that decentralisation is only the catchcry of politicians. I do not like using the word. If we are to populate the country areas we must make conditions in those areas attractive to people. If you do this people will go to those areas. People will live wherever conditions are good.
– Not many go to the Mallee.
– The honourable member for Griffith does not display any knowledge of the subject. People are being attracted to the Mallee; its population has increased over the years. People know that it. is a good area. I doubt whether the same could be said of the electorate represented by the honourable member who interjected. In his letter to me Mr Andriske stated:
Surely it is time that the Commonwealth Government realised that not everybody in the world wants to live in a city, and surely a policy of creating hostels- or houses - in country centres must bring benefit. 1 do not think that the Government wants everybody to live in a city. The Government has done its best to make living conditions in the country attractive. Under its scheme of providing finance for the construction of roads the Commonwealth has insisted that 40% of moneys advanced to the States shall be spent on rural roads. This provision has been the greatest factor in the promotion of decentralisation that we have ever had. But I do not suggest that a certain percentage of funds allocated by the Commonwealth for housing should be earmarked for expenditure in country areas. However, f do submit that when T cite cases such as the one I have raised tonight, the Government should investigate them. If housing were available in Mildura, the company to which 1 have referred would be able to employ more skilled workers. I ask the Department of Housing to investigate this matter. Let its officers go to Mildura and interview Mr Andriske, whose firm has been established for over 20 years. If more houses were available, enabling the firm to employ more skilled workers, the cause of decentralisation would be aided, lt is very frustrating to know that you could do more work and sell more of your goods if only you could find housing for more skilled workmen. I trust that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will note my remarks and will cause an investigation to be made into the matter which I have raised.
Earlier, by way of interjection, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that I did nothing about letters that were written to me by my constituents. The honourable member is completely wrong. Let me read further from Mr Andriskes letter. I was too modest to read this part until the honourable member for Hindmarsh made his interjection. The letter reads:
On various occasions I have bad cause to write to you and you have always taken my company’s problems to the highest departmental head and for this T thank you.
– Who said that?
- Mr Andriske, who wrote the letter to me. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has no basis for his allegation that I do nothing about letters written to me by constituents. How could the honourable member know about my correspondence? Surely he has not been reading it. I suggest that the honourable member leave Mr Andriske alone: He is a most progressive man and runs a most progressive firm. He has asked me, as his parliamentary representative, to make certain representations on his behalf. I have made those representations to the highest officials. Now I am making them in the Commonwealth Parliament. Could I do more than that?
– He will not vote for you.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh cannot forecast the future any more than I can. I am sure that the Minister for Housing will investigate the case to which 1 have referred. I trust that as a result of those investigations more houses will be built for the skilled workers required at Mildura. If this is done we will be helping not only Mr Andriskes company but Australia as a whole and the cause of decentralisation, which will not please the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who seems interested only in big cities such as Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. More assistance for country areas is the policy for which we in the Australian Country Party constantly fight. Let that be clearly understood. 1 want to say a few words about war service homes. I pay a tribute to the War Service Homes Division. Whenever I have made representations on behalf of a constituent to the Victorian Branch of the Division everybody, from Mr Forsyth down, has been most courteous and helpful. I do not need to tell anybody - not even the Opposition - that for many years the provision of war service homes has been of great benefit to the community. Since this Government came to power more war service homes have been built than ever before. I believe this trend will continue. I pay a sincere tribute to everybody associated with the War Service Homes Division. I have given officers of the Division difficult cases to investigate and they have always done their best for my constituents.
I would like to say a few words now about the homes savings grant scheme. It was revealed recently, in answer to a question asked in the House, that up to 31st August this year 120,352 grants, totalling $52,465,016, have been made under the scheme. This is magnificent.
– The amount of the grant is added to the cost of the land.
– 1 am not sure what the honourable member said, but there can be no doubt that the Labour Party never thought of such a scheme. When a scheme introduced by the Government proves to be a success, why snipe at it? Why not admit that it is a success? Why not admit that the Government has done a good job? Find fault in other areas if you can, but do not find fault with the homes savings grant scheme, because it is a good scheme. I find no fault with the scheme, but I would ask the Minister for Housing to look at an anomaly in the legislation which may be unfair in certain cases. A young man in the Mallee electorate has written to me. I have taken up his case. He wrote:
Would you please make representations on my behalf to the Minister for Housing concerning a decision by the Commonwealth Department of Housing, which I feel is incorrect considering the circumstances.
Briefly, the decision concerns a block of land . . in which my wife and 1 invested our savings intending to build our home there. However due to the unavailability of sufficient finance we purchased an established home.
I could go on reading his letter and explaining it all, but I do not need to do that because honourable members know that I do not read my speeches. This young man wanted the amount of money he had spent on the land to be included in the amount of his savings so as to get the appropriate grant. It is quite correct that the Act provides that money invested in such a purchase if it is to be included as savings under the Act, must be made available by selling the (and within 6 months. This is supposed to be a concession. The money invested in other ways has to be made available at the time of the consideration of the grant. That is a fairly reasonable provision. But what are the circumstances? Circumstances, as was said many years ago, alter cases. This is such a case. The Minister for Housing in reply to a letter from me, said *We cannot do anything about it.’ Even the Minister does not have any special means under the legislation of approving assistance in such a case.
When this man bought the land, land was booming and he paid a fairly high price. The honourable member for Hindmarsh indicated that people are paying high prices. In the meantime the Mallee electorate suffered one of the most devastating droughts of the century. Farmers who were retiring were purchasing blocks of land in the towns prior to the drought. Even the cities feel the drought when the country is affected. But land values fell and the young man and woman who were to be married were not able to sell the land and recoup the amount of money they had put into it. They asked for a little longer than the specified period of 6 months so they might have a chance to get the money they had invested ki this land, which represented their real saving. 1 am not complaining about the legislation, but under the Act the Minister could not give them any concession. 1 ask that this be looked at and that in such circumstances the Minister be given the right to waive certain conditions for a brief period - perhaps for another 6 months, because the Mallee is green again and people contemplating retiring will soon be buying such land. This young man will1 then be able to sell the land at least somewhere near what he paid for it, and this will help him considerably. I hope that people building homes in the towns in this primary producing area will get the greatest possible benefit under the homes savings grants scheme. Will the Minister look at this closely and see whether something can be done to allow her to waive certain conditions that are preventing this worthy young couple from getting the full amount of the grant?
– I have some sympathy for the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) when he says he is having trouble getting homes for workers in Mildura. I wonder why the Victorian Government - I think the Country Party supports the State Government - has not made funds available for housing wilh a guarantee from the employer. This firm, Andys Engineers Pty Ltd, has been established for 20 years. I am giving a word of advice, because I know these methods have been used in other countries. Although the honourable member for Mallee has spent more years than I in the Parliament, perhaps I can show him a point or two. I ask him why the services of the State Housing Commission have not been sought. If the employer has been established for 20 years - it seems to be a reputable firm which oan guarantee employment for a certain time - surely the State housing authorities would be prepared to guarantee the worker in question. If this is the sort of government that is in office in Victoria, I have sympathy for the honourable member for Mallee, and I can understand his disappointment and why he has appealed to the Commonwealth Minister to lend support. 1 cannot for the life of me believe that any government that was committed to decentralisation, as the Victorian government is supposed to be, would deny assistance in a case put forward ably by the honourable member for Mallee. However, I do not want to waste my time by dealing with the problems of the honourable member for Mallee.
The housing industry is an important industry and to a degree is a barometer of the economic state of the country. The building industry is recorded as employing directly 157,608 persons at 31st December last, of whom 77,177 were employed on the construction of buildings. This year’s Budget has allowed for an increase in the amount of war service homes loans. The maximum loan has been increased from $7,000 to $8,000 generally, in the Aus-, tralian Capital Territory to $8,000 and in the Northern Territory to $8,500. I point out that last year the Housing Industry Association requested that the maximum loan available for homes, particularly new homes, be $9,000. Even though there has been a relaxation, the sum granted falls far short of the requirement recognised by the Association, which at various times conducts nation-wide surveys into the requirements of the building industry. About 8 or 9 months ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing the value of war service homes constructed in the various States. The average values for the States are as follows: New South Wales, $8,772; Victoria, $8,923; Queensland, $8,440; South Australia, $10,589; Western Australia, $9,187; Tasmania, the lowest, $8,340; Australian Capital Territory, $13,486, and the Northern Territory, $8,876. These figures show that even with the increase of the maximum loan to $8,000 a person seeking to build a war service home in the Australian Capital Territory would still need to raise a considerable amount of additional finance to build what is regarded as an average home.
Sometimes, as we look through history, we find statements that are out of step with the thinking of the Government today.
In 1920 Senator Grant, speaking on the war service housing scheme, requested that, because of the high cost of land and the fact that the Commonwealth had a considerable amount of land available in Canberra, this land in Canberra be made available for ex-servicemen’s homes. He was ridiculed at that time by Senator Erie, who said: ‘There is no work in Canberra. What is the good of putting up war service homes in Canberra? You might as well put them in the Northern Territory.’ If the land had been reserved for war service homes at that time there would be a considerable saving to persons who required land in this city some 40 years later. In 1967 it was estimated that the demand for homes was 158,000 per year and that it would increase by 1972 to 183,000 per year.
The problem of a second mortgage arises. It has been assessed that people buying and paying off homes need to commit 20% of their earnings for the repayments. Sometimes, of course, the earnings of the wife are taken into account when both the husband and wife are working and paying off the home. The difference between the average cost of a home, which is $9,000, and the maximum loan of $7,000 is $2,000. If the additional $2,000 is borrowed and repaid over 30 years at an interest rate of 5i%, the weekly repayment amounts to $2.54. But if the additional $2,000 is obtained as a second mortgage for a short term with a higher rate of interest, the weekly repayment could be as high as $10.73. This is an indication of the burden that is placed on young people who wish to buy their homes.
Some mention was made of the thoughts and policies of the Australian Labor Party on housing. The Australian Labor Party has proposed that the homes savings grant should be available without restriction to all married couples. The qualification that only those under 36 years of age are eligible for the grant should be removed. Labor has said that it will allow a capitalisation of child endowment. This system has operated in New Zealand for a number of years and has lessened the burden on families, particularly in the early years. I know that some people bank the child endowment they receive for various purposes. Some use it to maintain their children or to help pay for the education of their children as they receive it. Others bank it to help meet the cost of a child’s education in later years. But one of the most important factors in the life of any family is the provision of a home. Capitalisation of child endowment would reduce the amount borrowed and the repayments on the purchase of a home and so lessen the demands on the family income that is available to provide the very necessities of life. If parents could draw in advance a lump sum equal to the amount of endowment that would be paid until their children reached the age of 16 years, they would not need to borrow as much for a home as they otherwise would and their weekly repayments would be reduced. This would lessen their worries. As I have just said, the borrowing of $2,000 at a favourable interest rate can mean the difference between weekly repayments of $2.54 and $10.73. If parents could obtain the money they need on favourable terms, the amount they had to pay on the mortgage out of the wages coming into the home would be reduced and more money would be available to meet the costs of sickness and other disabilities that plague a family. The capitalisation of child endowment would be purely voluntary, as it is in New Zealand, and at all times the mother must be a consenting party.
I come now to the matter of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. Not sufficient use is being made of this scheme. Banks, insurance companies and building societies have only a certain amount of money to lend and they prefer to make a loan to four people rather than to two people. It is only natural, therefore, that they should be willing to lend only a small proportion of the actual cost of a house rather than lend the full 95% of the valuation, as they can in some instances. One problem that the parents of a young family must solve is how to purchase a home. Very often they find that an older home is available in a long established suburb that may be reasonably close to the husband’s place of work. Schools and other requirements are handy. But a much larger deposit is required for older homes than for new homes and the. parents of young families usually cannot find the deposit. They must, therefore, go to more distant suburbs where they can buy a new home for a lower deposit.
More money should be made available to building societies, and even savings banks, and they should be allowed to lift the restriction on the age of a dwelling on which they can make a loan, particularly to younger people. They should be able to make bigger loans to people who want to purchase homes that are more than 20 years old. This would not only mean that older homes in the inner suburbs were put to better use, but it would also prevent the widespread expansion of our larger cities. When people want to buy a home now, they must go to outlying suburbs. They buy new homes in these suburbs because they can borrow larger amounts for their purchase. But these people must travel backwards and forwards over substantial distances to their place of work and this puts a heavy load on public transport or on the roads if private transport is used. Living in these outer suburbs also creates other problems. But people must go to these suburbs -because they cannot borrow money at reasonable rates for the purchase of an old home and they cannot purchase an old home on a reasonable deposit.
These older homes frequently are owned by people whose children have grown up. We find one or two people living in a large six-roomed home, although they cannot use all the rooms. They would be happy to move to a smaller house that they could manage by themselves without strain. But they find they cannot sell their old home except at a give-away price, perhaps to someone whose only interest is to sell it for a higher price. Young people who want to buy an older house must face the problem of raising a second mortgage and this adds to their worries. More money should be made available for the purchase of these older houses, particularly in the larger cities where this problem is most evident.
Whilst I commend the Government for increasing the maximum loan available for war service homes or for homes in the Australian Capita] Territory and the Northern Territory, I point out that 12 months ago the Housing Industry Association recommended that the limit of loans should be raised to $9,000 and to 95% of the valuation, provided the applicant for a loan could demonstrate his ability to repay the loan and that the home to be purchased was consonant with the amount of the loan.
The limit, in the view of the Association, should be increased for larger families. It also recommended that banks and other lending authorities be encouraged to provide a greater proportion of their funds for housing loans and that the percentage of deposits that savings banks must hold in government securities be reduced from 65% to 60%, the additional 5% being made available for housing leans. I believe that, if some of the suggestions I have made were adopted, we would go a long way towards solving the existing housing problem.
– 1 want to refer particularly to the homes savings grants scheme. Opposition members have contributed to the debate on these estimates and have claimed credit for the introduction of various benefits. But this scheme is one project that the Government can claim as its own. lt was nol suggested at any time by any Opposition member. The attitude of continual knocking appears to be growing and the knocking is not at all times constructive. Criticism is always worth while if it has a message. But we should remember that the Australian Labor Party has been elected to office on only three occasions in the last 50 years and it is rather difficult for Opposition members to judge the pulse and the needs of the nation.
Reference has been made today to housing difficulties, but it is a fact that Australia is the most home-ownership conscious nation in the world. The percentage of people who either own their homes or are in the process of owning them is higher in Australia than it is in any other nation. Remarks were made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) concerning the problems of certain people who have to wait a long time for houses. I suggest that this will always be a problem, particularly when we recall that we are pursuing an extensive immigration programme. I pay tribute, as 1 have done previously, to the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the former Leader of the Opposition, for having introduced this programme. While our population continues to grow at a rate above the average birth rate, we cannot avoid problems of this nature. If we tried to overcome them at once, it would cause such inflation that most people would be priced right out of home ownership.
A grant of $13.7m has been made for the homes savings grant scheme for the year 1968-69. It is well to recall that since the inception of this scheme in July 1963 the Government has paid $53,211,000 in grants. When we consider that the s:heme works on a $3 for $1 basis, we can see thai young people who have become home owners in recent times have saved a total of J 160m. This, 1 believe, is the proof of the pudding. The scheme was introduced to give young people an incentive to aim at owning their own homes. I consider the saving of $ l60m has been a credit to our young people, lt shows that they have taken up the challenge fully.
I might mention at this stage something about which 1 am a little concerned. I hope the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who is acting in this place for the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), will draw this to her attention. 1 refer to the reduction in average grants over the years. I have done some work on this matter and have ascertained that up to May 1967 we made ;in average payment of §448 to applicants. We know that the maximum grant available is $500. At that earlier time the average payment of $448 seemed reasonable enough. However, for the 12 months ended June 1967 the average payment was $432 an.l for the year ended June J 968, $414. This decline can only be interpreted as a lack of interest by the public as a whole. The maximum grant is still $500 although there has been a change in the value of money since 1964, and the $500 of that time is now worth slightly more than $450. We must continue to review this matter. We should not allow the value of the grant to slip back. This carrot of incentive must be kept right before the people so that they do not lose interest.
I know of cases where some have saved and not married. Once they have the required $1,500 or more, their attitude is along these lines: ‘The way things are going, I might as well invest my money in some other field because J may not marry for a few years. My money wiM depreciate and I think 1 can do better’. I suggest that this matter be continually reviewed and perhaps an increase in the grant made in the not too distant future. It is worth noting that since the inception of this scheme more than 122,000 young couples have taken advantage of the offer. This means that there are now over a quarter of a million Australians living in homes which have been purchased under this incentive scheme.
– That sounds all right.
– The honourable member for Kingsford Smith says it sounds all right. 1 am gl’ad that he has a sense of appreciation of what the Government has done over the years. Even though he is a member of the Opposition, this is good thinking on his part. A number of technicalities have been put before the Committee by members of the Opposition who have claimed that the Government has put obstacles in the way of people who wish to receive the grant. Perhaps the greatest problem in this matter is ignorance on the part of many of the people who apply. The fact is that they are not fully aware of the details of the scheme. I hope that honourable members opposite who criticise have made some effort to assist young people who might miss out through ignorance. I have continued to forward booklets to young people and have offered to assist them at any time if they do not understand the situation. I suggest that they see their bank managers at the first opportunity immediately upon becoming engaged. In this way, we can help to bring the scheme to the attention of young people to make sure that everyone gets a slice of the cake that is offering and to ensure that the scheme is utilised to the utmost.
I express my distress at the fact that many people are missing the benefits available because of wanderlust. Many young Australians today go overseas for a year or two to see the world. They come back much enlightened and are of greater benefit to this country. But the point is that because they go overseas they do not receive the benefit of the homes savings grant scheme. Many of these people come back and marry. We should make opportunities available for money to be sent from overseas to be paid into accounts here and attract grants under the scheme. Arrangements should be made with Australian banks with branches in overseas countries to enable young people to open eligible accounts so that a person who is living temporarily outside Australia will not miss out. These people are just as important in their own way as the person who stays in the country. I cannot see why they should pay this price for travelling overseas.
I recall the evening more than a year ago when I made my maiden speech and mentioned the plight of the person over 36 years old who suddenly decides that he or she will take the marriage vows. The scheme as it is today does not make provision for this person. Of the people who .married in 1964, 76,517 men, or 89% of the total bridegrooms, and 78.000 women, or 91% of all brides, were under 36 years of age. Ten per cent of those who married were unmarried up to 36 years of age.
– The honourable member is one of them.
– I am not 36. The honourable member is twice that age, but I realise that is his problem. The situation is that 10% of people who marry are ineligible for grants because they do not choose to marry early in life. It is not their plight I am so much concerned with because there is every chance that they have been able to save money because they have not married. But we must continue this incentive for the sake of their children. As I mentioned in this House before, I attach importance to the rearing of children in the environment of their own home. I realise that people such as seasonal workers and the like may not wish to own their own homes because it does not suit them. This is a fact of life. Even though we have the highest level of home ownership in the world at the present time, I do not suggest that we should rest on our laurels. We must continue to strive for an even higher percentage of home ownership in order to ensure that every young Australian, and every Australian who will be born in the next few years, will have a chance of being brought up in his own home.
We have heard the honourable member for Hindmarsh - my namesake - mention the problem of high land prices. As a young person, I am fully aware of this problem. It is rather interesting to judge this matter from the report of the Department of Housing with respect to the homes savings grant scheme in which reference is made to a survey that the Department conducted in March of this year on the cost price of land. It is interesting to note that averages show a big difference exists between the price of land in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. I think that this is the keynote of the problem. In most cases a metropolitan block of land costs twice as much as a non-city block. Here we have an example of the law of supply and demand.
This problem cannot be written off lightly, no matter what the honourable member for Hindmarsh might suggest. I draw to the attention of the honourable member that in his home State of South Australia metropolitan land costs nearly three times as much as non-metropolitan land. Here we see the situation that arises with demand for metropolitan land. This demand exists because more people want to live there, lt is interesting to note that these figures apply to a period when his own Party was in power as the government in South Australia. I believe that if people wish to live in the near city areas, unfortunately they will always need to face up to higher land prices.
In conclusion, as I have only a few moments left, I wish to make a plea that more be done to make available finance for the older homes in our inner city areas. I also draw to the attention of the Committee my plea that local governments show greater responsibility when they are zoning areas by not permitting factories and other enterprises to enter certain areas for selfish political reasons. This is done. There is no disputing the fact that a certain political party which has a lot to do with local government politics at times industrialises areas which are borderline seats so that the value of houses there depreciates and more of the voters who support that political party come to live in the area. I believe that it is the responsibility of local authorities not to destroy what people have. We have had reference today to the plight of pensioners. I object strongly to the situation in which elderly people who have an asset worth $10,000 today, because of the political motives of a local government see their area industrialised and therefore the value of their assets fall away to perhaps $7,000. I know that honourable members on the other side of the Committee would not argue against what I have said because they would be as desirous as members on this side as well as my friends from the Country Party of ensuring that elderly people and the like have a fair go.
– Unlike the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), I wish to be realistic about this question. I believe that one of the greatest social problems of our age is the one of housing. As one moves around from day to day, one is conscious of the fact that a bold approach must be made towards solving this problem. But one despairs of anything being done by the present Liberal-Country Party Government in the Federal sphere and its counterpart in the State sphere headed by a dead heat called Askin. Because of the great amount of financial support organised by slum landlords and the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, who are waxing fat on the rakeoff available in the housing field, they have never had it so good. They have .in open go with no interference by either the Federal Government or State governments.
In Australia, the system of private ar:d government home building has been adopted. Few homes are built without the necessity of mortgage. The supply of money for mortgage is restricted and possibly has a greater influence on home building than any other cause. Government home building is limited to what is provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This is approximately 15% of dwellings constructed. The Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power to build homes other than for Commonwealth employees. But section 96 of the Constitution makes provision that the Commonwealth may grant - I emphasise the words ‘may grant’ - financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as Parliament thinks fit. Under this section, the Commonwealth enters into agreement wilh the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to lend to the States moneys for housing at 1 % below the long term interest rates.
In New South Wales, the waiting list for a home is most noticeable. I wish to give to the Committee some appropriate waiting periods for people on the New South Wales
Housing Commission list. They are as follows, and it is very important to note them: The waiting period for a one bedroom flat is 3 years and 9 months. For a two bedroom flat, the waiting period is approximately 2 years and 9 months. The waiting period is 3 years and 9 months for a two bedroom house. For a three bedroom flat the waiting period is approximately 3 years and 4 months. A waiting period of approximately 3 years and 4 months also applies for a three bedroom house, while the waiting period for a four bedroom house is 2 years and 6 months. An unfurnished flat for an old single person at present involves a waiting period of approximately 5 years. The waiting period for units for elderly married couples is 3 years and 1.0 months. This is a shocking commentary on this antiLabor Government and is a bad example of our so-called affluent society.
We find that there are many families who are living in evil slums, sheds, garages, without sewerage or electricity, collapsing houses, derelict houses and even hen coops. People have been found living in hen coops. There are on record cases of mothers who lose their children, some permanently, because they are homeless. And we hear the prating in this Committee of these pious Liberal Party members of this Parliament!
As far back as 1965-66, about 450 children passed through the courts because their parents had no fixed place of abode. 1 think that that fact is worth repeating. As far back as 1965-66, about 450 children passed through the courts because their parents had no fixed pl’ace of abode. Evictions are a common occurrence on various pretexts. One Salvation Army hostel still houses temporarily eighty families this year because they have nowhere else to go. Police officers complain that they do not like eviction action but are forced by order of a court to take it. The rate of home construction falls far short of the annual accruing demand in New South Wales. That is under a Liberal Government. For example, the marriage rate is approaching 36,000 per year. Over the past few years there has been throughout Australia each year a general increase of about 7,000 in this rate. In addition, there is an annual intake of migrants of between 80,000 and 100,000 each year.
Housing of course is an immediate need for migrant families. Yet in New South Wales the rate of home construction is fairly static at about 36,000 to 37,000 dwelling units per year. A much higher rate of government construction is needed. This means more money must be allocated by the Federal Government to finance the much higher rate of housing construction that is required. We get back again to the serious problem confronting people on the question of rent. Only a small proportion of homes are still subject to rent control and rents of other premises have increased substantially in recent times.
Many families are paying as much as 50% of the husband’s wage in rent. There is a great shortage of premises available for rental and there should be a considerable increase in the construction of homes for rental purposes. When we consider the question of home purchase we realise that interest rates assume great importance. An increase of 1% in the interest rate means a rise of about $1 a week in home repayments. lt is becoming increasingly difficult for people to obtain suitable land at reasonable prices for home building purposes. Whereas once a block of land could be purchased for the equivalent of about 6 to 10 weeks wages today even a skilled worker would have to pay an amount equal to at least i years earnings. The price of home building is imposing an intolerable burden upon workers and urgent Government assistance is needed. The Commonwealth Government should allocate greater sums of money to the State Housing Commissions to enable them to build homes for rental purposes, and at reasonable rentals. Statistics show that 83% of those on the waiting list for homes are families with earnings of less than $50 a week.
The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945. It arose out of a report by the Commonwealth Housing Commission. The Agreement provided for the Commonwealth to advance to the States moneys repayable over 53 years to enable the States to build homes, mainly for rental, for low income earners. Do honourable members appreciate the foresight of that great leader, Mr Chifley? The Agreement enabled repayments to be made over 53 years. It provided that an economic rent, based on the cost of construction of the home and the supplying of services, would be fixed. If the rent received was less than the economic rent the Commonwealth reimbursed the States for the difference in the rent received and the economic rent. If the family income of the tenant was equal to the basic wage the rebate was an amount equivalent to the sum by which the rent of the dwelling exceeded one-fifth of the family income. If the family income was less than the basic wage the Commonwealth rebate, which would have been granted had the family income been equal to the basic wage, was increased by one-quarter of the amount by which the family income was less than the basic wage. There was a proviso that the rent under this formula would not be reduced below 8s, or 80c, a week. If the family income exceeded the basic wage the subsidy was decreased by onethird of the amount by which the income exceeded the basic wage. Under this system rent was related to income. Rental homes were expensive to those whose family income would have enabled them to purchase a home, but homes were provided at cheap rentals to those on low incomes. Pensioners got homes for 80c a week. This was the position under the original CommonwealthState Housing Agreement.
– That was a long time ago.
– Yes, but listen to what the Liberal-Country Party Government did. In 1956 the Menzies Government deleted the subsidy and made moneys available to the States at 1% less than the long-term interest rates repayable over 53 years, and provided that 30% of the money advanced had to go to building societies for the erection of purchase homes. This ended any Commonwealth subsidy on housing. The amount of grants is decided in 5-year agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. Over recent years the Commonwealth Government has been prepared to provide more than the States have been willing to accept. As the loan moneys available each year are limited, an increased housing grant would reduce grants for other purposes. Other needs of the States decide the housing rate just as much as does the housing need. To say the least, this arrangement is very unsatisfactory to the States, the public and building workers.
In 1964 the Homes Savings Grant Act was introduced. It was realised that the purchase of homes was getting beyond the capabilities of young married couples and the Act provided a subsidy of $2 for every $6 saved in a special account up to a maximum grant of $500 for the building or purchase of the first matrimonial home for qualified applicants under 36 years of age. This, of course, precluded many low wage earners with families from obtaining the grant, lt failed to peg the prices of land or buildings, and these prices skyrocketed to fantastic heights. This meant increased profits for builders and land agents. How the Government looks after its friends! This destroyed the benefit to those who qualified for the full grant and made more difficult the position of those who failed to qualify for the grant.
In most capital cities can be found new, completed houses which are deteriorating through lack of occupancy. They are vacant because of the absence of finance for purchase purposes. This indicates that there is no housing crisis for the wealthy. The tightening of finance is damaging housing conditions generally. It is having a drastic effect on building workers. Tradesmen are leaving the building industry because they have been suffering severely from increasing periods of unemployment. The housing situation is chaotic, but the Government is still turning a blind eye to the situation. No provision is being made for the migration intake, for the increased marriage rate, for the replacement of buildings demolished for commercial expansion or, most importantly, for slum clearance and the lifting of housing standards generally. As we know it, it is the firm intention of the Government to continue the migrant flow at an even rate. Therefore the number of houses built in the immediate past years to house new arrivals must be continued.
Statistics show that in 1966 there were 15,607 private dwellings with 10 or more inmates and 78,928 private dwellings with eight or more inmates. These figures reveal that there is a great deal of room for improvement in the situation. In every capital city, and in many country areas, there is urgent need for slum clearance. The annual reports of various housing authorities reveal a falling off in housing construction.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to deal with the question of homes for the aged. This is a field in which the Government ‘has provided much comfort for a lot of people, but in the main the only people who benefit are those who have sums ranging from $1,800 to $2,600 to put down as deposits.
– You are wrong.
-It is no good the honourable member shaking his head and saying that I am wrong. .1 am discussing a matter on which 1 am well informed. I was talking about the situation in South Australia, and I know the situation there. This branch of the Government’s housing activity is not being policed properly. After all, the Government is the custodian of the taxpayers’ money and it has no right to vote large sums of money to organisations and then to forget all about it and to do nothing to see that the money, which the taxpayers have provided and which the Government has handed out, is properly spent and properly administered. I am not satisfied with the way in which some of these enormous grants are being spent. There is not sufficient supervision of the cost of buildings. I know of an organisation in South Australia which is letting contracts for the construction of a large number of cottages at a price far in excess of what it ought to be.
– A point of order. Mr Deputy Chairman, I would draw your attention to the fact that When the honourable member starts to talk about the building of homes for the aged he is right out of the ambit of the estimates for the Department of Housing. Surely he should raise these matters when we are dealing with the estimates for the Department of Social Services.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The point of order is upheld. 1 ask the honourable member for Hindmarsh to confine his remarks to the estimates before the Committee.
-It is the aim of a Labor government that every person should have the right to secure a home of his own, of his own choosing and within the scope of his income. The Commonwealth itself can undertake the construction and financing of houses for present and former members of the defence forces, and it has done so in the case of war service homes. It can engage in the task of building homes for its own employees, and it does so. It can engage in the building of homes for people who are brought into the country under our immigration scheme, and it ought to do more in this regard. J do not believe that it is right for the Government just to bring in hordes of migrants and make no attempt to see that they are properly housed, because every house in the general pool of housing that is secured by a migrant means that one house less is available to other people who are waiting for accommodation. This is no good for the migrants and it is no good for other people waiting for housing. The Commonwealth can make grants to the States for the purpose of home building, lt ought to make more money available than it does, and it ought to exercise greater control over the way in which the money which is made available is spent. I am appalled at the way in which some State governments spend Commonwealth finance for home building. I am appal’led by the lack of town planning and by the almost complete lack of interest in what kind of houses are built, in clearing slum areas and in providing proper recreational facilities.
I cannot help but be impressed by a plan which appears in the 1966-67 report of the Western Australian State Housing Commission headed ‘Withers Estate Bunbury’, lt contains a photograph of a plan in colour showing the sort of thing that I have in mind. Proper care should be taken to ensure that money granted for housing purposes is spent in a way which ultimately will give to the people using the housing ready access to shopping areas and to shopping facilities generally, and to schools and other public buildings. In addition, I notice from this plan that proper arrangements have been made for what appears to be approximately 12 or 14 storey blocks of flats and that each block of flats is surrounded by a large expanse of open country, thus making for congenial conditions.
It is no use this Government making money available to the States and then taking absolutely no interest in the way it is spent. We ought to be laying down a plan for urban development. We should say to the States: ‘If you want our money to carry on home building you have to carry on your home building activities in accordance with this enlightened plan. You will not be given money just to throw down the drain or to throw away without having regard for the need to plan your cities’. It is not right that we should be erecting new homes in the place of slums without widening roads and streets in the areas concerned. We have no right to pull down slums and to allow narrow streets to become the avenue of access to new homes, and to make no attempt to provide recreational areas and breathing spaces in these slum areas. We ought to do this. If we are to pull down slums and erect new homes in their place we ought at the same time to see that the area is replanned - that streets are made wider and that more breathing space and recreational areas are provided. Otherwise, we have not really achieved anything at all in the way of providing better housing facilities.
I think we have to recognise that a person’s right to own his own home is an inherent, natural right that ought to be recognised as something far and above the right to own a motor car or anything else. This Government ought to make more money available to people who want to build their own homes and who want to own their own homes at lower rates of interest and on a smaller deposit than is now the case. The policy of the Labor Party is to make available for war service home applicants $12,000 at 3i% interest, to make available for ordinary home purchasers $12,000 at 3i% interest, and that they should get up to 95% of that amount from the Commonwealth or State home financing facilities. One thing which this Government has never even thought of doing but which would be a cardinal feature of any housing plan that a Federal Labor government would introduce would be to reduce the amount of mortgage owing to the Commonwealth or to a State, if the State was using Commonwealth home finance, by $200 for each child bom during the period of the mortgage. It is all very well for the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) to laugh at this, because at his age, I know, he has no interest in trying to reduce his mortgage by producing more children. He probably could not succeed in the task if we were to give him $2,000.
– A point of order. I want to put this right. I was not laughing. I was thinking: ‘Why did not Labor do this when it was in office?’
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no call for a point of order.
– If he was not smiling, all I can say is that he must have had a touch of wind, because to me he looked as though he were smiling. He assures us now that he was not smiling. The Government should be prepared to face the present situation, lt should realise that working men with big families to rear just cannot afford to pay great rates of interest. If the Government can spend $266m on buying Fill aircraft that cannot get off the ground, it ought not to tell the people that it cannot afford to lend home builders money at low rates of interest. Every citizen is entitled to own his own home, and it is this Government’s duty to assist him in achieving this objective. I want to refer also to the question of homes in rural areas. Here again I must agree with the honourable member for Mallee.
– It is the first time you have agreed with me.
– I am sorry I said ‘here again’ because it would be a reflection on myself to admit that I have agreed with the honourable member for Mallee before on anything, but 1 agree with him when he says that not sufficient attention is being given by the State or Commonwealth housing authorities to the provision of homes in rural areas. Unless something is done to make living in the rural areas more attractive than it is now, there will continue to be this never ending drain of population from country areas into the cities.
– I did not mention a State.
– I do not know what the honourable member for Mallee is cackling about. Whatever it is, I am afraid I cannot agree. What we need more than anything else is a comprehensive national inquiry into housing needs and all associated matters. We should expand the Commonwealth Department of Housing. It is regarded as being, and it ought increasingly to become, one of the more important departments. Many more people should be employed on research into building materials. I know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has carried out very important and valuable research work into building but not nearly enough has been done.
Not nearly enough attention has been given to town planning. Town planning proposals have been brought down by State governments in South Australia without any chance of their being implemented while I live, simply because the State governments do not get enough money to meet the cost of land acquisition and the construction of the freeways and overpasses needed for a proper town plan. State governments are planning decent cities, suburban areas and traffic lanes without money to carry their plans into effect. The Commonwealth Government is too miserable with the money that it makes available for home building and town planning. The States ought to be given far more assistance.
I believe the Commonwealth Government ought to indemnify those State governments which are prepared to forgo stamp duties and conveyancing fees on housing transactions. The stamp duty involved in the purchase of a house today in South Australia is considerable. Land values have been inflated out of all proportion to reality. The cost of building, as one honourable member said, also is far greater than it ought to be. These two things combined mean that additional costs are imposed on people who wish to make an ordinary housing transaction. Approximately $120 is involved in stamp duties alone. It is outrageous that a working man should have to pay that amount of money simply to transfer the title of a home.
I wish I had time to deal with land values. I said earlier that the imposition of an unimproved land value tax would reduce the price of land. In the Australian Capital Territory the average price of a block of land is only $954, compared with $2,880 in New South Wales. This is because the Territory has a system of unimproved land value taxation, or the equivalent of it. The Territory does not face the impediment of continually rising land prices as is the case in the States.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– A number of things have been said to which 1 think the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) would like me to refer. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor), who spoke first in the debate, said that there had been almost no improvement in housing in the last 30 years.
– How did he work that out?
– 1 do not know. Sometimes people go to sleep when they are young and remain in the same frame of mind later in life. He complained that many dwellings now erected were not houses on their own plots but were flats or home units. Unfortunately our cities have grown more populous and people are reluctant to travel. In effect, more people compete for the same amount of ground. The logical consequence of all this is the construction of flats. This is inevitable. This trend is here to stay and it will probably increase. The broad picture is that since 1939 Australia’s population has doubled, but the rate of construction of individual dwellings has trebled.
– How did you work that out?
– I worked it out from the statistics. It is quite simple. The figures have leapt even in the last few years. In 1958-59 the annual rate of commencements of dwellings was 82,000. In 1967-68 the figure rose to 122,000. This represents an increase of almost 50% over a period of 9 years. Plans for the 21st century will depend on many factors, and I suggest it is a little premature to look too far ahead at the moment.
The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) referred to the cost of land. Having done so he referred to another old myth and said that all the homes savings grant scheme did was to put up the price of land. It is always true that to some extent when money is handed to a purchaser prices go up. Similarly, if money were taken away and loans were not granted the price of land would come down sharply. This is an outcome of supply and demand. There is no conceivable doubt that the bornes savings grant scheme has benefited a large number of people. The honourable member referred, as did other speakers, to applications for the grant which were refused because various technical obstacles had been imposed. One can sympathise with those people who just miss out. Since the scheme began the Government has received 137,740 applications for the grant and it has rejected 10,700, or approximately 1 in 13. About 122,000 grants have been approved and the Government has paid out S53m.
From the outset the homes savings grant scheme was to be a reward for saving, lt was not designed to be a public hand-out without questions being asked. The only way in which a reward for saving can be registered is for the people concerned to follow certain principles, including the requirement for prescribed accounts. A booklet was issued over 4 years ago to explain what to do. One would think that during that time people who were serious about obtaining a home would have made the necessary inquiries, would have obtained a copy of this booklet - which is available throughout Australia - and have acted accordingly.
Bad housing conditions do exist in some parts of Australia. Any person who visits the worst parts of Sydney and Melbourne will realise this. I am sorry that very few honourable members do visit the worst parts of Sydney and Melbourne. These conditions are confined to a few areas which themselves cover a limited total area, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. The number of slums outside those two cities would be very small. One of the great changes since the end of World War If has been the availability of new houses in adequate numbers.
Very few couples in Australia who are serious minded are unable to purchase a house, unless they are subject to some peculiar disability. The Homes Savings Grant Act helps young people, the Aged Persons Homes Act helps elderly people and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides funds for slum clearance projects, if that is the way in which the State governments choose to use the money. The people who have to rent homes tend mainly to be in the lower income group and they deal with the State housing authorities. However, the main emphasis of this Government’s policy is placed on home ownership. It is certainly not true that tenants of State housing authorities are given quit notices because they are out of work. All State housing authorities give special consideration to unemployed persons including, in most cases, rebates of rental. No State uses its housing scheme as a means of raising revenue. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides money at a low rate of interest - 1% below the bond rate - so that the States may avoid levying heavy charges on people with inadequate incomes.
The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) addressed to me a query about the estimates. It is a refreshing change in these debates to have people look closely at the estimates. The honourable member noted that only one person was listed under the heading ‘Administration’. The reason is that the one person is the Secretary of the Department of Housing. The rationale behind this is that all save the Secretary are engaged in a number of mixed functions, although they may be largely administrative. They are doing other things classified under other heads. In my Department about eight people are classified under the purely administrative head. I notice that the Department of National Development lists only one. 1 presume that he would be the Secretary of the Department. This is really a matter of classification.
Some honourable members, particularly the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), laid great stress on the price of land. The honourable member for Swan referred to the price of land in the vicinity of Perth. The Department of Housing does a good deal of research into land costs. This is a very difficult field. Figures are hard to average, and action to reverse the upward trend in the cost of land, which is almost a worldwide phenomenon, is hard to take. The honourable member for Hindmarsh will be aware of this trend in earlier times, because it in fact inspired the ideas of Mr Henry George, which I realise are by no means foreign to the honourable member. As regards housing in Western Australia, the Commonwealth was recently approached about this matter by the Western Australian Government and formed the opinion that the building industry in Western Australia had for the moment expanded to the full extent of available resources. The Commonwealth took the view that more money would merely increase costs already dangerously stretched. As the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has indicated, this is a matter that will be kept under review. Land costs now contain an element for the cost of development. Unlike former times, in most cases, a block of land now comes serviced. In former times a new owner of a block of land would have to wait for roads, water and sewerage. Unimproved capital value taxation does exist in a number of States, but it does not keep land costs down. Basically the pressure of population increases the price of land, and so far nobody has found a solution to the problem.
– Henry George did.
– He suggested one.
– It has never been tried.
– Opinions would differ on that. Certain places would have gone further than others. It would be fascinating to pursue an argument with the honourable member, but this is perhaps not the time. The honourable member referred also to the maximum cost of house and land for which the homes savings grant was paid. He made the point that $15,000 was rather too low. I have taken out one or two figures hurriedly in response to the honourable member’s remarks. The average cost of a war service home, with land, last year was $11,489. In the case of those persons who obtained a homes savings grant, the average cost of house and land was $10,372. These figures are contained in the very useful statistical summary which has been made available to honourable members. It has always been the Government’s objective in this scheme, as in other social -service schemes, to help those most in need. I do not suggest that $15,000 is an immodest sum, but it is quite a large sum to pay for house and garden. Naturally, Government funds are involved in the payment of the grant, so that total cost limit is kept to $15,000. This is ample having regard to average costs.
The honourable member for Mallee referred to several cases concerning bis constituents. The cases referred to by the honourable member will” be brought to the attention of the Minister who, 1 am sure, will give them her usual faithful and close scrutiny. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) raised a number of matters. He was interested particularly in older homes. He lodged the complaint that not enough finance was available for the purchase of older homes. He will be interested to know that in rough terms about 60% of loans for the purchase of homes are granted in respect of older homes, not new homes. The honourable member referred to the scheme operating in New Zealand whereby child endowment may be capitalised to assist in the purchase of a home. Our child endowment scheme differs from that of New Zealand. We regard child endowment as something for the benefit of the child, and accordingly the endowment is paid to the mother. New Zealand, of course, has not introduced a homes savings grant scheme. This factor must be borne in mind when considering capitalisation of child endowment.
The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Curtin) referred to the waiting time in New South Wales for a housing commission home. This is a specialised sector of the total housing demand. Since the honourable member implied that the present Government of New South Wales was evilly responsible for the situation that now exists I should point out, lest he has forgotten, that the Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales came to power only a short time ago after a quarter of a century of Labor rule in that State. But the causes of the housing shortage go deeper than that. There has been a tremendous increase in population. The output of houses in Australia is about the highest per capita of any country. I do not have the figures at my fingertips, but basically we are doing a wonderful job in housing, having regard to our rapidly rising population.
Although I realise that he was at the time out of order, the honourable member for Hindmarsh raised a point which I think I should deal with. He claimed that accommodation in homes for the aged went largely to those with means who were able to contribute something solid towards the housing unit, the cost of which is supplemented by the Commonwealth. I think the current statistics will interest the honourable member, because they differ from earlier statistics. Currently about one-third of persons seeking accommodation in an aged persons’ home make financial contributions.
– Do the other twothirds not make a contribution?
– 1 am informed that in round figures two-thirds do not now make a contribution. 1 understand that in the past the proportion making a contribution was considerably higher. The honourable member referred also to planning of cities. In making funds available to the States it is not the Government’s policy to require the States to use those funds in a specific way where the primary responsibility in the matter rests with the States. The main object of the funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is for the specific purpose of making housing available for persons in the lower income group. Other remarks made in the course of the debate will bc passed on to the Minister.
Proposed expenditure agreed to. Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Immigration could be categorised as not being of great political importance among the political parties in Australia. Various individuals in all political parties have divisions of emphasis and of thought in regard to immigration, but in general the major parties have policies which are very similar. Quite obviously there are many areas of our migration programme which we all would like to see something done about. Most of us have our own grouches, if you like to call them that, or our own pet hobby horses in relation to immigration. The intake of immigrants to Australia since the Second World War has added considerably to the development of this country. It has provided us with a quicker population growth than could have been achieved by any normal or even by any abnormal means.
Our intake of migrants has enabled industrial development to be based on expanding markets. By this means expansion of our markets has been guaranteed to a greater degree than would have been possible if Australia’s development depended on our unreliable natural population growth. The natural growth of our population is proving to be anything but satisfactory.
What do we as Australians get out of migrants and what are we prepared to put back into their futures? That is the key to the whole situation. When persons arrive in Australia as migrants - I speak especially of those who do not understand our language - they have only a basic understanding of our customs and habits. Most of that has been picked up from books and pamphlets which are issued quite obviously, irrespective of how well based they are, for the purpose of attracting people to Australia and therefore overgloss the situation. These people arrive in Australia with little knowledge of the English language and of the country itself and are pretty desperately in need of assistance. In the main they are of an age at which they have young families. 1 wish to draw attention mainly to the problems of children of school age rather than of adults. The children have to enter our school system with a very serious disadvantage in educational opportunity, lt is almost impossible for us to understand just how difficult is the problem of a child of about 10, 11 or 12 years who is entering our education system. I understand the States have some plans, in co-operation with the Commonwealth, by which to overcome the language problem to at least a limited degree. A child needs more than this. I think migrant children need special schooling for at least the first 12 months they are in Australia to try to bring them up to the level of English comprehension and understanding which will enable them to pursue an education in the future. A crash course in English may solve some of the problems but there is more than this. They come up against a completely different education curriculum. In the metropolitan areas of most of the major cities there are schools where up to 80% of the children are children of migrants. From our national point of view it is necessary that these children get as good an education as is possible. The only way in which they can get this education is for them to be given very considerable assistance in the early years after they arrive in Australia. During that time they have just come out of one education system and have been placed in another which most likely to them has a very strange basis of operation and is conducted in a strange language.
The benefits which accrue to Australia from immigration are such that I believe we should put much more into enabling migrants to fit into our community more readily. Most migrants have a very difficult time unless they are sponsored by people who are prepared to put them up or to find them work. Most migrants have a very difficult time in the first few years after they arrive in Australia. They can get accommodation in hostels. They have to find jobs and housing with assistance from government departments, but it is not the type of assistance you would wish to have if you were an Australian trying to establish yourself in one of their countries. The hostels are being modernised slowly but they are not what one would describe as being conducive to happiness among new arrivals, no matter how well they are run or how clean they are.
I believe that those migrants who depart from Australia - and too large a percentage do leave - make up their minds to do so before they reach the Australian community. I believe they make up their minds that they will not be happy with Australia before they ever actually see Australia. When they are living in hostels and are either seeking employment or are in employment but are not living in the community, and having subconsciously made up their minds that they do not like the country, it is only a matter of time before they gradually develop reasons which are sufficiently comprehensible to lead them to save the necessary money to return home. It is a pretty severe economic step to save up the necessary funds to pay for a passage back to Europe for a family. Once they have become dissatisfied they develop the necessary excuses until they get on a boat and go back home. Usually it takes several years for this process to develop. I think that many migrants who have not left Australia faced this same situation in their early years but are still here because they have never been able to save up sufficient money to go back home.
I think it should be possible for migrants, English or European, to be given the opportunity, after they have been in Australia for some time, to visit their homeland, especially women migrants who come to Australia after they have married and have all their friends in their homeland. The most natural thing in the world is for them to be homesick.
Our immigration programme would be helped tremendously if we sought means to encourage migrants to visit their homelands after they had been here for 7 or 8 years. I do not suggest that we should finance their journey; that would not be proper. But I do think that we should encourage migrants to visit their homelands after they have been in Australia possibly for some years and we should make the cost of the journey an allowable deduction for taxation purposes after they have returned. This would cost little if these people came back to Australia, but it would be a gesture by the Australian Government that would encourage migrants to visit their homelands. Most of the people about whom I am speaking are perfectly satisfied once they have been back to their native land and have returned to Australia. Most of their problems, which are mainly psychological, seem to disappear. People take a very big step when they pull themselves away from their old environment and establish themselves in a new country and we would act wisely if we tried to ease the difficulties they have in establishing themselves here by encouraging them to make a short visit to their homelands.
There is a second factor in this proposition. Most of the people who would make such a visit would be a good advertisement for Australia. They would be able to relate to future migrants the experiences they have had in Australia. Quite obviously the disgruntled migrant who returns to his native land is a bad advertisement for Australia. If we encourage those migrants who are happy here to make fairly regular visits to their homelands, they would counteract the bad publicity we get from disgruntled migrants.
There is a need amongst the migrant community for many more social workers. There is a need in the general community for more social workers, but the stresses and strains that come with the change of environment could be very much relieved if people were available who could explain to migrants, as a professional social worker could, the way our society works and the various benefits that can accrue from living here, and generally to help them with the problems they have in their early years in Australia. I think we can all realise the difficulties that a migrant family has in becoming established here.
I congratulate the officers of the Department of Immigration on the courteous manner in which they treat people with problems. It is never any trouble for the Department to give assistance and this is very important. I suppose it is inevitable that by the time many cases have reached the local member they are at the stage where it is very difficult for the original decisions to be altered. The reasons why decisions have been made are pretty firmly established and are unalterable. Many migrants to Australia have relatives overseas, especially parents. They would like to bring their relatives to Australia but their financial circumstances prevent them from meeting the guarantee requirements. They are reluctant to sign the bond that is necessary if they are to bring their parents to Australia. I suggest that, when the majority of the members of a family are in Australia, the Government should waive the bond requirement and bring the parents to Australia. Not many people would be involved in such an arrangement, but it would bring a great deal of happiness and contentment to many migrants.
– I address my remarks to the details of the estimates as set out in the Appropriation Bill, pages 46 and 47. I note that the total of Divisions Nos 330 and 332 for. the Department of Immigration is no less than $55. 164m. In the time available to me, I can deal with only a few aspects of the work of this important Department. But first I would like to do as the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) did and make a genuine reference to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and the officers of his Department who do the day to day tasks. I too can refer to the courtesy and the efficiency of the officers both in Australia and overseas. I do not think that from the years I have spent, a privileged period of some 7 or more years, as Chairman of the Government Members Immigration Committee I would be out of place in saying that no request from the Government members for general information in the permissible field or clarification of points that have been announced by the Minister has been set on one side. We have had the complete co-operation of the Department and of the Minister. There is always a quality of courtesy, which is pleasing.
When it comes to answering the problems of newly arrived settlers I can speak with some assurance because of the stream of correspondence that I have directed to the Department and to the Minister from those who have taken up residence in my electorate. I do not think there is any need for an ombudsman when we have this relationship between the elected member and a co-operative department. I want to put on record that every letter seems to be answered within a reasonable time and, with some persistence on the part of the member, even those cases that might have been rejected for some reason often at the second look have been approved when they have been investigated thoroughly. I have no abiding criticism on the part of any of the new settlers from the electorate that I represent.
Earlier today, in another context, when speaking to other estimates, I referred to the fact that the salaries schedule is followed now by a functional summary showing how the personnel of a department is employed. Here with the Department of Immigration I want to make a particular reference to the fact that this year the personnel for the Publicity Branch will number, it is estimated, 26 as against 16 last year. This leads me to refer to the fact that the Department has found it necessary to support the programme of immigration with quite a range of modern, well presented, well designed and well written publications, some of which I have here in my hand. They include ‘Education in Australia’, Your Journey to Australia’, ‘Housing in Australia’, ‘Professional Opportunities in Australia’ and ‘Opportunities on the Land’. Our post-war experience in immigration has quickly shown that we cannot expect to attract newcomers to a country such as ours, a distant country from Europe and Asia, without telling frankly and fearlessly the story of what we offer. These booklets are designed for this very purpose. If the additional stream of good material, material that must be constantly reviewed and kept up to date, creates the necessity to increase the publicity personnel in the way 1 have mentioned, 1 do not think there is any room for criticism as long as this standard can be maintained and as long as the recommendations of the officers overseas can be met by a quick supply of the material that they consider to be necessary.
Then my eye caught the personnel for the Management Services Branch, lt is listed at 542 for the current year as against 496 for last year. Trying to reconcile my own personal knowledge of the organisation of the Department, I raised the query in my mind, and I would be grateful if the Minister would answer it. What now comprises the Management Services Branch? I assume that it embodies the establishment of a finance branch of other years, the details of which were given in the 94th report of the Public Accounts Committee as a result of a very detailed investigation of the Department. I would assume also that in this total of the Management Services Branch we may now find personnel of the various State branches. I would appreciate this information because when we look at the Estimates, it is certainly not clear what is included.
The detailed costs of the Department of Immigration, amounting to $55m, to which 1. have made reference, are available in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1968-69. The amount allocated for publicity is $ 1.823m. There is $lm, in round figures, provided for education of migrants in the English language. Also, §4. 5m is provided towards the cost of operating migrant hostels. Further sums are provided, of course, for the United Kingdom-Australia Assisted Passage Agreement, the General and Special Assisted Schemes, the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration Assisted Passage Schemes and for the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, known as ICEM. These are the contributions made in the national Budget towards passage costs. These are substantial items approximating some $34m. It is upon this sort of expenditure that the results of the migration programme depend. This expenditure is surely justified and we can, as a
Committee, accept that we are getting value for the expenditure when one considers the intake under the programme announced by the Minister. In this financial year it is hoped that the intake from overseas will be no fewer than 160,000. lt is pleasing that in this total we expect about 91,000 people . from the United Kingdom, 17,000 or thereabouts from Italy, and from Europe, under the special passages assisted programme, about 12,000.
Within the Committee there would be a natural interest in the progress that is being made under the new Turkish agreement. Not so long ago the House was informed of the arrangements for the Turkish-Australian Agreement. In the current year it seems reasonable to expect about 1,500 Turkish new settlers to come under this arrangement. Another significant item 1 notice is the figure that about 5,000 migrants are expected to come to Australia from Greece. Earlier today we turned our attention to (he estimates of the Department of Housing. I trust that’ we dealt to some effect with the problems of housing. We have noted some of the great achievements in the housing field. I think it is pertinent for us to draw attention to the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council whose report was presented to the House not so many days ago by the Minister. The Council recognises that migrants will need more housing. One newspaper article that caught my attention contained the following paragraph:
But housing will be the crux of the matter.
Tn the council’s words: ‘The ability to provide adequate housing accommodation for the annual inflow of migrants is basic to consideration of the number that could be accepted’.
The Council in its report made it clear that it wants a housing policy that will meet migrants’ special needs and benefit the whole community. Apparently it sees the., basic requirements as firstly, reception accommodation for the initial adjustment period; secondly, temporary low-rent housing in which migrants can live while deciding on employment and a permanent residence - this, of course, raises the additional necessities of schooling and employment for other family members - and, thirdly, permanent housing on the same basis as the community generally. So as we turn our attention to a programme of this kind and the costs that relate to it, I am sure that no-one in the Committee will overlook the importance of housing. In my electorate I am pleased to see an attractive new block of units for migrants. I want to point out, however, that this is but a gesture because all that the Government has found it possible to do in the last year or so has been to commit itself to the construction of large new blocks in 2, 3 or more of our capital cities. In total this does not represent a very great contribution towards housing the migrant inflow of some 160,000 a year. So there will need to be a continuing programme along these lines.
In the moments remaining to me I want to express a personal view regarding students from Asia. For all of us who have taken an interest in the vast numbers of students that our educational system has been able to absorb, students from Asia fall into two categories. Firstly, there are students who come within the strict conditions of Colombo Plan assistance. Secondly, there is a great stream of 10,000 or more students per annum who come and receive the benefit of our education institutions as private students. I am attracted to the necessity of applying some common sense and logic to the group who are in the private student category. It has come to my notice that some of these people, when they complete their courses of study, are not easily absorbed, with the professional qualifications that they might have gained, into their own countries. They have often indicated a desire to stay in Australia. So I am suggesting that the private student is in a different category from the Colombo Plan student. We should consider his application accordingly. I would point out that the private student is self-financed although Australia provides him with places in schools or colleges. When his course is completed, I believe that he should be allowed to stay in Australia if he wishes, provided he can produce evidence that no job is available to him at home. Why should we bundle him back home? Why should we make conditions even more difficult now that he has acquired a standard of education? It seems only logical if we are spending as much as is indicated by these estimates to bring migrants from all around the world, we would be wise to capitalise on the students that we ourselves have helped to train. After all, they must be well along the road to integration.
I wanted to express this view because it is quite apparent in the stream of Australian life that our own children, the young people of our own community, are working with these private and Colombo Plan students and have learned to understand them. They have been able to assist them, and their coming into our education institutions has, I believe, done a lot for the wider and more humane and understanding outlook of the young Australian people. There is a very close fellowship between a lot of these visiting young students and our own youth. For this reason I hope that the recommendation I have made will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Minister, the Department and the Government at an early date.
– In rising to speak on the debate on the Department of Immigration estimates I would first of all like to place on record my appreciation of the assistance that has been given to me by the officers of the Department, particularly in the Sydney office, which is the office through which I do most of my work, and also of the help I received this time last year when I was overseas and was assisted by the Departmental officers in the various countries I visited. Officers of the Department were most helpful in explaining the ramifications of the immigration policy and its effect on the particular countries in which they served. In a number of countries there are problems with the home governments. So, I feel that we are fortunate indeed that we have so many fine officers in our migration offices overseas.
The first matter with which I wish to deal tonight is concerned with the change in policy which has been introduced by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) in a certain matter. I regret that the Minister for Immigration is not at the table. I trust that the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), who is at the table, will convey my comments to the Minister for Immigration. When a member made representations to former Ministers for Immigration on matters dealing with the rejection of a naturalisation application or of a sponsorship of a migrant, they could not get the exact details of the reasons for a decision, but what was made available to them was information as to whether a nomination, for instance, had been rejected on the grounds of security or the health of the individual concerned. Without having the reasons set out in a (a), (b) and (c) fashion, members were able to find out in a confidential letter from the Minister the reason or reasons for refusal.
I can say this: Never at any time in relation to confidential letters that I. received have I broken confidence with the Minister concerned. I indicated to the Minister what 1 was prepared to do in each case. I would say to an Australian sponsor: ‘The reason why your nomination was rejected is that there is some fault with the person whom you have nominated. Has he ever been involved in any police action? Has he ever been tied up with any political parties?’ That is what I would say if a security matter was involved. If, on the other hand, a nomination was rejected for health reasons, 1 was able to ask: ‘ls he sickly? Is there something the matter with him? If there is, will you get a letter from a doctor in your country concerning the matter?’ I cannot recollect very many of the cases that I have taken up being rejected. In nearly every case, the Department of Immigration saw its way clear to get around the problem and was able to proceed with the sponsorship. This would happen if evidence was submitted, for instance, showing that the man or the woman as the case may be was not a member of a political party, that he or she had not been involved in any police action or had not been prosecuted. When evidence was brought to my attention about a couple of cases, I dropped those cases straight off. 1 said: ‘As far as I am concerned, I accept the evidence and the opinion of the Department’.
But the present Minister for immigration is pursuing a different policy. I wish to quote a case in which I had made representations on behalf of the brother of a Newcastle businessman. He is an Italian. He came to Australia some years ago and set up in business. He now wishes to bring his brother out to Australia to work with him in his industry and make it a family show. lt is not a large industry.” This man employs about 10 men at the present time. He assures me that his brother is in good health and has never been in any political party or had any police prosecutions. The man says that, as far as he is concerned, his brother is a complete cleanskin. Yet finally in this matter, 1 received a letter from the Minister on 26th June of this year. I do not propose to quote the name of the man concerned. The Minister said:
The inquiries which have been made into this case have shown that Mr . . .is clearly unable to meet entry requirements. As it is established Government policy not to disclose the reasons for the rejection of nominations, I am sorry I cannot give you the information you have requested.
Now, I believe that it is time that the Minister, who must accept responsibility for this change in policy, reverted to the policy followed by previous Ministers for Immigration. When Sir Alexander Downer was Minister for Immigration, he was prepared to make the information available to members. In many cases, as 1 have said, he was prepared to make available the files to honourable members and say: ‘This is the story and this is the reason why we are not prepared to take this particular person’. The same thing can be said of other former Ministers for Immigration. In a number of cases, such as where a nomination has been rejected on health grounds, the Department has been able to get around the problem. -
So, 1 do make a plea to the Minister to give this matter further consideration. 1 am pleased to see that the Minister for Immigration is now at the table. 1 believe that honourable members in this place are responsible people. When one of us makes representations, he is prepared to look at the- problems and examine the case on its facts and come down, if need be, on the side of the Minister and say: ‘Okay, I am not prepared to follow this matter up any further’. If the Minister looks through the evidence concerning the representations that I have made, he will find that on a number of occasions I have agreed with the decision that he has made and I have made no further representations. But if the Minister examines the records further, he will find also that I have been successful in having the Department and the Minister concerned change their policy and admit people whom they had rejected previously. So much for that matter. T pass across to the Minister the correspondence relating to the matter to which I have just referred.
Another matter to which I wish to refer in this debate I can touch on only briefly because of the limited time that is available to each honourable member in the consideration of these estimates. I refer to what
I consider is the discrimination shown against Yugoslavs. A sponsor in Australia can nominate a friend or relative from any western European country with the exception of Yugoslavia. AU that is required of the sponsor is that he know the person concerned and be prepared to nominate him. But as far as Yugoslavia is concerned, the only nominations that are accepted at the present time are those of close relatives. This includes brothers, sisters, parents, children and cousins. I think that is about as far as the Government goes in accepting migrants from Yugoslavia. I have had experience with Yugoslavian people. A number of them are in the electorates of Newcastle. Hunter and Shortland as well as in adjoining electorates. I have always found them to be excellent citizens. 1 feel that the Minister should review this policy very soon and come down with a decision whereby the same conditions of sponsorship can be applied to Yugoslavs who are nominated as are applied to nominations of Italians, Greeks, Germans and people from other parts of the world.
T know that cases of disorderly conduct amongst Yugoslavs have arisen. But. after all. some of the other national groups likewise have old racial problems in their home countries. I have been critical of the Croatians when they have endeavoured to carry on the old hates in their country when they arrive in Australia. At the same time, I think that the Government should be prepared to clamp down on these people and say: ‘Look, if you want to live in Australia, you do as Australians do. That is to say, you cut out and forget the fights that have existed in your country for a number of years. If you want to use Australia as a battleground to re-fight your old hates, you can go back home and do so there’. The Government has the power to deport these people.
Other than concerning this matter, no complaints whatsoever have been made against Yugoslavs. As I said earlier, I find them excellent citizens. They mix very well in the Australian community. They take a part in it. As far as I am concerned, I believe that the Minister and his Department should review very quickly this policy of nominations so that a Yugoslav in Australia can nominate a friend in Yugoslavia in the same way as nominations are made in Australia concerning Greeks,
Italians, Maltese and other people in different parts of the world today. I know from my visit last year to Yugoslavia that a large number of Yugoslavs are desirous of coming and anxious to come to Australia. Yugoslavia. I believe, has an unemployment problem which it is prepared to solve by allowing its people to leave Yugoslavia and go to work in other parts of Europe, or, in this case, to come to Australia to find work. I know that there are large numbers of temporary Yugoslav migrants living in Germany. France and other European countries. The opportunity exists for us to bring to Australia these people who. I consider, are first class citizens and who would come here and settle permanently.
There is one other matter with which I wish to deal very briefly. This concerns the question of a multi-racial community in Australia. We find newspapers, church leaders and politicians from time to time making statements to the effect that Australia has to be prepared to open its doors to migrants from Asia, Africa and other countries. So far as 1 am concerned after my experience last year and early this year overseas, only an imbecile would be prepared to advocate in any way whatsoever the breaking down of the Australian immigration policy today. 1 congratulate the Minister on what he had to say during question time today. I support completely the policy of the Government on this subject. Over the years, particularly with the former Minister for Immigration, Mr Opperman as he was then, some slight breaking down of this policy occurred. But 1 support completely what has been the policy of former Ministers for Immigration and what I am pleased to see up to date appears to be the policy of the present Minister for Immigration. We want to retain our present policy of European migration to Australia.
If any honourable member wants to see the problems that exist in other countries then he should go overseas and examine the position. Let him look at the problem in Britain today. I could spend hours talking of the situation there. 1 urge honourable members to read some of the Press accounts of happenings in Britain. It is admitted that there is racial discrimination there. In February 300 women walked out of a British factory where there was a colour bar, because a coloured girl was employed. A committee was established in Britain to try to curtail and restrict discrimination in the community. In 1967 over 600 cases of racial discrimination were reported to that committee. Some people say that a country can have a multi-racial community in which people can work together, but who can say that Australia could do a better job of it than has been done in Britain or in the United States of America?
– Or in South Africa?
– I do not want to discuss the situation in South Africa. While I was overseas I picked up an Asian magazine and read a report that state*
If the Indians or, for that matter, the Chinese fail to identify with the people in the nations where they are settled, they hardly deserve to be rightful citizens. They cannot expect the same privileges and rights enjoyed by the natives.
That statement was made by a Malay. It is not only a question that in America the Europeans and negroes cannot get on, and that in Britain the British and the Pakistanis, Indians and West Indians cannot get on; here is an example in Asia itself where there is a great problem. Was it not basically a racialist question that brought about the seccession of Singapore from Malaysia? A people that was predominantly Chinese felt that the Chinese were being made second class citizens by the Malaysian Government which was giving preference to Malays.
The question is whether Australia can operate this system better than the other countries that have the system. If anyone wants to see just what happens in race riots, let him visit places like Detroit, Newark, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. I was in Detroit last year, 2 months after the race riots of July 1967. People who travelled through London after the war and saw the damage caused by bombing would have been able to compare it with the devastation in Detroit where whole blocks had been flattened or burnt out. Words and slogans were painted over the walls of buildings. On some buildings the words ‘Soul brother’ were painted. Such a sign indicated that the building was owned by a coloured person and that building would be spared while another building close by would be destroyed. This was the position in that section of Detroit where race rioting occurred. The same can be said about Newark where whole blocks were destroyed and where numbers of people lost their lives as a result of race riots, of which American people are so afraid today.
If one reads reports concerning the preparations by various police departments in American cities one would almost believe that they were expecting an invasion by some foreign power rather than internal riots. I issue the warning to those people who are foolish enough to advocate a policy like that applying in America that we could not do any better than those nations’ that have tried and failed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 have listened, as I am sure we have all listened, with interest and some degree of disappointment to the words of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He told us, if 1 understand him correctly, that only an imbecile would speak for any liberalisation of what was previously known as the White Australia policy and is now known as a policy for the maintenance of a homogeneous population in Australia. If to support a liberalisation, which I believe has been going on, is to be an imbecile then, Mr Deputy Chairman, 1 declare myself an. imbecile. But what 1 had hoped to do was to express a more moderate view - what I believe to be a rational, reasoned view on this subject - because I do not believe that this question of race prejudice can be solved by establishing any cordon sanitaire around Australia. The time has long since passed when we can insulate ourselves from a world which consists of people who are white, black, brown or brindle all mixed up together more and more and in which we must find a way to live together if we are not, in the trite phrase, to die together. This is a matter which quite obviously cuts across party lines for what the honourable member for Newcastle has said is just as unacceptable to some members of his own party as it is acceptable to some members of my party and unacceptable to others.
– My statement was in accordance with our policy.
– 1 remind the honourable member that these problems are right here on our doorstep. We have the Aboriginal problem. We have the problem of our future relationship with the people of Papua and New Guinea who are now residents in an Australian colonial territory but very soon, perhaps in not many years to come, probably will be citizens of an independent country next door. We shall have to maintain friendship with them and welcome their students, and no doubt spouses of Australians and Papuans and New Guineans who wish to come and reside here for business or other reasons. We are now part of Asia - very much part of Asia - and our future defence and security will depend largely on the relationship we build up with the peoples of Asia and the nations of Asia. The kind of immoderate language used by the honourable member for Newcastle will certainly do nothing to further, and may do a great deal to prejudice, the happy relationship which we hope for with the countries of Asia.
When Mr, now Sir Hubert, Opperman, as Minister for immigration, announced certain changes on 9th March 1966 in this House, they were welcomed by members from both sides of the House. Since then public men of all shades of opinion have been among those urging the Government to liberalise its policies still further. They include my colleagues on this side of the House, the honourable members for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan), as well as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other members on the Labor side. The same opinion has been voiced by the Australian Council of Churches, to which all the Protestant denominations are affiliated; by the General Synod of the Church of England in Australia; by Catholic publicists ranging from Mr Santamaria to the editors of the proLabor ‘Catholic Weekly’ in Melbourne; by eminent scientists such as Sir Macfarlane Burnet and Professor Gustav Nossal; and by authors such as Denis Warner and Donald Home, the latter, of course, being the editor of the ‘Bulletin’. It is obvious therefore that the plea for a change in this direction emanates not merely from idealists and impractical people, nor does it come solely from members of any one particular party; on the contrary, it has been made by men and by various bodies of a stature such that their opinions cannot be lightly dismissed. They have pointed the way which we should follow - the way which, 1 believe, we are in fact following. The people and bodies I have mentioned would like to see our present policy further liberalised but none of them, I imagine, would wish to urge an open door. This is the old bogy which so often was raised in the past - the open door and the Asian hordes pouring in. Lest it be raised again 1 say quite positively that I am not advocating any such policy, and I do not believe that any responsible person in this country has done so.
Australia cannot solve the population problems of under-developed countries in Asia or elsewhere merely by opening her doors. Most of the help that we give them economically must be given through schemes like the Colombo Plan. But we must also help to some degree to the extent that we are able to offer wider opportunity to those people, not of European race, who want to come here. Admittedly the number that can be absorbed here is probably small relative to the large populations of many underdeveloped countries. But in the long run there can be no rational justification for rigorously restricting the immigration of non-Europeans while at the same time we try, almost desperately, to obtain migrants from Europe. The fact that we maintain these policies side by side inevitably leads many politicians and journalists in Asia and Africa to attribute our attitude to racial prejudice and arrogance. We should remember that some of the non-European nations - for instance, India, Indonesia and the Philippines - include in each case a variety of ethnic groups which differ from one another, often very widely, not only in history and culture, but also in physique and skin colour. It is not surprising in the circumstances that Indians and Pakistanis and, in particular, the Filipinos, should believe that we Australians place altogether too much stress on racial homogeneity as a condition of building a stable society. Yet, if we look at the problem of migration to Australia from the point of view of the poorer developing countries, as well as from our own - if we see it as a problem, not just of immigration, but also of emigration - we may conclude that it should be possible to frame a policy which reconciles the interests of both Australia and her neighbours and which, as such, will command considerable respect overseas.
The non-European countries cannot at this time afford to lose too many of their well trained people, and when announcing the Government’s liberalised policy in 1966 the then Minister for Immigration said that there would be appropriate consultation with any government that was concerned about this possibility. There is evidence that India, Pakistan and Indonesia, in particular, are among the nations which would want to limit the emigration of well qualified persons. But as a recent series of articles in the ‘Australian’ pointed out, there are places in Asia where even though educational facilities remain inadequate overall, the supply of young professional men with certain types of skills has outstripped the ability of their local economies to give them employment. Hong Kong, for instance, contains a number of young Chinese who fear that sooner or later the colony, including the territories now leased from China, will pass back to China; who have no wish to live under Communist rule; who speak and write English fluently; and who have qualifications from either the University of Hong Kong or other universities which would equip them to teach or to practise some other profession in this country. Hong Kong, as we all know, is desperately overpopulated, with some 4 million people crowded onto 300 square miles, and there is evidence that the British authorities and the leaders of the Chinese community are anxious to encourage emigration. Likewise in Singapore, Mr Wee Kim Wee. deputy editor of the ‘Straits Times’, who was in Australia a few years ago, has spoken of a coming surplus of skilled people in that island, and has pointed out that some of them could be of value to Australia.
Educated immigrants of any race seem to adapt themselves more quickly than the less educated and are less likely to group into pockets or to attract antipathy, and that is therefore the category which we should most want to see expanding in the near future. But there are limits, of course, to the number of educated Asians, and even lower limits to the number of educated Africans, whom their own countries can spare. For this and other reasons the total regular intake of non-European immigrants to this country should be a fairly modest one, at least, until we can measure its effect and whatever difficulties and danger there may be associated with it. I believe that if we move with caution, with deliberation, the kinds of things which have been described to us so graphically by the honourable member for Newcastle are not likely to happen in Australia. I believe the risk, slight as it is, is worth taking for the sake of the great advantages which we shall derive from a further liberalisation of the policy.
The experience of other countries, especially Britain’s in recent years - indeed, our own experience with Chinese and Kanaka immigration in the 19th century - shows clearly that if migrants of different race to ours are allowed to settle here on a larger scale than at present, they must not be allowed to drift as a body into unskilled or semi-skilled employment. They are likely to command much more respect in the Australian community if distributed over a wide variety of occupations. The increased respect commanded by, say, the Greek, Italian and Maltese communities in Australia is partly due to changing Australian attitudes but partly attributable also, no doubt, to their increasing affluence and a move from the humbler occupations towards a wider variety of professions and occupations as their children become better educated and more attuned to life in this country.
It is also important that no group of Australians following a particular trade or profession, or with savings invested in a particular kind of business, should be allowed to suffer economically because of immigrant competition. None of us, surely, is interested in the sort of immigration policy which might be advantageous to the community at large, or some part of it, but which would expose some section of it to unrestricted or unfair competition. The Minister for Immigration took a valuable step forward when he announced early this year that nurses and school teachers would be among those Asians who might be allowed to settle here. That is an excellent expedient to ease existing shortages. But if we were to rely too much on newcomers to overcome major deficiencies in particular professions, such as exist in nursing and teaching, then we should be solving our immediate problems only at the risk of creating trouble for ourselves in the future. The right way to solve that kind of problem in the long term is to improve salaries and working conditions, relying on migrants only as an aid in alleviating the problems of the short term.
I want to stress this point, because if one looks at the various proposals for a new Australian policy towards non-European migrants one finds that no-one - literally noone - is asking for the sort of policy that would threaten the living standards of any section of the community. The supporters of immigration reform include, as I have said, persons of all shades of political belief, persons who would never lend their support to any scheme that could damage the interests of particular groups of Australians. There is no chance of this Government or any subsequent government doing anything of the kind. Instead, the non-Europeans whom we admit for settlement should fit into a wide range of occupations so that no-one suffers and so that the whole economy gains from their presence - exactly in the same way as occurs with European immigration.
The Department of Immigration stated recently that, applications from 332 persons described as well qualified had been approved since March 1966. They are spread over 25 occupations described as professional and about 20 others described as non-professional. They include 69 medical practitioners, 60 engineers and 47 university lecturers. Many thousands of Australians will benefit, directly and indirectly, from the fact that these people are working here, and our balance of payments will no doubt benefit from the presence of the nineteen businessmen who during the same period were allowed to enter as migrants so as to organise trade with other countries. In addition, businessmen and others who are here on temporary permits are often allowed to stay on, and since the 1950s non-Euopean students who marry Australian citizens have also been able to stay, lt is hard to be precise about the number who are acquiring that right annually under the present policy, since the numbers who do so in any one year may be affected by temporary factors, but the best informed estimates are that each year about 1,000 non-Europeans are allowed to settle. So the numbers involved are still very small. But Australia is achieving gradually a widely spread intake of non-Europeans, which is very different from the experience of Britain in the 1950s, when huge numbers of West Indians and others poured into the country, chiefly to fill jobs that the British themselves were reluctant to take, with the unfortunate consequences of which we are all aware.
Yet it would be unnecessary, and indeed morally wrong, for us to say that whatever happens in the countries to our north we shall never admit a migrant of different skin colour unless he has a qualification which makes him specially useful to us. I have mentioned Hong Kong and what may happen there. One day we may have to accept refugees from Vietnam. I shall not enlarge upon that. We all hope that it will not happen, but our course in that unhappy event is clear.
Meanwhile, continuation of the present trend towards liberalisation of our immigration policy will command widespread support in Australia. Do honourable members realise, I ask, how Australian opinion has moved on this matter in the years since the Second World War, and especially during the last 10 years? Looking at the newspapers which were published at the time, scarcely one newspaper or one letter to the editor criticised the policy that was then announced. Gallup polls have shown a continuing trend in the same direction. The question whether migrants of different skin colour can integrate harmoniously with Australians is too serious a matter for anyone to wish to flatter our people lightly on. But given our highly successful record over the last 20 years as regards migrants from literally every part of Europe, let us not underestimate ourselves, either. There is one feature of our immigration programme which has attracted relatively little notice but which, I believe, is immensely encouraging for the future.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move:
– 1 rise to order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I was denied the right earlier to have an extra period of 15 minutes. I do not see why any other honourable member should get additional time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Warringah is not entitled to an extension of time if any other honourable member wishes to speak.
– How long does he want?
– Five minutes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! In view of the fact that no other honourable member wishes to speak, I call the honourable member for Warringah.
– I thank the Committee. I repeat that there is one feature of our immigration programme which has attracted relatively little notice but which is immensely encouraging for the future. I refer to the fact that some 19,000 part-Europeans from India, Mauritius, Ceylon, Burma and elsewhere have settled here. The fact that these people have fitted into our community without the slightest friction suggests strongly that there is little reason to fear that the children of marriages between non-Europeans and white Australians will encounter significant prejudices or hostility. We are acquiring enough experience to say, even at this stage, that their difficulties will be minimal, whether the skin of the non-white parent be yellow, brown or black. If Australia continues to modify its immigration policy on the lines followed in recent years, telling the world what we are doing and why, I certainly believe we can avoid racial friction at home and at the same time shape an immigration policy which other nations can understand and respect. But that requires that we pay due regard to the interests of the countries from which migrants come, as well as to the interests of Australia.
As 1 intend to limit myself to 5 minutes, 1 shall come to my conclusion. 1 hope 1 shall be able to do so without much further interruption from my friend across the way. lt would be highly dangerous if we were to emphasise our desire for homogeneity merely as a mask for racial feeling, a luxury for which the price is altogether too high in the modern world. Why should we emphasise our desire for homogeneity in relation to the immigration of Asians and Africans yet rejoice in the diversity brought to us by European migrants? What do we mean by homogeneity if we are not talking about skin colour? If we are thinking of the social characteristics of people with coloured skins, what is so different in those characteristics which marks them off, say, from the Maltese, the Lebanese, the Turks and the Eurasians whom we are admitting? Some of these people have much darker skins than many Asians; so have some of us, whether born that way or eagerly sought from the sun.
If it is homogeneity of skin colour that we desire, our present policies are not retaining it for us. As Papua and New Guinea advances we shall inevitably admit more and more of the people of that country, either as students, as spouses, as people with special skills or as permanent migrants. If we are to retain our special relationships with Papua and New Guinea, this must happen. But if it is some other kind of homogeneity that we want we should be looking beneath the skin, whether it be fair or dark, for those qualities in which we should wish to be homogeneous - honesty, kindliness, fair dealing and a belief in democratic values, or whatever it may be. Those qualities are not confined, of course, to the white races, nor are they invariable possessed by all fair skinned people.
– Who wrote this?
– The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory may come and read my handwriting if he wishes. More and more we shall be living in a world in which people from all nations are mixing freely; a world in which the colour of a man’s skin will be less and less important and in which we shall value him for what he is. Some of us recently saw the Nehru exhibition which is now touring Australia. How can any of us measure himself against such a man? Yet I suppose Nehru would have been a prohibited migrant if he had tried to come here in 1920. By the same token, Napoleon would have been rejected for Australian military service in 1940 for being too short. How puny we mortals sometimes seem, puffed up by our own conceit.
Our immigration policy is not a thing apart. It is not a separate segment of our national life. Our attitude towards it is bound up closely with our attitude towards our own Aboriginals and our attitude towards the people of Papua and New Guinea with whom our ties are very close and which will, I hope, grow even closer in many ways as they advance, even towards nationhood. It is bound up, too, with our attitude towards the countries and peoples of Asia with whom we must work out the policies that are essential to our survival. It is bound up with our attitude to the peoples of Africa; our sympathy or lack of it, with, say, the Smith regime or the South African policy of apartheid. It is therefore closely linked with our defence and foreign policies. It will affect our trade and our culture. Rightly understood, therefore, our attitudes to all these matters are closely interrelated, even sometimes when we are least conscious of it. Let each of us look carefully within; let us ensure that none of us nourishes in his breast what Mr Arthur Goldberg, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, recently referred to as ‘this racist cancer’. This racist cancer has been productive of much that is ugly, evil and degrading in the lives of peoples and nations.
The Minister for Immigration and the Government must be careful not to race too far ahead of public opinion. By the same token they must not be too far behind it. Attitudes are changing, particularly amongst the younger generation. The Government will be conscious of a duty to lead and not merely to follow. We must be mindful also of the changing tides of world opinion. Despite what appear to be setbacks, the tide of history is sweeping us towards a true brotherhood of man. I am, I suppose, in all this an incurable optimist. Perhaps it is the only way to avoid being an insupportable pessimist. But I do believe these things are destined to occur. If mankind is to be spared for a better world in the future, this can only be through some such brotherhood of man - a world in which the colour of a man’s skin will be merely an element of grateful diversity, and our only concern will be the man within.
These thoughts may not spell out a revolution in our immigration policy - in fact I am sure they will not - but they are relevant to it. Let us continue, then, to liberalise that policy with due regard to our own interests and the rights and interests of others. I thank the Committee for its indulgence.
– I wish to join with those honourable members who have paid tribute to the Department of
Immigration, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and his officers for their wise, tolerant and just administration in relation to both European and nonEuropean migrants who have sought admittance to Australia. Australia has much to be proud of in its administration of an immigration policy that has gained much for us over the years. I suppose one of the great events of our time has been the transfer of thousands of people from other countries to our own under a policy which would rank as one of the great achievements of our age. Its success is a tribute to the various Ministers for Immigration, of whatever political party down to the present Minister. Tolerance and wisdom have guided that programme. 1 think it is to the credit of the Parliament that both sides have given almost unanimous support - there have been differences of opinion on various aspects of administration in particular cases - to the development and expansion of this programme for the future benefit of Australia. I have had the opportunity, both at home and abroad, of having close contact with the Department of Immigration. I have had close contact as the representative of an electorate which has a huge migrant population, many of whom are not from English speaking countries. I pay my tribute tonight to the officers of the Department for the work they have done, the zeal they have displayed, and the tolerance they have manifested under severe criticism, in many cases, without having the opportunity to reply in justification of their efforts, particularly in relation to non-European migrants. Without going into the situation further, let me pay that tribute and endorse the policy carried out by this Government, the Minister for Immigration, and the Department of Immigration generally.
No Department has done more for Australia. However, it receives little public credit for dealing with what is a very ticklish and difficult human problem - with people of different nationalities and different races who come up from all parts of the world to take up a new life in a new country. This involves great human problems which require humanitarian administration. Whichever side of the Parliament we are on, we should be proud of the part that the Department has played in administering this programme. 1 listened to the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) with great interest. He was given an extension of time to deal with what is a contentious issue in Australia - non-European migration. The honourable member is a very talented man. He is also a very idealistic man. He shares the opinions of many people in Australia and throughout the world; but no matter how humane he might be, no matter how idealistic he is, as a lawyer and an eminent Queen’s Counsel he should realise that one of the facts of life is that what he has expounded just will not work. Tonight in his exposition on the great brotherhood of man the honourable member did not tell us how Great Britain might overcome the problems associated with a multi-racial society. In my opinion no country is more tolerant of every point of view than is Britain. The British tolerate things that we in Australia would not countenance for a minute, be they political or otherwise. lt was in keeping with this attitude that the British Government of the day gave effect to a policy of allowing countless thousands of people of different races to enter the country. It is interesting to note that at that time the. British thought as the honourable member for Warringah thinks now. Mr Harold Wilson, the Tories and others were united in their belief that Britain should have a multi-racial society. The belief in the brotherhood of man in that great country demanded the people of the British Commonwealth should not be denied admittance. What happened? The British did not want to open the doors widely. They were like the honourable member for Warringah: They just wanted to allow a few people to come in so that they might show how tolerant they were. In 1959 they opened the door slightly and 21,600 came in from the West Indies, Pakistan, India and other African and Asian countries. The door was opened only a little, as the honourable member for Warringah desires, yet 160,400 people came in through that little opening in 1961. In the first half of 1962 there were 94,900 admitted to the country. The British now speak of the dark 2 million strangers in their great country. Mr Harold Wilson, the great advocate of the policy of admitting all people of the British Commonwealth, was responsible for the deportation of an Australian from Britain as the first example of the tolerance of the British Government under its new laws. I would have more respect for the British Government, notwithstanding that it is of the same political faith as 1 if, instead of imposing restrictions on Australians and other citizens who over the years have fought to protect Britain, it admitted that its immigration policy had failed. Let us be honest in this matter. The brotherhood of man and such ideals are great and magnificent ideals. I would like to see them implemented. 1 do not want to be described as a racist just because I am practical, but 1 have a responsibility to see that we do not bring to this country the problems that exist in Africa, America, Britain, the Philippines and other parts of the world. They are human and great problems. We must face them, but we have a responsibility to protect Australia from the disunity and the friction which inevitably follow a policy of free admission of ail people. This is one of the facts of life, lt is not a matter of a person’s colour. It is a matter of culture, background, atmosphere and environment. So, while I endorse the probably genuine sentiments of the honourable member for Warringah, experience the world over shows that his suggestions will not work.
As the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said, what is so wonderful about the Australians that they can solve this problem when no other country can? What is so remarkable about us that we can do this? Conditions in Australia would be similar to those existing in Britain and other countries if large racial communities developed in this country. We must appreciate the problems that could arise. I am not very concerned about what Asian countries think of our immigration policy. I have the right to say who will enter my home, and the people of Australia have the right to say who will enter their country. There are no more restrictive policies anywhere in the world than the immigration policies of Asian countries. The immigration restrictions imposed in the Philippines and the Filipino immigration laws would do credit to our Crimes Act. So when 1 hear these countries criticise Australia for its immigration policy I examine what they themselves have done. Remember what Pakistan did when the citizenship situation in Kenya arose. Pakistan would not take back its nationals, but criticised the British Government for not taking them.
Our immigration policy does not want apologists; it wants defenders throughout Australia and the world. It wants people who understand it. It arose from the great humanitarian objective in the early part of the century of safeguarding from exploitation people of different races. It has developed from a policy designed to give to people freedom, security and independence instead of exploitation. In this country we hear talk of opening our doors to large numbers of people from all over the world. Already we have some problems with Greeks and Italians - people of our own colour and culture. Nobody would say that after almost 25 years those problems have been solved. It is impossible to solve them as simply as the honourable member for Warringah suggested. I agree that it would be grand to bring people into this country and scatter them all over it, but even Australians living in England live in one part of London - Earl’s Court, generally known as Kangaroo Valley. The same thing would happen if we brought Asians to this country. If you bring people here from Malaysia naturally they will congregate where their friends are. If we lived in a foreign country we would do the same sort of thing. If this happened in Australia we could get a ghetto society. No matter who promotes these ideals, be they Labour men or not, no proof has been given to the people of Australia that they are practical ideals. Until they can be shown to be practical in Australia, notwithstanding that they have failed in every other country, I believe that we have an obligation to maintain the policy that we have followed in this country - a policy which, despite all the criticisms, has at least allowed us to live as a society in harmony and in a homogeneous way without the friction that exists in great countries such as America. Let us be practical and honest in these matters. I do not think that a multi-racial society would work in this country, but that does not mean that we should restrict the right of any particular person to enter. This Government, with the support of the Labor Party, has gone a long way along the road towards encouraging non-Europeans to come to Australia.
Countless Asian students are now here. I noted recently that 1,071 Chinese were naturalised. 1 think that people of Chinese or other extraction occupy high positions in the land. I go so far as to say that no people are less race conscious than are Australians, but I get annoyed when I see reports that some Asian migrant, for example, has category hopped his student visa, as the practice is termed, and has been deported because he has infringed our immigration laws. Such reports bring outcries from the Press, who print only one side of the story. In the meantime we have probably deported 100 British seamen who have jumped ship, but nobody cares about them because they are not Asians. The facts of the matter are that people do not present this problem in its true perspective and do not give the people of this country the true picture. The Government has liberalised the immigration laws. I think that those laws are administered tolerantly. 1 do not believe in quotas or in open door policies. I believe that the present discretionary power of the Minister should be supported on both sides of the Parliament. I, with others, had the responsibility of framing the policy of the Australian Labor Party. It is a sound policy and, broadly, it expresses the opinion of all people. It reads: Convinced that increased population is vital to the future development of Australia, the Australian Labor Party will support and uphold a vigorous and expanding immigration programme administered with sympathy, understanding and tolerance. The basis of such policy will be -
I believe that that policy has been followed by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and by his predecessors. I believe that that policy helps to keep us free from racial strife. I resent being termed a racist when somebody holds a view different from mine and is looked upon as an idealist. I do not resent his being an idealist, but in this world you must be practical. We should be proud of our immigration policy. We should be proud of those who administer it. Let us support it, because for future generations of Australians it means security, freedom and independence. It meansthe right lo live in a society free from friction and other problems so difficult to overcome, no matter how good one’s intentions might be. I think that our image in Asia stands high. The only people who criticise Australia’s policy in respect of Asia are Australians themselves. Even Tunku Abdul Rahman said. ‘It is a good policy and 1 do not mind you having it’. He has his problems with the Chinese in his part of the world. Tonight I again express my appreciation to the Department of Immigration. I regret that I have had to speak in this vein but 1 believe some people must defend Australia’s immigration policy even against criticisms made at times by members of the Minister’s own party. For my part, I feel I would be negligent if I did not support a policy which since federation has meant the building of a society of which we are proud and in which, with tolerence and understanding, many of those people are intermingling as an indication that we are not racial but are humanitarian and idealistic in a practical way.
– Let me congratulate the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) on what is probably the best speech I have heard him make in this chamber and what I think is one of the best speeches ever made on immigration. It is a great pity that the honourable member does not treat us to his obvious ability more often rather than clown as he so often does. I thought it was an excellent speech. I would like also to express my appreciation of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and the officers of his Department. The Minister is obviously enthusiastic. I pay my tribute to him for what he has done to develop our immigration policy at a time when it looked like suffering. I agree with all the other speakers who have said that the officers of the Department do a tremendous job. One could not wish for greater co-operation than we get from all the officers here and overseas.
Immigration is a very important part of our national development policy. Without it we could not develop this country at the rate at which we are developing it at the present time. Migrants have brought to Australia new skills, new cultures and new ideas. In many ways they have helped to rejuvenate our thinking and have given us a brighter outlook and a greater appreciation of other people and their cultures and abilities. The whole immigration policy has laid great stress on the ability of migrants whom we bring here to assimilate into our community. I have found throughout Asia, particularly in South East Asia, a great understanding of our restrictive immigration policy. The great majority of Asians do not want to come here at all. Many want to come here to study and learn and they are most appreciative of what we have done to bring so many students here. All through South East Asia we have a tremendous image. As the honourable member for Grayndler said, most of these countries in Asia have a much more severe restrictive immigration policy than we have.
In the proposed appropriation for immigration this year is an amount of more than $34m for assisted passages. This is more than $8m above last year’s figure. This is very largely due to the planning of Ihe Minister and the Department in lifting the intake of migrants at a time when, as I said earlier, it looked like falling away. We expect this year to achieve a target of 160,000 new settlers, or 22,475 more than in last year. There will be 105,000 assisted migrants of whom 70,000 will come from Britain. That is an excellent thing, because British migrants are much easier to assimilate than people from other countries.
The Department has made many new agreements since the Minister took office. New agreements have been made with Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. In addition to the very big increase of British migrants there has been a large revival of the flow of migrants from Italy. We know just what excellent citizens the Italians have made and how much they have contributed to the development of this country.
Assisted migration from Spain will be resumed. Although we have not had a great number of Spanish migrants before, those we have had have been excellent migrants. Perhaps one of the most interesting of the new agreements is the one with Turkey whereby we aim to assist the families of Turkish migrants to come out here. This is quite a new experiment; it is one we will watch with a great interest and one that has been greeted with great enthusiasm. It is getting enthusiastic support from the Returned Services League.
The old diggers who knew the Turks are most enthusiastic about it. It is very encouraging to see the RSL so keen to help in the assimilation of migrants. I believe that the Turkish migrants are great consumers of lamb. We will welcome them here if they are going to help us consume our lamb. This opens up the possibility of increasing exports, which is one of the problems we are faced with today. Of course, there will be a large number of Dutch and Scandinavian people, who have always been good migrants. Recently at a convention the Minister said he believed that in a little over 30 years we will have between 28 million and 30 million people in Australia. When one thinks that only 30 years ago we had 3 million people it gives one some idea of the tremendous effort chat is being made to bring people here to settle. It is a tremendous tribute to the Department that it has been so successful. No-one can deny that the effort has been successful.
As I have said, migrants add richly to Australian development and to our cultures. But they require housing, clothing, food, education and schools. This has played no small part in the full employment that the people of Australia have enjoyed in the last few years. Migration has assisted rural and secondary industries in all directions. If we are to be a power - we must be a power if we are to survive in this part of the world - we must have a larger population and we must develop our secondary industries and the best markets of all for our primary produce. We have a market for meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables and many other commodities which we produce. The man who is in receipt of a salary or wage is the farmer’s best friend. If we develop our secondary industries and have a larger throughput we stand a better chance of developing the exporting side of our manufacturing industries, which are very important indeed. There are many reasons why we have not been able to compete in overseas markets for’ secondary goods, one of them being that we do not have a sufficiently large population to give industry a big turnover to cut its costs.
I repeat that the Minister and the Department have made a great effort to see that our migrants are assimilated. But this cannot be done without the co-operation of other people and other institutions. I suggest that there is here a great need - I know the Department has done a lot of work on this - for many of our professional and skilled institutes and organisations to take a more serious and more generous look at their attitude to registering professional1 men and tradesmen. I recently had experience with an agricultural engineer who had been promised a job lecturing at a Victorian college. He was a highly qualified man with a family, he was naturalised, and he had been here for 5 years. He was an excellent citizen in every way. His qualifications were better than those required, but because he was not a member of the Institute of Engineers he was not able to take up the job. The Institute would not recognise his qualifications despite the fact that the Department of Immigration went to a great deal of trouble to have them carefully interpreted. Under the regulations applying in Victoria he could not accept the job that was waiting for him. It was a vacancy that nobody else was available to fill. Our people and institutions, particularly our professional institutions, must take a more serious and generous look at these sorts of things because we need all the skills and talents we can bring to this country if we are to develop it.
I again make an appeal for a greater effort by our own people to help our new migrants, our new Australians, particularly the womenfolk. Many of us have large numbers of migrants in our electorates. This is one area, I believe, in which our womenfolk can do a much better job than they have done in the past. It is easy for the men, it is easier for the children, but it is difficult for the women. If our own women and women’s institutions were to make a special1 effort, they would help tremendously the integration of these new people who mean so much to us and to the future development of this country.
– The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) said today that this country does not wish to see established here a multi-racial society. There was nothing new in that sentiment; it was a true statement of the traditional attitude of the Australian people towards the development of this country. We are not opposed to other people, but we do not want to import into this country the problems that other countries have created for themselves or have had created for them - problems that have led to social unrest, to industrial disturbances and to a possible reduction of living standards whenever tension has arisen. 1 was in England last year. It was tragic to see the problems that have been deliberately created by British governments over the post-World War II years in this matter. People were brought in because the labour was cheap or because they would do work that the British people themselves did not want to do. We have never created these problems for ourselves and we never should. We did have a Kanaka problem at one time. We did have a problem on the goldfields with the Chinese at an earlier period. We are not opposed to any person because of colour of skin or anything else. But we do not want to see created in Australia groups that are unassimilable, groups that want to segregate themselves or groups that do not wish to find themselves ultimately, either in this generation or succeeding generations, integrated in the Australian community. We want integration. I think the immigration policy in the post-war years has been eminently successful in this regard.
I wrote to the Department of Immigration to secure information showing what the Chifley Government did in 1947, immediately after the war, to ameliorate the conditions of the Chinese people who were living in Australia at that time, whether they had been settled here for a long period or whether they were among the- unfortunate people of all races who were thrown on our shores because of the conditions created by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. With the concurrence of the Committee, I incorporate in Hansard the document I have received from the Secretary of the Department of Immigration.
Chinese conducting overseas trade to the value of £500 per annum had been granted extensions of stay annually. 1947 decision - to grant extensions of 7 years at a time. 2.’Local Traders’
Any established Chinese firm with an annual turnover of at least £5,000 had been able to introduce an assistant - with an additional assistant (up to five in all) for each £5,000 turnover. 1947 decision- to reduce the figure of £5,000 to £2,500.
The ‘turnover requirement’ for gardeners to introduce assistants had been £1,500 per annum instead of the £5,000 for local traders. 1947 decision - to reduce the figure of £1,500 to £750.
Domiciled Chinese conducting local trade or gardens who wished to retire because of age or illness had been able to introduce substitutes if their annual turnover amounted to:
These permits had been renewable from year to year. 1947 decision - to grant 5 yearly extensions.
Local Traders had been eligible to have their families here for a maximum of 5 years at a time. 1947 decision - to allow families to obtain permit renewals beyond 5 years.
Assistants and substitutes had not been eligible to bring their families. 1947 decision - to allow entry in special cases.
Children between the ages of 10 and 14 had been eligible to come as students only if their parents were domiciled here. 1947 decision - to allow children to come here to the care of guardians other than parents. Students’ permits had been renewable annually. 1947 decision - to grant permits for the period of courses of study.
On 9th December the Minister for Immigration approved that non-Europeans admitted to engage in business and resident in Australia over 15 years could be allowed to remain without applying periodically for extensions of stay.
These decisions have never really been included in the records of the Parliament and it is important that the Committee should have them before it.
During the panegyric that was delivered to the memory of the late Prime Minister, Harold E. Holt, it was said that the Chifley Government had done little or nothing about this matter. We did what we could at that time and progressively conditions have been eased. I have no objection to the provision in the immigration policy today, but I do not want to see the barriers lowered as some people in Australia would want them lowered. At the last Australian Citizenship
Convention, one of Australia’s most noted scientists, a world figure, argued for a quota system for Asian migrants. I have always been opposed to quotas. How do we establish a quota? Who is included in a quota? But this distinguished scientist said that 5,000 Asians ought to be admitted each year and ultimately the number ought to rise to 10,000. He said he wanted to make the Minister admit that there was no such thing as a White Australia policy. But he was fighting out of his class, because during the debate he had to admit that he wanted 5,000 to 10,000 Asian migrants introduced into Australia each year because we did not have enough valets, butlers or maids, who could be drawn from the poor sections of the Australian community. I hope that that line of thought does not arise again.
We have done very well in the post-war years. It is 23 years and more since the Department of Immigration was created and in that period our population has grown from 7.5 million to 12 million. Of this number, 2 million have come from overseas. That is a net figure and is the surplus of arrivals over departures. The remainder came from natural increase. This is a good thing for Australia and it is a good thing for the migrants. If we had 100 million people we might be able to take a more detached view of the question of assimilation and so on, but we cannot afford to do that yet. Ceylon is an example of what can happen. It is a very small island but there are 800,000 Tamil Indians there. The Sinhalese people would like to see them go back to India. Recently an agreement was reached and under it 500,000 of these Tamil Indians will be deported from Ceylon to India and Ceylon will accept the remainder. The Tamils want their own language. They want to divide the little island of Ceylon into two. They want their own culture and their own religion.
Fiji is another example. The Indians were brought there as slave labour or as indentured labour. Now the Indians are so powerful that they control the whole of the economy. They are more numerous than the Fijians. They have petitioned the United Nations for independence. Britain has made a treaty with the Fijians under which it guarantees the Fijians the ownership of their land. The Tamil Indians want that torn up so that they can take the land of the Fijians. Asians are more intolerant towards fellow Asians in the matter of immigration than we Australians have ever been to any people. We have reason to be very proud of what we are doing.
I commend the programme of the Minister. Referring to this year, he said:
This programme of 160,000 exceeds by 22,475 the 137,525 settlers who arrived in Australia during 1967-68.
I would like to see more people come here. I have not time to go over the past. We could have had more people here in the post-war years than we took, although we took a tremendous number. We took all that we could. Most of the economists on the Government’s payroll and all around Australia opposed immigration at that time. They said it had inflationary trends. They were more concerned with the dangers of inflation than they were with the future population of Australia. We took our risks and the Menzies Government, with its first Minister for Immigration, the late Mr Holt, also took risks and the risks paid off. Unfortunately we have never been able to reach the 1 % that we set as the target for our immigration intake year after year. There have been economic troubles but I will not go over them. But sometimes the intake figure has had to be reduced. This has been unfortunate. I hope we will have such stability in the future that we will not need to consider a reduction of the intake of migrants. I would like to see not a perpetuation of the figure I have quoted of 160,000 for this year but an increase to 200,000 or 250,000. We must continue to take risks with inflation if our children and our children’s children are to hold this country which we have inherited from people of sturdy stock and strong hearts. These people came to this country with nothing but hope in their hearts and very little in their pockets.
There are five things we ought to do in order to make migration more effective. Firstly, I believe that all State governments must be able to provide free education and not just free tuition for all children, whether Australian or migrant born. Migrant people bring their children from countries where these benefits are available. Secondly, we need houses, not hostels, for the great majority of our new arrivals. Hostels are very good but we ought to build not only for our natural population increase but also for new arrivals. People who come here leave homes, no matter how poor they are. We should not ask people to live in hostels no matter how good they might seem to be. Thirdly, we must alter our social services laws to provide benefits for all citizens equal to all1 those obtainable anywhere else. If the House wishes to know just how good conditions are in other countries - almost without exception they are better than those in Australia - I commend to them the information on Australia’s immigration programmes for the period 1968 to 1973 which is contained in the report of the current Minister. Conditions elsewhere are much better than they are here. We cannot expect people who live in countries where social services are better than they are in Australia to come to Australia. Fourthly, we must pay proper recognition to the university degrees, diplomas, trade qualifications and apprenticeship certificates of all migrants. We have not done enough in this regard. It is a paradox - it seems almost a laughable paradox - that Australia had treaties for mutual recognition of medical1 degrees with only two countries when World War II broke out. These countries were Italy and Japan. We have a treaty with Great Britain but none with the United States of America. We do not recognise the degrees of any American State. Indeed, there are some American States that I would not want to see reciprocity of agreements with in regard to the recognition of medical degrees. We have none with Canada, but we have an agreement with New Zealand. I can say in passing that a Sydney doctor who comes to Melbourne may not issue a prescription unless he is registered with a Victorian medical board. No-one from any other State can go to Sydney and issue a prescription. How backward we are. I said when I came back from Europe that in the matter of education Australia is a nation of hillbillies. I was attacked rather vigorously for that, but it was nevertheless true.
Fifthly, and most importantly, every citizen, whether Australian born or naturalised, should be able to take his age pension with him if he decides to live outside Australia. After all, everyone who has an age pension has subscribed for it, has paid for it. He ought to be able to take it where he likes. I ask the Minister and the Department to consider altering our policy in the matters I have mentioned. If the Minister does I think he can attract more migrants. But all of us, as Australians, can be very proud of the success of the immigration policy.
– It was not my intention to speak tonight but I want to reply to the speech of my colleague the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John). I want to say at the outset that I respect him for the views he holds and admire him for having the courage to express them. But I believe that he is seeing the world through rose coloured glasses. He is seeing it as he would like it to be instead of as it actually is. I would say that anyone who believes that the United States of America, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom, has no racial problems has his head in the sand. I would not like to see this country having to contend with problems similar to those experienced by the two countries I have mentioned. In saying that, my views are not based on any idea of racial superiority or of colour superiority, but of life or human nature, call it what you will, lt is not a matter of judging a man by the colour of his skin but of facing reality.
I personally believe that a man should be valued for what he is, not for the colour of his skin. But this is not to blind myself to the racial strife that besets many countries of the world and of which, thank God, this country is free. I believe that our migration policy is sensible, generous and, more importantly, realistic. Furthermore, I believe it is understood and appreciated by most other countries. I hope that until such time as people change and the world becomes a better and more tolerant place - at present this seems a very long way off - this Government and future Australian governments of any political persuasion will continue with the present type of policy of selective migration. This is a policy of selecting people who we believe can be thoroughly integrated, who can make a positive contribution to the development of Australia and who can help to make Australia an even better country than it is today.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the quality of our overseas immigration officers, their courtesy and efficiency. Without exception, they are held in high regard by the countries in which they represent Australia. They are contributing a great deal to the very good image in which Australia and Australians are held by most overseas countries.
– My contribution to this debate could be called somewhat odd. I have listened tonight to supporters of the Government and to members of the Opposition. I listened to my respected friend and colleague, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) who would be more versed in the immigration laws of this country than any other honourable member. When I say that my remarks will be rather odd, I do not know whether I am in conflict or divided in my views. In 1962 I was in Hong Kong. I have not heard in the speeches delivered tonight anything said as to how an honourable member of the Parliament could answer the type of question that was put to me in 1962 when I dined in Hong Kong with a member of the Legislative Council. In a most friendly and courteous manner this member said: Mr James, you are a member of the national Parliament?’ 1 said: ‘Yes’. He said to me: “Can you tell me why your Government does not take a percentage of the Hong Kong orphans as New Zealand and the United States of America have done?’ If anyone in the House can give me an intelligent frank answer to that question 1 would be happy to receive it. We know that Hong Kong is in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Also, we know that countries of dark people are in the British Commonwealth. Every year on Commonwealth Day we are told about the great British Commonwealth of Nations and how we stand together united. We hear all the sugar coated political speeches that crowds clap. But some people of the British Commonwealth are denied free movement around the British Commonwealth because of the pigment of their skin. J do not know how any honourable member can get up in the Parliament and tell me that this is justice.
I have a job to do. 1 have difficulty in seeing why in times of war we ask the men of the Commonwealth countries to club together, shoulder arms and be prepared to die on foreign battlefields, as we have done in two World Wars, when in times of peace we restrict those people in their movements between Commonwealth countries. This is the great difficulty with which I find my conscience in conflict. I do not know how to get over it. In one way, I commend our immigration laws as they have been commended by members on both sides of the Committee. But I say to the Minister: When this question is put to me, tell me how I answer it? I do not know. How do I answer it in a convincing way without being a confidence man or spreading a furphy? I would sooner say to the person asking me this question: SI cannot answer you sincerely; therefore 1 will not answer you at all’. I would sooner give that answer than try to skate around the edge of the rink and give a false answer.
I want to hear from other honourable members who will be making contributions in this debate. I can see an honourable member on the Government side of the Committee making copious notes. I hope that he is writing down answers to the very things that I am raising. I appreciate also the great contribution made by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who is conversant with the problems of immigration. 1 do not intend to use the full time allotted to me in this debate, but I do want to emphasise one thing. I believe that 1 am the only member to raise this matter. When I say that, I am not seeking to pat myself on the back because I contend that when God created man he gave none of us a third hand with which to pat himself on the back. But 1 do not believe that the Department of Immigration is scrutinising the people who are coming from other countries to this country in the way that it should scrutinise them. The Department scrutinises these people on security grounds, as to their political beliefs, with great rigidity and thoroughness. But the Department does not scrutinise them on their character.
I will protect myself in saying this by adding that from the countries from which our migrants come we have received many, many very worthy citizens rich in character - equal to Australians of good character. On the other hand, we have received many evil doers. If it had been possible to get the governments of the countries from which those people have come to show the Department of Immigration their fingerprint records. 1 believe that the Department would have said ‘No’ to their migration to Australia.
I know that the United States of America, our great friend and ally, insisted in the past - 1 do not know whether it does this now - that any Australian seeking to go to the United States to live there permanently even if that person, for instance, was an Australian woman who had married a United States serviceman should be fingerprinted. I have cases in mind - I will give no names and no background - but the United States authorities insisted that those people be fingerprinted at our fingerprint office to see whether they had criminal records. If they had records, the United States authorities would refuse them admission to that country. This was so even if it; was the case of a woman who had married an American who was here on service. The wife of that serviceman, if she had a criminal record, would be refused admission to the United States. I remember that one woman, unfortunately, had a conviction for shoplifting. The United States authorities refused her permission to go to that country.
Following the Hungarian revolution in 1956, there was an influx into Australia of supposedly Hungarian freedom fighters. Now, the true Hungarian freedom fighter died underneath the Russian tanks. But the spivs and the crooks plus many decent people came to Australia from Hungary. Some of the biggest housebreaking robberies taking place in Sydney suburbs today are being committed by migrants who undoubtedly had criminal records in the countries from which they came. Certain members of the Criminal Investigation Branch in New South Wales have told me that these people can go up the drainpipes of three-storey fiats like a rat up a rope. Honourable members opposite laugh. But this is factual. It is true.
The Department of Immigration, to my mind, seems to say to these people: ‘What is your attitude towards Communism?’ The Department believes that the attitude of these people towards Communism is the reason why they want to come to Australia. They want to gel away from Communism. But they really want to get away from the police authorities in these Socialist, Communist countries because they are wanted there for robberies and persistent burglaries. If the truth comes out one day, these facts will be proven.
Mr Justice Dovey, who was present in this chamber today, sat one time as a royal commissioner to investigate the volume of crime committed by foreign migrants. He reported favourably concerning our migrants. But, with respect to Mr Justice Dovey, I do not think that the true figures were related to the royal commission on which he sat because the Police Department does not collate figures of crime and file them in relation to crimes committed by migrants and crimes committed by Australians.
– Where is the honourable member getting his figures from?
– From common sense, and if the honourable member persisted with it more, he would be a more worthy member.
– The honourable member would not talk like that with common sense.
– When the honourable member develops a bit more, he will have a greater chance of holding the Barton seat. But I am afraid that he is not developing it and that his political career is in jeopardy particularly-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member will return to the subject of the debate.
– With respeot to the Chair, I want to mention this fact: One of the most serious and most heinous crimes ever committed in this country was committed by a man named Edward Bradley. This was the first kidnapping case for ransom in Australia. This man was admitted to this country as a Hungarian freedom fighter. He kidnapped and murdered a little boy, Graham Thorne. This is a specific case that I mention to the public. If time permitted, I could mention many others. Where was Bradley arrested? He was arrested in Ceylon on his way back to Hungary. If he had got home to Hungary, the police authorities throughout Australia up to now and probably for the next 10 years or 20 years would have been investigating that crime at a terrific cost to the taxpayers because no extradition treaty exists between Australia and Hungary. - I would like the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) to have persons seeking to come to Australia checked. He knows something about this matter because he was embarrassed recently at a conference in London. I will be bringing that matter forward later not for the purpose of embarrassing him but because 1 believe that criticism is the right of any patriot in this country, lt makes Australia great. But the Minister should seek to have persons who are desirous of coming to Australia checked with the police authorities in their countries to see whether they have criminal records and whether they are fleeing not from Communism but from the consequences of their evil acts. The more indifferent the attitude of the Department of Immigration in this regard, the more the serious crime figures in Australia will continue to soar.
The Minister in the last week or so. I believe, indicated to the Parliament that the gates virtually will be thrown open to allow Czechoslovak freedom fighters to come here. Yes, welcome them, if their character is good. But the Minister, by this attitude - and time will prove the truth of what I have said - will get among the decent Czechoslovaks who will be flown to Australia a lot of scum, because this particular thing is overlooked by our immigration authorities. I repeat that the quickest way to get to Australia from one of these countries in which a revolution has occurred is to say: ‘Yes, I want to get away from the Communists. I hate the Communists’. Yes, that is okay. But our authorities overlook the fact that they should have men with greater training in the Department of Immigration. There should be some liaison, if possible, with the Communist governments to try to find out the background of these fellows who ure allowed into Australia, otherwise we will have more Bradleys and more kidnappings. Fortunately the kidnapping perpetrated by Bradley was cleared up, due to the diligence of the New South Wales Criminal Investigation Branch.
If the questions I asked earlier can be answered, I fail to see how, in the years ahead, we can maintain a rigid policy against a quota of Asians. If we look at the figures of crimes committed by Asians and crimes committed by southern Europeans we will find that there are fewer criminals among the Asians. I challenge the Minister and members from both sides to visit Australian gaols. They will see proportionately fewer Chinese serving sentences than southern Europeans or people of white races.
– They will see more Australians.
– It is obvious that we would find more Australians in gaol in Australia, because there are more Australians in the community. In fact, I put it to the honourable member for Barton that he would find more Chinese than Australians in China. It is as simple as that. The honourable member can continue to interject. He should avail himself of every opportunity to interject because his time for interjecting is running short. 1 have heard it suggested that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) intends sending me into the Barton electorate on the eve of the next election, in which case the honourable member, unlike MacArthur, shall not return.
Mr McLEAY (Boothby) [10.21- lt is refreshing to follow the provocative and puritan approach of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). However, I should like to refer to some of the remarks of the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) who made a most useful and excellent contribution to this debate. If my memory is correct, he is really the architect of our present immigration scheme, and I pay tribute to his work in the early days. Several of the points that he made should be mentioned. He dealt with the quota system and the danger that, by allowing the immigration of vast numbers of Asians and others, we would possibly be importing many valets, butlers and similar types. This was an extremely good point. In fact, what we would do by enlarging this sort of immigration would be to set up a second class standard of citizen, which would be unacceptable. He said the Chinese are more intolerant of immigrants than any other nation. I agree with him. The treatment of the Cambodians, who are a dark skinned race, is a classic historical illustration. The right honourable gentleman said that we need houses and not hostels for our immigrants. I hope that he will not mind a junior member pointing out to him that the Government is now, in fact, building flats to accommodate immigrants. I understand that the flats are of a high standard.
The right honourable gentleman made much play of the need to alter our social services provisions. We should place on record that immigrants are eligible for all social services, excepting the age pension group of benefits, on the same basis as Austalian citizens. I think that in the near future we will see the residential restrictions currently imposed on widows removed.
The honourable member for Hunter said that his remarks would be rather odd. I agree that they were rather odd. Actually his comments represented a disgraceful attack upon Hungarian immigrants and a disgraceful attack on potential Czechoslovakian immigrants. When dealing with multi-racial immigration he asked: How dp we answer the problem? I can tell him how the South Australian Leader of the Opposition answers this question. Mr Dunstan, the former Labor Premier of South Australia, in Melbourne on 8th September, is reported as having said:
It was lime that excuses about the White Australia policy were brought into the open and frankly examined. They were the result of attitudes as stupid as they were un-Christian. There was no reason why Australia should be so overwhelmingly European.
I think that the honourable member for Hunter will admit that this was the point he was making. The Press report continued: lt would be a very good advertisement for us to be a more cosmopolitan, multi-racial society’, Mr Dunstan said.
He believed Australia should admit some thousands of coloured immigrants every year, and plan their assimilation in the same way that the Government planned the settlement of white migrants.
This way, he was certain, coloured immigration would succeed. Australia could learn from the problems and solutions of overseas experience.
What I should like to know is what country has offered a solution to the problems. Such a thing as a White Australia policy simply does not exist. We strive for a homogenous society and we select immigrants on their general suitability, their ability to integrate and on qualifications of positive worth. We should place on record the sort of person, irrespective of die colour of his skin, who may qualify for entry in this way. They include persons with specialised technical skills for appointments for which local residents are not available; persons of high attainment in the arts and sciences, or of prominent achievements in other ways; persons who may be nominated by responsible authorities for specific important professional appointments which would otherwise remain unfilled; executives, technicians and other specialists who have spent substantial periods in Australia; and businessmen who in their own countries have been engaged in substantial international trading and who, if admitted, would be able to carry on trade with other countries which would be of significant value to Australia. There are several other categories, and it is interesting to note that there are more than 40,000 non-Europeans now resident in Australia. I think this completely negates the view put forward by Mr Dunstan.
I thank the Minister for Immigration (Mr Shedden), who is sitting at the table, not only for his activity in promoting Australia in the immigration field but for staying here during this debate and listening to the odd sorts of ideas put forward by all honourable members. I should like to deal briefly with the private overseas students programme and I quote from a booklet distributed by the Department of Immigration on this subject. It states:
In all, about 30,000 private students have advanced their education and obtained specialised training at Australian institutions since 1950. There are 11,000 studying here now.
I understand that almost 9,000 of that 11,000 are Chinese from various countries, including Hong Kong which was mentioned by the honourable member for Hunter. The booklet continues:
About 2,500 private students are enrolled at private schools and commercial colleges. The rest are attending schools, universities and, other tertiary institutions which are heavily subsidised by the Federal and State governments.
The main aim of the private student programme is to assist the students’ home countries by increasing their numbers of qualified people in areas ot special need.
We are training them in Australia with the idea that they should go back, with their special skills, to their own country. Some elect to stay here, for one reason or another, and I realise that this is a case where immigration, the needs of our own society and the needs of the Department of Labour and National Service tend to have blurred edges. What 1 should like to bring to the notice of the Minister for Immigration - and perhaps he can bring it to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) - is the fact that many of these migrants come to Australia at 18 or 19 years of age, with the intention of returning home. But for one reason or another - perhaps they marry an Australian girl or perhaps they fit into one of the other categories I have mentioned - they elect and are permitted to stay here. I believe that as, ultimately, Australia should have a universal national service programme - not necessarily a completely military national service programme - it is reasonable for us to insist that young migrants who finally want to stay here should be subject to the same obligations for national service as are Australian born or as are any other class of migrants. I think that this point might have been overlooked, and I ask the Minister to consider it and perhaps to discuss it with the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– lt appears to me that quite a number of people who adopt the attitude that a quota of Asians should be permitted to enter this country believe that those people who do not agree with them have a policy that is dictated by an attitude of racial superiority. They seem to contend that because a person is in favour of a selective system of immigration, his opposition to a multi-racial form of society means that he believes that the white race, the European, is in some particular respect superior to any other race. Of course, that is not correct. The attitude that dictates this policy is not that we want to preserve intact the racial character of the people of this country, and the attributes which they would pass on to future generations because we think they are better than Chinese or Asians or people from Africa or some other place. Some people seem to imply that the only object of a policy of selective immigration is the protection of the future of this country, which is desirous of securing migrants. Of course, that is not correct. In reality, the attitude of those who oppose a multi-racial form of society is dictated as much by a desire to promote the interests of the people Whom they exclude from Australia as by a desire to promote the interests of the people presently in Australia.
What would be the position in this country of groups of people who came here from Asia, as has been suggested? Would theirs be a happy position? We only have to look at other countries to find out that it would not bc a happy position. We only have to look at the Negroes who were brought from Africa to work as slaves in America. Even their descendants, after hundreds of years, find that the incompatibility between them and the white sections of the American nation is such that they, the American Negroes, cannot have a happy or congenial existence. That statement is indisputable. Because of that, I say that we who seek to prevent the introduction of quotas for Asian migrants, for instance, because we have reason to believe that Asians will not be assimilated easily in this country are doing so in the interests of those people who might otherwise come here in addition to the interests of those who are already here.
The right honourable member for Mel-‘ bourne (Mr Calwell) referred to a speech which was delivered at an immigration convention in Canberra in which a gentleman said that because we lacked servants we should have 5,000 or 10,000 people coming to this country from Asia. That is little different from the policy of the people who brought Negroes from Africa to work as slaves in America. They said that they lacked people to do the hard work that was necessary to be done in America. But the Negroes rightly refused to remain slaves. The quota of 5,000 or 10,000 migrants, as has been suggested, or at least their descendants, would refuse to remain servants for the master white race of this community, and rightly so.
After that suggestion was put forward, another person suggested that we should have migrants from Asia, as the previous speaker had suggested, but that they should not be servants. This person said: ‘What we should do is skim the cream off the Asian population. We should take those who have educational qualifications above the ordinary. We should take those who have the technical skills which would enable them to compete in the employment market within Australia.’ But at the same time, the Government, in bringing to this country thousands of migrants who had the skills and qualifications which would enable them to compete in the professional and other arenas in Australia, would under the Colombo Plan, be spending millions of dollars to educate people in Australia to go back to these countries to train people to take the place of those whom it had induced, by the assisted migration scheme, to gome to this country. Those ideas are totally illogical.
I agree with the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that we have to be realists; we have to look at what is occurring in other parts of the world. We should not merely pretend, merely talk about Christian virtues as though there were no Christian virtues among the American people. We should not merely talk about humanity as though no American had any humanity. We have to be able to show definitely that here in this country there exists some particular qualification which, given the same circumstances as exist in America, would not bring about the same result. Of course, we cannot show that. Not being able to, we should not endanger the livelihoods of people by bringing quotas of them from Hong Kong, from India or from other parts of Asia to this country in order that they can struggle in competition with Australians in the same way as Negroes are struggling in competition with the members of the white race in America.
The trouble that we foresee does not relate to any superiority on our part. The history of China proves that there were, and still are, in that country men of genius and capacity equal or superior to men of the white races. This is apparent also in India and other Asian countries. But there also exists an incompatibility between the two races. Whenever the two races are brought together unnecessarily it results in a condition of fear that is detrimental to both parties. Because of this I suggest that the attitude of the Minister in adopting a selective system of migration which would not exclude Asians is right. He does not promote mass migration from this section of the human race which is least compatible with conditions in Australia, and would be detrimental to the welfare of this country.
It is for this reason that I support the contention that we should continue with our selective migration system. After all, at present we are probably assimilating the maximum number of people that we can adequately and smoothly handle. If we accept 5,000 Asians it would represent only a drop in the ocean. Why not accept 10,000, 50,000 or 100,000? Even accepting 100,000 Asians would not solve the population problem that exists in Asia. If we are to treat Asians exactly the same as we treat other migrants, then there is no reason why a restriction should be placed on Asian countries which is not applied to other nations. Would we not discriminate if we said to one country that it could send 5,000 migrants in a certain period and at the same time said to another that it could send 200,000? If we took the same proportion of the population of Asia as we take of the population of Europe, Australia would not remain a multi-racial nation for long but would become predominantly Asian. Arguments would flare up with the European section of our population in a comparatively short period. Because of this I agree most emphatically with those who have spoken not merely in the interests of Australia but in the interests of the future peaceful development of the world generally. If we are to continue our existing peaceful attitude towards Asians, the quota system should not be adopted, lt would be the cause of immense friction. There would be agitation for a bigger quota and there would be agitation over the treatment they were receiving here. The same sort of incompatibility that is demonstrated in the United States of America, South Africa and elsewhere would not result in increasing our friendship with the Asian nations but would cause a deterioration of existing friendships.
– Firstly I want to apologise to the Committee because I was not able to be present for a short time during the debate. I will not explain the reasons for my absence; it is not necessary to do so. However, I apologise to any honourable member who spoke during that time. The fact that I was absent for a short period will not be of importance because I assure honourable members that everything said during the debate will be closely scrutinised by myself and officers of my Department. I undertake to examine any suggestions made. For instance, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) made four or five suggestions. I will be writing to him to explain my point of view about them. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) put forward a suggestion about the nomination of Yugoslavs, which is currently restricted to the relatives of people from that country who are now in Australia. He suggested that nomination should be extended to any person whom a sponsor wished to nominate. At the moment I am examining that question. I will write to the honourable member to explain my decision. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) asked for some technical information, and this will be provided for him.
Two points were raised by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) which cannot be left without comment. One related to the adoption of orphans from Hong Kong. 1 want to make it perfectly clear to the Committee that if a child is adopted by an Australian citizen that child will be admitted to Australia. There will be no hedging; there will be no qualification. However, what must be understood is that the adoption of such a child is a matter of State law. The child welfare authorities in the States are concerned for the welfare of such children; so also are the child welfare authorities in the country of origin. The adoption must be undertaken through international social welfare agencies. I repeat that no obstacle will be raised from the immigration viewpoint. However, very real difficulties are involved so far as the welfare of the child is concerned.
The second point made by the honourable member for Hunter constituted the main burden of his remarks. I regret very much that he chose to say what he did. From my experience, and by all the tests that can be applied, the honourable member was manifestly wrong in his allegation that among our migrants there is a far greater number of criminals than we would want. For instance, he said that most of the house breakings were committed by migrants. This is a completely erroneous concept and it is quite unfair to that great number of people who have come to live their lives in Australia and to become Australians. From my point of view there is no such person as a new Australian. A person is either an Australian or he is not. No matter whether he has been here for a short time or a long time, if he has committed himself to this country then he is an Australian.
– We are all immigrants or are decendants of immigrants.
– That is true. Indeed, there are many honourable members in this chamber who are the children of migrants, some having been born outside Australia, lt is interesting to note that one in four of the people in Australia today are either themselves migrants or come from migrant families. No country, with the sole exception of Israel, which in this context is a special case, has a higher proportion of migrants than has Australia.
– Others are descendants of people deported to this country for their country’s good.
– That is right. That was perfect selection. The essential point to make is this, and it is worth cogitation: We have had almost 21 years of planned massive immigration - a policy which, in my judgment, has made a tremendous contribution to what Australia is today, lt is a wonderful thought that after that period we can have a debate in this Parliament and find that on the major issue everybody in the Parliament is absolutely committed to the maintenance of that policy and recognises the very real contribution made by that policy. I hope that it will ever be so. 1 hope that the policy will be implemented and applied in the same way by the Department and by the Minister, whomever he may be, at a time as far into the future as our human eye can see and that at the end of that time, the human eye seeing further, they will carry forward the development of this country to a point where we are mature, where we are developed, where we are strong and resolute and as an ally will be sought after by other countries and where we will make our contribution in a sense of justice to the people of the world. To achieve that, there is no doubt that the arrival of people is the prime point of the equation.
– You will be forgotten then, Bill.
– I will indeed, Dan, as all of us here tonight will be forgotten, but it will be a great country that we bequeath to the people who follow us.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Interior
Proposed expenditure, $72,649,000.
– In this Parliament a week or so ago I presented a petition from certain citizens of the Australian Capital Territory praying that the Government take action to set up an inquiry into the actual costs of living in Canberra. I am sorry to note that in the estimates for the Department of the Interior there is no provision that would accommodate the establishment of such an inquiry. 1 do not think anybody who has any knowledge of living in Canberra - anybody who has lived here for any length of time - would deny that this is a very costly place in which to live. 1 do not doubt that there are some in the community who would seek to justify the high cost of living. There may be some Who are doing very well out of it. But the great mass of people living here find that the cost of living is extremely high. They have extreme difficulty in managing on the salaries and wages that are paid. We may ask - people living in Canberra are able to find the answers to these questions - how many men in a wide range of employment in Canberra find it impossible to maintain their families properly on a single wage. We may ask how many men in Canberra in government or private employment have found it necessary to seek a second job in order to feed, clothe and educate their children. The cases are myriad. We know of men who are working full time in their regular employment and who find it necessary, in their hours off from their regular work, to take cleaning contracts, to work as casual barmen or to drive taxi cabs. How many families today - and this is particularly applicable in Canberra - would be unable to carry on unless the wife and mother also worked? Here I am not talking about the wife with a grown-up family who takes employment because she wants to be occupied or because she wishes to assist in the provision of some item of luxury living or some other objectives; I am talking now of wives who have to go out to work in order to provide properly for the needs of their families.
The cost of living in this city is excessively high and wages and salaries do not adequately compensate for the extra costs.
I think evidence is mounting of the need for the establishment of a separate wage in Canberra or, if not a separate wage, then the payment of a special Canberra allowance incorporated within salaries which recognises the extra cost of living in this place. But when I suggested in April of this year that there should be a full inquiry into actual living costs in Canberra my proposals were opposed by an employer organisation and by estate agents in the city, one of whom happened to have been the campaign director for the Liberal Party in the election campaign at the end of 1966.
Their reactions were quite to be expected, but I think I can claim to have something of a mandate in this regard. Governments, of course, place great store on mandates, lt is a wonderful thing to have a mandate to do this or a mandate to do something else anc to be able to stifle criticism by saying: We have an instruction from the people to follow this course’. I. want to say to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who is at the table, and to the Committee, that the principal item in the policy that I. put forward during the 1966 election campaign gave an absolute promise that an incoming Labor government would conduct an inquiry into costs, prices and charges in Canberra. This, I said, would be a real cost of living inquiry, not satisfying itself merely with a comparison of single item prices as between, say, Canberra and the State capitals, but taking into account all the features of climate, distance and freight costs. The inquiry, I promised, would measure the actual cost of maintaining a family in Canberra in purchases of food and household requisites, furniture and furnishings and winter clothing, with the inescapable costs of home heating and family transport. Following this cost of living inquiry, I promised, a Labor government would take action to assess the need for a separate Canberra wage either by variation of the base rate or by a special loading or allowance to compensate for the demonstrated higher cost of living. in stating this policy I gave an assurance that the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance would be amended to restore protection to the tenant of business premises. I said we would reintroduce fair rent provisions in respect of business premises and would maintain these provisions in relation to dwellings. These policies were soundly endorsed by the electors of the Australian Capital Territory’ who were good enough to give me a substantial absolute majority over the total votes polled by my four opponents at that election.
– Do you think there is another one coming up?
– I hope the honourable member will get his chance to vote one of these days. I still believe these policies should be implemented and I believe the people of Canberra today would endorse that view as solidly as they did in 1966. But we come back to the question whether the cost of living in Canberra is high. I believe that it is. I believe the Canberra housewife budgeting for the needs of her family would concur. I am impelled to ask: Why should anyone, employer or businessman, oppose the conduct of a judicial inquiry into living costs in Canberra?’ Such an inquiry would not be concerned with political beliefs or points of view. It would be concerned with evidence and all who wished would have the opportunity to give evidence. If such an inquiry showed that the cost of maintaining a family in Canberra was higher than the average of the six capital cities, on which our wage is still technically based, should there not be a compensating increase in wages and salaries paid here? Surely, I suggest, that would be only fair and reasonable, just as it would be fair and reasonable to apply a similar loading to pensions and superannuation payments.
I believe that those who could give the most direct evidence on the comparative costs of living are the public servants who, with their wives and families, have been transferred here recently from Melbourne and other cities. They are finding that what was adequate to their needs in the cities from which they have come is not sufficient to provide a similar standard of living here. Similarly, serving members of the forces who are posted to Canberra find that the pay and allowances which maintained their families adequately in other cities of the Commonwealth are just not sufficient to maintain them here. Once again we have the wives of serving members of the forces going out to work. We have the men themselves faking second jobs. Indeed, there has been some smattering of industrial trouble over this, as perhaps the Minister would know. It is undoubted in my mind - and I have the clearest of evidence on this from serving members of the forces - that it is not possible for them to live and maintain their families properly in this place on the salaries they are receiving, although these salaries, allowances and whatever else is an element in the wage, were adequate in the city from which the have come.
This is a matter of politics. The former Minister for the Interior, now the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), when he rejected a request that I made for an investigation into the cost structure said quite bluntly:
Since Government policy is opposed to interference in retail price levels and normal business procedures I cannot accede to your request.
That was a request for an inquiry of the type that 1 have suggested. The Minister said quite flatly that the Liberal-Country Party Government would not hold an inquiry into costs and prices and would not institute any form of price control. I believe that in giving that answer the former Minister for the Interior threw aside all the evidence produced by the Trades and Labour Council and by other community organisations, including Canberra Consumers Incorporated and the Housewives’ Association. He rejected recommendations from the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and refused to do anything to disturb the sacred cow of private enterprise and its absolute right to exploit and to profiteer. Honourable members opposite may say that I am talking party politics and that I am a doctrinaire socialist. They may be right, but I have lived in Caberra for nearly 22 years and I have represented the Australian Capital Territory electorate for nearly 171 years. I see the evidence in the cases brought to me in my office here in this building and I know that the people in this city are finding it extremely difficult to manage on the wages and salaries that are available to them. There are many reasons for this, I suppose, but what I want to see and what I hope the Minister will ensure is a fair go for wage and salary earners and their families, and particularly for those in the community on low fixed incomes.
Honourable members may ask what type of inquiry is needed. As I said, it is not sufficient merely to compare single item prices. We have to take into account ali the factors that make the cost of living in this city so high. Some of the factors which are so obvious include the need to provide here a whole range of warm winter clothing - underclothing and outerclothing. These are items that are not so common to the needs of families in the capital cities of the States. But in this climate the housewife finds that she must’ provide a complete second wardrobe for the whole of her family- for the husband who goes out to work, for the children and for herself - and this is extremely expensive. The heating of a home is another item which bulks large in the budget of a family living in Canberra. I have figures which show that the cost of heating a home throughout the long winter months averages out at about S3 a week. These factors are not taken into account in price indices or measures of that kind.
I believe that the only way In which the actual cost of living in Canberra could truly be established would be by instituting the type of inquiry I have suggested. I see no reason why the Government should hesitate to do so. The present Minister for the Interior lives in Canberra. Therefore, he must have gained some knowledge of the cost of living. From moving around among the people who live here he must also know of the difficulties that families are facing. I point out to the Committee that a public servant working in Canberra receives exactly the same salary as does his counterpart in Sydney or Melbourne and yet he must meet from his salary all of these additions to the cost of living. He must meet the cost of maintaing his home, the cost of heating it, the cost of the winter needs of his family and the cost of transportation. All of the items that bear heavily on the wage and salary earner should be taken into account. 1 should think that the Government would be pleased to set up such an inquiry. If the Government does not believe that the cost of living in this city is high the way to prove it is by instituting the type of inquiry I have suggested. Let us have the inquiry set up and let us have the evidence produced. If the evidence showed that the cost of living in Canberra was not considerably higher than the average cost of living in the six capital cities I would be completely astonished but I would accept the evidence and the finding of the committee of inquiry. If, on the other hand, the committee of inquiry found that the cost of living is high, surely, as I have pointed out, there should be a compensating amount in salaries or wages to meet the proved additional cost of living.
One could mention many other factors affecting the cost of living in Canberra. One such factor is shop rentals. This goes back 10 years or more when all protections previously existing for the tenants of business premises were removed from the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. This means that once a shopkeeper’s lease is up he is completely in the hands of the landlord and if he wants to keep his business operating he is required to meet any demand that the landlord makes. It is not uncommon for rents to increase by 100%. It is also not uncommon for the landlord to demand that the tenant undertake certain capital expenditure to improve the landlord’s premises. These expenses, of course, must be recovered in the prices that the shopkeeper charges over the counter. I do not think that anyone could deal with this subject in the time that has been available. However, I hope that the Minister will have some regard to what I have said.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. C. Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make one comment on the statement by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) that the cost of living in Canberra is high. Canberra is not the only place in Australia where the cost of living is high. I am quite sure that there are many honourable members in this chamber who represent electorates where the cost of living is higher than the average.
I wish to refer to the provision of assistance for members of Parliament by the Department of the Interior. I particularly would like to commend the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) on the fact that when a number of honourable members pointed out at this time last year that there were only 2 typists for 40 members of the Liberal Party, 1 typist for members of the Australian Country Party and 2 typists for members of the Australian Labor Party there was an increase of 50% in the number of typists provided. I feel that this indicates the Ministers awareness of the problem faced by members of Parliament. I wish to express my appreciation of the fact that this problem was recognised.
However, the main point I wish to discuss tonight is the position of members of Parliament and the role that they play in our society. When we look at the continual growth of paper work in which members of Parliament are constantly being involved, at the Press releases, items of interest with which they should become familiar and the problems in their constituencies, one wonders whether they are legislators or just message boys for Ministers. I would like to discuss the problems of electorates and the variations in the types of electorates. Firstly, we have the comparison of an affluent electorate with a poor electorate. Secondly, we have the member who holds a blue ribbon seat and the member who holds a politically unpredictable seat. These variations in types of electorates make a good deal of difference to the way of life of members of the Parliament. Electorally speaking, the people in an affluent electorate generally need very little help but the people in a poor electorate, an electorate with a big percentage of pensioners, need a lot of help. I am quite sure that honourable members on both sides of the Committee will agree with me on that point. A member who holds a blue ribbon seat - I say this respectfully - does not need to worry about the needs of his electors as much as other members may. He knows that it would take an earthquake to shake him out. But in a politically unpredictable electorate, the member must throw himself into the electorate work and must pay full attention to the small matters. I recognise here that it is the little things in life that count. Such a member must dedicate himself to these small matters, whether he likes it or not.
Last year at a referendum the people of Australia rejected almost unanimously on the basis of States the proposal that the number of members of the Parliament be increased. We must take notice of this expression of opinion by the people. We cannot dismiss it lightly and we must not think, because of it, that we can stand still. We must continue to look for ways to improve government and to ensure that the people get the most they can out of this democratic institution that we hold and cherish so dearly. I believe that today the people of Australia are not getting the most out of our system of government. I believe that our system is lacking in some respects. It is clear that the people on the whole do not want to have more members in the Parliament, but we must assess the situation and the work that has to be done in the electorates so that we can view these matters in proper perspective and put them on a more acceptable basis.
Members of the Parliament often act as ombudsmen when matters are brought to their attention by constituents. People feel that they have suffered an injustice. Sometimes they may be brushed aside by officers in a Public Service department and their member of Parliament is their last resort. Many people advocate the appointment of an ombudsman, but I believe that such an appointment would be a complete and utter loss, unless the ombudsman was an elected member of our society. Sometimes officials who do not have to consider the possibility of being removed from such a position forget the little matters and people who take a problem to them may be brushed aside if it is thought that they are not important. If a person were elected to this position, the danger is that politics would creep in. We know that the Australian Labor Party, for instance, cannot keep out of elections even at the level of local councils and I do not think it would keep out of the election of a person to the position of ombudsman. However, I do not offer any criticism at this time.
I would like to make some comparisons with the system in the United States of America. I refer to the House of Representatives in the United States of America, which has 435 members. For the purposes of my argument, I propose to refer to some of the States at random and the population figures that I shall mention are those for the year 1960. In the State of Tennessee there are 3,500,000 people. That State is divided into nine districts and has nine members. The State of Dakota with 682,000 people is divided into two districts. In West Virginia, with a population of 1,860,000, there are five districts and in the State of New York, with a population of 16,500,000, there are forty-one districts. On the average, there is one member to every 380,000 people. When we examine the position of staff for members we note that in many cases Congressmen have staff of as many as eighteen or twenty people. We find that the districts of the United States of America, 100,000 people on the average, are serviced by four or five people under the control of their local Congressman.
In Australia, taking into account our senators, and working on the same basis, we find that the proportion of a senator to an electorate varies from two senators to every federal division in Tasmania to only about one quarter of a body per electorate in States like Victoria. When we take into account the member plus his secretary, plus, say, a quarter of a person for the value of the senator, we find that there are two and a quarter people serving an average of 110,000. In my opinion, we have now reached a situation where members are being overburdened with this type of work.
The people elect us to Canberra to act in the role of legislators, to give full consideration to legislation in order to ensure that every Bill passed by the Parliament is discussed thoughtfully. I believe that while most people might reject the concept of more members of Parliament the powers that be, if this proposition were put to them, might be induced to increase by one or two, the personnel who might be made available from the Department to assist the various members with their work.
I know that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) is one member of this place who fully appreciates what I am saying because he is virtually the mayor of Canberra. He looks after the people’s problems from A to Z. I know that if he were given the opportunity to speak again tonight he would possibly make a very thoughtful contribution to the debate on this subject.
I believe that matters such as the percentage of pensioners in an electorate must be taken into account. As I mentioned at the outset, some members represent electorates where, month after month, hardly anyone needs assistance from the Federal member. Unfortunately, however, there are many electorates in which there is a tendency to let sleeping dogs lie. In those cases, it is known that many people are in need of help but it is easier to shut one’s eyes and forget about them. If a member is doing his job properly, if he is studying the legislation and keeping himself up to date, just as a doctor keeps himself informed of recent changes in surgery and medicine, he does not have time to spare from his parliamentary duties. I might state here that I believe that a Federal parliamentarian should be a full time member.
I conclude by suggesting that the Minister might give consideration to this matter over a period because I believe that something has to be done not only to relieve the weight on members of Parliament but, more importantly, to make certain that the people of Australia who subscribe to and whose forefathers have died to ensure the continuance of our democratic system do in fact get a good deal and true value for their money.
– In rising to speak to the estimates for the Department of the Interior I draw the attention of members to the fact that some $7i-m was spent on roads, bridges and that sort of thing up to the end of June of this year. I want to speak about one item in particular. 1 refer to the Commonwealth-State joint assessment of the proposed alternative route between Canberra and Tumut. This question has been debated and discussed; and surveys have been conducted over a period of years. The National Capital Development Commission was given the job of examining the benefits of the two alternative routes. The New South Wales Department of Main Roads was1 given the job of reporting on the construction and engineering aspects of the routes. The NCDC has made an extensive study of benefits to be derived from the opening of a road, particularly in regard to produce that would be carried over it, such as agriculture and forestry products. Such a road would be valuable from the point of view of commerce and particularly from the point of view of tourism, lt offers a tremendous potential for tourism.
I understand that the New South Wales Department of Main Roads has done a particularly good engineering survey. The astounding thing is that these two surveys were completed away back in January. I know that the NCDC in its usual efficient style completed its job prior to this date. 1 hold a letter from the Commission saying that both reports had been completed and were in the hands of the printer. The Commission saw no reason why they should not be released within a few weeks. The letter was dated 1 3th January last. 1 am stilt waiting. The State Minister for Highways, when 1 asked him in June what was the reason for the holdup, said: ‘I can promise the report will be released within the next few days’. L am still waiting. 1 appeal to the Minister to press for release of the reports. The Minister has stated that it must be a joint release. 1 believe that the New South Wales Government is stalling in the release of the report. I believe that it is stalling about making any attempt to gel on with the construction of a road.
The road from Canberra to Tumut is a vital and important one. First of all, it would be a direct route between these two centres, lt would cut the road distance from about 120 miles to 70 miles. Instead of people having to travel through Yass and Gundagai they would go direct - on whichever of the two alternative routes was chosen. I am not advocating any particular route; l am saying, let us get this road through. It is of tremendous importance to the people of Canberra and Tumut. I believe that tourist traffic alone would bc so heavy that it would only be a matter of time till a further road became an absolute necessity. In addition to being an asset to the two cities, it would be a short route to Melbourne. I might draw the attention of some honourable members from Victoria to this. They would save themselves a long trip by being able lo go down over a very beautiful scenic route.
I was recently at the opening of the Blowering Dam at Tumut. This is an enormous dam which holds three times the amount of water that is in Sydney Harbour. It is a tremendous asset to the State and to the people downstream. But it has not been such a tremendous asset to Tumut. It has great potential for Tumut and the people of Canberra as a tourist attraction.
But the shire council has lost a large amount of revenue because of the flooding of some of the most valuable land in the area or anywhere in Australia. The land owners who inherited this land and developed it have been forced to give it up. I will say here that they did this in very good spirit when you consider that some of these properties were held for several generations and passed down from father to son and developed as they went. The people of Tumut are entitled to an opportunity to develop the tourist potential. They have lost land and the shire has lost revenue. The butter factory lost about one-third of its supplies. Large numbers of stock and large quantities of produce were removed from the market.
Blowering Dam presents one of the most delightful potentials for water sport anywhere in Australia. It is a long way ahead of Burrinjuck and the service clubs of Tumut have spent many hours, weekend after weekend for months, clearing stumps and trees from the foreshores so that it can be developed properly. There are snowfields further on the western slopes as yet undeveloped. People who know the area claim that the snowfields are better than those on this side. Here again is a tremendous potential for sport which could be developed to the advantage of the people of Canberra. The National Capital Development Commission has spent much time and effort in conducting its survey. Are they to be wasted, too? Are the people of Canberra to be denied access to what is perhaps the most beautiful area in this part of the State?
At Tumut we have a number of timber mills. The timber is being drawn the long way to Canberra. We have a number of factories including the most modern pineboard factory in the world. Milk and produce are being brought the long way around. Here is a tourist attraction just over the range and we are being denied access to it. Think of the potential, not only of Blowering but also of Talbingo, and the scenic route which would be opened up by the road through to Tumut, up through Batlow, Tumbarumba, down the Murray Valley and through to Melbourne. What a wonderful road it would be. What an attraction not only for the people of Australia but also for the tourists from overseas.
I believe that the State Government has an ideal opportunity to have this matter taken up as a joint operation with the Commonwealth Government. It is of such great value as a tourist attraction and to the people of Canberra and of the State that there is a very good reason why the Commonwealth Government should come to the party with funds. There is precedent for this in the Captains Flat road, the Batemans Bay road and the Savage River road in Tasmania, to mention just a few. If the New South Wales Department of Main roads cannot do the job - I am beginning to wonder whether this is why it is stalling - I see no reason why we should not hand it over to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority which I am sure would do the job quickly, effectively and at considerably less cost.
I appeal to the Minister to approach his colleagues in New South Wales to see whether he can get them to take some action in relation to this road. There seems to be no reason that I can discover why they cannot present their report or why we cannot get on with the development of one of the most important roads in New South Wales, if not in Australia.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680924_reps_26_hor60/>.