26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I desire to inform the House that a delegation of four members of the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association led by the Right Honourable Lord Brooke of Cumnor, C.H., is at present in the gallery of the House. On behalf of the House and the Commonwealth of Australia branch of the Association, I extend to members of the delegation a very cordial welcome.
Honourable members ; Hear, hear.
– The Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, left Australia on Friday 18th October to attend a meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Colombo Plan in Seoul, and a development assistance committee meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. He expects to return to Australia about 15th November. During Mr Hasluck’s absence the Minister for Air, Mr Freeth, will act as Minister for External Affairs.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has the Premier of New South Wales written to him on behalf of all the Premiers asking him to confer with them concerning Commonwealth and State financial relations? When did the right honourable gentleman receive the letter? Has he replied to the letter? If he has, what was the nature of the reply? If he has not, when does he expect to be able to reply?
– The answer to the Leader of the Opposition in the form in which he has asked the question is no. I have received from the Premier of New South Wales on behalf of the other Premiers a request to meet them on one specific matter and that is the effect on their budgets of the recent basic rise given by the arbitration court. That is the only request I have received. I received it in a letter dated 10th October and I have not yet replied. The matter is being studied by the Treasury and my own Department and there are no specific suggestions placed before us al this stage.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Could the Minister advise the House how the preliminary investigation into the proposal for . a feasibility study to be undertaken for deepening Torres Strait is going?
– I regret that at present I am not in a position to answer the question. I know that there have been some inter-departmental discussions on this matter and that depths have been looked at vis-a-vis the possible usage of tankers in particular. However, I am not in a position to give the honourable member an immediate answer. As soon as I can, I will go into this matter and see that the honourable gentleman receives a reply.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House of the latest schedule for delivery of the FI 1.1. aircraft? Will the cost of further modifications to the aircraft be covered by warranties and guarantees in the contract arrangements? Has the Minister seen reports of a drastic cutback in production of the Fill? What effect would such a cutback have on the cost of the Australian purchase? What effect would it have on future procurement of spares for Australia’s Fill aircraft?
– In respect of the Fill aircraft generally, the investigation of the wing carry through structure has proceeded. The failure was due apparently to an isolated small crack induced during the manufacturing process in the metal surrounding a taper lock bolt hole. No other imperfection of this nature has been found during inspection of more than 2,500 holes, but a total of 5,000 will be inspected. It appears therefore that the fault in this particular case was an isolated one. During the course of these investigations other high stress areas have been located. These will be reinforced. In the meantime, as a precautionary measure the United States
Air Force is retaining the present temporary flight limitations pending the reinforcements being carried out. At the same time, of course, static fatigue and operational flight tests and training will continue.
It is not possible at this stage to say when delivery of Australia’s aircraft will be made. As the honourable member will know, we have in America at present two scientists from the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. We also have in America one of our most experienced and highly qualified technical air commodores. We have not yet had the benefit of their full and detailed reports. Until these have been received it is not possible to say what arrangements will be made regarding modification and acceptance of further aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. I do not at this time have any official advice regarding any proposed cutback in the production programme. There have been Press reports about this matter, but these have not been authenticated. The honourable gentleman will be pleased to have the assurance that even if the production programme is cut the ceiling price of Australia’s aircraft of S5.95m will not be increased, st ill allowing, of course, for an escalation in terms of wages, materials and other modifications. Modifications to the wing carry through structure, necessary to bring the aircraft to full standard, will not increase the ceiling price of Australia’s aircraft of $5.95m.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. The honourable gentleman will hz aware of the recently perfected general antivenene for snake bite covering all known venomous reptiles in Australia and New Guinea. As there appears to be some doubt as to the availability of this antivenene to the public on a free list, will the Minister clarify the position?
– I noticed a report in one newspaper about this vaccine. It has been available for some time. It is very expensive, as the honourable member would imagine. In practice it has been felt to be much better to use monovalent vaccine when the snake that has bitten a person can be identified. The matter of making the general antivenene available as a pharmaceutical benefit is currently under consideration by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
– The Prime Minister will recall my personal interview with him on 8th October concerning the serious drought being experienced by upwards of 200 farmers in my electorate along the east coast of Tasmania. He will recall that I supported the plea of the Premier of Tasmania for direct Federal aid in the matter. Has the Prime Minister received further representations from other groups and members of Parliament, backing the Premier of Tasmania? ls the right honourable gentleman aware that the situation has worsened dramatically since I interviewed him a fortnight ago? Can a decision be made soon regarding the Commonwealth’s intentions?
– I remember the honourable member making representations on behalf of a group of farmers in that particular area of Tasmania. I thought the numbers were said to be about 130 or 140 farmers; if the honourable member says 200 now, perhaps that is right. The area and the number of people affected by the drought seem to be such that it could not unreasonably be the subject of assistance by the State Government, particularly as I understand that the Tasmanian Government has unspent a considerable amount of money already provided to it for assistance of various kinds from the Commonwealth.
– Did the Minister for Primary Industry attend a large meeting of wheat growers at Warracknabeal in the electorate of Wimmera last Thursday? Was he also present at a meeting of dairy farmers at Tongala on the following day? Can the Minister say whether these meetings were beneficial from his own and the producers’ points of view?
– What the honourable member says is correct. I did attend two large meetings, one of about 800 wheat growers at Warracknabeal and another of about 500 dairy farmers at Tongala. One of my objectives since becoming Minister for Primary Industry has been to go out and meet the farmers and discuss matters with them face to face. I have found that Australians will always give one a fair hearing. Farmers want to know the facts. I believe that at these meetings I did get a lot of facts across to them. I think I managed to demonstrate to the meeting of wheat growers at Warracknabeal that the Government’s proposals were reasonable, fair and indeed, in the light of world situations, relatively generous. I also pointed out that they would need to be careful in following the attitude of some leaders of the Victorian Farmers Union in opposing the Commonwealth’s proposals and in not supporting the State Government in putting through complementary legislation, because if the Victorian Government does not put through complementary legislation the whole of our orderly marketing scheme for wheat will be jeopardised. 1 think 1 got through to those present at the dairy farmers meeting the fact that their present difficult circumstances were in no way a result of Government action, and indeed that they would have been a lot worse if the Government had not provided compensation for devaluation and also if it had not given an underwriting guarantee of 34c per lb commercial butterfat. I also managed to get through to them the importance of not pressing the Government to subsidise exports of dairy products. Indeed, a motion was proposed at the meeting that the Commonwealth should pay a subsidy on all dairy products, but this motion was lost. This indicates quite clearly that if one does talk to farmers they adopt a responsible attitude.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the near completion of the east-west standard gauge railway line, can the Minister say whether the Government has any plans to use the equipment and know-how which have been built up during the present construction period and which will soon become available? Is the urgency to upgrade the Marree-Alice Springs and the Birdum-Darwin lines to standard gauge now receiving priority as a start in the construction of a north-south standard gauge rail link, which is important in the development of our northern areas and the internal defence of Australia?
– lt is true, as the honourable gentleman has suggested, that an efficient transport system is vital to the development of Australia. It is particularly vital in some of the central parts of Australia where this year’s wet season has caused undue disruption to present transport facilities. Over the years a number of alternative proposals for the construction of facilities for various means of transport to Alice Springs have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government. There are, of course, within the State of South Australia continuing responsibilities upon the Government of that State for the construction of roads in particular. The provision of a viable alternative by either a rail link or another road link is currently under examination.
As I understand the question the honourable member referred to the build-up of equipment which has taken place in the construction of the standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Cockburn. This is something which the South Australian Government Railways necessarily had to take into account in determining whether it would undertake the work or whether it would have been preferable for all or pari of the work to be undertaken by private contractors. No doubt additional work will have to be undertaken in various parts of Australia. One would hope thai wherever it is undertaken it will be possible to utilise existing equipment and skills. At the same time it is the responsibility of a Government to ensure, whatever the work, that some consideration is given to the cost to that Government and. in the long term, to the resultant additional burden of freight that has to be passed on to the users of the particular transport system.
– Did the Prime Minister yes: crday see the television programme ‘This Day Tonight’ on which the honourable member for Yarra appeared and stated that he was the patron of the movement which is circulating an underground newspaper throughout Melbourne high schools? Does the Prime Minister feel any concern that a leading member of this Parliament is the patron of what is claimed to be a subversive organisation? Has it any connection with the protest by 100 secondary school students from New South Wales organised by the Communist Party in May of this year? Will the right honourable gentleman ascertain what other subversive or underground organisations the honourable member is a patron of?
– I did not see the television programme to which the honourable member referred, and therefore am at something of a disadvantage in answering his question. However, if the honourable member for Yarra did appear on the programme and did state that he was a patron and a supporter of a magazine circulating among secondary school students which was in fact - and this I do not know - a subversive pamphlet, then that obviously ought to be a matter for concern to all members of this House.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry aware that Petersville Australia Ltd. one of the largest processors of peas and beans in Australia, has recently taken a substantial interest in the New Zealand food manufacturer. Instant Foods? Is the Minister aware also that the monopoly, J. Wattie Canneries, of New Zealand, has recently taken over the Melbourne based food distributor, J. R. Allen and Sons, for the purpose of distributing its New Zealand-processed peas and beans in this country? In view of these facts and the undoubted other advantages such as climatic conditions, and production and freight costs, will the Minister give urgent consideration to our earlier request for the deferment of the 20% reduction in duty on New Zealand peas and beans that is due to take effect from 1st January next year?
– From perusing the newspapers, I was aware of the acquisition by Petersville of a shareholding in a New Zealand company. I am not aware of the second commercial transaction to which the honourable member referred, lt is true that in the past few months all members from Tasmania have expressed to me the substantial concern amongst the pea and bean growers in Tasmania. In the result there has been an endeavour to arrange for consultations between representatives of the industry in Tasmania, representatives of the industry in Australia generally and those concerned in New Zealand. The provisions of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement are based on a necessary recognition of the differing needs of the producers in each country. It is intended, if it is possible, that these talks between Australian and New Zealand growers will take place probably in the first week of November. If as a result of these discussions the problems facing growers in Australia, and particularly those growers in Tasmania, can be resolved within the present pattern of the trade, it is hoped it will not be necessary to proceed further to look at the question of ‘any action that might be implemented under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The future for growers of peas and beans in particular is difficult to predict. This has been one of the uncertain areas which have caused the difficulties in this present growing season. Because of the extent to which a substantial increase has taken place in imports from New Zealand, concern very naturally is felt by producers in Tasmania. lt is for this reason that it is hoped that recognition can be given by New Zealand producers to the peculiar problems that this substantial increase in production has caused the growers in Tasmania.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. Has the Government received a report on the effectiveness of the ‘Coral Sands’ operation carried out principally by the British in the northern part of Australia? Is there anything to learn from this exercise which can be used by our defence forces? Will a report be submitted (o the Parliament regarding this operation?
– A full analysis of the reports coming in after Exercise ‘Coral Sands’ is still proceeding. I would believe that there would be a good deal to learn from a major exercise of this kind. In the past, it has not been the practice to submit reports of this kind to the Parliament.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of the growing concern at what appears to be the continuing infringement of ordinary civil rights, such as is implied by the expulsion of a Melbourne boy from a high school on political grounds and the collection by police of dossiers on the civilian population, not necessarily associated with crime, as revealed recently in the Victorian Parliament? This seems to be associated with a campaign led by such members of this House as the honourable member for La Trobe to reduce the civil rights of people. Will the Attorney-General examine the practicability of introducing into this Parliament legislation giving civil rights protection?
- Mr Speaker, I am not aware of anyone having been discharged from a high school on political grounds. Indeed, I think there is a good deal of confusion in the present discussion about civil liberties and civil rights. The point is reached where it is taught in some quarters that it is a civil right to disobey the law and that this is one of our civil liberties if in conscience one disagrees with a particular law. If this argument applies to anyone, it applies to everyone. We would not be able to have any enforceable laws.
I see no point at this stage in introducing a civil liberties Act, if that is what the honourable member was suggesting. This matter is constantly under review. The Government rather takes the view that it is better to remedy particular areas where rights of individuals may be threatened as, for example, by the introduction of anti.bugging legislation or something of this type. We are considering currently the question of appeals from administrative decisions. I think that this is a much more fruitful area than trying to generalise on the subject of civil liberties in a statute.
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I believe that recently officers of the K Shipping Line held a meeting in Hong Kong. Will the Minister tell me whether any decisions have been made rationalising shipping services to Australian ports from the K Shipping Line? Furthermore, in view of the heavier volume of goods that have been exported from the port of Adelaide recently through the K Line, has consideration been given to this port by that line in any rationalisation of its schedules?
– The discussions that took place in Hong Kong were not in connection with the service that is presently undertaken between Adelaide and South America, to which the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question referred. However, during the discussions in Hong
Kong, general consideration was given to the possible reconstitution of the northbound and southbound conferences, which provide a shipping service between Japan and Australia. It is into these conferences that the Australian National Line, the Flinders Shipping Company and the K Line seek to introduce a roll-on roll-off shipping service which will operate in competition with the container service that is to be provided by three Japanese owned container vessels and two-cross-trader container vessels owned by British and other European shipping companies. The discussions were inconclusive. However, recognition has been given, at this stage, to the entry of the Australian National Line into that trade. Further discussions are scheduled to take place, probably later in this year.
It is true that the loading of K line vessels for South American and Caribbean ports has been greater than that achieved in previous calls at South Australian ports. The honourable member for Angas and a number of other members from South Australia have been particularly concerned to ensure that it will be possible to maintain a viable shipping service between Adelaide and South America in view of the substantial development of export markets which has been achieved by South Australian firms. It has not yet been possible to make a forward assessment of the possible continuation of this K Line service, but when results are to hand I shall ensure that the honourable member is informed. He may rest assured that, if it is at all possible, the access that has been gained already by South Australian firms to these export markets will be preserved.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Has a group of Australian businessmen indicated its intention to establish a private trade commissioner service in North Vietnam? Is such action within existing Australian law? Could trade goods sold by such a service be transported in Australian ships within existing Australian law?
-I did read in the Press a report that a group of businessmen, of whom I think Mr Patrick Sayers was mentioned as one, had had discussions with me as Attorney-General regarding trade with North Vietnam and that i had assured them that it would be legal. I take this opportunity to say that no such discussion ever took place, lt is probably an instance of the art of misinformation which, if it runs long enough before a correction is made, could perhaps take some people in. I think the honourable member would have heard statements in the House to the effect that trade with North Vietnam in strategic materials is prohibited. Indeed, no trade is at present permitted from Australia in respect of other materials.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the present over-supply of wheat on world markets and the increasing demand for fodder crops, including soya beans, is the Minister satisfied that sufficient is being done by this Government and by Stale governments to encourage research studies, field trials and the commercial production of new crops of this kind in Australia? If he is not. will he take heed of the pace of development in this direction in countries such as the United States of America and Canada and also take appropriate steps, in association with the States, to strengthen our own position?
– The question of research into alternative crops as a solution to any over-production of wheat is not one that can be looked at quickly. Research programmes generally extend over a period of time and range over research into plant breeding, field trials and commercial economic evaluation. Today we have research into plant varieties that are suitable for this country. They may be suitable for other countries, but may not necessarily be appropriate for Australian conditions. Economic factors cannot be considered solely in the light of the condition of the wheat market today. This could alter in a year or so if seasonal conditions here or in other countries are adverse. Research into the use of alternative crops must be looked at carefully over a period. There is a limit to the amount of money and the personnel available for this type of work. However, research committees and research institutions allot priorities to areas of research and they must decide between research into existing crops and research into alternative crops, lt is not really for the Commonwealth to determine these priorities. This is the province of the industry organisations and the research institutions.
– 1 address my question to the Prime Minister. Did the right honourable gentleman note the lead story in Saturday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ that he knew of a statement by President Thieu concerning a United States offer to stop bombing North Vietnam and that the statement looked very hopeful? I ask him whether he made or authorised this statement, which the newspaper attributed to him.
– I did notice a statement in the Melbourne ‘Herald’, which 1 think was copied from a statement published in the Sydney ‘Sun’. I would like to assure the House and the Leader of the Opposition that the only statement made by me in Sydney in response to requests relating lo the matter under discussion was this:
The United States Government has the responsibility for the carriage of these negotiations. The Prime Minister will nol make any comment until such time as President Johnson makes an announcement.
This is a statement that 1 will continue to make and beyond which I will not go no matter what rumours may circulate in the future. That is the sole statement made and 1 have it on good authority that the Sydney “Sun’ completely fabricated the other remarks and they were then copied by the Melbourne ‘Herald’.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. When does he expect to be in a position to inform the House of the steps that will be taken in regard to Federal electoral boundaries in Queensland?
– The matter to which the honourable gentleman refers is presently before the Government. As soon as 1 am able to do so I will make an announcement on this subject.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. He will recall that in the important statement in which he announced a reduction of the price of petroleum products from the Bass Strait field to the refineries he made a promise to the House that he would make a further statement on oil search incentives. Is the right honourable gentleman in a position to make a statement now on the Government’s intention with regard to the search for oil and on any national policy that may be adopted on this matter? Will the Prime Minister outline the features of a national fuel and energy programme for Australia, indicating the manner in which all forms of energy - coal, oil, natural gas, water and nuclear power - are to be used?
– A statement on Government policy on all these matters will be made when Government policy is at a stage where it should be announced to the House. The time for such an announcement is not question time.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Premier of New South Wales made any request to the Prime Minister either in the submission on relief for the drought affected regions of the Eden-Monaro electorate and the Moss Vale and Cobar districts, or subsequently, for a Commonwealth contribution in the form of a subsidy on feed wheat for these regions?
– I have already announced to the House that the Commonwealth Government was providing funds on a dollar for dollar basis for the drought affected areas of New South Wales. I do not have in my own mind whether an application for the use of these funds has been made or, if it has been made, for what purpose the funds will be used, but the fact that the funds are there is known to the Government of New South Wales.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. I understand that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd leases shops to private individuals who negotiate hire purchase arrangements in respect of furniture, home appliances and other goods with migrants living in the hostels. Can the Minister inform the House what supervision is maintained by officers of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd to protect migrants who have language difficulties from unfair agreements which could arise in connection with these hire purchase transactions?
– I must inform the honourable member that the conduct of these hostels falls within the ministerial responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. When the question was addressed to me, my colleague, naturally enough, did not fully appreciate its nuances. However, I shall ask him to co-operate with me in providing the honourable member with an answer later.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. Has his attention been drawn to a Press report that a long range weather forecasting system being used by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has proved 70% to 80% accurate in its predictions? Is this report correct? If so, can the Minister give any details of the system, particularly as it may be applied to the Riverina?
– My attention has been drawn to this report. I think the techniques that are being used by the Division of Radiophysics of the CSIRO were first introduced only in March or April 1967, and I suggest that the time that has elapsed since then has been much too short for any conclusion to be reached as to the accuracy of those techniques. Among other things, the Division of Radiophysics is working on what is called a mathematical computerised programme in an attempt to establish past weather cycles and project those cycles into the future, and then see whether those projections are accurate. Details of projections were circularised to various Commonwealth and State instrumentalities on a confidential basis, and the report may have emanated from information from one of these sources. Much as I appreciate the advantage of accurate long range weather forecasting for a whole host of activities, and particularly for rural industries, I can only suggest that any report such as the one referred to should be treated with extreme caution. I think at the moment what is being done is like trying to break a drought with rainmaking aircraft when there are no clouds on which the aircraft can drop the necessary chemicals.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will he consider levying a tax on all jet aircraft which cause more noise than conventional planes when they land at or take off from Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, the receipts from such tax to be granted, as an area disability allowance, to local councils in whose areas residents are affected? Will the Minister, through his Department, encourage manufacturers to design and install quieter engines in these aircraft?
– The simple answer to the first part of the question is no. we would not be able to impose a tax of that type because, first of all, we would have no power to do so and, secondly, I do not think that by doing so we would achieve the ultimate objective. The question of the problem of noise in relation to Sydney Airport, where the problem seems to be the most intense in Australia, is one which, as 1 have said from time to time in this House, is engaging the attention of my Department and of associated departments. Quite a considerable amount of work is being done in this field which I will not reiterate now.
The part of the question relating to engine design deals also with a subject which 1 mentioned fairly recently in this chamber. There has been a considerable break through in this field. Engine manufacturers in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom and in European countries have now achieved a design whereby, with the new type of aircraft which will come into operation within the next few years, engine noise associated will be considerably less than that of aircraft flying al the present time. I hope that later, when 1 have more time available, 1 will be in a position to give the technical details associated with this. I merely reiterate what I have said, that there has been a considerable break through in this particular field which will achieve a lot in the future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Now that it has been decided that the new house of parliament will not be located on the lakeside, will the area there on which it was proposed to erect the new house of parliament remain vacant for all time, thus preserving one of the most beautiful vistas in the world? ls it possible to introduce regulations to prevent further buildings being erected on the lakeside, thus preserving the foreshores of the lake for all time?
– The situation in relation to the lakeside site is that it is part of the parliamentary triangle and, therefore, no decision to build on it can be taken without Government consent. In other words, if there were any plans afoot to erect a building on the lakeside site they would need the affirmation of the Commonwealth Government. In common with the honourable member, now that it has been determined not to build the new parliament house on the lakeside 1 do not believe it would be desirable to put a building directly in front of the new parliament house, which will be on either Camp Hill or Capital Hill. Certainly no such proposal should even be considered until such time as a new parliament house site is decided upon and a new parliament house is in fact built.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to the passenger tax of 50c per passenger embarking and disembarking from aircraft in Australia. Will legislation authorising the imposition of this tax come before the Parliament or will it be introduced by regulation? Does the tax apply equally to children as to adults? Is the Minister aware that the tax will unfairly discriminate against passengers on short flights?
– Legislation covering the passenger service charge, which 1 must emphasise is not a tax, will come before Parliament, I hope very shortly, and all the information that the honourable member seeks will be in my second reading speech.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the Press statement that a party of about fifty Czech doctors will arrive in Australia. Does this announcement herald an encouraging break through for the Minister and his Department in negotiations with the medical profession to recognise certain overseas qualifications? Where are these doctors to be absorbed?
– I have not seen such a Press report. I would not have thought that the number of doctors coming from Czechoslovakia and resettling in Australia would reach fifty. There is quite a number who will be coming and the opportunity for them to come is being provided in some of the States where special arrangements are being made to admit them to practice.
In some States the law will not permit them to practise and despite my asking the States to do what they could to have these people admitted, 1 have had replies from some States saying that this just cannot be done. Other States have been most cooperative. I think the value that will be seen from the intellectual increment, apart from the professional skills that these men have, is such that it may very well herald a break through. But the break through T am looking for is co-operation in a plan that I am putting to all the States for an examination to see which qualifications have equivalence with our own.
– For the information of honourable members, 1 present the lists of grants approved for the year 1969 on the recommendation of the Australian Research Grants Committee.
Motion (by Mr Anthony) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 1 month be given to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 1 month bc given to the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) owing to his absence from Australia.
CUSTOMS BILL (No. 2) 1968 Second Reading
– I move:
Before referring to the more significant amendments contained in the Bill I should mention that some of the procedural changes it covers have equal application in the excise field. I will therefore be introducing a number of excise Bills which provide for similar amendments in that legislation.
A number of important changes have taken place in Australia’s commercial and industrial activity in recent years. The general expansion and development of commerce and industry have been coupled with major refinements in commercial accounting systems. The Department of Customs and Excise has a close association with many major commercial and industrial activities and recent developments have presented a challenge to the Department’s traditional role.
Some of the developments I have in mind are the containerisation of sea and air cargo; jumbo jet and supersonic aircraft; the speed of modern transport facilities and computerised central accounting systems. These factors, coupled with an overall increase in activity, have pointed to the need for Customs to review its operations in order that the growing demands of industry and commerce may be met. The Department has conducted the necessary review which indicated desirable changes in several major customs procedures.
The main purpose of this Bill’ is to provide for the introduction of new streamlined procedures. The present system has three main elements - detailed supervision by an officer of all operations; maintenance of independent records by the Department without regard to the client’s own commercial records; and the obligation on business enterprises to present individual Customs entries and/ or specific requests for approval for each operation.
The new system of control, known as commodity control’, calls for planned checking by officers of normal commercial records and accounts maintained by those engaged in the production and distribution of customable and excisable goods. Planned random checks of associated physical operations supplement those of a documentary nature. It is proposed to abandon full time, detailed supervision by officers of all operations and maintenance of unnecessary independent records. It is also proposed to replace individual entries or permits by a continuing approval system wherever possible.
The Department’s plans for the progressive introduction of commodity control to other areas following its successful application to the petroleum industry have been the subject of scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee. Following its examination the Committee asked the Department to hasten with its expansion of commodity control procedures, and the amendments proposed in this Bill will enable it to do so. As envisaged by the Public Accounts Committee in its examination of excise activities, the Department has extended the commodity control principles into the warehousing, shipping, airline and general customs fields.
The procedural changes envisaged will result in the following advantages to the economy as a whole. In the first place they will permit a more efficient customs control with a minimum of administrative cost. Already some of these changes have resulted in some savings in staff whereas continuation of traditional customs practice would, of necessity, have required additional staff. Additionally, the changes will confer a number of advantages of commerce and industry. Customable goods will be cleared or moved with minimum formality and customs procedures will conform more closely to current commercial practice. 1 am taking advantage of this opportunity to introduce a number of other amendments to the Customs Act. These also follow a comprehensive review of systems of operation and control which showed that there were other procedures which, while not directly related to the proposed commodity control concept, could also be improved. They wilD provide the flexibility necessary if departmental requirements are to be progressively adapted to meet the changing circumstances of industry and commerce.
The measures proposed in these amendments are presented to you after detailed discussions with various industry bodies such as airline and shipping companies, customs agents, importers and commercial and manufacturing interests. Every endeavour has been made to introduce, where practical, innovations to procedures to enable the Department to fulfil its function of protecting the revenue with a minimum of interference to the free flow of commerce.
One of the more important of these amendments provides for the removal of specifier! goods direct to the importer’s premises before presentation of all related customs documents. This procedure will obviously do much to reduce costs and to avoid port congestion. A further amendment will allow importers to pay duty prior to the arrival of imported goods. This provision should facilitate immediate delivery of goods on arrival1. Another provision will enable goods subject to customs control to be removed under a continuing approval system. This will obviate the need for each removal to be individually documented, thus relieving commerce of unnecessary inconvenience.
The Bill also includes provisions which will facilitate Australia’s accession to the European Convention on Customs Treatment of Pallets Used in International Transport. Another amendment provides for the streamlining of ships’ stores controls in the interests of tourism. The need for carriers to be licensed to carry under bond goods has also been abolished by this Bill. The Bill includes a number of amendments which are of a minor drafting or technical nature or are consequential on the major amendments to which I have already referred. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
EXCISE BILL (No. 2) 1968 Second Reading
– I move:
A number of the provisions of this Bill, which seeks to amend the Excise Act 1901- 1968, are complementary to those in the Customs Bill (No. 2) and are necessary because of procedural changes to which I have previously referred.
The amendments in this category will permit the full application of the commodity control methods in the excise area. They will allow the acceptance of the normal commercial records kept by persons producing or dealing in excisable goods as an accounting medium for those goods, instead of prescribing in legislation particular separate forms of records to be kept for departmental purposes. Clause 15 of the Bill relates to this aspect, the provisions of which follow the lines of section 92a of the Customs Act in relation to responsibilities placed on licensees of customs warehouses.
Other features of the Bill related to the commodity control system will be found in clause 24. The provisions will provide a more simplified arrangement for the removal of excisable goods, subject to control, from one place to another by permitting a Collector of Customs to dispense with currently used prescribed documents known as entries where, for example, a commercial document adequately records such a transaction.
In the case of goods required for home consumption delivery by a licensee operating, for example, in a country area, the provisions will permit suitable arrangements to be implemented for payment of duty so that access to goods will be available to the licensee on no less favourable terms than those applying to persons conducting their excise business in close proximity to customs houses. The Bill also prescribes conditions relating to the operation of approved places, which are storage points for excisable goods situated away from manufacturing premises and form part of the marketing system for such goods. Provisions relating to the approval of these storage places will be found in clause 5.
Other main features of the Bill are to be found in clause 28 which provides for calling up refunds or drawbracks of excise duty incorrectly paid; in clause 38 which provides for duty free treatment for certain ships’ and aircraft’s stores; and in clause 25 which allows a manufacturer duty free access to small samples of excisable goods for purposes such as quality control. These amendments will bring excise legislation into line with provisions of the Customs Act in the areas to which I have just referred.
In view of the existing provisions of the Excise Act 1901-1968 and of amendments proposed by this Bill, certain provisions of the Distillation Act 1901-1968 will no longer be necessary. For similar reasons, the existing provisions of the Beer Excise Act 1901- 1968 and the Canned Fruit Excise Act 1963-68 can be dispensed with.
Therefore, I will be introducing later a Bill to amend the Distillation Act and repeal Bills in respect of the Beer Excise Act and the Canned Fruit Excise Act. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
DISTILLATION BILL (No. 2) 1968 Second Reading
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
When introducing the previous Bill, which seeks to amend the Excise Act, 1 foreshadowed that amendments to the Distillation Act 1901-1968 would be sought.
The main provisions of this Bill deal with the repeal of certain sections of the Distillation Act and amendments of sections governing the use and possession of stills. Clause 5 of the Bill extends the existing incorporation of parts of the Excise Act by including Parts V and VI of the Excise Act. Those parts of the Excise Act relate to excise supervision and control of factories and excisable goods, the payment of duty, and records to be kept by manufacturers. Inclusion of the parts in the Distillation Act makes the corresponding sections of that Act unnecessary, and they are repealed by clause 13.
The provisions relating. to stills have been redrafted to state more precisely the circumstances in which it is unlawful for a person to have, for example, possession, custody or control of a still. In addition, the Bill removes certain redundant provisions from the Distillation Act-i-for example, those relating to conditions of operation of distillers’ plant prior to the operation of the Act in 1901. This is provided for in clause 9. All existing distillers and distilleries now conform to the requirements of the Distillation Act. Finally, clause 16 of the
Bill raises the penalty for illegal interference with spirit at the premises of a vigneron to the level which applies in relation to illegal interference at a distillery. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to which I referred when introducing Excise Bill (No. 2). It seeks to repeal the Excise Acts relating to beer as the necessary control measures over this commodity will be authorised by the provisions of the Excise Act 1901-1968 as proposed to be amended. Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill provide, respectively, interim measures relating to existing licences and securities, and for control over beer that may remain on brewery premises in respect of which a licence is cancelled prior to the provisions of this Bill becoming operative.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal the Canned Fruit Excise Act 1963 and the Canned Fruit Excise Act 1968 for the reasons I have already outlined in relation to the Beer Excise Act Repeal Bill. The provisions of clause 6 of the Bill relate to existing deposits of money or guarantees given against excise duty commitments under the provisions of the Acts which it is proposed to repeal.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
(No. 5) 1968
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to make certain amendments to sales tax legislations which are necessary to facilitate Australia’s accession to the European Convention on Customs Treatment of Pallets used in International Transport, The Bill is complementary to clause 31 of Customs Bill (No. 2) 1968. lt will insert section 6c into the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) in order to provide that, if collection of sales tax on pallets would contravene the convention, sales tax shall not be payable. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 2141), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When I finished speaking on this matter last Thursday night, I had reached the stage whereI was advocating the reclamation of slum areas in the inner suburbs of the big cities. I mentioned that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and I are perhaps among the members in this Parliament who have a really deep appreciation of the tremendously depressing effect that the increased value of land is having upon the home builder.I expressed the hope that we will one day see a government that is enlightened enough to impose on land held for speculation a tax on the unimproved value of the land, so that the easy money which is now being reaped by land speculators in the form of unearned increments will be prevented from reaching them. Until such time as we have that kind of enlightened approach to the question of land we have to deal with the situation as it is.
The continuing sprawl of our cities into the outer suburbs is absurd. It means lengthening the lines of communication, making it so much harder for people to reach their places of employment, and calling upon municipalities to meet the added cost of providing roads, sewerage, drainage, street lighting, footpaths and many other public facilities. We ought to be reclaiming slum areas. The people who built the original houses in the present slum areas chose them because, in earlier days when they had the choice of living wherever they wanted to, these areas represented the best places to live in. They are still the best parts in which to live, because they are more convenient to shops and other facilities. Almost without exception, these areas usually have better road and rail transport than the outlying suburbs. Instead of allowing these inner suburbs to be taken over by factories, as is now the case, we ought to be clearing them and using them for high density housing. However, it is not possible for this to be done at present because the States, which have the power to do this work, do not have the money: and the Commonwealth, which has the money, does not have the power. We seem to have reached a situation in which neither the States nor the Commonwealth authorities are doing anything about the matter.
I found it very enlightening to read a document entitled ‘The Enemy Within our Gates’ which was issued by the Housing Commission of Victoria. This is a most important publication. It should be read by everybody in this Parliament who has any concern about housing, ft draws attention to the fact that in Melbourne alone, leaving aside Sydney, there are 800 acres of substandard housing that has not been greatly improved since the houses were first built. The report says this:
I do not know whether I aar?e that Commonwealth subsidies are the correct forms of assistance, but 1 do believe that some assistance from the Commonwealth, whether by subsidies or by some other means, is urgently necessary. This help has to be given. We ought to remember that the other countries of the world which have the same problems that we have are coping with them better than we are by using national funds to assist the provincial authorities to discharge their responsibilities. In the United States of America, for every SI spent by the States the Federal Government provides S2. In Canada, Federal aid represents 50% of the cost of reclaiming slum areas. In the United Kingdom substantial sums are made available by the central government municipalities that are engaged in slum clearance. This sort of assistance has to be given to the States in Australia if we are to measure up to our responsibilities properly.
In 1913 - 55 years agO- a select committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly was formed to inquire into housing in Victoria, principally in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. It reported to the Parliament of the day that the housing in portions of the metropolis was ‘most disgraceful” and was “a menace to the health’ of the people who lived in it and to the community generally. Nothing was done about this problem in spite of that rather telling indictment of the housing position then.
In 1937, 24 years later, the Victorian Slum Abolition Board had cause to deal with the subject. Among other things, it said this:
The passage of 24 years has aggravated, almost beyond description, the appalling conditions of the same slum areas and of the same inhabitants in many case- to which we had occasion to refer in 1913.
For the sake of the record, I intend to read what the Board went on to say:
The Board records its horror and amazement at the deplorable conditions under which these thousands of men, women and children are compelled to exist. Hundreds of houses contain small rooms, tow and water-stained ceilings, damp and decaying walls, leaking roofs and rotten floors. Many are badly lighted, rat and vermin infested and without proper ventilation’.
Inadequate sunlight, dampness and lack of drainage, render these shelters (which are not worthy of the name of dwelling) veritable plague spots, and heavy toll is being taken of the health of the occupants, particularly of the women and children’.
The 1937 report went on to detail the overcrowding, invasion by factories resulting in ‘blighting’, the depravity, disease and the struggle against the conditions, ending up with this statement: “The housing of the poor in the metropolitan area is a constant reproach to this State. Houses are deteriorating at an alarming rate and unsanitary areas are becoming an ever-increasing menace to the health and moral wellbeing of the whole community’.
– What year was that?
– That was in 1937. This report, entitled ‘The Enemy Within Our Gates’, goes on to make a statement that surely is something that we must ponder. The Victorian Housing Commission states that it will take 40 years to acquire the Victorian areas branded as slums ‘if we continue to tackle the problem at no greater pace than we are now tackling it’. Can anybody be satisfied that this is sufficient? Of course it is not.
I appreciate the fact that when one goes in for (he reclamation of slum areas one is dealing with land which is very, very costly to resume. When land is acquired for the purpose of reclamation, it has to be acquired compulsorily. The acquisition authority, even if it does not have to do so legally, ought to give proper compensation to the people whose land is affected. lt has been discovered in Victoria at any rate that the cost of resuming land and of developing it to a state which is suitable for reclamation is approximately SI 20.000 per acre. This is the cost for land which previously provided areas for a few collages. But we could not build any more than four cottages per acre unless we broke away from the recognised standards of building density for cottage dwellings.
It becomes obvious that slum areas cannot bc reclaimed for rebuilding with cottages if this work will cost approximately $30,000 per collage. For litis reason, the only possible thing which can be done with slum areas that are reclaimed is to go in for high density housing. There ought to be at least fifty dwellings per acre or 200 people, including children, per acre. This is what could bc done if we engage in the construction of walk-up flats of 2, 3 or 4 storeys. Personally, 1 would not like to see flats built above three storeys. That is far enough to walk. In fact it is too far for people other than young people to walk. This is a matter that could be looked at.
– Surely that would not trouble the honourable member? He is fit enough.
– I can do it quite well. But I can do other thing?, I think, that would be of more advantage to me wilh whatever energy I have left than climbing to the fourth storey of a flat. At any rate, one thing about having walk-up flats in reclaimed areas is that the amount of ground level open space is reduced. This is important because nothing is really achieved if slum areas are reclaimed and are replaced with other buildings which leave no more breathing space and have the same narrow streets as previously. If this is the case the purpose for which the reclamation was undertaken - that is to provide more green open space - has not been achieved really. It is true that a few more people per acre will be accommodated but the area is still left with slum surroundings.
One of the criticisms thai I have to oiler - it is the only criticism that 1 can oiler against the slum reclamation scheme in Victoria at the moment - is that the Victorian Housing Commission seems to adopt the atttitude: ‘Our job is to build houses. It is the job of somebody else to provide recreational centres, lt is the responsibility of the Department of Education to build schools. It is the job of somebody else to see that requirements such as public halls and the like are provided’. Shortage of funds no doubt forces this kind of result. The Commonwealth must say to the States: ‘We know that you have not the money and that we have not the power to engage in this directly ourselves. We are willing to give financial assistance for this purpose provided that when you spend the money that we make available you will spend it in accordance with certain criteria’. There, the Commonwealth lays down the sorts of things that it expects to see carried out. I see no reason at all why a tremendous percentage of the people now living in the outback suburbs - the suburbs now sited on the periphery of our great cities - should not come closer into those cities again. I refer mainly to those people who have not families-
– Jam them all up together.
– The honourable member for Mallee who spends most of his time in the sand dunes around Mildura and elsewhere likes !he great open spaces-
– Hear, hear!
– He likes the Mallee hen and the ooh-aah bird. But I want to explain to the honourable gentleman that everybody is not as fond of the ooh-aah bird as he is. Some people would rather have decent public facilities available to them. I do not know whether the honourable gentleman who is interjecting has ever bothered to have a look at the Hotham estate. I do not know whether the honourable gentleman would know where it is or whether he would know of the magnificent building project in South Melbourne.
– I would know more about that than the honourable member does.
– I do not know whether he would know anything about them at all. I will say this: If a person was asked whether he would prefer to live in a suburb 10 miles, 12 miles or 20 miles from his place of work or live in a modern up to date flat where he could get to his work within a few seconds, I know that he would prefer to be close to his work and to shops and public facilities. It is ridiculous to have this old fashioned attitude towards these problems, but this is what the honourable gentleman displays.
If one travels to any of the great old cities of the world - Paris, Rome and even Vienna - one will find how slum dwellings and the kind of housing which the honourable gentleman seems to want to perpetuate have given way to the more enlightened approach to housing. I know that there is a problem for families with children in high rise flats, but it is not an insurmountable problem. It can be overcome, and it is being overcome in every country, including Australia. In Victoria playing centres are being built on every floor of 16-storey high rise flats. In Melbourne a 20-storey high rise flat has been built and construction of a 30-storey high rise flat has commenced. However, those responsible intend to wait for the reaction of tenants before they decide whether to continue to construct 30-storey buildings. Until this information is known it is proposed to build flats of from 16 to 20 storeys. Flat life is not the best for children but we must remember that there are many thousands of couples who do not have children and that when a couple is given accommodation in one of these high rise flats it reduces the demand for land elsewhere.
The family man must be cared for. This Government ought to engage in the forward purchasing of large areas of land well away from the present great cities and after servicing the land ought to make it available on the same basis as land is made available in the Australian Capital Territory. I can see no reason at all why such land should not be let to the people at an annual rental based on the unimproved value of the land. If the Government has to construct streets and footpaths and provide drainage and other facilities, this immediately creates an unimproved value for that land and if the people were charged the full economic rent for the land their homes occupied, sellers of land would find there was no value remaining in the land from which they could make a capital gain. If in such circumstances a person is able to sell at a profit a vacant block of land after paying rent on it, that indicates that its rental is less than its proper economic value. Where the full economic rental is applied to a piece of land there is nothing to sell. Would it not be much easier for young married couples to pay an economic rent on their block each year and be in the position to begin building without the need first to pay up to $6,000 for the land alone? Of course it would be. It is so obvious that it is a wonder people have not seen it before. This is one proposal that ought to be considered.
In South Australia something like this sort of thing is happening already. The South Australian Housing Trust purchased huge areas of land at Elizabeth. When it did so it seemed as though it was going as far from Adelaide as Timbuktu, but development has been so rapid that Elizabeth has now virtually joined Adelaide to become nothing more than a northern suburb. The same thing has happened at Christies Beach and Morphett Vale. These two new areas of development have expanded at such a rate that they are now almost southern suburbs of Adelaide. In South Australia we have the ports of Wallaroo, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln and Whyalla, which would be ideal areas in which to establish new industries and where the Government could engage in the forward buying of cheap land to be let on an annual rental basis to people who seek land for home building purposes.
At present young married men and women, who have no real capital saved up, are required to pay for the cost of roads, footpaths, drainage, lighting, recreation grounds, swimming pools and so forth. It would bc far easier for them if the Government met the cost of these facilities and charged for them in an annual rental on the blocks of land occupied by homes and abolished altogether the need to pay out large sums of money just to secure the right to use the land. There is need for the provision of Commonwealth finance to enable the expansion of the building materials industry, lt is of no use pouring millions of dollars into the States for housing purposes if there are not sufficient building materials to absorb that expenditure. As I said when I spoke last Thursday night, if there are not supplies of building materials and if there is not sufficient labour, the extra money will only increase the cost of housing. We will not get any more houses. The price of bricks, cement and timber will increase and the cost of engaging bricklayers and other builders labourers will rise because everybody will be prepared to pay tremendous over-award payments for bricklayers with the money that is available, lt will be a matter of who can get the bricklayers no matter what the price is. But who will have to pay the extra price? It will not be the house building contractor, but the poor devil who wants the house. He will have to pay for the over-award payments and for the extra cost of cement and bricks. The sum total of extra housing will not be greater. All that will happen is that the people who get the houses will pay more for them. For this reason it is vital that the Commonwealth should give urgent attention to assisting the industries that produce building materials. At the same time it should provide assistance to apprentices in the building trade industries. By so doing we will have adequate supplies of material and we will be establishing an ample supply of skilled tradesmen to use the materials. We need three things - money, extra materials and tradesmen to build the houses. Unless we have these, we cannot possibly overcome the present problem.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be supplied with additional finance to undertake research into building materials. The CSIRO has been responsible for evolving a more effective way of dealing with salt damp. It could investigate more effective means of cooling and heating houses. This is the sort of activity on which the building materials section of CSIRO could be engaged. I believe that the Commonwealth Department of Works could prepare books of home plans so that people who wanted to build homes could decide on the home they wanted and could purchase specifications for it at a reasonable cost. Moreover the State Department of Works or the Housing Commission could be assisted by Commonwealth finance to enable architectural inspection of homes to be carried out at. a more reasonable cost than the $300 to $400 it costs the ordinary home builder now.
It is essential to meet the housing needs of rural areas. Too often this Parliament tends to think that the only people who live in houses are those who live in capital cities, but I remind honourable members that in country areas farm labourers need houses, as do shearers. One of the reasons for the shortage of farm labourers is that there is no proper housing for them in rural areas. Something must be done about this. There is an urgent need for uniformity of building codes and of standards and practices. There should be laws to protect purchasers from inferior workmanship and from the supply of inferior materials. Something has been done along these lines in South Australia, but not enough has been done to protect the home builder from shoddy workmanship by building contractors. Builders ought to be licensed and a builder’s licence should be revoked when it is proved for the third time that he has departed from recognised standards of building workmanship or has supplied inferior materials. I am sorry that time does not permit me to say all that I wanted to say. This is a subject about which too little has been said in the past. It is a subject that has been glossed over as one for the States and not for the Commonwealth.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) was quite wrong when he said in answer to an interjection I made that I was opposed to slum clearance. I favour slum clearance. I have seen the slums, just as he has, and I believe they should be cleared as quickly as possible. But I do not agree with him when he says that, once they are cleared, high density housing, as he describes it, should be constructed on the same spot. He said that we should clear the slums in the cities and inner suburbs but having done so we should bring the people back and jam them all into the cities again, lt was at this point in his speech that he took exception to my remark and made some disparaging comments about mc and about the electorate of Mallee. I find it amusing that a man like the honourable member for Hindmarsh should do this, especially to me. I have never adopted such tactics. I have never tried to disparage the electorate of Hindmarsh or any other electorate or any member of the Parliament. There is no instance on record of my having made a personal attack on any honourable member, and I have tried for years to get other honourable members to adopt this attitude. But the moment I interject, the honourable member directs an attack at me and at the electorate I represent. He referred to the sand hills of Mildura. This is one of the finest provincial cities in Australia. The honourable member for Hindmarsh should not speak in the disparaging way that he does. I make those remarks only in passing.
Let us look at the subject about which the honourable member has been speaking. 1 have travelled from Essendon into Melbourne and have passed through Kensington on my way to the depot in Melbourne to pick up my motor car. On one occasion 1 had a man with me when we passed large blocks of flats, and I can bring him forward to support my remarks. These blocks of flats appeared to be some 15 or 20 storeys high. I did not count them. Little children were playing at the bottom of the buildings. I said: ‘It is dreadful for these children when they must come down all those storeys to play in a place where they should not be playing anyway’. The honourable member for Hindmarsh was humane enough to say that he does not like to see this sort of accommodation used for children, but strangely he advocates the construction of more of these buildings. How far does he go? He says he does not approve of children being accommodated in these large buildings, but he advocates their construction. 1 advocate the very opposite approach.
I interjected when he said that people would rather travel a short distance to their place of employment than live 15 or 20 miles away in places around Melbourne. 1 said: ‘Why not decentralise the places of employment?’ This should be done. I do not mean that the factories and so on should be transferred only to the Mallee, although this would be an appropriate area for some industries. However, industries could be located in Melton and other places around Melbourne. People could then buy land, build homes and live more happily in these areas. I notice that some members of the Victorian Parliament now speak about the smog and unhealthy conditions in cities such as Melbourne. But this is where the honourable member for Hindmarsh wants people to be jammed in high density housing. I cannot comprehend why the honourable member should advance this argument. We want to decentralise as much as possible. I know that decentralisation has become a catch cry for politicians, but I have said for a long time that we should encourage decentralisation. We want to see employment opportunities created not merely in areas adjacent to the large cities but also in other appropriate places where people can live and be employed. The population would spread and this would benefit not only the people themselves but also the whole of Australia.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh is very astute. He can talk and think at the same time. When I made my comment, he probably thought: ‘I have gone a bit too far’. Towards the end of his speech he tried to recover his ground. What he was trying to do was so painfully clear that even a child in the public gallery could see it. He said that shearers and farm workers in country areas also want homes. He knows that I represent a rural constituency. He saw that I was making notes and realised I would be sure to speak. I had no intention of speaking in this debate until I heard the lopsided nature of his advocacy. When he saw that I intended to speak, he probably thought: ‘I had better make a comeback’. But his effort was pretty poor. He not only wants to jam people into the cities; he also wants to do something for a Few isolated places in the country. This was the theme of his speech this afternoon. It amazes me that he thought any honourable member who represented a rural electorate and nol an electorate such as Hindmarsh would S/ here and listen to his speech without protest. If he thought that, he reckoned without me. I will not take that sort of thing from any member of the Parliament at any time. 1 believe that his argument is not in the best interests of Australia. I have been accused of being parochial because 1 fight all the time for the decentralised areas and for the primary producers. After all, our primary industries are the very basis of our prosperity. No-one can truthfully argue against this.
– The honourable member has never grown a bag of wheat in his life.
– I can bring photographs showing me at work on the headers in the wheat fields. It is said thai the camera does not lie. I can also bring witnesses from many places to establish that I was on a wheat farm on Drung Drung road near Horsham for years, that I had a dairy farm in the Western District and that I have been associated wilh primary industry all of my life. I became associated with auctioneering so that I could get fresh ideas on marketing. All this has helped me to understand the needs of primary industries. I do not want the House to think for one moment that I believe that cities do not have a place in the community. Of course they have. The honourable member said that the trend all over the world is for people to go to the cities. People who live in country areas in Italy, for instance, are able to go into the cities at the week ends. When they migrate to Australia, they find that the long distances prevent them from doing so. Therefore, some of them decide to live in the cities.
Recently I made a plea in this House for housing to be provided for skilled workers at Mildura. I read a letter that 1 had received from Andy’s Engineers Pty Ltd. This firm pointed out that people coming to Mildura say: ‘This is a nice place, the job is good, the wages are good, I have the skill to do the work, but there is no housing’. I hope that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will examine thi« aspect and will make provision for houses to be built in country areas. If this is done, skilled workers will be encouraged to go to the country areas and this will help decentralisation. Skilled workers should be able to find employment in such places as Mildura, Swan Hill and Maryborough. Tn fact, many industries are now established at Maryborough. This shows what can be done. I bear no ill will towards the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He is quite a pleasant fellow. He is smiling now. But I cannot let pass without comment the remarks he has made. They were nol only objectionable te me; they were also not in the best interests of the nation.
– We would all agree, probably, with most of the speech of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), with the exception of his unwarranted attack on the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The honourable member for Hindmarsh made the point that people have lived and worked in the cities for the whole of their lives and that the slums should be cleared and decent dwellings provided for these people. I have seen some of the slum clearance work that has been undertaken in Sydney. This has been done without any assistance from the Commonwealth. 1 think the Commonwealth could do something to assist, particularly in the acquisition of land. I know thai when governments set out to resume properties for slum clearance they are frequently held to ransom by avaricious people who have bought properties for next to nothing and rented them for many years and who see an opportunity to cash in when the government announces its intention to resume. I believe the Commonwealth could enter this section of the housing field and make special grants to States which have particular problems in connection with slum clearance.
When we speak of slum clearance we should realise that the areas concerned are close to the hearts of the cities and already have available to them amenities which are not to be found in many of the outer suburban areas. They have sewerage systems and gas and electricity supplies. People in such areas can get to and from work by public transport much more quickly than those who live in the outer suburbs and have to spend up to an hour and a half each way travelling to and from work every day. To be quite candid, however, the inner city areas do not provide the kind of environment in which I would like to rear my family. Much has been said about air pollution, and it is worth noting that authorities generally appreciate the necessity for the provision of parklands in cities and towns. The standard generally recognised as the minimum is 7i acres to every 1,000 of the population. Anyone who has visited Adelaide, the city of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, will appreciate the foresight of its founders in providing vast areas of parkland surrounding the city proper.
The purpose of the Bill before the House is lo authorise the granting of money to the States for housing. Ever since the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was negotiated, the Commonwealth has provided money at the lowest possible interest rate and over long terms so that the Slates may provide houses for their citizens for purchase on low deposits and at low interest rates, or for rent at low rates. Year bv year fewer homes for rent have been built by the State housing authorities. We must acknowledge that there are people in the community who, whether they like it or not. have to live in rented homes. There arc pensioners, for instance, and there arc widows. Accidents or unemployment in earlier years may have prevented people from obtaining homes of their own, and such people in later life may not wish to undertake the purchase of a home. I know of people who have waited for long periods in expectation that the prices of homes would drop, but of course this has never happened.
More and more of the money provided under the terms of legislation of this kind, and recognised as cheap money, is being used for the construction of homes to be purchased. 1 suppose that the States, if they can sell the homes over a period, feel they are satisfying the need. But there are people who have to live in rented homes, and under the original agreement rental rebates were available to some of these people. In some but not many cases the Commonwealth now assists in meeting the cost of these rental rebates. In the other cases the cost is borne by the States. Certain deserving persons, such as deserted wives, receive rental rebates. Of course, if a private individual buys or builds a house in order to let it to a tenant he incurs a capital outlay and he wants a reasonable return. He is not in a position, therefore, to offer a rental rebate, no matter how deserving a case may be. Rebates can be offered only by government instrumentalities.
The amount to be provided to the States under the legislation this year is $3,160,000 more than was made available last year. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced in his Budget speech that larger loans for housing will be available to individuals in the Territories administered by the Commonwealth. In Queensland the maximum loan available from the Housing Commission has been increased from $7,000 to $8,000. This will mean that fewer loans can be made. The legislation requires that 30% of the grants must be made available to building societies, which I acknowledge are doing a very good job in providing finance for people to build homes. Nevertheless there is a need for more money to be available from Government sources.
Much play has been made of the homes savings grant scheme. I have had many complaints from people who have bought homes through the State housing authorities and then found that they were not eligible for a homes savings grant because they were purchasing their home with money made available by the Commonwealth. I think people who are purchasing these homes should be clearly informed that they will not be eligible for a homes savings grant. It may be argued that they get concessions in other ways, but the fact remains that their disappointment could be avoided if they were told beforehand that they would be ineligible.
A portion of the money made available under this legislation must be used for the provision of homes for members of the defence forces. Some States are using part of the money to provide houses in areas being developed by mining companies. When one looks at the prices of the shares in these companies one must consider that they are in a very healthy position. These companies would be well able to contribute something towards the provision of houses for their employees. But in Queensland, and 1 believe in Western Australia, money provided under this legislation is being used to build houses in these areas that are being developed. If these homes are to be bought by employees, those employees should have every consideration. But it is very wrong for money to be used simply to assist mining companies. Those companies should contribute more towards the housing of their employees. I understand that the Western Australian Government made a request to the Commonwealth for $5m as special housing assistance because of the development that has taken place in Western Australia and the population growth that has occurred in recent limes. But under this measure Western Australia will receive only $1,500,000 more than it received last year. I have not heard the reply to Western Australia’s request for this additional money.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh referred to the need for planning. He said that the moneys which the States received from the Commonwealth for housing purposes should be used for the establishment of satellite townships away from the capital cities and based on industry. He said that industry could be attracted to these townships. He also said that provision should be made for parklands and other facilities. He pointed out how il was originally thought that Elizabeth in South Australia was many miles away from the city of Adelaide but that now it is regarded as an outer suburb.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh also referred to uniform building standards. This problem is causing concern to many builders. Mr Alan D. Hickinbotham Managing Director of the prominent South Australian home building company of Alan Hickinbotham Pty Ltd, in the journal titled Housing Australia’ which is published by the National Housing Industry Association, asked members in the various Stales whether they could cite cases in which they were inconvenienced by local authorities or by-laws to the extent that extra time or cost resulted for reasons considered to be nebulous or unjustifiable. He added:
Someone has worked it out that there are 300 bodies possessing legislated jurisdiction over building in Australia. Here in South Australia we have a Building Act, a Health Act, a Town Planning Act, twenty-odd Councils, seven or eight lending institutions, a Building Act Advisory Committee, and a Uniform Specification Committee. In addition, we must observe the edicts of the authorities who provide the utility services - electricity, gas water, sewerage, drainage, and so on. 1 do not think that we can apply to Queensland the building standards of Victoria or Tasmania. Queensland has a different climate from Victoria and’ Tasmania, and homes must be built to- suit the climate. The annual report of . the War Service Homes Division of the- Department of Housing shows that there is a great deal of variation in the average cost of homes in these States. The provision of such items as heating adds to the- cost of homes. I believe that local authorities within each State should have a uniform- set of building regulations so that no matter where people go they should be aware of -what is required as regards building standards.
I am very much in agreement with the proposition for the registration of builders. I do not think that this Would be in any way a restrictive measure. Members of the master builders associations in the various States have been pressing for the registration of builders. I believe that it would stop ger ry builders who erect homes on spec and offer them for sale. The poor standard of homes has been highlighted recently. Any builder who is a member of a masler builders association is responsible to his association, but I do not believe that that is sufficient. I believe that builders should be registered and that they should be responsible to the building societies. Supervision is carried out on homes constructed for the Commonwealth Department of Works, which has its own set of standards. The various Slate housing commissions have their own sets of standards. Inspectors supervise the construction of commission homes or homes built through them. In some cases lending societies such as banks exercise some control over the construction of houses. But a person who might have sufficient money for a’ deposit on a home and who purchases one without the assistance of a skilled inspector can find himself in a great deal of trouble. In some cases people who have not been able to sustain the loss have been taken down in this regard.
There is nothing to be lost but there is a great deal to be gained by the registration of builders. Complaints could be referred to recognised State or Commonwealth housing authorities which would ensure that the builders concerned were prevented from engaging in further building activities and were held responsible for the repairs or additions that have to be carried out on homes they have constructed. The workmanship on some buildings has been such that the only remedy has been to pull the buildings down and start again. Some builders prey on people who have certain disabilities. In some cases it could be a woman who does not have a husband or anyone else from whom she can get proper assistance in assessing the worth of a home. To most people the purchase of a home represents the largest capital outlay in their lives. I think that anything that can be done to protect people who are most in need of protection would be well worth while.
I believe also that there is a need for greater Commonwealth assistance to be granted in the housing field. It might be argued that the amounts set out in the Bill are what the States have sought. I have queried the amount in regard to Western Australia. Western Australia requested an additional $Sm this year under the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement but it is to receive only an additional $1.5m. The Agreement provides for the construction of homes for purchase by people who need them, on a low deposit and at reasonable rates of interest. It also provides for the construction of low rental homes and, in some instances, it allows rental rebates to people in necessitous circumstances. I have much pleasure in supporting the measure, but I should like to see more done in the housing field.
– As other speakers on the Opposition side have said that they do not oppose the Bill, I want to make my position clear in this regard too. The Australian Labor Party in the House of Representatives does not oppose the Bill, but it will not allow the Bill to pass without some criticism. I note that when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) closed the debate on the estimates for the Department of Housing he took me to task for my criticism of the Government’s efforts in housing over the past 19 years. I have no quarrel with the Minister in that regard. That is his prerogative. But it is my prerogative to answer that criticism. I take the Minister’s criticsm in the spirit in which it should be taken and 1 hope that he will’ take my criticism in the same way.
I point out that the criticism which the Minister levelled at my remarks was based on statistics. The Minister is like a number of other honourable members opposite who are always prone to hide the deficiencies of the Government behind the cold calculating wall of statistics. It is always convenient for them to turn a blind eye to the humanities of a question, particularly when it refers to housing. I refer to page 1369 of Hansard of 24th September 1968 in which I am reported as saying: . . 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.
I went on to say that the number of persons in the 20 to 24-year age group would increase from 830,000 in 1965 to 1 million in 1970. I also pointed out that in the period 1958-59 to 1966-67 we have admitted 624,321 new citizens to this country. In giving further evidence on the need for an increase in home construction, 1 also said that in 1958-59 the number of newly married couples was 74,182. In 1966-67 this figure had increased to 97,500. I then revealed that 78,797 homes were completed in 1958-59, and that in 1966-67 there were 81,960 homes completed. The figures I gave were for completed homes and not commencements or shells that the Minister referred to. They are not flats either, as he mentioned in his opening remarks.
I made mention that completed homes for the 1966-67 period were 3,163 more than for the 1958-59 period. These figures cannot be disputed because they are taken from statistics. But let us assume that in the years between 1958-59 and 1966-67 - that is over a period of 9 years - we built each year more than 3,163 homes. On this basis, by 1966-67 there would have been 28,467 additional homes completed. In the same period however, 624,321 new citizens arrived in Australia and the number of marriages increased by 23,318. If only onethird of the migrants needed homes, their demand for homes would have been of the order of 208,107. As I said before, the number of persons in the 20-24-year age group was 830,000 in 1965 and would increase to 1 million in 1970, and many of these persons would marry and need homes. In the face of these figures, the Minister has the audacity to suggest that the housing problem has been overcome. In other words, he has candidly told me to wake up. I say the housing problem is still with us and in spite of the bountiful 19 years that this country has given the present Government and Australia, we still have slums, a housing shortage, an alarming shortage of homes for the aged and about 84,000 people on the waiting lists of State housing authorities. This is after 19 of the most productive years that this country has ever experienced.
The announcement on overdrafts by the Commonwealth Bank in the news on Saturday, 12th October at once brought the reply from the building industry that this measure would make the availability of finance for housing decrease and also make finance for housing dearer. This trend is in keeping with the up and down policies of this Government in housing. In 1958-59, the average price of a house and land in Victoria was $7,770. In 1966-67 it had risen to $10,619. Today the average price stands at about $13,000. Therefore, it is anyone’s guess what the increase will be due to the latest financial juggling. Again, in reply to the Minister, it was reported in the ‘Age’ newspaper in February 1968 that the 1966 census revealed that 31,000 sheds, huts and tents were being used as dwellings. This figure swallows up at once the 28,467 completed homes to which I have referred. Further, since the Minister scoffs at my statements, I say again that taking the trend of population and basing this on the average demand for homes, today’s figures do not reveal any substantial improvement in home building in the last 30 years.
I substantiate this statement further and rebut the opinion of the Minister with a statement published in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on 23rd August. Under the heading ‘i Million Dwellings Unfit for Use’ the article stated:
Australia has 200,000 to 250,000 occupied dwellings not fit for habitation by modern standards.
A survey was made by the Economic Research Committee of the housing industry. The Committee said many other people living modern were not in the type of accommodation they required and that substandard houses would increase. It is 31 years since the Housing Commission of Victoria was established. At that time there were 6,000 slum homes within a 5-mile radius of the Melbourne GPO. However, 30 years later on 23rd August 1967, it was stated without a shadow of doubt that there were one-quarter of a million dwellings unfit for human habitation. Add to these figures the number of married couples living with their parents, unable to afford to purchase a home. In all probability, many of them will never be able to afford to purchase a home; Again this proves beyond any shadow of doubt, despite the remarks of the Minister with his statistical propaganda and in spite of the so-called affluent times, that the problem of housing in Australia is as great as it was 30 years ago.
The Minister, as reported in Hansard, on 24th September 1968 said:
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 will probably increase.
I agree. But flat construction is not the type of housing that people require. It does not satisfy the needs of a man on the basic wage. Indeed, it does not satisfy the man who has a pay envelope of $80 a week. Flat construction is not what they want. So in answer to this argument, I say that I cannot understand why the Minister thinks it is unfortunate that our cities have grown more. At least I can say that this Government has not lifted a hand to prevent this spread. It has no plan for decentralisation which the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) has just spoken about. It holds out no inducement for people to live outside the cities. Further, the Government has never attempted to control the price of land despite the fact that building costs are increasing day by day. Therefore, acting under the old principles of supply and demand, the land sharks and the financiers create their own prices knowing full well that human necessity demands a roof to live under. Desperation makes individuals pay almost any price that the land sharks and financiers demand.
I ask the Minister: What will this Government do to control the legalised robbery that is prevalent in the home building industry due to the high rates of interest? Legalised usury is the best way to describe this practice of demanding interest on the flat rate. Has the Government any plans to stamp this practice out? These are the problems of the people whose existence depends on a pay envelope, from the low wage earner to the man on $80 a week and more. When the Minister can answer these questions, when he can show that the Government is prepared to abolish these ills- and they are real community and economic ills - then he will have the right to say that the housing problem has been overcome. I note that yesterday, in opening the 1 1th International Building Societies Congress, Lord Casey said that more than 70% of all householders in Australia own their homes. He said:
Nevertheless, we are not without housing problems.
I do not agree that more than 70% of householders in Australia own their homes. It would be more correct to say that 70% of householders in Australia are buying their homes. The homes will not be theirs until they have paid the last cent for them. Many householders will never finish paying for their homes.
Since the Minister for Labour and National Service advocates that people should live in flats and be cliff dwellers - since he advocates that families should be raised in the clouds, that children do not need yards in which to play and that we should create more slums - let me direct his attention to the remarks of Mr A. V. Jennings, as reported in the Melbourne Herald’ for 16th October this year.
– I did not make those remarks.
– Now the Minister and his colleagues are coming in. The newspaper report, under the headline ‘Dear Land Forcing People to Flats’ reads:
The chairman of Australia’s largest home building group, Mr A. V. Jennings, today attacked policies apparently aimed at making more people live in flats.
Speaking at the annual meeting of A. V. Jennings Industries (Aust.) Ltd, he said Australia could back-date its housing standards by many years if we followed some overseas suggestions.
People will live mostly where they want to in our more affluent society’, Mr Jennings said.
He revealed that the building and construction group had begun 1968-69 with higher turnover and profit in the last quarter.
That statement supports the remarks of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen). The report continues:
Australia’s population was expected to double between now and the year 2000.
Extreme statements and claims have been made demanding first priority to be given to the development of our inner areas, copying other countries’, he said
I would think that the honourable member for Mallee would agree with that statement. The report continues:
Reverse claims have been made for the development of outer areas and decentralisation’.
Mr Jennings said releasing land for residential purposes without any requirement for building only encouraged land-price inflation.
But he said recent restrictions on land release for residential purposes with a view to apparently encouraging people to live in flats had been imposed.
Certain groups could be best accommodated in flats, Mr Jennings said.
But ‘the thoughtless application of this policy could have the effect of lowering housing standards instead of raising them’.
I submit that the remarks passed by Mr Jennings are ample answer to the suggestions made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Minister disagrees with Mr Jennings, notwithstanding that Mr Jennings is chairman of Australia’s largest home building group. The statement which Mr Jennings made rebuts absolutely the guile which the Minister and his colleagues use when defending the Government’s apathetic approach to the housing problems of the ordinary people of this nation - the people whose pay envelope is mortgaged every week to keep pace with the ever increasing spiral of prices caused by the economic policies of this Government of 19 years’ standing.
Since the Minister has denied the existence of any housing problem, let me read from an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 26th September 1967. It read:
The problems of urban development in the world’s great centres of population were described by the late President Kennedy as a challenge second only to the search for world peace.
Here in Melbourne, unless changes now on the way are carried through with conviction and imagination, much of the inner city may scarcely be fit for human habitation within a few decades.
The answers demand much move money, skill and co-ordination. The price of apathy and lack of planning co-ordination will be nothing short of chaos in this city.
Under the heading ‘Slums: A 50- Year Headache’ the article continued:
If no house in Melbourne, deteriorated any further it would take the Victorian Housing Comm i sion 50 years to clear the inner metropolitan area of sub-standard housing.
And if the other houses which will be declared sub-standard in the coming decade are included, then the job will take at least 150 years.
So much for the housing problem. The article contained a lot of figures relating to the cost, of houses and the amount contributed towards their cost by the Commonwealth. The article stated:
Costs per acre of sub-standard and slum housing acquired in Melbourne run as high as $200,000. At an average price around $150,000 the commission can clear only about 22 acres each year.
The Commonwealth’s contribution from Commonwealth and State housing funds is $500,000. This effort by the Commonwealth has been criticised bitterly by all concerned with the problem. And we have no housing problem!
The Australian Labor Party has always advocated, and will continue to advocate, the adoption of a national plan for housing in Australia. The Labor Party will continue to press for a national inquiry into the housing industry. The people of Australia must have a national housing plan. Every person, be he young or old or a new citizen, has the right to choose the day when he will have access to a home of his own under conditions and terms that will enable him to retain his economic morale. Every person has the right to look forward to the day when he can gain the reward for sacrifices made. Every person has the right to look forward to the day when he will say, with pride of sacrifice: ‘This is my own home’.
In a report presented last year on the future growth of Melbourne the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works stated:
Metropolitan Melbourne is moving into a new era - an era of dramatic and far-reaching change. Assuming present policies and trends continue, the population will rise from just over 2 million, to 3.7 million by about 1985, and probably 5 million people by the end of the century.
In simple terms, this means that in the 33-year period, the city will have to accommodate at least the same number of people as it has absorbed during the whole of the 132 years that have elapsed since the landing of John Batman in 1835. Based on current figures and money values this will involve an expenditure of at least $10,000,000,000 in building accommodation alone without any servicing expenditure.
Yet we have no housing problem! In September this year, when addressing a convention of the Printing and Allied Trades Employers Federation, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) said:
In little more than 30 years the ‘New Australia’ will have 28 million people.
Are any plans being made to house them? The Minister continued:
One in four of us is a migrant or a member of a migrant family - before long perhaps it will be one in three.
Wilh 40% of our people under 21 we already have thi 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 for 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 opportunity which advances in sociology are giving us today.
As I said in my speech on the Budget, the greatest cause of social casualties may be found in the bad housing areas. Remove these conditions and you remove the casualties. Has the Government any plans to overcome this situation? The remarks of the Minister for Immigration would indicate, if one were to lake them seriously, that the Government has some plans to achieve the promised paradise. If the Government has plans why have they not been brought to the attention of the Parliament?
I urge that a national inquiry be made into housing. The Government should act to curb excessive interest rates. The Labor Party supports the Bill but condemns the inadequacy of the amounts provided by the
Commonwealth to State housing authorities. Having in mind always the housing problems of this nation and the misery they cause to young and old alike, we thank the Chifley Government of 1946 for the foresight and wisdom which it displayed in bringing into existence the State housing authorities. One shudders to think what housing conditions in Australia would be like today, bad as they already are, if the Labor Government in 1946 had not created the State housing authorities. A national housing plan is a must. This becomes more urgent every day. A national inquiry into the home building industry is a matter of urgency. These are measures which the Government is afraid to adopt.
– Whilst I agree with all that has been said by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor), 1 think that the Government should have a fresh look at the provision of finance for housing. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement 70% of all Commonwealth money paid to a State is retained by the State for its housing authority. At least 30% must be made available to building societies. What concerns me is this: How do local government authorities carry out policies of urban redevelopment without money? The provision of housing in the inner city areas is just as important as providing housing throughout the whole of a city or throughout The Commonwealth.
The position in Newcastle has been brought to my attention through my own personal experience in local government some years ago, through my continuing interest in it, and by noting what is happening. In my own electorate in 1945 there was an enrolment of 45,1 16 voters, but prior to the redistribution the enrolment had dropped to 37,718. This provides a clear picture of what is happening to the inner suburbs of Newcastle. The Newcastle electorate then covered 37 square miles. Admittedly it is larger than some Sydney electorates and is probably larger than the electorate of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who is now at the table. In my electorate day by day houses are being demolished and replaced by industry. If we were to travel through the subdivisions of Wickham and Carrington, the suburb of Cooks Hill and other parts of Newcastle, one would find that houses were being demolished almost daily. When I drive through these areas I am astounded at the number of houses that have disappeared. Recently at a dinner I was talking to a parish priest who told me that his had previously been a full time position but that as a result of the decline in population in his parish it was no longer a full time job but a part time one. He is now teaching as a priest and is taking care of his other duties outside of school hours. 1 state these facts to show in as few words as 1 can what is happening to the inner suburbs of Newcastle.
Industry is taking over, with the result that people have to move into outer suburbs. For example, in the electorate of Shortland in 1955 there was an enrolment of 42,989, but by February this year the figure had climbed to 63,562. This is where the people are going to from the electorate of Newcastle. It should be borne in mind that while the inner suburbs are declining at a very rapid rate the outer sections of the electorate of Newcastle, such as the subdivisions of Lambton North and Waratah West, are still expanding. I am not putting this forward as an electoral or a political matter. What I am pointing out is that the inner suburbs have all the facilities available for a modern community, such as transport, water, sewerage and electricity, but no-one is using them because the people are moving out.
In the main shopping centre of Newcastle there are quite a considerable number of vacant shops which were previously patronised by nearby residents. The residents are no longer there. This is causing great concern not only to the Newcastle City Council but also to the business people of Newcastle. The business people in the main shopping section are losing their customers. I do not think this is fair to people in industry. People are losing their homes; in many cases they are being pushed out. People have come to me from time to time and have said: ‘T have a notice to quit. The owners have offered me so much to get out.’ Sums of $400, $500, $600 or even $1,000 have been mentioned. Owners demolish the buildings. In many cases people find themselves living alone in a two-storey or three-storey building with 2 or 3 houses in the surrounding area demolished. Old people in particular become scared, and they then pack up and leave. Their next step is to apply to the housing commission, and they find they are granted homes in the outer suburbs. If a person lives in the city itself his transport costs in travelling to industry are about one-quarter of what they would be if he were to move to the outer suburbs. It is important for people to be able to live reasonably close to their work so that they do not have to travel out of town for any great distance.
Recently I attended a conference in the Lord Mayor’s chambers at Newcastle. The Lord Mayor called a number of interested people together, including representatives of building societies and the Housing Commission, to discuss this matter. The sum total of these discussions was that the building societies were not interested in building flats and the Housing Commission is not interested in building flats in the inner suburbs because, according to it, the land is too costly. The Commission said that it had sufficient land available in the outer suburbs in the electorates of Shortland and Hunter. It said that the land available in those places was sufficient to meet the housing requirements of the people. The City Council, on the other hand, is most desirous of carrying out a policy of urban redevelopment, with the demolition of slums in the older suburbs. It is anxious to replace these places with new and modern housing settlements, but when it approaches the State Government for finance the reply is: ‘We have no money for urban redevelopment. We have money for our Housing Commission and we can use all that we have, plus more.’ The building societies are not interested in urban redevelopment. The whole of the Commonwealth allocation is absorbed in those two directions. When I made representations to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) he said: ‘It is not the responsibility of the Federal Government to make money available for urban redevelopment. It is the responsibility of the State Government.’ Local government then finds itself in the position where the Federal Government says: ‘Go and see the State Government’, and the State Government says: ‘We have no money, you had better see someone else about it.’
The time is well overdue for the Federal Government to give further consideration to housing grants or loan housing moneys with a view to providing for urban redevelopment. A certain amount is allocated for the housing of ex-servicemen. Likewise, a proportion should be set aside - I emphasise that it need not necessarily be 5%, but it should be predetermined, and it could be 5% or 10% - to be paid to local government authorities which are prepared to carry out urban redevelopment.
I have cited the case of Newcastle, but the same thing can be said of Sydney. If honourable members were to examine the inner city electorates of Sydney they would find a decline in enrolments. For example, the number of voters enrolled in West Sydney dropped from 46,127 in 1955 to 29,390 by 23rd February 1968. Over the same period, the number enrolled in Grayndler went from 46,103 to 32,620. The decline in East Sydney and Dalley is similar. People are moving out of the inner city areas because of the expansion of commerce and industry, not only in Sydney but also in Melbourne and all the other capital cities. This applies particularly in the larger and older cities. I make a plea to the Minister that, when the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is next reviewed, serious consideration be given to allocating a percentage of the money that is being made available to the States to local government authorities so that those authorities can carry out urban redevelopment at their own expense. The Newcastle City Council is prepared to carry out this kind of work, but it does not have the money to do the job. The Housing Commission is not interested in doing anything about it and the State Government will not do anything about it. If the authorities that control the finance are not prepared to make funds available, how can urban development be carried out? I make this strong plea to the Minister: When the Housing Agreement is renewed let something be done about this aspect of housing.
– in reply - The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has been pointing to what is a world wide problem. He mentioned Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne, but the problem is universal. As a result of changes in the tides of men’s affairs, the inner parts of cities are gradually being deprived of residents except where redevelopment has been carried out at very high cost. In Sydney and Melbourne this is a problem of some dimension, but the governments of New South Wales and Victoria have made efforts to do something about it. Of course, some of the money used for this purpose has come from the funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I would remind the House that this is a very limited measure. Each year at the annual meeting of the Australian Loan Council, each State, out of the total loan funds available to it, designates the proportion of those funds which it chooses to take under the Agreement. The funds so provided attract an interest rate concession of 1% and are subject to a number of conditions.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) proposed that the Commonwealth should impose some very rigid conditions to ensure that policies thought by the Commonwealth to be good should be followed by each State. In Australia, as we all know, housing is a matter for the State governments. I suppose that even those who advocate this kind of action would not follow up by saying that the planners and authorities in Canberra should be responsible for redesigning the big cities around Australia. This is one field in which local authorities and local interests do play and must play a predominant role. But in the provision of finance, to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred, naturally it is essential to allocate priorities. It is open to the States to use some of this money for redevelopment. But, given the choice, they would prefer to allocate resources to building in new areas rather than to pulling down buildings and redeveloping the older areas. While people still want to build in new places, anything done in the way of the redevelopment of old areas must necessarily subtract from the resources that could be used otherwise. Under no circumstances can I visualise that in the near future it will be possible to allocate very large sums to urban redevelopment.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh, who made a long and interesting speech, advocated a number of things which currently are well beyond the range of
Commonwealth power either to influence or to finance. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) remarked that State housing authorities, out of the moneys provided under this agreement, do not build a sufficient proportion of homes for renting and for aged persons, migrants, widows, itinerant workers and the like. I think one could safely say that the Commonwealth has great sympathy for this point of view. The fact is (hat State housing authorities on the whole prefer to build houses to sell, and to turn over their funds in that way. There is therefore a more severe shortage of accommodation for rental than would otherwise be the case.
The honourable member for- Wide Bay also referred to the need for uniform building regulations. I worked, when I was Minister for Housing, and my successor has worked, as hard as possible to achieve uniformity. This also is a State matter. The honourable member may be interested to know that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) in another place made a statement explaining that he and his Department are taking a very close interest in the subject and are giving considerable technical assistance through their officers and facilities to help the interstate standing committee which has been formed by the Ministers for Local Government in the Stales. In this field some progress has been made with a uniform safety code, but (his has been mainly for large construction jobs. So far, unfortunately, little has been achieved in the cottage field. This” is a great problem. A great drain on funds and substantial waste of resources result from having so many different regulations in various places. All the Commonwealth Government can do is persevere in pushing towards a solution as fast as possible.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) referred again to something that occurred during the Estimates debate recently. In answer, I can only repeat what I said before. Within the last decade the volume of construction of new dwelling units in Australia has increased by 50%. I will repeat the figures.
– But the Minister includes flats in those figures.
– In 1958-59 we built about 82,000 units, and the number rose to 122,000 in 1967-68. The honourable member refers to flats. He does not approve of them wholeheartedly, I can see. I suggest that at some suitable time he and the honourable member for Hindmarsh should get together on this subject, because the honourable member for Hindmarsh took a rather different view. Overall, he is a little more up to date in this matter, and he produced arguments that were rather more convincing than those of the honourable member for Gellibrand. However, I would like to disabuse the mind of the honourable member for Gellibrand on one thing. He repeatedly stated that I had said that the housing problem is solved, that it is all done with. As far as I can recollect, I never said any such thing. The housing problem will be with us for a long time. If the honourable member for Gellibrand had a very nice house in the city, he probably would want another house outside the city. The frontier shifts in line with the type of better housing that we have. Fashions also change and a lot of features in housing become out of date. That problem is with us and it will always be with us.
What I do say is that most of these problems, at least insofar as they involve hardship, are progressively being dealt with. The standard of housing for most people has been steadily improving over the years. This measure, limited though it may be in itself to attract such a far ranging debate, will contribute its little towards further progress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, for the information of honourable member I table the agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia in relation to the administration of laws relating to blasphemous, indecent or obscene literature.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos 1 to 9) 1968
Debate resumed from 13 August (vide page 1 1 1), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Opposition, to indicate our intense dissatisfaction with the proposed increase in sales tax, I move as an amendment to the motion that the Bills be now read a second time:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with » view to inserting the following words in place thereof: as the existing structure of sales tax rates and exemptions has become inequitable and is inadequate to meet the problems of the economy, this House is of opinion that a comprehensive examination of sales tax rates should be commenced immediately with a’ view to the earliest possible introduction of legislation consistent with present day economic needs.
If that amendment is not adopted, we propose to vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bills.
As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) outlined in his Budget speech, the Government proposes to increase from 121% to 15% what is called the general rate of sales tax. The Treasurer said:
The >12i% class includes commercial vehicles, motor spare parts and accessories, tyres and tubes, printed matter and paper products, confectionery, soaps, detergents, potable spirits, imported wines and beers, typewriters, office furniture and equipment, sporting goods, toys and other goods.
In his second reading speech when introducing these measures, the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), as Minister assisting the Treasurer, indicated that other goods were included in this class. He referred to yachts and boats, lawn mowers, travelware, musical instruments and, I think, a number of school requisites. He said that it was estimated that the proposed sales tax increases would produce an additional revenue of $44m in a full year and $34m for the remainder of the financial year 1968-69. These rates became operative as from 14th August 1968.
As the amendment indicates, the Opposition opposes this kind of revenue raising device. I point out that according to the publication ‘Commonwealth Finance l:>67-68, Bulletin No. 6’ - this is the last financial year for which complete statistics are available - the raising per capita from sales tax in 1967-68 was $34.93. On the projected revenue this financial year, it is expected that the total revenue from sales tax will be $495m. This is more than $40 per capita. The figures that are in the Budget give a run of 3 years as far as sales tax is concerned. They show that in 1966-67 the total yield from sales tax was $379m. In 1967-68 the figure was $417m. The anticipated yield for the financial year 1968-69, including the increase in the general rate of sales tax from 124- to 15%, is $495m. This means the sales tax this year represents approximately 10% of the total revenue raised by the Commonwealth. This is approximately $5,000m. This 10% - $495m or $500m - also is approximately 2% of the gross national product which currently is running at about $25,000m per year.
I invite honourable members to look at the forty-seventh report of the Commissioner of Taxation, 1967-68, which was tabled one day last week. 1 refer to the general part of the report first and not to the statistical section. At page 73 honourable members will find a history of the rates at which sales tax has been imposed since it was introduced in August 1930. At that time only one rate of tax, 2$%, was imposed. That rate was increased in 1 93 J and at various other times. But there was only one rate of tax apparently until 1940 when instead of the single rate which had risen from 24% in 1930 to 84% in 1940, three schedules were introduced. These were the general rate schedule, the second schedule and the third schedule. Since that time, additional refinements have taken place and at various times a fourth schedule, a fifth schedule and a sixth schedule have been applied. At the moment apparently no fourth schedule or sixth schedule operates. There is now the general rate of 124-% which is to become 15%. There is the second schedule of 25%, the third schedule of 24% and the fifth schedule of 25%. If these statistics, as published in the statistical section of the fortyseventh report, are any indication, it seems that sales tax in Australia is levied on the basis of the wholesale sale of goods. This report deals with the financial year ended June 1967, which is two financial years ago, when the yield was S379m.
Sales tax is not, as in some countries, a retail tax, but is a tax which is levied at the level of the last wholesaler of goods that are then sold to some retailer. The value of the goods in 1967 on which sales tax was ultimately levied was $2,850m out of total wholesale sales of nearly $ 11,000m in value. In other words, the tax was borne by approximately one-quarter of the total wholesale sales, lt is interesting to look at the rates attached to the goods on which the tax was imposed. We note that in the 24% category the volume of wholesale sales on which the tax was levied was $627m. 1 am rounding off the figures. The value of sales on which the 124% tax was imposed - this is the tax that is to be increased to 15% - was $ 1,486m; and in the 25% category, which includes the motor car as the principal bearer of the- tax, the value of the sales was $737m. This means that about half of the aggregate tax is borne in the category that we are now proposing to increase.
As can be seen from the sum worked out by the Treasurer, an increase of 24%, which is one-fortieth of the sale value of goods, is expected to yield $44m in a full year. This would suggest that the volume of sales on which the tax is to be imposed will be of the order of $l,760m. As we indicated in the debate on the Income Tax Bill, the time has been reached in the Australian tax structure when the whole pattern of taxation should be reviewed. Sometimes it is very difficult in Australia, as in any other country, to find where the ultimate incidence of tax falls. I should think that the theory behind the Treasurer’s justification for this increase is, as he describes it, that it is an anti-inflationary measure It will rip another $34m this year and $44m in a full year out of the real purchasing power of members of the community. What we cannot tell, of course, is whether it will have its effect on the goods on which it is imposed or elsewhere.
I think 1 described the situation once before in this House. Sometimes a tax is put on cabbages in order to alter the consumption of cauliflowers. All that the imposition of the tax on cabbages does is to make cabbages dearer. If people still prefer cabbages to cauliflowers, the article that bears the burden of the tax is the cauliflower. Much the same kind of difficulty obtains now with the sorts of articles involved in our present consideration. If we impose the increased tax on, say, school exercise books the child is not likely to use fewer exercise books. Rather, his parents will pay more for the exercise books and if their income is limited their consumption of something else will decline. These sorts of things occasionally have to be examined when we look at the incidence of taxation.
In advanced societies a lot of discussion and rethinking is going on as to whether the simple distinction between direct taxes and indirect taxes is any longer a suitable method of evaluating the totality of taxation in a community. If there is a reasonably egalitarian structure of incomes adjustments can be made. But I do not suggest we have anything like that in Australia; in fact if we look at the income tax statistics it is surprising how unegalitarian our society still is. particularly when we take into account people on fixed incomes, such as pensioners, who are not recorded in income tax statistics. In many respects we can make adjustments through social service payments, through subsidies and sometimes even by distributing certain goods free, although there is not much of that done in the Australian economy. Nevertheless it is rather difficult to say that the incidence of taxation is good or bad because of a proportion one way or the other - direct as against indirect taxation.
I think it is broadly true to say that Australia’s taxation structure has become increasingly regressive over the last 10 years, because we have not adjusted the concessions in our principal tax that we rely upon - that is, personal income tax. We have not adjusted the scale of progression or the amounts of concessions to allow for increases or decreases in the real purchasing power of money. Because of inflation, automatically all taxes which are levied on a pro rata basis, as is the sales tax, tend to rise proportionately. As I have pointed out, the incidence of sales tax this year will be $40 per capita; last year it was $35, and back in 1963-64 it was only $29.40. There has been an increase in the yield per head mainly because there has been an increase in the price of most of the goods and services in the community. It is true that from time to time there have been some adjustments in rates on particular items, but over recent years in the sales tax field the pattern has been downward rather than upward. Yet the per capita yield has increased.
As our amendment points out, there has been little attempt in recent years to look either at the rates of sales tax or to look very systematically at exemptions. Determination of what is to be taxed and what is not to be taxed is rather haphazard in many respects. I know that each year we get a number of submissions from various organisations pointing out the anomalies that exist. One submission this year is a rather entertaining piece of writing entitled ‘A Penalty on Good Morale’. It is issued not by a religious organisation but by a toilet preparations association. It points to anomalies or, as it calls them, similar absurdities. In some respects what is taxed and what is not taxed and the rate at which is levied can be characterised as absurdities. The association in its broadsheet claims that the annual value of toilet preparations is now $140m. I presume most of these products would be used by the female section of the population, but increasingly, according to advertisements on television, in newspapers and in other places, the male is not considered hygienic unless he also uses some preparations that we would have scorned in my youth. We have ‘Pour Monsieur’ for the sir as well as ‘Pour Madame’ in the toiletry line.
The objection of the toilet preparations lobby is that toilet articles bear tax at the rate of 25%. The association mentions aspects that it regards as absurdities. If a woman goes to a party decorated with lipstick, the lipstick bears tax at 25%, but the decorations on the walls at the party bear tax at only 12½%. Baby talc and oils bear tax at 25%, but things to annoy the baby, his rattles and sweets, are taxed at 12½%. Razors and blades for human use are taxed at 25% but clippers and stripping blades for dogs are taxed at only 12½%. Gloves, largely decorative, as worn by any section of the community are exempt from tax, but the hand lotion which madame uses, largely therapeutic, according to the association is taxed at 25%. If a woman patronises the silk stocking industry, she does nol pay any sales tax., but if she paints her legs with a substitute liquid a penalty of 25% is applied.
– What sort of leg would thai be?
– The honourable member is probably a better authority on that subject than I am. Women’s hair nets are exempt, but women’s cosmetic hair sprays bear tax at the rate of 25%. If a woman likes to veil herself, the veil she buys is not taxed, but if she camouflages herself her make-up bears tax at the rate of 25%. 1 should think that this document was prepared by a good public relations man. Nevertheless, the association represents the lax as a penalty on good morale. After all, in view of the difficulties that the female section of the population has to bear, it seems a little unfair that most of the preparations women want to use to make themselves presentable carry sales tax at the rate of 25%.
This is one reason why we suggest thai sales tax is anomalous. On the basis of the turnover given in the document I have mentionedthat is, SI 40m- a tax of 25% means that about $35m per annum is collected in taxation on these items. Whether that is very equitable having in mind the people who ultimately bear the burden is arguable. However, it does show the need for a re-evaluation of the whole concept of taxation. We would not be so irresponsible as to say that sales tax should be abolished suddenly. If the Government did so, it would be faced with the immediate problem of raising about $500m from some other source. But occasionally we should ask whether the basis on which sales tax is levied, presuming sales tax is still imposed, is necessarily the best way of raising this revenue.
Recently a seminar was held in Canada consequent upon a Royal Commission in that country. The structure of taxation in Canada was examined. The seminar was held by ‘Industrial Canada’, which presumably is similar to our Chamber of Manufactures. A section on indirect taxation in the report of the seminar states:
The Commission also recommends that the manufacturer’s sales tax be replaced by a retail sales tax.
I would offer that as a suggestion here. Presuming that we want to raise roughly the same amount as is raised by sales tax now. is the wholesaler basis of tax necessarily the best way of imposing the tax, in view of the cost to industry, the export trade, the indirect effects at one level on the cost of living and so on? The suggestion made in Canada is that a flat retail tax instead of a wholesaler tax would be better. The Canadian suggestion is also that the tax need not be levied on every item but the items on which it was levied could be selected fairly carefully. The rates could be graduated, if it were thought that some levels of consumption were a luxury and could bear a higher rate of tax. 1 should think that that is what we have in mind when we suggest that the whole of the tax structure in Australia, both direct and indirect, should be examined.
As those honourable members who have travelled to Europe in recent times know, the European Common Market has a device known as the value added tax. There are arguments as to how it should be imposed. But in Australia it seems that we have very little discussion as to why a tax is imposed, at what rate it is imposed, on what goods it is imposed and so on. Sometimes the level of discussion on this matter is fairly primitive. When we were debating the Income Tax Bill recently I quoted from a British publication ‘Political Economic Planning’ and the broadsheet issued in March 1966 called ‘Tax Policy: Can Surveys Help?’ It was pointed out that in various parts of the world most of the people who were asked how much tax they paid thought that they paid much more than they did. Very few knew the rate at which they paid income tax. Of course, people do not know the amount of sales tax they pay on the goods they buy because the tax is included in the retail1 price. For instance, sales tax on a motor car is levied -at the rate of 25%, but people look at the price with the tax included. They assess their purchase not by the amount of sales tax they pay but by the model they want, the total price and so on. That is why it is sometimes difficult to assess the impact of a particular tax with any degree of accuracy.
On this question of whether sales tax should be levied at the wholesale level or the retail level, let me illustrate my point with some information that has been supplied to me. I have here a price list - and I think I am justified in assuming it to be a typical price list - of Sunbeam products, which range all the way from electric razors to electric lawnmowers. It shows the advantage gained over the individual trader by organisations which are able to buy in large lots - and I presume this means the chain stores. This is the price list effective from 14th August 1968. A single Mixmaster bought at wholesale would cost $51.1.8, and the tax, which is levied ad valorem, would amount to $1.28. On the other hand, when bought in lots of fifty or more the price per unit would fall to $42.65 and the sales tax per unit would drop to $1.07. As the small retailer points out, he is at a distinct disadvantage not only because of the discount that is offered for large quantities but also because the sales tax is less on the discounted price. This results from the levying of tax at the wholesale level rather than on each individual sale at the retail level.
This is the kind of anomaly that grows up within the tax structure, and which does not have to be taken account of in the administration of the law relating to the tax, although its social effects are obvious. I have had another communication from a person who points out that rather inferior additives are being mixed with lemonade because the lemonade is free from sales tax if it contains a certain quantity of fruit juice. My correspondent has directed my attention to a rather peculiar product called apple juice concentrate which contains an additive known as malic acid. This acid apparently has the effect of making the lemonade appear very much more bubbly than it really is. But whatever the effects of it in relation to television advertising, its effects on the internal walls of the stomach are not very satisfactory. This is an instance of the peculiar things that can happen when we endeavour to grant exemption from sales tax because an article makes use of an Australian product. I do not pretend to know whether this is a matter that ought to come within the scope of the State food laws.
– Are fruit juices not free of sales tax?
– Yes, and if the fruit juice is used in the aerated water that aerated water also becomes free of sales tax. The complaint of my informant is that manufacturers are putting in a rather inferior sort of product rather than pure fruit juice, and somebody apparently is not policing the Act. Whether that is right or wrong I do not know. This person has given me the chemical constituents of malic acid for comparison with citric acid. I do not claim to be a chemist or to be able to adjudicate in respect of these thorny differences. My correspondent simply suggests that a cheaper tax free product is being used, and what is saved this way is apparently being spent in fields such as television advertising. When looking at the television screen I sometimes wonder how one can be so much happier for having bought butter that is called, say, Golden Meadow’ rather than butter with some other name. But the television advertisement tries to persuade us that we will be a good deal happier for buying that brand of butter or big bubbly lemonade or some other product.
I am merely directing attention this afternoon to the side effects that flow from the manner in which tax is imposed. This is part, at any rate, of the reasoning behind our suggestion that it has become too much an accepted tendency in Australia to aim at a general level of taxation and say: ‘This year we have to raise so much more’ or This year we will be able to offer concessions to this extent’, rather than to try to re-evaluate the whole situation. I suggested the other evening that it might even be wise for us to call a kind of tax holiday, cancel all our present taxes altogether and then reimpose an entirely new set, perhaps yielding something like the same revenue but having an entirely different incidence. Whether the Government will be courageous enough to do so is another matter. In the Budget debate the Treasurer suggested that he had considered regrading and altering drastically the structure of income tax. He did not do it, but I would think that before we embarked on ambitious schemes such as national insurance and health schemes, which k is suggested will be financed mostly by flat tax levies, we should first of all look closely at the whole structure of taxation in Australia.
I cannot see why we in this country should not take sample surveys in the way that these surveys are taken in other parts of the world, with persons possessing the required skills interviewing householders and others. I believe that if we could find out how the various taxes, direct and indirect, affect the typical family of a man with a wife and a couple of children living on an income of less than, say, $60 a week, the information would be quite astonishing. It would be most revealing to discover the amount of indirect taxes that are paid. I have already shown how sales tax works out at $35 per head of population. This means that a family of four would pay $140 per annum or something approaching $3 a week. True, something like a quarter of the total sales tax revenue comes from the sale of one item, the motor car, and this kind of comparison is not always valid. Nevertheless it does give some indication of the extent of indirect taxation. I point out that sales tax, at $500m. provides only one-fifth of the total of indirect taxation levied in Australia annually.
This provides further foundation for our main argument against indirect taxation, that it is levied not according to capacity to pay but according to individual purchases of particular articles. For this reason it is regarded as regressive and an unsatisfactory method of raising revenue. Whether we will ever get to the stage of making more systematic surveys I do not know, but at least in our amendment we direct attention again to the fact that if this extra $44m - or $34m in this financial year - had to be raised, this was not the most equitable way to raise it. lt might have been better, perhaps, to have increased company tax by, say, 3t% instead of 2i%. Tt might have been better to impose an additional surcharge on certain levels of personal income. But certainly this was not the equitable way in which to do it, and that is why we have chosen to move our amendment. Even if the House rejects the amendment I ask that at least it consider seriously the motive behind it. Because a tax has been imposed historically and is stuck in the statutes is no reason why occasionally we should not very drastically revise it. We certainly would like to see both the levels of sales tax and the sorts of articles on which it is imposed reduced rather than increased.
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
– The House has before it Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1968. They are Budget bills. I think that point should be borne in mind when one comes to consider the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) to the motion for their second reading. They are Budget bills in the sense that they are designed to impose taxation in order to raise $34m in the current year and $40m, I think, in a full year. The purpose behind the proposed imposition of this additional taxation is to reduce the Budget deficit between 1967-68 and 1968-69 from $644m to $547m. Therefore, they are important measures and one would hope, with this in mind, that the Opposition would adopt a fairly responsible attitude towards them.
What has the Opposition done? The Opposition, through the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, has moved an amendment, the substance of which is that a second reading be denied to the Bills and further, that in lieu of the second reading the House express an opinion that the existing structure of sales tax rates and exemptions should be reviewed. This action is all very well in its way, I suppose. I would be prepared to assume for the sake of argument, without necessarily conceding, that there is a case for the review of sales tax exemptions and classifications. But I do not want to go into that. I listened to a very interesting speech by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports whose views I always respect, even if I disagree with them from time to time. But his speech was about the detail. He went into the fascinating topic of whether the paint that ladies put on their legs in lieu of stockings should be taxed at a higher rate than the stockings themselves. All these are fascinating topics for discussion, more appropriate perhaps to an afternoon tea party than debate on an important taxation measure in this House. I think we should put aside the detail and the minutiae into which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports delved because they are not really relevant to a Budget bill.
As I said before, I am prepared to argue the case for the second reading of the Bills on the basis that there is occasion for a review and a reconciliation of various rates of taxation within sales tax legislation. Bui what has all this to do with the second reading of nine Bills that are basic to the whole Budget? Let me establish by a few simple facts as to why they are basic to the whole Budget. The theme of this Budget, so far as it is relevant, is that the deficit of $644m of last year should be reduced to a deficit of $547m this year. It is proposed in part that this reduction in the overall deficit should be achieved by increasing the general rate of sales tax from 12i% to 15%. One may ask: Just where do members of the Australian Labor Party stand? Does it want to wreck this Budget which has already been agreed to in principle by the House? I would think that their residual sense of responsibility, such as it is, would compel a negative answer to that question. I do not know. One never knows what the Labor Party is really thinking or really doing. But why at this stage, when the Budget in the form of the Appropriation Bill has been adopted by the House, can it seriously be suggested that the House should refuse a second reading to basic taxation budget measures for the sake of getting bogged down in an argument or inquiry about detail? The whole thing smacks of unreality. I believe that on that ground alone, the Labor Party’s proposition should be and will be rejected by the House.
I would like, if I may, to examine what took place in the ostensibly, but not quite private, councils of the Labor Party, when members considered this measure in their caucus last week. If one examines what happened in their Party room, one can learn quite an instructive lesson about the state of the labor Party at the moment. I propose to suggest - and this can be established by reference to evidence of what happened last week - that the Labor Party regrettably in the main, and there are some notable exceptions to this amongst whom is the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, is bereft of principle. Principle to the Labor Party, with notable exceptions, is a robe to be lightly discarded.
– You are pulling your own leg.
– The honourable member needs to have regard to reality sometimes. It might give him a salutary lesson. What happened on the other side of the House last week was this: The caucus executive resolved by a narrow margin of 7 votes to 6 that the sales tax legislation, the nine Bills now before the House, should be opposed not only in the House but also in the Senate. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports did not go along with that idea. This is of credit to him. Nevertheless, the vote was 7 to 6 that these taxation proposals should be opposed not only in the popular house, as is the right of any Opposition to do, but in the other place. It is a curious notion to find coming from a Labor Party gathering or council that a money Bill should be opposed in the other place. As my honourable friend from Melbourne Ports - one of the few men of principle in the Labor Party - said, his Party is outnumbered 2 to 1 in this House. Also, it is a cardinal plank in the Labor Party’s policy that money Bills and taxation Bills shall not be opposed in the other place.
– We are used to being shocked by the Labor Party. It is becoming common place.
– You do not have any idea about what goes on in the Labor Party.
– I think I have a much better idea about what goes on in some parts of the Labor Party than the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory who tends to concentrate perhaps too much on being mayor of Canberra to the exclusion of other duties. This was the resolution that was honorably opposed by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports at the meeting of the Labor caucus executive. Then the matter came before the full caucus and we understand, from a reading of a wide variety of journals, all of which tell broadly the same story, that there was quite a brawl. The idea that the sales tax legislation should be opposed came before caucus last Wednesday. We read that some of the ardent men of the left wing thought that the Government should be taken on in respect of the sales tax proposals, not only in the popular house but also in the house of review. This is an idea completely obnoxious to every well entrenched and long held Labor principle regarding the functions of the Senate. In saying that, I give the Labor Party credit for having some principles or for having had principles. Older members of the Labor Party will know full well that it was part of the Party’s received doctrine that money Bills should not be opposed in the other place. But some of the firebrands in the Party thought it would be a good idea to make a show. They moved in the caucus last week, conformably with the narrow majority view of the caucus executive, that opposition to the legislation should be displayed in the other place. What an odd idea, lt was a hollow fight - an unreal show of fight - because those in the caucus who moved that the Opposition in the Senate should oppose these Bills knew full well that the centre or minority party in the Senate - the Australian Democratic Labor Party - would not support the Labor Party in opposing the legislation. The firebrands knew this well when they persisted in pressing that the Opposition in the Senate should oppose these Bills. One is entitled to ask the pertinent question: Why did the left wing boys in the Labor Party press this view in caucus when they knew that the Democratic Labor Party would not support them? The reason is clear: lt was yet another exercise in the game of knock down your leader - if you can call him a leader. They wanted to drive another nail in the political coffin of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I might say that they succeeded full well. A very interesting procedure took place, as we glean from the reputable journals. The motion in caucus to press for opposition in the Senate to the sales tax legislation was first of all put to the vote on the voices and the chairman of the caucus - the Leader of the Opposition - declared the motion lost on the voices.
– An old trick.
– lt was worth trying. All that it demonstrated was that the Leader of the Opposition hears better with his right ear than he does with his left ear, because when those in caucus demanded a vote, the motion, which had been lost on the voices, was carried by a majority of more than two to one.
– I rise to order. May I humbly suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you direct the honourable member to get back to the Bills?
– The honourable member for Parkes is basing a great deal of his argument on the assumption that something that is reported to have happened in fact happened.
– I will vouch for the report.
– That proves that the honourable member would fall for anything.
-Order! The honourable member for Scullin will be silent. The honourable member for Parkes is also basing his argument on something that may happen in the future. While a certain amount of the honourable member’s argument is related to the Bills, I suggest that he might relate his remarks a little more closely to them.
– 1 was about to come to the very core of the legislation, but before doing so I want to expose the political dishonesty of the majority of the Labor caucus. I think that is a fair exercise, because one is entitled to challenge the motives of an Opposition, just as one who is in opposition is entitled to challenge the motives of a government. We on this side of the House are not unaccustomed to fairly feckless and mostly weak challenges from the Opposition to the Government’s motives. So, if I may round off this part of my argument before 1 pass to the full substance of the legislation-
– The sooner you pass the better.
– The honourable member for Scullin is tempting me, because I would most heartily reciprocate that message to him. But in a way one has affection for the honourable member. He is one of the institutions of this place and one would not wish to see him pass too soon. In the fullness of time he will pass, as we all will.
Let me round off by saying that the attitude of the Labor caucus to this legislation was devoid of merit and principle. The attitude of the Labor caucus involved the selling of a substantial part of Labor’s political testament because it is part of that testament that money Bills should not be opposed in the Senate. It seems that now there is an exception to the rule: Money Bills shall be opposed in the Senate, so the
Labor caucus says, if we can use the device as a weapon to hit our leader over the head. What a fine Opposition!
Let me come to the fine print of the Bills. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who always speaks with a due sense of responsibility when he addresses himself to financial measures, said, speaking for his Party, that Labor would never oppose the principle of sales tax. 1 think I got him right. Well, that was a refreshing statement. As I understand the situation, this is not a view commonly held in the Labor Party. Only last week the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) implied that his Party is entirely opposed to indirect taxation. Here was another illustration that one is never sure where the Opposition stands on anything, whether it be complicated or simple.
We hear many complaints from the Opposition about the incidence of indirect taxation. It is time we looked at those complaints in the light of cold statistics. Firstly, let us take the specific case of sales tax. The picture one would get if one were to listen to honourable members opposite on this subject is that indirect taxes, including sales tax, are constantly rising as a proportion of total taxation revenue. Of course, this just is not so. If one looks at the excellent publication to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred - the forty-seventh report of the Commissioner of Taxation for the year 1967-68 - one finds on page 74 a table which sets out, in respect of the financial years 1957-58 to 1967-68, the amount of sales tax collections. In another column the percentage which those annual collections bear to total revenue collected by the Commissioner of Taxation-
– By the Commonwealth.
– Yes, by the Commonwealth. My honourable friend knows full well that the turnover tax by the States is a measure of relatively recent origin. So it is fair to look at the Commonwealth figures. He is a fair man and unlike most of the people in his Party he is a principled man. After all, it is the Commonwealth Government that is being criticised by the Opposition. If one looks at this table - I can understand that my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, would not wish to be unduly detained by this because it rather cuts away some of the arguments which he sought to present - one finds that whereas for the year 1959-60 the amount collected by the Commissioner of Taxation as sales tax represented 18% of the total revenue collected by him that percentage has dropped year by year, with the exception of one year, and that in the year 1967-68 it was only 11.2%. I applaud the reduction because I for one believe that as far as possible taxation should be progressive rather than regressive.
– At least in this measure you are reversing it.
– The member for Melbourne Ports has really been kind enough to play into my hands. I am grateful to him.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I thank the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith for that very timely correction. He is always a stickler for the proprieties; he never puts a foot in the wrong place. It is true that if you look at the figure for the year 1968-69, as my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said, and take the sum which is estimated to be collected in sales tax, that is $495m, that is likely to represent - nobody can say so with certainty now - 11.8% or 11.9% of the total revenue collected this year by the Commissioner of Taxation. I accept that position. I say that that slight upward movement, given present economic circumstances, is entirely justified. One can hold that one views with pleasure a progressive reduction of the percentage of regressive taxation. One can hold that view perfectly consistently with another view, namely, that given particular economic conditions a slight increase in such taxation as sales tax is justified. That is a position in which we now find ourselves. If one looks at the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), one sees that we have at the present time, according to the Treasurer - I agree with him - an economy that is in danger of becoming a little overheated. No-one has taken serious issue with this part of the Budget speech. There are inflationary forces at work, rather more on the surface than underneath perhaps. They are always there, either just below the surface or above the surface. But these inflationary forces are rather more evidence at the present time than they have been in recent years.
Here is a case for a judicious damping down of demand. I think that was one of the themes of the Budget. If one wants to damp down demand I think a perfectly sound case can be argued for a judicious increase in sales tax. Sales tax is a very sensitive way of regulating demand. It is not the hammer that income tax can be and often is if the general rates are increased. Sales tax has come to be an acceptable form of taxation. If one wants any proof of that proposition one has only to read the Budget speech of the Right Honourable Roy Jenkins, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered on 19th March this year.
– He made his attitude quite clear.
– Yes. He said that a case can be advanced for the judicious use of forms of taxation which in bygone days would have been regarded as grossly regressive but which in modern terms and selectively applied are really not regressive because they have their impact upon that part of people’s income, particularly in a burgeoning economy, which is surplus to the expenditure they need to make on their day to day basic requirements. That has been the philosophy of the Right Honourable Roy Jenkins. I agree with it. It is a pity there are not more realists such as Mr Jenkins on the Opposition benches, but this country is not privileged to have many realists in Opposition. The argument which I put to the House is that a slight increase in sales tax, which is what this Bill proposes, is a useful regulator. It is sensitive in its application; it is not a bludgeon. It tends to damp down demand, but only minimally. That is what is called for at the present time.
I conclude my remarks by asking the Opposition to come to grips with reality. Let somebody on the other side of the House tell us whether it is not time that the Labor Party went back to the principles that it was once proud of, including the principle that money Bills are not to be opposed in the other place. If the Labor Party persists in the decision it made last week to oppose these Bills in the other place, it will give further proof that it is a party that is bereft of all sensible principle in politics.
– The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) entertained the House for some time as usual and, like all uncertificated unknowns, become intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity. I understand this is the failing which has caused his legal practice in Sydney to crumble and which has caused juries to treat him as a joke and clients to avoid him like the plague. Often we see men who have small statures offset that disability with a clean and pure mind. It is a great pity that the honourable member for Parkes does not have that compensation.
I rise to support the amendment which was moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and which points out that the existing structure of sales tax rates and exemptions has become inequitable and is inadequate to meet the needs of the economy. The amendment also calls for an immediate and comprehensive examination of sales tax rates with a view to the early introduction of legislation consistent with present day economic needs. Anyone who has given any serious thought to the methods used to gather taxes and particularly the sales tax, and to the way in which the methods and the rates affect people other than themselves, must see the value and wisdom of our amendment and the value of a comprehensive examination of the whole system of sales tax as quickly as possible. Therefore, there can be no denial that the amendment which was moved and spoken to so capably by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports should receive the unanimous support of this House.
I would certainly be surprised if an examination of the system and the rates did not quickly and positively show that legislation consistent with present day economic needs would be legislation which would completely abolish sales tax in the way we see it operating today. This would be a very good thing because sales tax, as it is presently imposed, places a much greater burden on the poor than it does c the rich, and a much greater burden on the underprivileged than on the privileged. It is certainly not an equitable form of taxation. It is not a tax which applies in an equal manner to all people, irrespective of their place of residence or the place where they purchase the goods that are subject to sales tax. The burden of sales tax is greater in some areas of Australia than it is in others. To make it even worse, the heaviest burden has to be carried by those people in areas where the people should not have to carry any burden at all. When I talk about areas I refer not only to the geographical areas of Australia but also to financial sectors of the economy. It may not be possible to abolish the sales tax all at once. It may have to be replaced gradually over a period. The examination referred to in the amendment would show whether or not it could be abolished in this way.
One thing is quite certain: There should not be any increase in sales tax, and no attempt should be made to increase sales tax without a comprehensive examination of the situation as it is at the present time. There are a great number of items other than those that have been mentioned already on which the Government has increased the rate of tax. I say that the tax has been increased because the additional tax took effect as from 14th August last, even though we are only now debating the authorising Bill. The Government can see its way clear to increase tax promptly when it is engaged on a money gathering exercise, but when it is paying out it tells us that it just cannot implement a proposal promptly. I refer to increases in social services. We have asked the Government on several occasions to make social service payments retrospective and it has told us that these things just cannot be implemented. Yet we have a situation where it imposes this tax without even having the approval of the Parliament.
The items on which the rate of tax has been increased include commercial motor vehicles, which are very important in the transport field, particularly for development in isolated areas and places far distant from the metropolis. The tax will be higher also on motor cycles, caravans, motor vehicle parts - which are also an expensive item in heavy transport - tyres and tubes, office furniture, business equipment and stationery. If one writes a letter, one has to pay more in sales tax. The increased tax will apply also to confectionery, lawnmowers, musical instruments and a large number of other items, including sporting equipment. So if a man wants to buy a few sweets for his children he has to pay further tax. If the children need a tennis racquet, cricket bat, football or any other sporting equipment, more sales tax has to be paid. The Treasury, and nobody else, will gain from increased sales tax.
One of the very significant things about these Bills that are now before the House is that neither the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in his Budget speech, nor the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Freeth), in his second reading speech, made any attempt to justify the steep increases in sales tax. The Treasurer simply said that it was another measure to increase revenue. The Minister assisting him said only that the Bills were for the purpose of giving effect to the announcements made in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. The very simple fact is that they just cannot justify any increases in sales tax on anything at all and certainly not on items such as children’s toys, sporting equipment, soaps, detergents, polishes, tyres and tubes, stationery and all those things that I have mentioned. The Treasurer and the Minister assisting him knew quite well that they could not justify any increase and thought it wise not to attempt to do so.
The sales tax on all these items that 1 have mentioned and many others will be increased from 12½% to 15%. It may be suggested that this represents an increase of only 2½%. It is actually a 20% increase. It is an increase of 2½% on the price being paid for the article, but it is an increase of 20% in the actual tax. So, by means of these Bills, the Government intends to gather by way of sales tax an additional 20% on items such as a child’s rattle, for instance. This is the attitude of this Government to taxation, and this is its attitude in relation to any examination that should be made of sales tax. It shows that the Government does not have much idea of what should be done and what should not be done. Therefore, it is no wonder that neither the Treasurer nor the Minister assisting him made any attempt to justify these increases.
The Treasurer told us that the increase in revenue which was expected to come from the increase in sales tax would be approximately S44m in a full year. That is a fairly substantial amount to gather by way of indirect taxation. Surely the effect on the taxpayers should have warranted an investigation to ascertain on which sections of the community and what areas of Australia the additional burden would fall most. It is quite obvious that neither the Treasurer nor anyone else in the Government has any idea of where the greatest burden will be placed, and apparently the Government is not interested in finding out. This has become abundantly clear as a result of its attitude towards the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia, commonly known as the Loder Committee. This Committee was appointed in 1964 to carry out investigations into transport costs in the north of Australia. It presented its report in September 1965. That report was very critical of the way sales tax was being applied and the adverse effect it was having on people and industries in northern Australia. The subject of sales tax is dealt with at pages 103, 104 and 105 of the report and also in a summary of the Committee’s conclusions at pages 8 and 9. I want to refer to some passages in the report because they are very important in relation to the subject that is now before the House. Later I hope to show that this Government has completely ignored the recommendations of the Loder Committee. At page 103, under the heading ‘Commercial vehicles, tyres and parts’ - it is in this field that the extra taxation is imposed by the Bills - the Loder Committee reported:
The cost of operating motor vehicles in the North is high because in most areas the roads are of a lower standard than in the South, causing higher maintenance costs and a shorter life for the vehicles. In addition, the initial cost of the vehicle is increased by delivery costs.
Tyres frequently give only half the mileage obtained in the South and in many areas the roads are such that recapping is not practicable. Usage of spare parts is high. Whilst some tyres and batteries are available at the principal ports at capital city prices, these prices do not apply at inland centres and they do not apply generally to most spare parts. In many areas spare parts are hard to get from local sources and they must be brought in at heavy cost by air-freight.
Thus the operator in many areas of the North bears a much higher cost in sales tax on vehicles, tyres and parts on a per-mile basis than does the southern operator.
The Committee was told that delivery charges on vehicles in a number of Zone A centres were up to 13% of the final cost of the vehicles. In some Zone B towns, delivery costs were about 7% of the total retail price.
Sales tax on commercial vehicles, tyres and spare parts is currently 12i%.
That tax has gone up because the Government has already imposed the new level of 15% as from 14th August of this year although the Bills implementing this change are before us now.
The report continues:
If sales tax exemption were given to such commodities when the vehicle was used almost exclusively in Zone A, the delivery cost would be broadly off-set. (The indicated concession for Zone B would be for exemption of half the sales tax).
The exemption considered above appears justified on the ground of equity and should assist in reducing freight charges and costs.
The report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia goes on to deal with ‘Electrical Appliances’ and says:
Transport costs on these items are relatively heavy and sales tax is frequently charged on the freight.
The Committee then deals with the ‘Collection of Sales Tax on Freights’. It says:
Northern Australia suffers in a pronounced degree from the collection of sales tax on freight and is worse off in this respect than other parts of Australia.
The Committee was informed that in 1953 the Government referred the question to a Committee which pointed out inter alia that if the retailer brought goods f.o.b. or f.o.r. and paid the freight and insurance himself there would be no sales tax on freight. In the North, however, wholesalers still play a major role. Sales tax is levied on the sum of their purchase price, freight and profit. Freight and sales tax make up a larger percentage of the wholesaler’s selling prices than they do in the South. The greater the transport and associated costs, the greater is the sales tax.
The Committee received many representations on this inequity. It accordingly approached the Chambers of Commerce in major northern centres and asked whether wholesalers would have practical difficulties in calculating and collecting tax if it were permissible to exclude the freight costs within Australia from the value for sales tax purposes. Only two Chambers replied saying there would be considerable difficulties.
The only alternative appears to be the general application of reductions in sales tax where heavy freight costs are contained in the wholesale price. The general application of such a principle appeared to be extremely difficult and accordingly the Committee confined its attention to suggesting reductions to the small list of goods referred to above. It nevertheless feels that this question requires further attention from the Government.
Difficulties of administration there may well be, but in view of the effect on prices in the outback and of which the transport component is so great a proportion of the whole, the Committee feels the matter demands the attention of Government.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I would have thought that those recommendations from the Loder Committee would be strong enough to cause the Government to take some notice of what was said and to make some investigation to ascertain where this burden is being placed in the north and compare the sales tax collected on certain items in isolated areas and in outback areas with the amount of sales tax collected on similar items in the south or in a city. Because I felt that the Government would have taken some action along these lines after the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in northern Australia was presented, I asked the Treasurer a question, confident that 1 would receive the information that I sought. I asked the Treasurer:
The answer that I received was:
Statistics of sales tax collections are not classified according to the geographical area mentioned and do not, therefore, disclose the information sought by the honourable member.
The report to which I have just referred also made recommendations in relation to payroll tax and income tax. 1 al’so asked questions about these matters and received replies similar to the one that I have just quoted.
So, it becomes obvious, as I said earlier, that the Government is not one bit interested in finding out whether its taxing methods are equitable or inequitable. All that the Government is concerned with is ensuring that it gets sufficient moneys for the Treasury to run the business that the Government sets out to undertake. If the Government votes against our amendment on this occasion, this will simply highlight again its disinterest in the whole situation and show that it is not worried whether there is an unnecessary and an unjust burden being placed upon certain areas or certain sections of the community. I do not know what it cost to carry out the investigation conducted by the Loder Committee. Whatever the cost was, apparently the money has been wasted because the Government has taken no heed of the report. That is the only qualm that I have in relation to our amendment. Will the Government, if a recommendation is brought down, take any heed of that recommendation or will it simply ignore the recommendation as it has done with so many other reports? I can console myself only with the fact that by the time such investigation is carried out and a report presented we will be occupying the treasury benches, not the present Government Parties, so that there will be a better chance of the report being implemented.
The items on which the additional sales tax is being imposed by the Bills now before the House are in the main those that will be purchased by people in the north for use in the north or by people in the south to be used in the north. So, the action of the Government in increasing sales tax on those items is a complete contradiction of what the Loder Committee recommended. The increases will have a much greater impact in the north and in country areas than they will in the south or in metropolitan areas. The Opposition says that the increased sales tax should not be imposed in any of the areas at all. As was pointed out in the report of the Loder Committee and as has been stated in reply to questions in this House sales tax - in this case the rate is 15% - will be imposed on the wholesale price. As everyone knows, the wholesale price of an article at or near the site of manufacture or supply usually is less - much less - than it is in places where the article has been handled several times or transported over long distances.
So, the effects of this increase will be exactly those against which the Loder Committee warned us. It will increase transport costs. It will increase delivery costs. It will increase the cost of production in primary industry. It will mean an increase in farm costs, particularly with regard to the transportation of goods to and from farms. It will increase costs in the mining industry which, like the farming industry, can ill afford any such increases. It will impose further costs and hardships upon the ordinary family man, on the ordinary household, etc. These are costs which just cannot be justified.
Taxation is what may be termed a necessary evil. It is necessary to gather the finances required to run a country. But this is no reason why the taxation required should not be gathered in an intelligent manner. Taxation should be imposed in such a way that it will be gathered in the main from those who are in the most favourable position to pay. This can be done by using the direct forms of taxation, such as income tax. Indirect tax such as sales tax cannot be so used because it hits just as hard, as far as tax gathering goes, those people in the less favourable financial positions as it does those in more favoured positions. The present amendments will affect many more people who are unfavourably placed than it will people who can well afford to pay. The Government, by these Bills, has decided to impose an additional tax on items which already attract a 121% tax. If we examine the taxation statistics for 1966-67 we find that the amount gathered by way of sales tax from items in the 12i% group, which is now to become the 15% group, was more than twice as much as that gathered from the 25% and 2i% groups combined. Therefore it is quite obvious that the Government has selected the group in which sales tax is being paid by the majority of the community - in fact, where it is being paid on some items by every taxpayer in the community. The increased sales tax will be imposed on such items as soap, toothpaste, detergents, sweets and toys. Practically every taxpayer will be purchasing some of these items. So all will be hit. We would have no argument about this if we had a situation where every taxpayer received an equal income but, of course, this is not the situation.
Reference to the 1966-67 statistics also discloses that 4,770,552 persons were listed as taxpayers in that year, but of that number 4,562,973 had incomes of less than $6,000 per year and 1,859,702 had incomes of less than $2,000. Just over 1,398,000 had incomes ranging between $2,000 and $3,000. At the other end of the scale 46,226 taxpayers had incomes of between $10,000 and $20,000 and almost 7,500 had incomes ranging from $20,000 to more than $100,000. Yet under this system of sales tax those with incomes of $100,000 will pay no more - will make no higher contribution to revenue - than people with incomes of $2,000 or, for that matter, those on incomes of $600. The only difference, of course, is that those on $600 a year cannot afford to buy as much. Many of the articles involved are health articles, like soap and toothpaste. People should be encouraged to buy such articles, and not discouraged. Sales tax on them certainly should not be increased. According to the statistics more than half of the Australian taxpayers - 50.83% to be exact - have incomes of less than $2,400 a year. I am talking of actual income and not taxable income. Yet the Government apparently considers it to be fair and equitable that that 50% should pay indirect tax at the same rate as the other 50% whose incomes range as high as $100,000 and more. In the low income group we have people like pensioners whose incomes may be no more than $600 or $700, but they have the same sales tax rate imposed upon them.
If we look at the report of the Commissioner of Taxation for the years 1957-58 up to and including 1967-68, we find that over that 10-year period the amount collected by way of sales tax rose from just over $275.5m to just over $41 7m. Next year, if the estimated figure given by the Treasurer is correct, it will increase by a further $44m to a total of more than $460m. It is all right to argue that the percentage of sales tax today as against direct tax has been reduced from what it was 10 years ago, but that does not alter the fact that the Treasury will gather $460m by way of sales tax next year and that the major portion of it will come from people on low incomes. Quite a large proportion of it will come from people who should not have any tax imposed on them at all.
It is claimed by the Australian Soap and Allied Products Manufacturers that the average household spends about $1.60 a week on soap, dentrifices and detergents - or about 20c a week in sales tax. This is only a small area of sales tax but it is the area in which the Government is now increasing the tax. So we face the situation where the average household will be paying about $12 to $15 a year in sales tax on soap, toothpaste and so forth. The average household includes those households whose breadwinner has an income of less than $2,000 a year. Pensioners on $600 or $700 a year are involved. These people, quite properly, are not interested in percentages of direct taxation as against percentages of indirect taxation; they are concerned with what it means to their own budgets. As I said earlier, the increase in sales tax has been applied to toothpaste. I am reminded that my dad told me that in his young days charcoal was used as a teeth cleaning agent. The way this Government is going it will not be long before charcoal becomes very popular again. I am not competent to say whether charcoal is a good cleanser, but I think that toothpaste would be much more acceptable, particularly to children who are not always over-enthusiastic about cleaning their teeth. We all would agree that dental decay is a problem in Australia and that the regular cleaning of teeth is a good way to fight such decay. It is particularly important in a child’s early years that he get into the habit of cleaning his teeth regularly, yet we find that a further tax is being imposed on articles that are important to a person’s health - soaps, detergents, and toothpaste. The imposition of this tax must have a discouraging effect upon purchasers, and it will not assist the aims that we should have in relation to health.
I have in my possession an article entitled Why Tax Cleanliness?’ That is a good question. It has the sub-title ‘A Case for the Abolition of Sales Tax on Soaps, Dentrifices and Detergents’. I want to quote a couple of comments from this document because it reveals the absurdity of the present methods being used by the Government in relation to sales tax. The document states:
Anomalies of the Tax.
The removal of the sales tax on soaps, detergents and dentifrices would mean the removal of an enormous and unfair burden on the family man
Consider these anomalies as they now apply:
Soap for human consumption is subject to sales tax. Dog soap is not!
If a person wants to wash his baby, he pays sales tax; if he wants to wash his dog, he does not pay sales tax. The document continues:
All drugs, medicines and dental supplies, both curative and preventive, are exempt from sales tax. But soaps, detergents and dentifrices, which are essentially protective and preventive are taxed.
Fly control and hand-washing are the two major control measures advocated and encouraged by health authorities to curb the spread of hepatitis, enteritis and other regular epidemics. Fly sprays are not subject to sales tax. Soaps are!
Internal cleanliness is encouraged. There is no tax on salines, fruit salts, etc., yet external cleanliness is taxed.
Soaps and detergents used in butter factories for cleaning of machinery, utensils, floors, etc., are tax free. Soaps and detergents used for cleaning food preparation areas, e.g. kitchens in restaurants, hotels, etc., are taxable.
What a ridiculous situation this is. Surely these things highlight the need for a comprehensive examination, as our amendment suggests. The document continues:
Toothbrushes and mouth washes are not subject to sales tax. Toothpastes are!
Clothing is tax-free, but soaps used to wash clothes are taxed.
Later the document states:
The sales tax on soaps, detergents and toothpastes is a tax on expendable consumer goods, essential to every member of the community several times a day every day of the year. As applied to this category, but to no other, the sales tax is in fact a compulsory levy imposed on every wage-earner and his family in Australia.
The document is quite lengthy, but it concludes:
Soap is one of man’s greatest discoveries. Its use is vigorously encouraged at every level by health authorities, both Commonwealth and State, who recognise its health-preserving and diseasepreventing qualities, but the Commonwealth Treasury maintains a tax impost on this everyday health and hygiene essential.
Consider the absurdity of the situation in which the Federal Government spends millions a year on health services while maintaining a tax on products designed to prevent disease. Surely prevention is better than cure!
The tax on soap, detergents and dentifrices is an iniquitous levy on every Australian citizen. Removal of the tax would mean the removal of series of anomalies bordering on the ridiculous.
The document then gives a bit of a plug and says that if the tax is removed the benefit will be passed on to the consumer. The situation is ridiculous.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The measure before the House provides for an increase in the general rate of sales tax from 12½% to 15% on a variety of goods, amongst which are commercial motor vehicles, motor cycles, caravans, motor vehicle parts and tyres, office furniture and business equipment, advertising matter, stationery and other paper products, confectionery, potable spirits, toys, sporting equipment including yachts and boats, soaps, detergents, polishes and chemicals, lawn mowers, travelware and musical instruments. That is a summary of the items affected by this increase of sales tax. I wish to refer to the inequity in the application of sales tax. It is a form of indirect taxation. Pensions were increased during this sessional period by $1 a week for single pensioners and by 75c a week for married pensioners. But these increases will be more than offset by the increase of sales tax, particularly on such items as soaps, detergents, polishes and chemicals, lawn mowers and travelware. I do not include musical instruments. Most age pensioners who have the pleasure of playing a musical instrument would probably have bought the instrument they play long before this. Nevertheless, the fact is that the increase of sales tax will affect those people in the community who are least able to afford it.
We were told that the Budget introduced in August last would not increase taxation but would encourage investment and expansion. But this measure places a load unfairly on many people in the community. Other honourable members have shown how this has happened. One inequity in the application of sales tax is that it is levied on personal toiletries but not on other items. If we use dog soap we do not pay sales tax; if we use toilet soap we pay sales tax. Chemicals used for animals, such as tick wash, are not subject to sales tax, but detergents and personal perfumes are taxed. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said that personal morale costs money. If we want to smell of tick wash or dog wash it does not cost us anything in tax; but if we want to smell like human beings we must pay tax for the privilege. This is an inequitable form of taxation.
But let us look at this subject more closely, without being facetious. Children and workers probably use more soap than anyone else. For instance, miners use soap in the showers they have after their day’s toil in the bowels of the earth. I do not know how many cakes of soap a miner would use and I do not know how many days a cake of soap would last, but I do know that a cake of soap would not last very long for a person in this type of work. A white collar worker or a member of Parliament would not use as much soap as a miner would. I suppose it would be possible to use a bit of scent and dispense with soap altogether. This seemed to be the general practice in the Elizabethan age. Children get dirty no matter how much trouble parents take trying to keep them clean, and the families of Australia, the people who are populating the country, have this additional impost placed upon them. The sales tax on toys and sporting equipment also is increased from 124% to 15%.
If we look back through the history of sales tax we find that no sales tax was imposed until 11th July 1931, when a general rate of sales tax of 24% was placed on various items. This was gradually increased until it reached 124% on 1st May 1942. It remained at 124% until 15th November 1946, during the term of office of the Curtin and Chifley Labor Governments. It was reduced to 10% on 15th November 1946 and was then further reduced to 84%. It remained at 84% until 13th October 1950, when it was increased to 124%. So we see that Labor’s attitude has not changed. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) said that Labor’s attitude had changed and he appealed to the Labor Party of which, he said, we were all so proud. I wonder whom he meant by we’. I wonder at what stage the honourable member for Parkes was proud of the Australian Labor Party. I am proud to know that the record of the Australian Labor Party is unchallenged and that its attitude to sales tax has not changed.
Sales tax is a form of indirect taxation that falls indiscriminately on all sections of the community irrespective of income. It does not matter whether people can afford to pay this tax, whether they are in receipt of a pension or the basic wage or whether they have a family. The Australian Labor Party believes that taxation should be imposed according to a person’s income. People with incomes should pay tax. They have earned the income and they should be willing to pay tax on it. If they have not earned any income they should not be called upon to pay any tax. This applies equally to primary producers, whose personal incomes have fallen considerably in recent years under this Government. If they do not have an income they should not pay tax. But they will be called upon to pay this sales tax.
I wonder how the Australian Country Party can afford to support such a measure as this. It increases the burden on primary producers by calling on them to pay an additional 21% on certain items. Perhaps 2i% does not seem much; but let us look at it. An additional 2i% is added to the cost of a commercial vehicle, a truck or a van, and commerical vehicles are an essential item on any farm. The sales tax on spare parts and tyres is increased by 2i%. This increase falls very heavily on people in country areas. The increase in price that they have to meet is not just the increase flowing from the extra 2i% sales tax on the price of the items purchased; it is greater than this because the sales tax at the higher rate is imposed also on freight and handling charges. This was mentioned in the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia, which has come to be known as the Loder Committee. But this method of applying sales tax is not confined to northern Australia, as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker. Even in your own electorate, which is away from the capital city of Sydney, in centres where wholesalers operate people have to pay sales tax on the wholesale price and also on freight and other charges. I know of cases in which spare parts have been flown out from the capita] cities and sales tax has been charged on the air freight costs.
Costs of spare parts cause many worries for people in primary industries, but these costs have to be met. The day has passed when farmers depended on horses to work their properties. Now they have tractors and farm implements costing tens of thousands of dollars. From time to time spare parts are needed for these machines and the farmer is called upon to pay sales tax on the freight and handling charges. He cannot escape this. Some people have got over the difficulty by buying goods f.o.b. at the capital cities, but this defeats the aim of decentralisation of industry about which the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) was speaking earlier this evening. Numbers of wholesalers in provincial cities have been forced out of business by the application of sales tax on freight and handling charges. We have seen this happen in the wine and spirit trade. Many wine and spirit wholesalers in country areas have gone out of business because of the system of charging sales tax on freight and handling costs. It may be suggested that the answer is to order goods f.o.b. at the capital cities so that sales tax is paid only on the price of the goods themselves, but, as I have said, this results in the closing down of wholesale establishments in provincial towns. This has been happening all over Australia but nothing has been done to alter the system, which increases greatly the prices of all kinds of goods such as spare parts and tyres and also commercial vehicles.
I wish to read to the House some extracts from the report of the Loder Committee. I do not think the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) read the part relating to cattle transportation. We have heard the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) speaking of the transport of cattle, particularly on beef roads. The Loder Committee said, as appears at page 103 of its report:
Cattle Transports: Vehicles used primarily for transporting lifestock exclusively within Taxation Zones A and B are exempt from sales tax.
Commercial Vehicles, tyres and parts: The cost of operating motor vehicles in the north is high because in most areas the roads are of a lower standard than in the south, causing higher maintenance costs and a shorter life for the vehicles. In addition, the initial cost of the vehicle is increased by delivery costs.
Thus the operator in many areas of the north bears a much higher cost in sales tax on vehicles, tyres and parts on a per-mile basis than does the southern operator.
The Committee was told that delivery charges on vehicles in a number of Zone A centres were up to 13% of the final cost of the vehicles. In some Zone B towns, delivery costs were about 7% of the total retail price.
The Committee made certain recommendations. Under the heading ‘Collection of Sales Tax on Freight’ it said:
Northern Australia suffers in a pronounced degree from the collection of sales tax on freight and is worse off in this respect than other parts of Australia.
The Committee was informed that in 1953 the Government referred the question to a Committee which pointed out inter alia that if the retailer bought goods f.o.b. or f.o.r. and paid the freight and insurance himself there would be no sales tax on freight.
But here again we meet the objection that this practice defeats decentralisation. The Committee went on:
In the north, however, wholesalers still play a major role. Sales tax is levied on the sum of their purchase price, freight and profit. Freight and sales tax make up a larger percentage of the wholesaler’s selling prices than they do in the south. The greater the transport and associated costs, the greater is the sales tax.
The Committee received many representations on this inequity. It accordingly approached the Chambers of Commerce in major northern centres and asked whether wholesalers would have practical difficulties in calculating and collecting tax if it were permissible to exclude the freight costs within Australia from the value for sales tax purposes. Only two Chambers replied, saying there would be considerable difficulties.
I would say that in any provincial town any person having some knowledge of this matter would have replied similarly. The Committee went on:
The only alternative appears to be the general application of reductions in sales tax where heavy freight costs are contained in the wholesale price.
We have in recent months faced problems associated with the motor vehicle industry. The Tariff Board regarded as unfair the competition that the local industry was facing from imported motor cars. If this was true of motor cars it would be true also of commercial vehicles, which form an important product of the Australian motor vehicle industry. If Australian built vehicles are to be subjected to an increase of2½% in the sales tax applying to them, then I submit that these vehicles are again being unfairly dealt with as compared with imported vehicles. This tax is unfair in its application because it imposes the greatest burden on those least able to pay. I do not deny that the Commonwealth has commitments and that it finances those commitments by way of taxation, but 1 do respectfully submit that the Commonwealth could find some more equitable means of raising this money by taxation.
There has been an increase in the rate of sales tax on stationery and other paper products also, and in this connection I would like particularly to deal with school pencils and other requisites. Here again, I believe, the burden will fall most unfairly on the family man. Most schools have now dispensed with the slate which could be used over and over again. They require students to provide themselves with paper writing pads and exercise books for different subjects, as well as pencils, biros and so on. A general increase in the rate of sales tax applies to these items, and the burden again falls on the people who have the responsibility for educating their children. I believe that the Government is hindering the education of these children by imposing upon their parents this additional burden of sales tax on school requisites.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has pointed out, if a person spends a certain amount of his income on the purchase of school requisites and has to pay an additional2½% sales tax on them, the additional sales tax is a hidden cost in these items; it creeps up on him. He pays the money automatically. It is only when he starts to check back on receipts or invoices that he finds he has been charged for the items a greater amount than he was charged previously. This burden of additional sales tax falls indiscriminately upon the family man. If he has a certain amount of money to spend on school requisites, and he has to pay an additional2½% sales tax on them, he is therefore able to purchase a lesser quantity. Some honourable members might say that the position evens itself out. But because this is an inequitable tax the Australian Labor Party is quite justified in its opposition to it.
– I wish to speak briefly on the Sales Tax Bills and to reiterate some of the points which have been made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), particularly those with respect to the alleviation of the sales tax burden in country areas. As has already been pointed out. one of the problems is that sales tax is levied not only on freights but also on the profits of wholesalers. So by the time the retailer sells to the consumer in country areas the consumer is paying sales tax on the f.o.b. equivalent, plus the freight, plus the wholesaler’s profit.
In many instances in country areas there are also additional and illegal charges on the invoices such as telephone charges and other charges on which sales tax is calculated. Often one does not know how much money is collected and goes back to the Treasury unless one actually dissects or analyses the invoices themselves. But because of high freight rates the imposition of sales tax is placing a very heavy and unfair burden upon people living in remote areas. This applies particularly to development materials, that is. to building materials such as galvanised iron, wire and cement.
To give honourable members an idea of the differences in costs for construction work in the remoter areas, building costs in Rockhampton are 15% above those in Brisbane. Included in the 15% would be an element of sales tax. When we get to Mount Isa, a point somewhat further west in Queensland, we find that the building costs there are 60% above those in Brisbane. There is a greater element of sales tax in this instance than there is in relation to Rockhampton, because freight to Mount Isa is significantly higher in absolute terms. If we take Darwin, the cost of building materials depends on which way the commodities are transported there. If they go by ship they could be cheaper than if they go by rail to Mount Isa and then by road to Darwin. People who live in the northern part of the Northern Territory have to bear a greater burden of sales tax than do people who live in the capital cities. I believe that this, in itself, is quite wrong.
There is a problem in the collection of sales tax which has been raised many times in this House. Because it has been raised many times here, and because it has been raised many times by chambers of commerce and by development bureaux it is high time that something was done to alleviate this obvious inequity which is imposed upon people who live in areas outside of capital cities. There are not many instances of differential rates of sales tax as such applying in Australia, but the Government has at least set a precedent here. It relates to the question of cattle transport, which has been mentioned tonight. In taxation zones A and B operators are exempted from the payment of sales tax on prime movers on road transport provided that they operate within zones A and B. But in many cases these road trains have to operate marginally outside of zones A and B and, under the law, are excluded from the sales tax exemptions. I think that this matter must be looked at again, because the whole purpose of the sales tax exemption in the Northern Territory was, firstly, to promote the development of the area and, secondly, to promote the development of the beef industry which is, perhaps, the most valuable of all export industries in the primary industry field, from the long term point of view - and I stress, from the long term point of view. The sales tax exemption has, in effect, been provided as an incentive.
Although one could, perhaps, raise the constitutional question, whether in fact it is constitutionally correct to provide differential rates of sales tax, which in effect is being done in that instance by exempting from the payment of sales tax people who live in zones A and B, nevertheless the practical aspects have been achieved and sales tax exemptions have provided a direct incentive to the cattle industry in those areas. But if exemption from sales tax can be applied constitutionally in zones A and B one wonders why the Government cannot create more zones and provide additional exemptions from the payment of sales tax which would reduce the burden of sales tax on people who are charged sales tax on freight and also on the wholesaler’s profit. As the honourable member for Wide Bay pointed out, this problem is causing many people in the northern parts of Australia and in country areas to buy direct, f.o.b. from the capital cities. This is having obvious effects on local business people who are wholesalers in their own right and who have to buy from capital cities in order to sell to the retailing public.
These are some of the points which I wished to bring before the notice of the House tonight. Sales tax imposes a tremendous burden on people who live in remote areas of Queensland and certainly in the Northern Territory and in the northern parts of Western Australia. Practically every commodity which is produced in these areas earns valuable export income. I think that the Government should give more serious consideration to solving this problem of the unjust burden being imposed on people who live in the remoter areas of Australia.
Mr IAN ALLAN (Gwydir) [9.291-1 am surprised to hear Labor speakers opposing these Bills in the terms in which they have expressed themselves this evening, because recently the Labour Government in the United Kingdom set a precedent for the raising of necessary funds by indirect means rather than by direct means. It follows a trend which is widespread throughout the world these days. The trend is away from direct taxation towards indirect taxation. I quote from an article that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the British Parliament-
– Try to put some ginger in it.
– 1 thought any subject connected with taxation had plenty of ginger in it.
– We cannot hear you.
– I will make it a little hotter for the honourable member. The Labour Minister in charge of the Treasury in the United Kingdom said that his choice for raising extra money by the means of indirect taxation represented a key step in a movement that has been gaining force in both thinking of economists and practice of financial ministries. Gone, he said, is the unquestioning preference for taxes on income and wealth, so-called direct taxes, over taxes on spending or indirect taxes. These are the words of a Labour Minister in the United Kingdom. I would have thought that by now the good news would have seeped through to his counterparts in Australia who are in opposition in this Parliament. But evidently not. The Labor Party in Australia prefers a general rise in income tax which hits at the savings of people to a tax that can be avoided very largely by people who do not wish to spend their money in the particular ways which involve extra taxation.
The Labor Party would rather have an overall tax on incomes, which hits at the people who aim to earn more and save more, than a tax on those who spend. I am totally opposed to this philosophy and I find myself in accord with the thinking of the present day Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom. I say this because I am al1! for thrift. I believe that of all countries of the world at present, Australia is one country that should be encouraging thrift in its people. We are a capital hungry nation. The best capital of all is the capital we are able to accumulate ourselves. I am all for encouraging thrifty people in Australia. I am all for encouraging people in Australia to own the goods of Australia. I will do everything, and support every move, towards having Australians own Australian resources. If members of the Labor Party do not want this, let them get up and say so, practically and openly. This soapy talk of not hitting the poor because of some rise in indirect taxation is something that is completely hypocritical. What the Labor Party is aiming at is the destruction of thrift in the community. 1 am totally opposed to that.
We are already paying very high direct taxation but we are paying it mainly at income levels higher than most other countries. Australia is a modestly taxed country overall. But in income tax we are hitting those people whose incomes are above the lowest level. Anyone who has a salary or income above the modest mean level - the lowest level - is hit very hard. I believe it is high time-
– It is a fact. I wish to quote from the ‘Economist’ of the 25th June 1966. The article is a little dated, but it still remains true, lt states:
Australia overall pays as a percentage of gross national product some 23.9%.
That compares more than favourably with countries that have a similar standard of living such as France, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Britain and the United States. All those countries pay more taxation than we do in Australia. In regard to personal income tax, Sweden, Holland, United States and Britain all pay more than Australia. So far as the actual scale is concerned, we are hit the hardest. I find it rather difficult to make a comparison in this case because the standards in various countries are different. It is hard to compare income tax in one country with another if one takes the particular scale into consideration.
But if we look at the graph, we can see how income tax rises steeply in Australia after it leaves the lowest levels of income.
After an examination of the curve we appreciate that our incomes are hit the hardest at the point where it hurts most - the point where incomes start to rise above the lowest level. The people with those incomes are the ones who are punished the hardest in Australia; they are the people whom I want to see protected. They can be protected if we have a more balanced system of taxation. This form of raising money by increasing sales tax - it is not overall but it is selective - will relieve those people to a small extent. People who wish to be thrifty will be able to avoid this tax. As 1 said before, this tax will help us to encourage thrifty people - the people who are hard working and who are ultimately the backbone of this nation.
– I rise to ask the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) and other Government supporters exactly how one avoids sales tax.
– By not spending.
– Then do not send your children to school because this is a tax on school requirements. This Government has consistently refused to remove the tax on school requirements. Whom does this tax hit hardest? It is not your children and not mine - I am sure of that - and I suggest it is not the people whom the Government wants to protect. But school requirements are covered by the increases in these Bills. Soap is also covered by the increases. Do you suggest that people should stop washing so that they can avoid sales tax? This may well be in keeping with your background but is not in keeping with the background of the Australian people. The facts are that every person in this community must meet sales tax on an equal basis irrespective of what he or she earns.
The honourable member for Gwydir said that the scale of income tax in certain areas is not encouraging thrift. This is an argument for a review of the income tax scale; it is not an argument for increasing sales tax. The present scales by which income tax is levied have been very convenient for the Government. It means that each time wages and salaries rise, incomes go into higher tax groups and increased revenues accrue automatically. As a result it is not necessary for each Budget to increase the actual amounts payable in income tax on each dollar of assessable income because inflation has taken care of the budgetary problems. We have the situation where people who hitherto were on very low incomes by today’s values and who, when this particular scale was evolved, were on moderate or middle incomes, are paying tax rates which are completely out of keeping with their incomes. People earning less than $2,000 a year are really in the soup. They do not earn enough to keep a family. When the present tax scales were evolved people in the $5,000 to $7,000 income bracket would have been considered to be earning a high income. They would have been in what I might describe as the lower rich category. But this is not an argument for increasing sales tax. An increase in sales tax hits the pensioner as hard as it hits the millionaire. A millionaire who buys a packet of razor blades pays no more sales tax than does a pensioner who buys a packet of razor blades. Would anybody deny that a pensioner is entitled to have a shave? I think not.
The argument advanced by Government supporters that revenue from sales tax is needed to develop Australia is a lot of hypocritical humbug. We all want to see Australian capital used to develop Australia, but not one penny of the money raised by the increases in sales tax which we are now debating will be used to develop Australia. If the Government genuinely wants to see Australian capital invested in Australian industries let it say so and let it do something to encourage Australians to invest in their country. I am sure that Australians would welcome such an opportunity. Honourable members who suggest that this legislation is designed to raise capital for investment in Australia must think that everybody is naive. Equally, any honourable member who claims in this House that sales tax can be avoided is not being honest with the people whom he represents. You cannot avoid sales tax if you live in a modern community at a standard at which we expect people in Australia lo live.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Freeth) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 August (vide page 109), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1968 makes provision for the raising of loan funds amounting to $5,500,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. As in the past year Western Australia will receive the greater share, not that this means that that State has a greater need for development finance because it is in more trouble than the other two but simply that more funds are needed in Western Australia to enable war service land settlement farmers to stand on their own feet. However, in some areas of South Australia and particularly in Tasmania there are problems which possibly have been inherent in the war service land settlement scheme since it was introduced in early post-war years. Some of those problems, particularly with respect to drainage, are physical problems which stem from the original allocation of land. It is some years since I have been to the Mildura, Loxton and Renmark areas but I should think that the salinity problems and the rising salt tables are still major problems on some farms in those areas. Although the Bill does not specifically say what the finance is for with respect to the tidying up’ mentioned by the Minister, I suspect that it is to deal with the drainage problem.
I have no quarrel with the Bill, though it is quite easy to criticise in the light of what happens afterwards. However, economic problems have arisen in certain areas. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) will deal with those problems, particularly in relation to King Island. I express no basic opposition to the measure. I have always been a supporter of the war service land settlement scheme. If one wanted to criticise the Bill one could find ample reasons to do so, as in most cases when one wants to take a critical view. One problem which is developing and which should present us with a lesson for future land settlement schemes, whether for civilians or for men who have had war service, relates to the size of farms. In the late 1950s the size of farms was determined on a definite relationship between costs and income, income being related, of course, to the price of the commodity being produced on the farm. The greatest problems now facing primary industry are the insidious increase in costs, particularly in rural areas, and the stagnant or deteriorating terms of trade. These problems have come about through no fault of the Government or of any policy in Australia; they are due simply to the way that the terms of trade are moving with the effect on prices overseas of other governments’ policies in relation to the protection of secondary industry and the subsidising of primary industry. We can learn from experience the desirable size for war service land settlement farms.
I wish to speak only briefly on the Bill. Certain questions were asked last year by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) in relation to the Government’s future policy for settling ex-servicemen from the Vietnam war. These questions still have not been answered and the Opposition again would like to ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) whether the Government has any plans for settling with a comparable scheme or in comparable positions with respect to land development those boys who have served or who are serving in Vietnam.
I would like to make one other comment. Perhaps we need more information about the losses being accumulated on many of these farms. Through no fault of their own, farmers, particularly in areas such as King Island, have accumulated very large losses. Here again it could easily be that they have no hope of getting out of the difficulties they are in today. It would seem that a strong case exists for writing off the losses in some areas, because if a man and his family have to strive year in and year out simply to earn enough income to service their debts they have not a very bright future. The farmer has to be able to repay some of the capital outlaid in the type of primary industry he is engaged in. If his farm is small and costs are rising, it does not matter how efficient he is in terms of net income per acre or wool cut per acre, or whatever the basis of measurement may be - he might be a highly efficient farmer in terms of the use of resources - if, because of the size of his farm, he does not receive sufficient net income to service the debts which could be accumulating. The Opposition has no objection to the Bill, which provides for the raising of loan moneys once more to assist in the war service settlement scheme.
– I would like to make a few points in relation to the Bill before the House, which provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to some $5,500,000 for war service land settlement. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) described the continuing operations as largely a matter of tidying up on farms in a large scale development project. This has been a very large project and, in my book, it has been a very successful one, though it has had its problems and its ups and downs. Any major project of this nature obviously would have some problems on the way through. In the main, this scheme has been wonderful for many chaps. There are, of course, gaps in it some of which I want to mention tonight. There are some minor problems and some that are perhaps a little more than minor.
The settlers on some of the farms established under this scheme need further assistance. They need to utilise to the fullest extent the land which has been made available to them. If they cannot do this, in many cases the farms will not be the success that they should be. When the scheme was started, especially in my own State of Western Australia, it was started as a development project, not as one based on farms that had been developed previously. Some of the properties had already been developed, but in the main the farms were carved out of the bush. In some areas, with the aid of science and knowledge based on research and previous practical experience, this kind of project was able to get off the ground for the first time. Settlement in many of the areas has been very successful. Towns are growing up and the farmers are doing reasonably well. But in other areas the farmers are not doing so well. I mention specifically tonight the area known as Rocky Gully, in Western Australia. I went there for the first time when the developers first went in. Obviously it was territory which would present some problems. At that time small farms of only 600 acres were being cleared in the timbered country there. This was not easy country to clear and work. It was the sort of land that was regarded as needing work by several generations to attain full production and get the project off the ground.
I understand that half a dozen or so farmers at Rocky Gully have been in trouble for some time. The trouble is not of their own making, I might add. When I went in there the second or third time, the 600 acres that were supposed to have been cleared on each farm had not been cleared satisfactorily. The land had not been cleared in the way it should have been cleared. Undoubtedly, the money spent on clearing had not made it possible for the settlers to farm the land as it should have been farmed. Some years later more money was made available to clean up some of the land. If my memory serves me correctly, the cleared area was increased from 600 to 700 acres for each farm. I do not doubt that settlers on the farms I saw many years ago would have got away to a bad start and that this would account for their present difficulties. It would have been quite impossible to make a success of many of the farms I saw - not all of them, of course - until such time as a good job had been made of clearing the land. This is no fault of the landholder as we know him today.
I know that some of these farmers are in difficulties. On the information I have, letters have been sent asking them to sell within 12 months. Because of the circumstances which prevail in some farming districts in that area at the moment, a sale now might not be to the advantage of the settler. It may not be easy to sell now at a satisfactory price. It may not be to the best advantage of the war service land settlement scheme just to say that these farms in fact should be sold in 12 months.
If the decision is such that it is necessary under the Act to move in, I would suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry, when it is difficult to sell the land at a reasonable price within 12 months, that some consideration should be given to the soldier settler. When, finally, the land is sold, if he has any equity left in it, action should be taken to ensure that the soldier settler gets a part of the sale price. I would not have made this suggestion unless I had been fairly closely associated with this area very early in the piece and had seen something at first hand of what was going on. Seeing that I have been farming all my life, 1 think I can claim to know something as a result of the inspections - not one but several - that I have mads of this area.
So, I would ask that the case or cases, as the situation may be, of these farmers at Rocky Gully should be given consideration. The settlers are in financial trouble. I have not the details of these matters and I do not intend to speak on them tonight. I ask that the men be given every consideration and that the right thing be done by them and by the war service land settlement scheme. It is obvious to everybody that there will be difficulties in getting reasonable prices. I would not like to see any settler lose his farm but if under the Act land must be sold, the whole situation should be handled properly and in such a way that the best possible results for both the landholder and the war service land settlement scheme are obtained.
It would not have been easy in any case for many of the farmers in this area to make a do of it on the 600 acres allowed firstly, even had it all been cleared. Some of the settlers have done reasonably well. They have probably had some financial assistance. It is not easy to work land which is heavy timbered country. It is too much to expect to achieve the desired result in one generation. It takes a long time to do the land correctly. So we have had this difficult situation over the years in respect of numbers of the farms in this area. I do urge the Minister this evening to give consideration to the problems of these men. I know the difficulties that some of them have had. The areas that have been brought into production under the war service land settlement scheme have, in the main, been a tremendous help to these fellows, to the State and to the Commonwealth as a whole.
There is another point that 1 wish to make. It is in relation to servicemen who have returned from the present conflict in Vietnam. No war service land settlement scheme is available to them. If I may be allowed to do so, Mr Speaker, I wish to digress for a moment to deal with this matter. There are a few matters which in my book are not as broad as they may be. I understand that in Western Australia moves are now under way to rectify one anomaly. I refer to the making available of land to eligible returned servicemen when that ‘CP’ land, as we call it in the west, has come on to the market. This has not been done in the past. I do believe that servicemen who have been overseas and who are entitled to a fresh start here should be given preference in this case. I do understand that the State Government of Western Australia is looking after the matter to which I have just referred and 1 certainly hope that it goes ahead with its plans. 1 wish to mention a further point. Under the Act servicemen returning from duty overseas must take up their entitlements within 12 months of discharge. I think I am right in saying that. I am referring to the $6,000 which is made available to them. It is not always possible for servicemen to do this in 12 months It is not always to the best advantage of a returned serviceman to take up within 12 months his entitlement of $6,000. 1 would ask that in some cases an extension of time be granted where it is shown that this is in the best interests of the serviceman concerned. As we know it is not advisable to force farming in any way. lt is not advisable also to take up land in such a way. If the serviceman does observe the provision within the definite period specified - that is 12 months - he does not receive his entitlement. He should not have to go about it this way. He should be allowed to wait until some suitable land is available or a suitable proposition comes to his attention.
When I was speaking in this House some little time ago in another debate, I did refer to this amount of money and to the fact that I was not satisfied that the reestablishment scheme was working in the way in which it was anticipated that it would work. It is not working as we thought it would work. I think that some flexibility should be introduced into the provision in. the Act which requires that the re-establishment payment must be accepted within 12 months. This provision should be amended to enable this money to be made available, in certain cases at least, in a period beyond 12 months.
These are just a few points that I wished to mention tonight in relation to the war service land settlement scheme. Regarding these properties that have been developed in Western Australia - they were not fully developed; but very few were fully developed in the first place - I do believe that if the farmers are allowed to go on and get the necessary capital to enable them to use fully the territory available and to stock it fully, the war service land settlement scheme will be an even greater success than it has been up to this point in time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1968 which is now before the House provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $5,500,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during the current financial year. The money will be made available in the following approximate amounts: Western Australia. $2,500,000; South Australia, $2,192,000; and Tasmania, $808,000. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has indicated to the House that the bulk of this money is required to enable advances to be made to settlers for annual working expenses and for purchase of stock and replacement plant. The Minister went on to say:
Most settlers under the war service land settlement scheme started with little or no capital of their own. Adverse seasonal conditions have, from time to time, affected income in diverse areas where settlement has taken place. Some primary products upon which some settlers are dependent have experienced, and still are experiencing, a cost/price squeeze.
In other words, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government recognise that some farmers are in trouble.
But one would not think this was so if one considered the attitude that the Department of Primary Industry adopted in regard to King Island recently. We knew that some soldier settlers on King Island were in trouble with falling incomes. Strong representations were made not only by the Returned Services League but also by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation and some local semi-government bodies for a scheme to overcome the problems and to assist those people. The representations were rejected out of hand by the Government. I refer to the numerous representations that were made to enable some settlers on King Island to take up vacant blocks. There are over 30 of these blocks on the island. The blocks are needed by settlers to enable them to strengthen their own areas. Again and again the Government has refused to provide the land that is needed. Instead of making land that was acquired under this Act available to soldier settlers on King Island, the Government has put the land up for public auction. In fact, several blocks are still up for sale. The Government has been left with them. It cannot get bids for them.
Although the Government recognises this cost/price squeeze as well as the falling incomes that some of these people are up against, it has not done anything to assist in a practical way in this area. It could have done so. lt has refused to do so. As I mentioned earlier, the Minister has indicated that these funds are being made available for annual working expenses and the purchase of stock and replacement nian’. The other item for which the money is being made available is expenditure on development. I will have more to say about that matter later. We are now coming to the end of the whole sorry mess tha* his Government has made of the war service land settlement scheme. This fact is recognised by many organisations throughout the Commonwealth.
First the State Congress of the Returned Services League and then the National Congress and the National Executive of the RSL sought a royal commission or inquiry into all aspects of war service land settlement. This was refused in the first instance by the previous Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), and then by the former Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt. The refusal has been confirmed by the present Minister for Primary Industry. The strange thing about this is that Mr Peter Ireland, a former prominent member of the RSL on King Island who recently left the island, is on record as reporting at the annual meeting of the RSL held on 2nd February this year at Currie that he had been told by Senator Gorton, as the Prime Minister was last year, at a meeting of the Liberal Party in Launceston that he, Senator Gorton, had never heard any discussion by Cabinet of the appointment of a royal commission or inquiry into war service land settlement. We find this to be very strange because, after all, last year the Prime Minister, as a Senate Minister, was a senior member of the Cabinet and surely if any request had been put before the Cabinet by the National Congress of the RSL he would have heard of it. However the records indicate that Senator Gorton stated that he had never heard of the request coming before the Cabinet. I should like the Minister for Primary Industry to indicate whether the request by the RSL for an inquiry into all aspects of war service land settlement was ever discussed by the Cabinet or whether this is just another brush-off.
As I have indicated, the scheme is coming to a conclusion. As the end comes near the books must be put in order and so valuations are made and released to indicate what the Government can expect to recoup from the settlers. Once this figure is determined it is subtracted from the total cost of the scheme and the excess cost is shared between the Commonwealth and the respective agent States in the proportion of three-fifths to two-fifths. We believe that the valuations are being inflated - they are being dummied and pushed up - so as to reduce the huge gap between the final cost of the scheme and what the Government will recoup from the settlers. If ever an inquiry were needed before into the conduct of the scheme and the measures that were taken to prop it up, then the need for such an inquiry by competent people is doubly urgent and imperative now. There should be an inquiry into the methods used by the Government in determining the valuations of properties. The Minister for Primary Industry knows of the grave dissatisfaction that exists in relation to this question. Ex-servicemen are convinced that the valuations as applied by the Valuation Branch have been corrupted by the war service land settlement authorities. The King Island sub-branch of the RSL conveyed this information to the State Secretary of the League in Hobart earlier this year. The letter reads as follows:
The King Island Sub-Branch has been supplied with information by a member of the Valuation Branch which indicates that the valuations as supplied by the Valuation Branch have been corrupted by the war service land settlement authority. The officer concerned stated that, while he would not advise an individual to contest these valuations on legal grounds, because of the likely legal costs involved, he said he would like to see an organisation such as the Returned Servicemens League take up the case.
We understand that pressure was brought to bear on the valuation officers to amend their figures, and so an attempt was made to bring up the amount the settlers will finally have to pay to a figure closer to what the whole scheme will cost. By this means the tremendous excess costs which will be borne three-fifths by the Commonwealth and two-fifths by the State will be cut down and loaded into the figure that the settlers will have to pay.
I know that these are serious allegations but the fact is that an officer of the Valuation Branch has revealed that the figures are corrupted. One of the settlers has stated in writing that two Commonwealth valuation officers have indicated to him that their valuations have not been accepted by the war service land settlement authority. This is a very serious state of affairs, and when the Minister replies I should like him to indicate what he intends to do about this situation. It is common knowledge, and valuation officers are saying quite openly, that their valuations are not being accepted but are being corrupted by war service land settlement officials.
We believe that there cannot be two valuations for any one property at the one time, yet the Commonwealth valued properties in the Mawbanna Estate in Tasmania in 1965 at a 1955 valuation. The State valuations in 1955 for the same properties are considerably less than the Commonwealth valuations. I point out to the Minister for Primary Industry that the valuation carried out by the State valuer in 1955 on the structures would be at value and would not be written down through advances for items such as the dwelling, the dairy or the barn. To give some idea of the great discrepancy in the Commonwealth valuation figure I need quote only one case where a local council valuation on a property this year is still more than $2,000 below that determined by the Commonwealth on the same property at values 1 3 years ago. To give another concrete example, I know of a property in Mawbanna which the State valuer valued at $14,500 in 1955. In that year the settler was granted permanent lease and therefore the Commonwealth should have made at that time a valuation for option price for memorandum of grant. Ten years passed and in 1965 - 10 years after the valuation was due - the Commonwealth valuer made a valuation in relation to 1955 values and came up with a figure of $23,604 for land only. So the two sets of valuation figures in respect of the same property, and for the same year values, were $14,500 from the State and $23,604 from the Commonwealth - a difference of almost 100%.
We have queried, and will continue to query, whether there can be two valuations of a property at the same time. Mr J. F. N. Murray, in his excellent book ‘The Principles and Practice of Valuation”, in dealing with one value for all purposes says at page 69:
The value to be found normally is the market value and there cannot be two values of the same property at the same time.
At the request of soldier settlers I asked the Federal Treasurer (Mr McMahon) about this, and in his reply on 22nd August he advised me as follows:
Although there is only one market value at any given date, in the absence of a sale of the property at that date, market value can only be assessed from the opinion of an expert who has carefully analysed all the relevant factors that can be used as indicators of value.
On receipt of this reply the settlers posed the question: Would the Minister contest the capital value of a property stated by the Chief State Valuer at a given date as a reasonable market value as at that date? In his reply the Federal Treasurer said:
In the great majority of such cases the Commissioner does in fact adopt the value determined by the Chief State Valuer. Isolated cases arise, however, where the particular circumstances warrant an independent valuation being made by the Commissioner for Commonwealth purposes. In this situation the Commissioner’s determination could be higher or lower than that of the- State authorities.
I put this to the Minister for Primary Industry: Why are war service land settlement properties obviously included in the isolated cases that the Treasurer referred to and why is it that the Commonwealth valuation is almost 100% higher than the State valuation in respect of the same property for the same year? In reply to a question I asked, the Minister for Primary Industry said on 21st August last that he intended to handle each appeal on revaluation individually. Some settlers have sent letters and have been waiting since March last for a reply. The settlers request a full scale inquiry into all aspects of valuations. They believe they are being charged for their own improvements.
I have referred to the position at Mawbanna in Tasmania. I could cite many cases on King Island, but one will be sufficient. The late J. J. Dwyer, V.C., is on record as stating in the Tasmanian Parliament, while he was Minister for Agriculture, that land at Pegarah on King Island cost $22 an acre to put under grass. In 1959 a licensed property agent valued the land only on a farm in this area at $26 an acre. Yet the settler concerned has now received the Commonwealth valuation figure of $46 an acre. Here again we see that the Commonwealth valuation is about 100% more than the original cost to the settlement authorities and is almost 100% more than the valuation of an independent licensed valuer.
I turn now to the Meunna settlement area. We find here uncertainty and frustration caused by undue delay in releasing valuation figures to settlers. Originally there were eight settlers in this area, but three have been forced to leave. The longest period of occupation here has been 13 years. But still settlers do not know what figure they must meet. The valuer for the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation from Melbourne carried out inspections and valuations early last year and now, almost 2 years later, settlers are still waiting for their option of purchase prices. I am getting very impatient with the Department of Primary Industry, but I do not suppose I can complain much because others have been waiting for the release of information for almost 2 years. After the Minister said on 21st August in his reply to me that he was not in a position to comment on the circumstances of valuations that I had asked about, I put certain questions on the notice paper on 28th August, 10th September and 18th September. These questions merely sought information in the way that I had sought information from the previous Minister for Primary Industry. Some related to valuations, and I might have touched the Department on a sore point. But one would have thought that by this time the information would have been made available to me. Some of it is purely statistical information. But even now I have not received the information. As I say, I am complaining to the Minister and his Department because the information should have been made available to me. I hope I will get it soon. 1 return again to the need for an inquiry not only into valuations but into all aspects of war service land settlement. The national and State executives of two major organisations, the Returned Services League and the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, after a complete examination of all the facts joined the Settlers Association and other interested organisations in seeking an open inquiry. In the early days of soldier settlement on King Island, about 1948 or 1949, there were five settlers on the island. Ten years later the number had risen to about 161 and in another 5 years, in 1966, it had dropped to 121. It has continued to fall. Since the commencement of the scheme on King Island, as many settlers have vacated their blocks as there are settlers in occupation today. The wastage factor is out of all proportion to that in war service land settlement schemes anywhere else in Australia. We would like to know the reasons, and we believe we are entitled to know the reasons, why the scheme has failed. Why have some settlers done well and why have some 120 others vacated their holdings? As I have said so often before in this House, the island cannot be blamed for the failure. This is the only place I know where the grass grows all the year round, where the soil is good and where there is an equable climate with an assured rainfall of more than 30 inches a year, even when there is a drought in some other part of Australia.
The fat stock from King Island bring top prices at the Newmarket sales. One of the leading graziers, Mr Peter Snodgrass, has won the Buchanan trophy for the best Angus fat steer exhibited in shows throughout Australia on two occasions. Farmers from King Island have won numerous interstate fodder and fleece awards in open competition with sheep owners and dairy farmers from other States. Despite all this, the war service land settlement scheme on King Island has lagged. Under pressure, the Authority has had several lengthy investigations made and has taken steps to prop up a scheme which should have succeeded. We have had concessions. We have had $500,000 credited to settlers’ accounts, and redevelopment of properties has cost $1.5m. We had the proposals of 1965, with credits up to $1,600 to compensate for machinery breakdowns and to cover the depreciation of plant and equipment. This was followed by a system of financial control for some settlers. We have had the Settlers Developmental Plan. Yet the application of all these remedial measures has failed to bring the scheme to a satisfactory conclusion.
An open inquiry would sort out the whole problem of the war service land settlement scheme on King Island. It would clear up the burning question that is present in settlers’ minds, whether they live in Western Australia, South Australia or Tasmania. The question is: Are the authorities deliberately appropriating the settlers’ equity to make up the difference between the cost and the value of their land development? I hope that this matter will be cleared up when the Minister replies at the close of the debate. 1 have dealt with the need for an open inquiry and especially with the need for a full inquiry into valuations, and not an individual reassessment of the position as the Minister has proposed.
There is another matter on which 1 seek clarification. I have raised it before but 1 have not been able to get a satisfactory reply. The Minister said in his second reading speech that the funds sought in this Bill would be used partly for development purposes. I understand that all applications under this plan had to be lodged by June of this year. After the programme for development of a farm has been discussed between a settler and the Authority and the amount of work has been decided upon the settler is free to proceed under the terms of what is known as Proposal 1. This is known as the Settlers Developmental Plan. I would like to know whether the funds for this purpose come from the money allocated for development or from the a-1…… -s to settlers provided for in this Bill. Under the Settlers Developmental Plan a settler may decide to develop other sections of his farm and to apply for an advance in the same way as if he were applying for an advance for stock, structures or improvements. The work must be done by a private contractor and he is paid by the Authority. An advance to a settler takes the form of a repayable loan, provided the area is seeded within 18 months of cultivation. So a settler does not have to pay provided he does the seeding within that period of 18 months, but the money for a private operator who does the job comes from the Authority. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to tell me what section that money is debited against. Is it debited against the money that was granted for redevelopment under the 1959 concessions? Is it debited against the funds for development purposes provided for in this Bill and preceding Bills that we have passed? Or is it debited against the funds for advances to settlers sought in the allocation at present before the House in this Bill? I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up this matter for me when he closes the debate.
Finally, I would like to refer to one other matter. It is interesting to note that in the chamber now we have on the other side the three honourable members who have consecutively been in charge of the Department of Primary Industry possibly for the past 20 years. We have the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who is the former Minister, and the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I would like to conclude by referring to a speech made by the honourable member for Chisholm when he was the Minister in charge of war service land settlement. In 1954, when introducing a Bill similar to the one now before us, he made this comment:
The amount of work that is being undertaken at present is influenced by the desire of the Commonwealth to complete land settlement within the next 5 years.
That was back in 1954. Now, some 14 years later, authority to raise further loan moneys is still being sought. Certainly, some of it will be used for credit advances, as settlers were accepted on the basis of having no capital, but some of it is for development in the areas mentioned by the Minister. We are now 9 years behind the target date set down by the honourable member for Chisholm and many settlers still do not know where they stand.
– This Bill authorises the Government to borrow $5,500,000. It states:
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. . . .
I naturally wish to refer to the amount of $2,192,000 which will be allocated to the State of South Australia, and my comments will be principally related to the war service land settlement area with which I am personally concerned. This is an area of the Upper Murray district in South Australia in which, by and large, the blocks grow fruit of one kind or another under irrigation. Perhaps before I launch into my own thoughts on this subject I should give a little credit where it is due. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) used the word ‘corrupt’.
– I was quoting from a letter.
– Well, I heard the honourable member use the word. I did not know whether he was quoting from a letter or whether he used it as his own word.
– It was contained in a letter I quoted.
– I see. It is regrettable that it was used, because 1 see no reason to use this kind of violent language in connection with a scheme that has been administered, in my view, quite correctly and in many cases with a great deal of sympathy. The honourable member also said - unless he was again quoting from a letter - that the Government had wiped off the interests of some settlers in the areas to which he referred. ‘ would like to make it clear that I have been very pleased indeed with the attitude of the Minister for Primary Industry ‘Mr Anthony) and also that of the previous Minister, the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). The people in my area were extremely pleased when we were able to arrange on, of all dates. Friday, 13th September, a meeting between the Minister for Primary Industry and the South Australian Minister of Lands, together with their officers, for the purpose of receiving a deputation the members of which drove some 200 miles for the express purpose of discussing with those Ministers matters of concern to the people in the area.
I do not think anyone at that meeting, or indeed any member of this House, would expect all problems to be solved overnight, but as the leader of the deputation I will say that we were received, in those rather unusual circumstances, very well indeed. The cases were, I hope, put fairly and squarely. For the sake of the record I mention that the deputation was composed of elected representatives from that area who form the Upper Murray Ex-Servicemen’s Land Settlement Association. Seven points were discussed. The first concerned the transfer of a lease to son or son-in-law during the lifetime of the father in circumstances in which age or ill health prevented the father from continuing to work his holding. I think the members of the deputation were very pleased with the attitude of both governments on that question, and it seems that no real objection will be raised as long as the candidate in each case is screened and found to be a proper person to take over the kind of block involved. We also discussed appeals against or reviews of valuation, the revaluation of properties, ‘ financial adjustments and arrears, the problem posed by the sale of blocks the leases of which have been cancelled, what constitutes a livable area, the advantages of increasing the size of fruit blocks, and finally living allowances. I shall comment on some of these matters as I go along.
I think it is fair to say that the honourable member for Braddon suggested - rather pointedly, I thought - that the Government had given little attention to these matters. Obviously, the honourable member knows his own area better than I do, but I want to point out, speaking purely of the area in which I am personally interested, that the Minister for Primary Industry has shown his interest not only by his willingness to attend the meeting of which I have already spoken, but also by arranging for drainage loans which have been of very real benefit to war service land settlers in the Upper Murray area.
I also point out the budgetary control under which, unfortunately, holders of blocks in one or two categories have been placed.
Lastly I would point to a real breakthrough in terms of the problem of drought, and also the problem of salinity, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). In my area the Government came to the party and brought in a scheme of loans to help with under tree sprinkler irrigation. This was a vitally important measure and the Government deserves some credit for introducing it in circumstances in which salinity scald was reaching such proportions that the early season leaf drop was becoming so consequential that it might well have severely limited the life of the tree, let alone its capacity to yield within the next 2 or 3 years. This scheme was, of course, very well received. I do not know at this stage what demand there has been for this form of loan, but at any rate the scheme ranks with the other generous assistance given by the Government for drought relief in general. It was a very worthwhile move which I think did a lot to lift the morale of those settlers who experienced such an extremely hard time during drought conditions and who had the added problem of high salinity levels.
I want to deal with certain problems involving the area in question. Unfortunately many settlers have walked off their blocks. Ten have surrendered their leases already or have had pressure put on them in the last 12 months to surrender their leases. It seems probable that three more will surrender their leases fairly shortly. I mentioned budgetary control a while ago. At present thirty-one are under budgetary control in this area. I know that when this legislation is passed more of these settlers may be brought under budgetary control. Those settlers who appear to be in trouble and who are not perhaps meeting commitments or those whose blocks are basically good but appear to be poorly managed have been placed under budgetary control and financed on a deficit budget. This deficit goes against current account - and I think it is important that the House should recognise this - which can immediately be called up.
This introduces a situation where obviously those who, over a period of years, have been on current account and who build up a deficit year by year the longer they are there, naturally have not a very firm hold on their own properties. This, I admit, cannot be helped. These people have got into difficulties. The Government has placed them under budgetary control. There is a deficit involved in budgetary control. In the meantime these farmers are trying to resuscitate and bring these particular blocks into better production. But I point out that there are reasons to suppose that this is a never ending vicious circle at this point of time. For instance, many of the farmers under budgetary control literally cannot earn enough gross income a year to have any chance of climbing out of this situation of budgetary control. I do not know the answer. I am just posing the question because I think it is a real one and one which eventually we will have to face.
I should like to comment now very briefly, if I may, on the cost-price squeeze in relation to these blocks, because I admit that I have been at loggerheads in relation to this matter.
– That is as painful as standing on tin tacks.
– I suppose it is just as painful as standing on tintacks. I will not go into this question industry by industry, which I would have to do to prove the point I am trying to make. I think it is probably sufficient to say that over the last 10 years, by and large, primary industries have put up with a 2% rise in costs. Over the last 5 year period, I believe, they have put up with, in round figures, a 3% increase in costs. Over the last 2 years, I believe, they have put up with a very much greater increase in costs than those figures might convey. I will not dwell on this question because it concerns industry problems and I appreciate that this is a debate on war service land settlement. But I raise this matter because unless the gross income that can be earned on these blocks can be built up by intelligent application of science, industry, imagination and hard work there seems to be little way in which those farmers who are under budgetary control can get out of this difficult situation.
The State - in this case South Australia - acts as the administrative authority on matters affecting valuation. In 1952 the New South Wales Act of acquisition which related to the purchase of land for war service land settlement purposes was declared invalid. The Menzies Government of that day decided that all such State Acts might well be invalid, and in 1952 it introduced the Bill that became the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act, which was, as I believe the honourable member for Braddon pointed out, under the control of the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). When land was required, proper surveys based on soil types, etc., were considered, and in due course settlers went on to blocks which were partially ready for production. This was quite contrary to the war service land settlement scheme in the past. After 10 years farmers on dry land farms were allowed to freehold their blocks and a valuation for this purpose was set by a committee composed of one officer from the South Australian Department of Lands and one officer from the Commonwealth. In those days a competent Commonwealth officer experienced in these matters resided in South Australia, a fact that I do not believe applies in that State today.
The same committee of two listened to appeals against such valuations but of course the option price to freehold applied to dry land farms only. In South Australia under State legislation land held in proclaimed irrigation areas cannot be freehold. However, as was pointed out in a letter to me recently by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) who at that time was the Acting Minister for Primary Industry, most of the value of these holdings lies in the plantings and improvements which the settler in effect is purchasing, the Commonwealth and the States having agreed that war service land settlers in the irrigation areas should be given the right to seek a review of valuation on the same grounds and procedures as apply to option prices of non-irrigated holdings.
The Minister for Primary Industry has said that such option prices are based on the reasonable market value of the holding, taking into account the fact that over a 10-year period there was a prospect of a reasonable living being made when the average price of primary products from that farm were considered. I go back to 1950 when Sir Philip McBride made a statement to the settlers in the area which, for better or worse, they have hung on to as being an authentic statement that they understood and believed to be true. He said:
The Commonwealth interpretation of requirements for valuation under the scheme is not so much the assessment of a value from comparable land values in the district as a determination of the debt structure that a holding, occupied by a settler possessing no capital, can stand, based on conservative estimates over a long term of prices and yields for produce after returning him a reasonable living.
This method and basis of valuation had been lost sight of somewhat over the years. 1 have been informed that in 1952 the valuating sub-committee met the valuating authorities, whoever they were, and was told:
The Act sets out that consideration should be given to a need for the proceeds of the holding (based on conservative estimates over a long term period of prices and yields for products), being sufficient to ensure a reasonable living for the settler after meeting such financial commitments as would be incurred by a settler with no capital. In other words, after assessing gross block income, we will deduct the actual cost to produce, and the balance would be what the settler could afford to repay in annual repayments over 40 years.
That again was a basis that the settlers of this area felt was a proper basis on which to value their blocks.
I suggest to the House that this is not quite the situation applying to the valuation of many of those blocks today. In other words, it appears to me that the annual commitment was not based on valuation but rather that the valuation was based on what the property could afford to pay each year, that is, on the annual commitment. Equally it appears to me that if this is so and a significant number of war service settlers are unable to meet their annual commitments, then the logical way to remedy this state of affairs is to reassess their valuations. I think the statements I have just read make quite clear the intent at that time in relation to the basis on which valuation on one hand, and commitments, on the other hand, should be founded and indeed interwoven.
However, this alone would not be sufficient to overcome all problems, as the Minister pointed out to me again quite recently. For every $1,000 written off, the annual commitment payable by the settler would be reduced less titan $50 per annum. However, it would have a significant effect on a settler’s equity should he either sell or wish to obtain money for the improvement of his property. It would, of course, provide a useful sum if it were made retrospective to the date of valuation. Any move to adjust valuations must apply in the first instance to all war service settlers in these areas. In my view, it would be quite unjust to leave out those settlers who, by good management or for any other reason, are in a satisfactory financial position.
So the first requirement would be an overall write down of those valuations. Allied to this should be an investigation of each individual property to determine a settler’s disabilities and to make the necessary financial adjustments. This must include the write off of arrears where they have accumulated mainly through circumstances beyond the control of the individual settler. Arrears are perhaps the biggest obstacle to the successful rehabilitation of settlers on affected properties. I have no doubt that the honourable member for Braddon would agree with that.
Let us examine the hypothetical case of a settler who through disabilities, perhaps in his planning or for other reasons, has fallen into arrears. Let us assume that such disabilities, or a decline in productivity of plantings, are general over this whole area and have been established in past correspondence and submissions dating back over many many years. We shall assume, too, that this settler has been placed under budgetary control and has budgeted for a deficit to obtain finance to rehabilitate his property; that the land has been drained, unproductive areas have been removed and replaced with more suitable plantings; and that drainage has been no charge to the settler but every other expense has been debited to his current account where it has not been covered by his annual proceeds. Let us remember that this is a property with production restricted because of disabilities. It would take at least 4 years for the new plantings to produce sufficient for the property to pay its way each year. During this time, as I mentioned earlier, the settler would have been living on a living allowance determined by the Commonwealth at
Si, 700 per annum. Having rehabilitated the property to the stage where it is again capable of meeting expenses and of paying an annual commitment to the Lands Department, the settler is still faced with both the original arrears and the debit balance incurred in replanting his property.
It is hard enough for a settler to pay one year’s commitment in any one year. Now he must pay one year’s commitment plus something off his arrears, and until these are cleared he must continue to exist on a living allowance. If we take into consideration the age of most settlers now, it would appear that our hypothetical settler would, unless some action were taken in regard to his arrears, have to spend the rest of the time on the property in receipt of $1,700 or its equivalent per annum. This would not be repatriation. Is it any wonder that some settlers faced with this situation have abandoned their holdings and have walked off? The war service land settlement scheme was not intended to be just a civil business proposition. It was designed for the repatriation of ex-servicemen and lack of capital was to be no bar to successful settlement. It was not intended that in times of stress only the superefficient should survive. It was designed to give the average settler on an average property, with average management, a reasonable standard of living.
I said that lack of capital was to be no bar to successful settlement. I think the facts today are quite clear. If one looks at these properties one can fairly clearly distinguish between those settlers - perhaps 10% of the total - who went on to their blocks with some capital and those who had no capital. It is among the 90%, or whatever proportion it may be, who went on to their properties without capital that one sees the situation of emergency that exists today. I do not know what we are to do about this. It seems to me that for many years the principles which were espoused by the people who introduced the war service land settlement scheme have just not been followed through, and at this point of time it is quite easy to plot the difficulties that have occurred.
In many cases difficulties have arisen through no fault of the settler. For example, in many areas citrus trees have been planted in frost pockets. In some of those places the citrus trees have been removed and alternative plantings have been made. In other cases where the frost pocket might have been only partial some recovery of plantings has been effected. In other areas, through no fault of the Government or of the planning authorities, after sprinkler irrigation had been applied for many years a salinity problem occurred. However, in that instance the Government acted promptly in respect of the problem. But I point out that if a settler is in difficult circumstances even for only 2 years, he will get so far behind in his commitments that he will be virtually incapable of struggling out of that position. I concede that the settlers have had difficulties and I concede also that in many cases the Government has helped them through their difficulties, but I suggest that it is wrong to say now that blockers who through no fault of their own have been economically debilitated by a wide variety of problems have had effective aid to make their properties viable once again. In the area to which I refer this is still not so. 1 propose to finish my remarks by looking at the future and describing what can occur. As I have said 1 believe that more settlers in the area to which I refer will come under budgetary control within the coming year, lt is my belief that only in some cases will those under budgetary control be able to make their properties viable economic units. I can see absolutely no way out for the war service land settlement scheme in that area. Bearing in mind that the Government has a responsibility for the war service land settlement scheme, I suggest to it that more is involved than merely looking at the overall problems of the particular industry. No doubt industry problems are associated with the plight of the settlers. However, both governments in the regions described by the honourable member for Braddon have not only a moral responsibility but also a financial responsibility. With regard to their financial responsibility, all I can say is that I hope that the sum of money which this Bill authorises to be borrowed will help in rehabilitating the blocks that I have mentioned.
I suggest that on the economic front, in due course the Commonwealth Government would be well advised to write off some commitments so that blockers in these areas can feel that they have some chance of meeting their commitments and of becoming worthwhile farmers. As some honourable members are probably aware, there is nothing so demoralising as trying to operate a business when one feels that all factors are militating against one. In that situation the bank balance becomes thinner and thinner, if there was one in the first place, lt would be of tremendous assistance to these blockers if in due course, after proper consideration, a method could be evolved whereby some of their commitments could be eliminated so that they could feel that they were capable of meeting an annual commitment. But allied with this problem is the fact that many of these settlers today are 50 or more years of age. Many of those who are over 50 have had to walk off their blocks. They have seen no hope for the future and have had to apply for the age pension. Fair enough; this is one thing they can do. But it is a tragedy that people who participated in a scheme that was mounted with such enthusiasm should find themselves, after many years of work since the end of the last war, without an equity in the business which the Government selected them to do. They applied to be fruit farmers. They were selected by panels appointed by the Government and were approved as settlers in the areas to which I have referred. It is tragic that these people should find themselves holding blocks that will not keep them in their old age and which will not support their children who may wish to continue on the farm. I support the Bill.
– Clause 1 of the Bill reads:
This Act may be cited as the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1968.
Of course, the Bill is not designed to settle anybody on the land. No provision is made in the Bill for the future settlement of exservicemen on the land. The Bill is designed to provide some financial assistance to the States in respect of those who were settled on the land after serving in the Second World War. According to Press reports, the Returned Services League believes that a land settlement scheme should be formulated for those who are at present fighting in Australia’s wars, such as in Vietnam. The Government has no intention of setting up a land settlement scheme for Australians at present fighting in Vietnam. I believe that suggestions have been made that exservicemen from rural areas may receive rehabilitation assistance by way of an advance of about $6,000. The sum of $6,000 will not buy a very big farm in any country area. The cost of settling an exserviceman on the land after the last war was between $20,000 and $30,000. Since then the price of land has increased.
Should we have more farms in this country? In 1939 there were 253,000 farms in Australia. Today we still have 253,000 farms. In 1939 there were 500,000 more rural workers in Australia than there are today. Yet some people say that there should be no increase in land settlement in Australia because difficulty might be experienced in selling the produce of the farms. The production of vegetables of all kinds, in terms of value and quantity, is lower today than it was in 1939. The production of beans, for example, in terms of value and quantity, is lower today than it was in 1939. Yet the population of Australia has increased from 7 million people to 12 million people.
Why then is there less production of essential rural products today than there was in former times? One reason, of course, is that we get packaged peas from Holland. Not long ago we imported about $14m worth of packaged peas from Holland. We import canned fruit from San Francisco and canned chicken legs from Chicago. We get primary products of all types from New Zealand. Not only do we not export these types of primary products as we did in the past, but also we do not supply the home market from our own production. Of course members of the Australian Country Party would say: ‘Why produce more? You cannot sell what you produce now. Why not bring the goods in from New Zealand? Why not bring all types of preserved primary products into this country to feed the Australian population if you can get them cheaply enough?’ They say that the trouble with this country is that we have costed ourselves not only out of the export markets for our primary products, but also out of the local market.
– The Country Party has not said that at all.
– I have heard one member after another of the Australian Country Party complaining bitterly that the load of the cost factor upon our rural producers is increasing to the point where it is forcing their products out of the export market. It seems that a price factor is costing them out of the home market.
One of the main contributing factors is that the price of land is too high. In 1948 a referendum seeking to fix a ceiling price upon land was held in Australia at the instigation of the Australian Labor Party. Members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party defeated that proposition. Since that time the price of land has sky-rocketed. It has more than doubled. The extent of its multiplication is the measure of the burden that primary production has to carry. That is the burden that is making it almost impossible to sell overseas the many commodities that once were saleable overseas in order to correct our trade balances.
Because the hour is late I do not want to take up very much time, but I do not want merely to point to the disabilities from which this country suffers. I want to point to the manner in which those disabilities could be overcome. They have been overcome in other countries. For instance, many years ago in the United States of America the Tennessee Valley Authority was set up to bring into being a great irrigation scheme. As part of that scheme the huge Boulder Dam was built to supply water for irrigation purposes to a vast area of land. Because of the fact that under irrigation and intensive cultivation it was desirable that one family should not have more than about 80 acres, it was decided that water would be supplied to areas of 80 acres for farmers who owned and who wished to use the land. If there were farmers who had vast areas of land which were not to be worked by the owner himself after irrigation but were to be let or sold to others, legislation against land speculation saw to it that that land was let or sold at the dry value to the farmer who came on to it. This prevented the seller or the letter from getting a vast gift of national money. The Americans said to the farmer: Come on, you will have an opportunity to succeed. You will not have to pay high fees for water, which would reduce your capacity to succeed as a farmer.’ In Victoria they said to the land owner: ‘You can sell your land for whatever you can get.’ Because irrigation increased production tenfold the land owners sold or let their land at 5, 6 or 10 times the amount of the dry value. The result of this was that as soon as conditions became bad the primary producer - the man who had gone on the land - sought a reduction in the water charges that he had to pay. Without the reduction in water charges he could not subsist as a farmer. In Victoria alone, over a relatively short period S60m was added to the consolidated debt of Victoria and taken off the debt incurred in land settlement or irrigation farming. In other words, $60m went as a gift, not to the primary producer but to the speculator in land who had gone off the land and charged exorbitant prices to those who had come onto the land. I suggest that this Government should start a land settlement scheme. The Government should consider using taxation to ensure that people who have vast areas of fertile land shall use it to the best advantage or be taxed for not using it to the best advantage. We ought to do what they do in France under the inheritance laws, in order to see that the vast lands of this country are not aggregated in the hands of a few owners, but divided among many, or do as was done in America under the legislation I have referred to. In this way we could ensure that the people of this country will have access to the land such as they have not got today and that the cost of land used for rural purposes in this country will be kept at a minimum. This is not merely in the interests of the present generation, not just so that the soldiers of Australia who are fighting in Vietnam shall be able to come back to this country and be settled on land upon which they will have a good chance of success, but also in order that the vast areas of land in this country will be utilised to the maximum advantage in the interests of people in other countries throughout the world not so favourably situated as we are. This will enable us to do what we can to play our part in feeding the hungry of other nations.
– in reply - In closing the second reading debate on the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1968 I want to make a couple of comments. Firstly, I appreciate the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), leading for the Opposition, in giving support to this Bill, as the Opposition has done on similar occasions in the past. I was also delighted to hear reference made tonight to my predecessor, the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who was responsible for the administration of war service land settlement in this nation for a number of years. He administered it with great distinction to himself. There were many times when difficulties arose in regard to war service land settlement. He visited the areas, investigated the difficulties and dealt with them in a most compassionate and sympathetic way. I recall reading of occasions on which he visited King Island when the settlers there were in dire trouble. He managed to give considerable relief from some of the difficulties that the settlers were experiencing at the time.
Tonight the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) repeated an allegation that because there were differences of opinion in valuations corruption had occurred. He said that this remark was made by representatives of the Returned Services League in Tasmania. This allegation is completely false. It is a pity that he had to keep reiterating it tonight. Valuations are made by Commonwealth valuers in an advisory capacity to the war service land settlement authorities. Those authorities then have to take into account all the relevant factors. ‘Valuation’ means the price fixed at which a settler can exercise the option to purchase the freehold title to his farm. Settlers initially occupy their farms under temporary lease and then by virtue of a memorandum of grant, which is tantamount to a perpetual lease. After a period, on payment of a sum determined by the Closer Settlement Board and with the consent of the appropriate State Minister, they can acquire the freehold title.
In practice and in view of the Commonwealth’s financial interest in the scheme in Tasmania, the option prices are agreed upon between the war service land settlement branch of my Department and the Board prior to issue. The price is based on the lower of the cost of providing the farm or its reasonable market value at the time of the leasehold valuation, less the price the settler has been charged for the structural improvements on the farm. A proper dissection between the settler and the Crown of the improvements on the farm is carried out and an adjustment is made. These adjustments are always made in favour of the settler.
The war service land settlements branch of my Department seeks the advice of the valuers of the Taxation Branch of the Commonwealth Department of the Treasury as to the reasonable market value to be used for this purpose. Generally the levels of values have a relation to those ruling at the time the farms were valued for leasehold purposes. But regard is had to work done on the farm and finance by the settlement authorities subsequent to the date of tha leasehold valuation. In making these valuations an effort is made to assume that the farm had been under average management, with better than average settlers not being penalised and below average settlers not benefiting from lower values. Almost without exception, settlers who have been advised of option prices of their farms have appealed against those prices on the ground that they are too high. These appeals are currently under investigation.
Let me add in reply to the honourable member for Braddon that today I was visited by Mr Cooper, who is a representative of the King Island Settlers Association, and a member of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation branch on King Island, in company with Mr Mills, the President of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation. They initiated discussions on problems related to valuations and other basic problems connected with war service land settlement on King Island. Unfortunately we did not have time to go very deeply into these problems; but they will be seeing mc again on Thursday of this week, when 1 hope to have more detailed discussions with them and to obtain first hand information on the problems that they are facing. I will read the remarks made by the honourable member for
Braddon tonight so thatI will have a comprehensive picture of the problems they are facing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) read a third time.
House adjourned at . 1 1.32 p.m.
The following answers lo questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What changes have been made in Imperial, Commonwealth and State legislation and what communications have passed between the British, Australian and State governments concerning the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1960, since the answer by the former Minister for Shipping and Transport to me on 22nd September 1965 (Hansard, page 1185)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The only changes in Imperial, Commonwealth or State legislation relating to the International Collision Regulations since the former Minister for Shipping and Transport’s reply to the honourable member on 22nd September 1965 have been the making of regulations in South Australia on 24th February 1966, and the introduction of new regulations in Tasmania on 1st February 1967 to supersede the by-laws made earlier on this subject by the various Tasmanian Marine Boards. The making of this legislation completed all the action necessary to give full effect to the International Collision Regulations by means of Austraiian legislation, and the only correspondence that has passed between governments on this matter has been in the nature of finalising minor details.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What requests or suggestions were made at the meeting of (a) State Ministers at the Conference of the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities in Hobart in November 1967, and (b) the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Melbourne in July 1968, for (i) the Commonwealth, (ii) the Territories and (iii) the States?
– The following answer is now supplied:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for . Repatriation, upon notice:
What was the average cost in 1967-68 ot prescriptions dispensed by (a) private chemists for eligible repatriation patients under the agreement wilh the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia and (b) the Department’s own chemists?
– The Minister for Repatriation has now supplied the following answer:
The cost of dispensing by departmental pharmacists includes direct labour and material costs but does not include a provision for overhead expenses.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows: 1 and 2. Work on the preparation of a common code of discipline - which has not been lacking in complexity - is now well advanced. My objective is to introduce the necessary legislation in the next session of Parliament.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice: ls tile committee appointed to consider the provisions of the Judiciary Act empowered to recommend legal aid in Federal courts and under Federal laws in addition to those cases falling within section 69 (3.) of the Act?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is as follows:
I am myself presently considering the question of legal aid in cases of Federal jurisdiction. However, section 69 (3.) of the Judiciary Act is in one of the parts of that Act that the Committee in question is by its terms of reference required lo consider and report upon.
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
How many employees, both male and female, have been retrenched at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fisherman’s Bend, Port Melbourne and at Avalon, Victoria, since November 1967?
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer:
Since 1st November 1967, 13 males and 48 females have been formally retrenched at the Government Aircraft Factory, Fisherman’s Bend and 9 males and 5 females resigned whilst under notice of retrenchment. In the same period, 15 males and 6 females have been formally retrenched at the Avalon factory and 14 males and 1 female resigned whilst under notice of retrenchment. Persons who resign whilst tinder notice of retrenchment are deemed to have been retrenched for the purpose of entitlements pursuant to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943-1968 and the Superannuation Act 1922-1968, where applicable.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable members’ questions are as follows: 1. (a) The total maintenance revenue’ of public hospitals in each State and Territory for the last 3 years for which figures are available was as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The Commonwealth Government assists the Arts and Letters in Australia through the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Historic Memorials Committee and the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board and Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers and more recently through the Australian Council for the Arts.’ Direct grants-in-aid were made to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust during the period 1954-55 to 1967-68 and to the Adelaide and Perth Festivals of Arts. Annual funds allocated for each of these bodies from the year 1949-50 is set out at Table A.
Cultural activities in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory receive Commonwealth assistance through the Department of the Interior (see Table B).
The Department of Education and Science provides the Secretariat for the Australian National Advisory Committee of UNESCO and its specialist committees, and carries on its vote provision for their activities. An estimate of the amount spent on the cultural committees is set out at attached Table C.
A proportion of the annual appropriations for the Australian Broadcasting Commission is directed to cultural programmes for both radio and television, but it is impossible to determine the actual amount thus expended.
Under the colleges of advanced education pro: gramme for the 1967-69 triennium, courses in art and music have been approved and are therefore receiving, through the Department of Education and Science, Commonwealth financial assistance. However, as the art courses approved are only a relatively small number within a large number of courses approved at each college, and as Commonwealth support extends not only to recurrent costs of these courses but also capital expenditure, it is not possible to say what is the level of Commonwealth assistance for the courses.
As well as the above, the Commonwealth Department of Works, the National Capital Development Commission and the Reserve Bank of Australia have spent a substantial amount on the acquisition of art works in the period mentioned.
Another form of Commonwealth assistance to the Arts and Letters is made available through taxation concessions and exemptions from gift and estate duty. Again, it is not possible to measure precisely the value of assistance accorded to cultural bodies by these means.
Because of the problems of determining with any measure of accuracy the total amount of assistance given by the Commonwealth to the Arts and Letters, I am unable to provide realistic figures of assistance as percentages of the gross national product for the years concerned.
– On 13th August 1968 the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Housing, a question upon notice (Question No. 419) relating to a number of activities in the housing field. Part 8 of that question asked:
What assistance has been given by overseas governments in providing houses for migrants from their countries since the Minister’s answer to me on 27th September 1967 (Hansard, page 1429).
The Minister for Housing has now advised that the answer to Part 8 given on 10th September 1968 should be amended to read as follows:
On information now received by the department, the Maltese Government made available $125,000 in the year ended 30lh June 196S. The Netherlands Government had also made available up to 30lh June 1968 further amounts totalling Sl.lm from repayments of earlier loans.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. All ammunition supplied lo the Services by the Department of Supply must pass required acceptance trials and tests al important stages throughout the whole process of manufacture prior to final acceptance and delivery for use by the Services. No ammunition has been rejected on receipt during the past five years. Ammunition, due to its basic chemical nature, deteriorates progressively with agc, climate and storage conditions and handling. During its service life it is kept under constant surveillance and is subjected to routine and special tests to ensure serviceability. Deterioration of ammunition as a result of these regular’ inspections is relatively low as most items are stored under good conditions and the regular turnover of stocks during training ensures that the oldest ammunition is used first. 3 and 4. Similar basic conditions apply to imported ammunition. Only ammunition acceptable to the inspecting authority of the country of origin is purchased and regarded as suitable for use by the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force.
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Commonwealth Government has already announced that legislation concerning the protection of living resources of Australia’s continental shelf, including areas of the Great Barrier Reef, may be introduced during the current session of the Parliament.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1, 2 and 6. The honourable member has asked, in effect, whether the Commonwealth Government could take steps to enable a substantially higher level of public authority expenditure in Australia to be undertaken or to effect substantial reallocations of its expenditure. The Government’s policy as regards the level of expenditure to be provided for in this year’s Budget was stated and explained in my Budget speech. The proposed pattern of Commonwealth expenditure this financial year has also been determined as a matter of policy and has been set out in the Budget. There have been the customary opportunities for debate on the Government’s budget proposals, and their passage through Parliament will mean that parliamentary approval has been given to them.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681022_reps_26_hor61/>.