26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr BENSON presented a petition from certain residents of Victoria praying that the shooting of all kangaroos and the export of kangaroo meat be banned and that a Commonwealth department be established to conserve wild life on a national basis.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. What conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers or officials have been arranged following the exchange of letters between the right honourable gentleman and the Premier of New South Wales, acting on behalf of himself and the other Premiers, and when are such ministerial or official conferences likely to be held?
– I take it that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to a letter written to me by the Premier of New South Wales which was the subject of a question in the House some time ago. That letter suggested a Premiers Conference, as I indicated at the time, on one point only. This was the difficulty that might be created in State Budgets as a result of increases in wages costs over and above the allowance which had already made in the formula to meet increases in wages costs. I have replied to the Premier of New South Wales indicating that in my view that matter was not one which required a conference of Premiers; indeed insufficient facts were known about it, as was indicated in the letter from the Premier of New South Wales. 1 therefore suggested that there should be conferences between Treasury officials of the Commonwealth Government and Treasury officials of the various States separately, so that the facts of the matter could be discussed by those officials and form the basis of any further consideration which might take place. I cannot tell the Leader of the Opposition precisely what arrangements have been made for these officials to meet, but that is where the situation stands.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the convicted murderer da Costa. I am sure the Prime Minister will realise the desirability of an early decision being made by the Government as to this man’s fate, not only because this is in the man’s interests but also because of the widespread interest in the community. Can the Prime Minister tell the House when Cabinet will be able to announce a decision on this matter?
– The Attorney-General has previously pointed out to the House that until very recently the Government has felt it was improper to form judgments on this matter until Mr da Costa had used all the legal resources open to him to establish his innocence or until his guilt had been reaffirmed. These legal resources were exhausted only recently. The Government immediately took the matter under consideration and has made a decision. The decision has passed through the Executive Council. It is that the sentence of death will be commuted to a sentence of 30 years imprisonment, not to be reduced below 20 years imprisonment, and that Mr da Costa should not be released from custody unless a panel of medical doctors indicates that it is safe for him to be released to the community.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he can give the House any information on his talks in London on possible Australian participation in a British shipping line.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has assumed what my talks in London were about. I am not in a position to make any statement to the House.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question relating to the presentation of the Queen’s colours last Friday to the Australian Fleet and to HMAS ‘Cerberus’ by His Excellency the Governor-General. I congratulate the Navy. Whilst thousands of dollars are spent on recruiting, why was no prior publicity given to this ceremony in the newspapers during the preceding week? The absence of publicity meant that few people, other than official guests, were aware that this impressive ceremony was being held. Can the Minister advise the House of the action that was taken to obtain publicity from the daily Press?
– I must say that I was very disappointed at the poor Press coverage given in Melbourne to this important ceremony. The public relations section of the Navy went to considerable trouble to give the Melbourne newspapers the information, but evidently they were not sufficiently interested to use it. 1 repeat that I regret that this is so, because this was a ceremony of great importance to the Navy and it was a ceremony in which the Navy performed excellently. Again I say that I was disappointed at the reaction of the newspapers.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of his answer to the honourable member for Braddon yesterday, I now ask whether the Minister is able to say, following discussions with his trade advisers, whether it is a fact that Petersville Australia Ltd, which now has an investment on both sides of the Tasman, must be in agreement with any proposals brought forward by the Australian delegation of pea growers and processors, backed by the Federal Government, to New Zealand next week?
– Yesterday I informed the House that I had an appointment with officers of my Department to discuss this general subject but I could not remember immediately whether it was that afternoon or today. My appointment with my officers was for yesterday and I have had a very full discussion with them. I am now in a position to inform the honourable member and the House that an Australian delegation will visit New Zealand for the purpose of having mutual discussions on the problem that arises from the prospective crop of peas and also beans on both sides of the Tasman.
The Australian delegation will comprise a first assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Mr Partridge, and another official. They in fact leave today for New Zealand for these talks and will commence discussions with New Zealand officials tomorrow. There will also be for the purpose of commencing discussions on Monday, representatives of Australian processors and representatives of Australian growers. I think from memory there will be six growers representatives. These various groups will meet their opposite numbers. The Australian officials will discuss the problem with New Zealand officials. The Australian processors will discuss the problem with New Zealand processors. The Australian growers will discuss the problem with New Zealand growers. After those discussions, the whole of the delegations, in total, will go into conference. It is a fact that Petersville Australia Ltd now has processing interests both in Australia and New Zealand.
What the outcome of these discussions will be, I am not able to predict. But the problem arises from the fact - and I speak in basic terms - that Australian processors and New Zealand processors, in total, have contracted for the growing of quantities of peas thought to be in excess of the prospective market, both domestically and at export. The Australian processors in recent times have been able to export competitively to the United Kingdom quite substantial quantities of processed Australian peas. But the devaluation of New Zealand currency has put New Zealand at a competitive advantage over the Australian processors. The position is, I think, a very difficult one. It is true that the growers are in the course of growing crops in excess of the market, but they have contracts with the processors to take up the crops. On this foundation, I would imagine that the probability is that the problem for growers will not arise this year, but will arise next year. We will endeavour to sort this out to the best advantage of both countries.
I think that I have made it quite clear that we want the Australia-New Zealand free trade area to operate harmoniously. We want to provide a market in each country for the products of the other country. But in no circumstances do we want a legitimate industry of one country destroyed by competition from the other country. There is provision for protection within the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement to ensure that this does not happen. I cannot speculate further on the result, but I think that in this answer I have exposed the facts and my own mind on the matter.
– The Minister for Air will recall representations that I made concerning a claim made by a Mr Bruce MacKenzie that he is not allowed access to land that he owns at Medowie, near Williamtown, because the Royal Australian Air Force has proclaimed the land as a danger area due to its proximity to the Williamtown Air Base practice firing and gunnery range. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to recent newspaper publicity given to this matter? Will the Minister inform me of the present position?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I recall the representations made by the honourable member on this matter. I have been aware of some publicity in the Press concerning it. It is a matter of some complexity and some difficulty. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the owner of the land who, not because of any use by the defence forces of the land but merely because the land is in an area in which he might be exposed to somedanger, is excluded from the use of that land during practice firing, and only on those occasions. Unfortunately the use of the gunnery range at Williamtown has been stepped up in recent times and it is used fairly frequently - indeed, four or five days a week on some occasions. This increases the problem associated with this particular piece of land. I am having this matter closely considered to see whether something can be done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of preface I refer to the Government’s recent invitation to the Australian Council of Trade Unions to nominate two trade union representatives to attend the forthcoming International Labour Organisation convention on safety in underground metalliferous mining to be held at Geneva, and to the fact that in response to that invitation the ACTU elected Mr Tregowan, of the Broken Hill miners organisation, and Mr Gillman of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, in preference to Edgar - better known as ‘Squizzy’ - Williams of the Australian Workers Union. Did any official of the AWU make any representations to the Government to set aside the ACTU’s rejection of Mr Williams? Is it true that in response to a further letter from the Minister the ACTU reconsidered its nomination of Messrs Tregowan and Gillman but in a secret ballot rejected Williams for the second time? Does the Government now propose to send an extra delegate to the convention so that ‘Squizzy’ can get the trip?
– Unless amongst my heavy correspondence there is awaiting my attention a letter whichI have not yet seen, I do not believe that I have received the final nominations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Until 1 do receive the nominations I think that any comment might be highly redundant. Some of the parties involved have imparted to me a knowledge of their views on this matter, but as far as I am concerned we will have to await the arrival of the final nominations submitted by the ACTU. As the honourable member would know, in general terms our obligation to the International Labour Organisation is to select representatives nominated by the main body of the labour unions involved. We all have assiduously kept to this, andI await their nominations. It is not for the Government to nominate people unless, I presume, there are very exceptional circumstances.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether, in view of the increasing prominence which has been given to the problems of the elderly in the community, it is his intention to appoint a director of geriatrics within his Department.
– I know the honourable gentleman’s interest in this matter and the number of occasions on which he has advocated such an appointment. I am happy to be able to inform him that my Department has called for applications for a director of geriatrics and gerontology to take up appointment in the Department as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Are any proposals at present being considered by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board for changes in the method of calculating pensions, in particular calculations which affect officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who for financial reasons are unable to take up their full entitlement of superannuation units?
– Yes, proposals of the kind mentioned by the honourable gentleman are at present being investigated by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is be aware that a great many migrant children come to Australia with no knowledge of English and for this reason find it very difficult to make satisfactory progress in their early years in our schools? If he is aware of this, will he confer with the State Ministers for Education with a view to selecting some schools in each State to provide 6 months teaching of basic English to those migrant children with either no or very little knowledge of English before they are admitted to regular classes?
– It is, of course, abundantly clear that a great number of children come to this country with no knowledge of English. What I am concerned personally to ensure will happen is that children who come here without a knowledge of English will not be deprived in due course of the full opportunity of applying their intellectual attainments to whatever course of work they choose. In other words, a person who is capable of undertaking an apprenticeship should not be deprived of that apprenticeship merely because he has not reached the appropriate education level because of difficulty with our language. This carries on to the professional fields and so on. I think this is the major concern.
The way in which we can overcome this problem is a matter on which we need scientific advice. I mentioned in the House a couple of weeks ago that in order to get that scientific advice I had, in co-operation with my colleague the Minister for Education and Science, approached the New South Wales Department of Education which has a scientific research unit. In the course of the year it has been conducting an experiment to decide the best methods of providing English teaching for these children. I am unable to say whether or not the unit would suggest a regional school. I do not want to prejudge the matter but I think this would more likely be a retrograde step rather than an advanced one. This is a personal opinion; the scientists will tell us what should be done. When I receive that report at the end of the year I will discuss it with the Government for the purpose of making the appropriate decisions.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put to the Deputy Prime Minister. The right honourable gentleman will notice that his deputy told my deputy that my deputy was assuming that one of the subjects which his deputy would be discussing overseas would be the possible entry of the Australian Government into an arrangement with an overseas shipping company. I recall to the right honourable gentleman the answer he gave 3 weeks ago, on 17th October, in these terms:
I now ask the Prime Minister himself whether he will arrange for a statment to be made to the House on this matter which has been commented on and partially answered already in the House and to have that statement debated at the earliest possible moment.
– I have nothing whatever to add to the admirable answer given by the Deputy Prime Minister to the deputy of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister for National Development will have seen reports that the cotton growers in the Ord have stated that they will probably not plant any cotton in the forthcoming season. I ask him: Has the Government at any stage since the decision was made concerning the nonpayment of the cotton bounty given any further consideration to its decision to provide further finance for the second stage of the
Ord development and if not, is there sufficient information available from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics or from other instrumentalities that would make such consideration either necessary or unnecessary?
– The decision of the Government to advance money to the Western Australian Government for the building of the major dam on the Ord River was taken only after a very close and long consideration by both State and Federal1 authorities of the likely benefits to accrue and the likely costs to be incurred in this major scheme. Incidentally the enabling legislation was passed unanimously by both Houses of this Parliament. The proposal was based on the fact that vast untapped resources of water are available in this area. It is of interest to note that the water that will be impounded by the major dam at the Ord at a cost of about $20m will be by far the cheapest water available in Australia. The cost of water from the Ord Dam is about $21 per acre foot. This compares with the cost of water from the recently completed Keepit Dam in New South Wales of about $135 per acre foot. In addition, at the Ord we had the availability of good flood pl’ains which could be commanded by gravity, a good season and a long growing season. lt is true that there have been short term problems for cotton growers at the Ord. Part of the reason for these problems is associated with the development of a new type of agriculture in a new area and with high costs. The problems have been exacerbated considerably by quite unusual climatic conditions over the 1’ast 2 years. In particular, in the last year rainfall was about double the usual annual rainfall. This led to some waterlogging and reduction of the crop. I have been informed by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture that the reduction in the crop amounted to a decrease of production of about 150 lb of lint per acre. As a result of this, cotton growers are in some financial difficulties but they are being assisted by the State Government. 1 have recently had a report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation saying that it sees no reason to alter its original view that high quality cotton could be grown on the Ord in commercial quantities and that the situation would improve as people gained more experience in cotton growing.
At present a small number of farmers in the area are producing annually, excluding bounty, $2.2m worth of goods. This amount is greater than will be required this year for the major dam. People are inclined to think that the Commonwealth has given $50m in a lump sum in one year for the construction of the dam. In fact the sum is partly a grant and partly a loan and expenditure will be spread over 10 years. Tenders are in for the dam. I am informed that the lowest tender for the dam was appreciably lower than the estimate arrived at by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I have no doubt that in the long run, despite some short term problems, this scheme will be a vast national project of great advantage to this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I refer to the fact that the Government has always maintained that our commitment in Vietnam is in response to a request from the South Vietnamese Government and presumably should continue until that Government releases us from our obligation. As there is every likelihood of the United States Government coming to an agreement with the Government of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front involving the withdrawal of United States troops, with which the Government of South Vietnam disagrees -
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is very long. He should ask his question.
– Here is the question: Will the Australian Government continue to honour its obligation to the South Vietnamese Government and fill the gap or will it admit that the reasons given for the whole operation in Vietnam have been a political hoax for which young Australians have given their lives?
– As has been made clear time after time and most recently in the debate on this subject held in this House a night or so ago, the purpose both of the United States and of the Australian Government in assisting South Vietnam was in order to demonstrate that aggression would not pay and would not succeed. The purpose behind that was to endeavour to see that that kind of appeasement which led to
World War II would not lead to World War III. That was the purpose for which the Australian and United States Governments went to assist a country under attack. If I may say so, I think some measure of the success of this policy is that apparently North Vietnam, which launched the attack, has come to the conclusion that it cannot militarily succeed and is therefore prepared to begin to talk.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, refers to the Aboriginal copper mining project at Yuendumu settlement north west of Alice Springs. What steps have been taken towards treating and marketing the considerable tonnage of ore at grass and what is the future of the project?
– Because of what the honourable member has told me personally, I am well aware of his interest in this venture. I al’so am familiar with the situation, having myself visited Yuendumu approximately 3 months ago. The Aboriginals there, led by a Mr Jabangardi have shown great initiative. They have done a large amount of prospecting; they have opened up a mine; and they have stockpiled a considerable amount of copper ore at grass. I am glad to say that a decision has been taken to finance a treatment works, which will probably be built near Yuendumu itself to deal with this ore and ore which will subsequently be mined. The funds for this wilt be provided by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs from the moneys which this House has voted for this purpose. The actual detailed work will be administered by the Minister for the Interior. I have asked him to do three things: First, to have no delay in this matter; second, to consult the Aboriginals themselves about the details; and third, to see that in the erection of this plant some kind of technical training is given to the Aboriginals who will operate it.
The plant will be owned and controlled by the Aboriginals, with the necessary minimum of advice from officers of the Department of the Interior. Although it is a comparatively small project, I hope that it will be the thin edge of a wedge which will develop to a very great extent. I commend entirely the initiative shown by the Aboriginals of Yuendumu in this matter. They will get support, and Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory or in any other part of Australia who show similar initiative will also get support from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and from the funds which this House has, I am glad to say, voted for that purpose.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he received yesterday a request from the Premier of New South Wales for Army transport to move hay into the Bega Valley from the nearest railhead at Nimmitabel. Did the request state that an emergency situation existed in which no other transport was available to shift this hay in time for it to be effective in relieving starving stock in the Bega Valley? Has the Prime Minister replied to this request? If so, in what terms?
– The answer to the first part of the question is: Yes, I did receive such a communication from the Premier of New South Wales yesterday. The answer to the second part of the question is: No, the communication did not state that there was no other possible form of transport. The answer to the third part of the question is: Yes, I have replied to the Premier of New South Wales. The answer to the fourth part of the question, about the terms in which I replied, is that I inquired what reason there was for the Government of New South Wales, which is the administering authority for drought relief, to assume that there was no possibility of moving hay by private transport drawn from within or without New South Wales, and whether, indeed, it was such an urgent and immediate matter that it should be attended to at once. Tt ought to be, I think, clear that the bringing in of large numbers of Army trucks for this purpose, many or most of which would have to come from without New South Wales, should not occur unless it is perfectly clear, and evidence is produced, that the normal methods of private transport which would be available have not been sought to be availed of.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he recalls my recent letter to him, and his promise to write to me again, concerning the export of merino rams and semen. In view of the disquiet among many wool growers who fear a change in the established policy prohibiting the export of merino rams, will the Minister make an early authoritative statement on this subject?
– I recall the honourable member writing to me and my saying that I would write to him at a later date. The reason why I said I would write at a later date was that I was waiting on the advice of the Australian Wool Industry Conference which proposed to make a decision on the embargo placed on the export of Australian merinos or semen from Australian merinos. This matter was to have been discussed at the last meeting of the Conference. However, because marketing proposals were given priority, it was not looked at. But I am informed that the next time the Conference meets - I think that will be later this month - it will be discussing this question. As soon as I have any firm information to give to the honourable member, I will write to him.
Mr MAXWELL NEWTON
– The Treasurer will have sensed the widespread astonishment that many of the submissions of his party’s Staff Planning Committee, which are circulated to very few people of whom the right honourable gentleman is one, have been printed in full recently in successive issues of Mr Maxwell Newton’s publications. Can the right honourable gentleman give an assurance that confidential Treasury submissions which come to him cannot find their way to the same publications?
– I have little knowledge of the subject of the honourable member’s question, but T will have a look into it and let him have a reply.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. When was a decision made to send 150 officers and men to the celebrations in Paris to mark the end of the
First World War? Why were some veterans of the First World War not included in the representatives? Did the Prime Minister see the very famous poster ‘Were you there then?’ Is it not unfortunate that the people who were there then will not be there on Monday?
– From memory, the invitation from the French Government and the acceptance of that invitation occurred early in November or towards the end of October. This is my memory of the occasion when this happened. The invitation was for men drawn from serving units of the Australian Army and the New Zealand Army to form a contingent to march through Paris as part of the ceremonies to mark the end of the First World War. There undoubtedly would be amongst many of those who were in France at the time of the First World War a perfectly natural and understandable wish to return to see or to take part in the ceremonies; but I think that the provision of a serving contingent, which was asked for, would quite necessarily exclude those who were in the First World War at the time it was being fought.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. During the coming recess will he give consideration to the preparation of a list of amendments to the Constitution required to make the national economy function properly in the best interests of the community to avoid inflation and deflation? In particular, will he give attention to the matter of the re-establishment of the Interstate Commission with valid powers?
– I think it would be generally agreed - though not universally agreed, of course, by those honourable members on the opposite side of the chamber - that the Australian economy has been functioning in the interests of the nation due to careful management of both the budgetary policy and the monetary policy used in Australia. I think that the right honourable gentleman referred to avoiding deflation and inflation. I believe that, subject to what I will say in a moment, there has been a very creditable record in this respect over the last few years. It is true that there are, through matters outside the control of the Government, occasionally decisions which require careful attention to avoid either cost or demand inflation occurring, but these are through matters outside the direct control of the Government.
Price control, of course, was tried before, during the time when the right honourable gentleman was a member of an alternative government. I think we can remember the kind of black markets to which it led, the kind of stifling of initiative to which it led and the way it was sought to be transferred from price control to profit control so that there was no incentive whatever for any firm or any man to manufacture a better article at a cheaper price if, as a result, he was to be denied the profits due to his initiative.
– Did the Minister for Primary Industry recently receive a deputation which advocated that a statutory marketing authority be set up in the Australian dried fruits industry? If so, what was the result of the meeting?
– It is true that a deputation, which represented a section of the Australian dried fruits industry, came to see me recently to ask that a full statutory marketing authority be formed. This has been a matter of contention in the dried vine fruits industry for some considerable time. The Australian Dried Fruits Association, which is the supreme organisation in this industry, has not recommended that a full statutory marketing authority should be established. It feels that at the moment the pros and cons do not weigh in favour of the industry. To try to settle this dispute, earlier this year T arranged for the ADFA and the other element in the industry, which wanted the establishment of a full statutory marketing authority, to get together in Melbourne with senior officers of my Department and argue out the relative points of having such an authority. The discussion was recorded and the transcript was presented to the Ministers for Agriculture who form the Australian Agricultural Council.
At the meeting of the Council earlier this year the matter was discussed but there was no unanimity among State Ministers for Agriculture that a full statutory marketing authority should be established, the main reasons being that at the present time the ADFA was operating well, that the marketing was done by co-operative and proprietary companies and that any benefits which might accrue from having a statutory marketing authority were outweighed by the disadvantages. Because there is no unanimity in the industry or amongst State Ministers for Agriculture for the establishment of a statutory marketing authority, I had to tell the deputation that now was not the appropriate time to consider the establishment of such an authority.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Did representatives of the Department of Shipping and Transport attend a meeting in Hong Kong during October to discuss the reconstitution of the Australia-Japan shipping conference to permit the admission of the Australian National Line and other Australian shipping lines to that conference? Can the Minister say whether the conference is prepared to admit Australian operators and, if so, under what conditions? Will the Minister give the Parliament a detailed report on what transpired at the Hong Kong meeting?
– No representatives of the Department of Shipping and Transport or any other Australian Government department attended the meeting in Hong Kong. It was a meeting convened by the Northbound and Southbound Shipping Conferences, of which, of course, the Australian Government is not a member. However, the members of the Shipping Conferences, after the commencement of the first day’s proceedings, invited the Australian National Line to participate in the meeting. I understand that a final conclusion was not reached on future membership of the Conference or on the respective shares of the trade to be received by participants in the future, and that there is to be a further meeting at which the unresolved issues can be further discussed.
A meeting of a conference such as this is not one to which the Commonwealth Government would be a party unless the Government were a member. In the present circumstances the Government is not a member, and while the Government has a very real1 interest in ensuring that Australian shippers shall have an opportunity to move through Australian shipping lines the goods which they import or export, it is not for the Government to intervene directly in Conference proceedings. But it is true that the Australian Government believes that, with the trend towards bilateral operation of shipping services on a nation to nation basis, opportunities should be give to Australian owned shipping companies to participate. Consequently we would expect the Conference to which I have referred to give adequate consideration to representations by the Australian National Line as well as private Australian companies for their inclusion in the reorganised shipping pattern.
– As Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee 1 present the One-Hundredth Report which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for 1967-68 and the OneHundredandFirst Report which relates to Treasury minutes arising from the Eighteenth, Seventy-Seventh and NinetyFourth Reports of your Committee. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In recent years your Committee has conducted a series of combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but has reported separately on both aspects of these inquiries. The OneHundredth Report relates specifically to that portion of the evidence taken in the combined inquiry in respect of the financial year 1967-68 that concerned expenditure from the Advance to The Treasurer.
Following its inquiry into expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1963-64 your Committee evolved a pro-forma statement for the guidance of departments in tendering evidence in this field of inquiry. Arising from this there has been a marked improvement in the nature and quality of the departmental submissions tendered. This fact, coupled with an apparent increasing awareness by departments of the principles of sound estimating, has enabled your Committee to reduce the number of items requiring oral examination to 16 in respect of the financial year 1967-68 compared with 26 in the previous year.
Notwithstanding these improvements the evidence taken in the present inquiry has revealed instances where insufficient care has been taken in the formulation of original and additional estimates; cases where clerical errors have occurred but have not been detected readily; a continuing need for adequate liaison to be achieved between the central offices of departments and their overseas posts; and a need for the Department of the Treasury, the SubTreasuries and departments generally to act promptly in regard to urgent requests made late in the financial year for funds from the Advance to the Treasurer.
Your Committee has also had cause to consider the situation that arises where deduction lines involving Commonwealth departments, other than those engaged in trading operations, have been deleted but the charges imposed on those departments have been retained and the proceeds credited to revenue. Having regard to your Committee’s views on interdepartmental payments contained in its fifty-fifth report and bearing in mind that the recovery of charges and their payment to revenue inflate the expenditure and revenue of the Commonwealth, your Committee considers that this practice should be reviewed by the Department of the Treasury and the other departments concerned. I commend the reports to honourable members.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill represents the culmination and consummation of the process of representation of the two mainland Territories in the Australian Parliament. For as long as the
Australian Parliament is bicameral, it is in accordance with all our political tenets and instincts that all portions of Australia and all people of Australia should be represented in both Houses of the Parliament. It is proper that the governed should have a share in choosing their governors and calling them to account. The Constitution requires this as regards the States; it permits it as regards the Territories. We should not permit the position to continue any longer where residents and electors of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory can choose representatives in one alone of the two chambers of this Parliament. lt is true that there may be arguments concerning the nature and degree of representational institutions in the two Territories corresponding to municipal or what one might call State governments. One Territory is in a developmental stage; one kas particular national characteristics. Accordingly there may well be differences of opinion among honourable members as to the extent to which there should be State type or municipal institutions within the two mainland Territories. I would believe, however, that there can be no difference of opinion among honourable members on the question of representation of both Territories in the Australian Parliament. This Parliament passes laws concerning both Territories. Both Houses of the Parliament must approve any such laws. Accordingly, one would believe that the residents and the electors of the Territories should choose the law givers. Furthermore in matters corresponding to municipal and State functions the Australian Government has particular powers or reserved powers over the Territories. Accordingly, the Government should be answerable to both Houses of the Parliament in such matters where they concern the Territories.
Before the Commonwealth accepted these Territories from South Australia and New South Wales, both Territories were represented in the same way as all other parts of those States in the Parliaments of those States. Both Territories were incorporated in electorates for the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales and the House of Assembly of South Australia respectively. The Northern Territory was included in a province for the Legislative Council of South Australia. The Australian Capital
Territory like any other area of New South Wales was able to have residents appointed to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. It was only for that 12 years after the two Territories were surrendered to the Commonwealth that they were without parliamentary representation of their choice.
In 1922 the Northern Territory was given representation in the Australian Parliament by one member of this chamber. He was not entitled to vote on any matter. In 1936 he was given the right to vote on a motion to disallow an ordinance affecting the Northern Territory. In 1959 he was given the further right to vote on any Bill that related solely to the Northern Territory. The question whether a Bill related solely to the Northern Territory was determined by the Presiding Officer or, if objection was taken to a ruling by the Presiding Officer, by this chamber itself. In this year, a Bill was introduced to give the member for the Northern Territory a vote on any matter after the next elections. In the light of a notice of motion which I put down on the first sitting day, that Bill was amended by the Government to give the member for the Northern Territory the right to vote on any matter as soon as the Bill received the Royal Assent.
The Australian Capital Territory was not given representation in the Australian Parliament until 1948. It was then given a member in this chamber who had the same voting rights as the member for the Northern Territory had at that time. That is, he could vote only on a motion to disallow an ordinance affecting the Australian Capital Territory. In 1959, he was given the same additional right as was given in that year to the member for the Northern Territory to vote on any Bill that related solely to his Territory. In 1966 the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given the right to vote on any matter after the next general election for this House.
The Commonwealth Constitution provides in section 122:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth . . . and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks lit.
Honourable members will notice that this section is subsequent to and more specific than the general section 7 relating to the Senate which provides that:
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State.
It might be thought, looking at section 7 in isolation, that the Senate could never be other than a States House. However section 122, being later and more specific, would override it to the extent of any representation of the Territories in the Senate. It will be noted that this Parliament determines the extent and the terms of Territory representation in either chamber. I have detailed the history of that representation in this chamber. But similarly both Houses of this Parliament can determine the extent and terms of representation of all the Territories in the Senate.
– Has a likely view been expressed in that field?
– 1 know of no decisions, but I have consulted the academics in this field and the view which they unanimously express is that section 122, being later and specific, extends the provisions of section 7.
Honourable members will note that in the Bill there are some differences between the extent and nature of representation of each Territory and those which the Constitution requires for the States. In particular, they will note that instead of having 10 senators for each Territory, as there are for each State, there will be 2 senators. They will note also that the term provided for is not 6 years as it must be, except in the case of a double dissolution, for every senator representing a State. The term will be the period between House of Representatives elections. Perhaps I should explain why I have suggested provisions different to those appertaining to the States. I believe that the Australian public and honourable members would hold the view that it would be quite disproportionate to have 10 senators for each mainland Territory. The Australian Capital Territory with 2 senators might be under-represented compared to Tasmania which would have 5 times that number of senators but less than 5 times its population. Nevertheless I do not believe that anybody would seriously contend that the mainland Territories should have the same number of senators as the States.
I have suggested 2 senators because I believe it would be proper to have an even number representing the Territories. If there was one senator alone representing each Territory, almost certainly the one party would be represented for long periods. It is very probable that both senators would belong to the same Party. From 1949 to 1966 my Party had the member in this chamber representing each Territory. Accordingly I believe that it would be proper to have an even number elected each time for each Territory. Then each of the major parties would represent each Territory in the Senate, just as each of the major parties represents each State in the Senate.
– You would have to have four senators.
– No. One could, but 1 am dealing with the term as distinct from the number. I have suggested that it would be appropriate to have an even number of senators for each Territory because then each party would be represented. If we had two senators to represent each Territory there would be at least minimum representation by each Party for each Territory.
– One senator for every 25,000 people?
-Order! There have been several interjections in the last few moments. I suggest that the number of interjections should be reduced.
– The point I am making about having an even number of senators for a Territory is that this would be fairer than having for long periods a sole representative from one party as you would have if only one senator was to be elected.
– That is why they got rid of the member for the Australian Capital Territory.
-Order! I suggest that talk across the table should cease.
– The other difference in representation which the Bill suggests for the Territories as distinct from the States, is the term of office. The Constitution lays down requirements as to the term of senators representing the Slates. The Constitution leaves it to this Parliament to determine the term of senators for the Territories. Accordingly, I have adapted the method which was unanimously agreed to 10 years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties in this House were represented. It was recommended by that Committee that the Constitution should be amended to provide that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was an election for the House of Representatives. It was believed by that Committee that this would cut down the number of elections, that it would avoid the situation which has now obtained ever since the premature election for the House of Representatives in 1961, and that it would also promote concentration on the same issues for elections for both Houses. It would minimise the distraction of elections; it would minimise the differences between the Houses.
The Parliament can make this provision as regards the Territories. Accordingly I have suggested that both senators for each Territory should be elected every time there is a general election for the House of Representatives. The Acts which give representation to each Territory in this chamber provide that there shall be an election for the member for each Territory if there is a general election for members of the House of Representatives for the States. So at least in the two Territories there would be an election for both Houses of the Parliament at the same time.
In case honourable members believe that there is anything unusual in having more members for the Senate than for the House of Representatives for any Territory, I point out that Tasmania and Western Australia have more senators than members in the House of Representatives, and in five States in the US - Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, Vermont and Wyoming - there is but one member of the House of Representatives, although there must be two senators under the Constitution. Accordingly, in answer to an earlier interjection, this is not without precedent under the American Constitution, on which our Constitution is based, or under the Australian Constitution itself.
Perhaps I may make some reference to my own Party’s attitude on this matter of representation in the Australian Parliament of the Territories. It will be remembered that in 1962 when the Liberal and Country Parties had a majority of one member in this chamber over the Australian Labour Party after the election of a a Speaker, and both Territories were represented by members of the Australian Labour Party, Bills were introduced to give full voting rights to the two members of the Territories. This, of course, would have given an advantage to my Party and we would have formed a government. It would have been a disadvantage to the Liberal and Country Parties if these Bills were passed. On 29th March 1962, my predecessor introduced, and moved the motion for the second reading of, a Bill to give full voting rights to the member for the Northern Territory. The debate proceeded and was postponed. No vote was ever taken and the Bill was still on the notice paper as unfinished business when the Parliament was dissolved at the end of 1963.
On 10th May 1962 I introduced, and moved the motion for the second reading of, a Bill to give full voting rights to the member for the Australian Capital Territory. This Bill had the same fate. At that time the only matters upon which a member for a Territory could vote were the disallowance of an Ordinance or a Bill concerning his Territory alone. The only Bill on which the Government was defeated during the session of 1962-63 was a measure concerning the Northern Territory. The legislation was the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1962 upon which the member for the Northern Territory at that time had a vote. Since the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) missed the division, we won it. Nevertheless, at that time it was quite clear that members of the Liberal and Country Parties were against full voting rights being given to members for the Territories. The principle was conceded in respect to the Northern Territory only this year after another notice of motion was given by me.
It has been said quite correctly that the Australian Labor Party is in favour of the abolition of the Senate. One of the first planks to the Party’s platform provides for an amendment of the Constitution to abolish the Senate. This is one amendment of the Constitution which would require the support of a majority of the voters, not only in Australia as a whole and in a majority of the States, but in every State. Accordingly, it would be a difficult amendment to carry. It is not an amendment of the Constitution which we would regard as being as urgent as some others. Moreover, I suppose it could be conceded that within each State the Senate at least gives one vote one value whereas in no State al the moment is there one vote one value in respect of the House of Representatives. Be that as it may, the situation is that as long as this is a bicameral legislature, in the name of democracy and decency people throughout the nation should have a vote for both Chambers. Everyone is subject to the laws and therefore everyone ought to have a vote to choose the members of each House of Parliament which makes the laws.
My Party’s attitude is that, pending the abolition of the Senate, which requires an amendment to the Constitution, it would support any amendments of the Constitution which would make our legislative processes more rational and which would minimise differences between the Chambers and accelerate the solution of the differences. Over 10 years ago the members of my Party unanimously agreed on the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee concerning the relations between the two Chambers and the term of senators. Later my Party accepted those principles as party policy. This meant that if our opponents in the Parliament introduced any of the amendments recommended 10 years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee concerning the relations between the Houses or the term or rotation of senators, my Party would support those amendments. We are committed to bring them in when we become a Government.
This Bill provides that the terms of senators for a Territory shall be that between two House of Representatives elections. If the Government seeks to synchronise elections between the two Houses by promoting the amendment of the Constitution which was agreed on by the Constitutional Review Committee 10 years ago, we will support the proposal. There can be no doubt that my Party is committed to the proposals of the Constitutional
Review Committee to synchronise elections between the two Chambers. We will support the necessary referendum. Since, however, a referendum is not required, it is entirely within the jurisdiction of this Parliament to determine the terms of senators for Territories. We have applied the principle proposed 10 years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee to the matter of representation in the Senate of Territories.
I should mention also something about my Party’s attitude towards the role of the Senate. It is true that in one respect - money matters, the public sector - the Constitution deprives the Senate of initiative. The Prime Minister, as a matter of practice, and the Treasurer, one would think ar, a. matter of Constitutional requirement, must belong to the House of Representatives. The Senate as a whole, or individual senators, cannot originate or transpose any appropriations; it can only reject or reduce. A senator can only propose that an appropriation be rejected or reduced. This applies to taxation measures, social service measures, bounties, tariffs, Commonwealth expenditure, States grants and developmental projects. It would cover, for instance, developmental projects in the territories. It would be wrong to mislead residents and electors of the Territories into believing that, by having representatives in the Senate, these representatives could initiate particular developmental projects for their Territories. They could not. Having acknowledged this - and I would be expressing my Party’s view which has endorsed these limitations which the Constitution places upon the Senate - one should also acknowledge that in all other matters the powers of the Senate are equal to those of this chamber. Every senator has the same rights as every member of this chamber in matters of Commonwealth legislation or investigation or supervision. The Senate has as much right to initiate matters outside the public financial section as has this chamber, and properly so.
There have been in this chamber committees dealing with the Northern Territory in particular. Honourable members will remember the committee which in 1961 investigated voting rights of Aboriginals. Its investigations were concerned with the Northern Territory as much as with the rest of Australia. Honourable members will remember the committee which in 1963 investigated the grievances of the Aboriginals at Yirrkala. Those were committees comprising members of this chamber alone. They concerned the Northern Territory principally or solely. They were committees on which it would have been perfectly proper, one would think, for senators to express their views as well, but they were not joint committees.
There is a joint committee of the two Houses on the Australian Capital Territory. So senators must sit on a committee concerned with the Australian Capital Territory. They cannot, however, have a Senate colleague from the Australian Capital Territory to sit on the Committee or to discuss its findings. There are two other joint committees which have frequently dealt with matters concerning the Territories. The Public Works Committee has considered many matters concerning the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Public Accounts Committee has, as I note from its index, considered scores of matters concerning the two Territories. Therefore senators sitting on the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee may investigate matters concerning the Territories but at present they cannot have senators from those Territories sitting on the Committees or expressing views about the Committees’ reports.
I commend the Bill to the House. 1 do not believe that any honourable member can deny the democratic principle that electors in the two mainland Territories should have the right to elect representatives to the other chamber, which in al/ except money matters has equal status with this chamber in passing laws concerning those electors. There may be differences of opinion between parties or within parties as to the extent of internal self government in the Territories, but that does not arise in a consideration of this Bill. The Bill1 concerns the right of electors of the Territories to have representatives in both Houses of this Parliament which make laws covering them. The Bill concerns the right of electors of the Territories to have in both chambers of the Parliament representatives to supervise, if you like, the Government, which in an extraordinary range of matters, municipal and State as well as national in character, makes decisions concerning those Territories.
There may be differences of opinion between the parties - I would not think they were matters of great ideological heat - as to the number of senators appropriate for a Territory or the term of such senators. I would not believe that any member of this chamber would urge that there should be ten senators for either Territory or both Territories. There may be some differences as to the number of senators. 1 believe that an even number is appropriate.
– 1 think six would be an excessive number. If there were two senators, or even four, the two major parties would have equal representation. If there were six senators we might have unequal representation as between the two major parties. 1 think two senators would not disturb the balance of the Senate. The election of two senators would ensure that both points of view are represented in the Senate for each Territory. The other proposal1 about synchronising elections for the Territory senators with those for all members of the House of Representatives is in accordance with the unanimous recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee 10 years ago. I would think that nothing has happened since that time to make members change their opinions. Since there have been so many occasions when we have now had separate elections for the two Houses instead of joint elections the relevance of the Committee’s recommendations is all the greater. Its arguments are all the more powerful1. At least in the Territories we can synchronise the elections. The great principle is that it is now time to have representation in both chambers for residents and electors of the two Territories. This would be the culmination and the con.sumation of the process of representation for the Territories in the Parliament as envisaged for two-thirds of a century in the Constitution.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. The principal issues involved in the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Vfr Whitlam) as 1 see them are firstly to make provision for recognition of the right of every Australian to take part in the administration of this country through the election and presence of representatives in the Federal Parliament. Under the Constitution we have two Houses - the House of Representatives and the Senate. The second issue in the Bill is the abolition of the present situation whereby residents of the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory are rated as what might be termed second class citizens in that they are refused adequate representation in the Senate, which is part of the legislature of this nation. Thirdly, the Bm is designed to give to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the same rights of expression in the Federal Parliament as are accorded to the States of the Commonwealth. So the Bill recognises the right of every citizen of Australia, irrespective of where he may live in this country, to have a voice under the Constitution in both Houses of the Parliament.
The question confronting the Government and the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who is charged with the responsibility for administering the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, is: Should Australians living in Canberra and the Northern Territory have representation in this Parliament at least equal to the representation given to people living elsewhere in Australia? That is the basic question to be answered. Do the Minister and the Government believe that the people living in these Territories have the right to adequate representation in the national Parliament? Under the present legislation the answer is no. If a person lives in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory he is a second class citizen. He does not have the same rights of expression as Australians living in other parts of Australia. If the Government believes that residents in these two Territories should have representation equal to that accorded to people living in other parts of Australia, it should support the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition. If it wants to persevere with discrimination against people living in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, of course, it will oppose the Bill.
Let us deal with some of the more pertinent questions relating to the administration of the two mainland Territories. The Government has no hesitation in taking advantage of the taxes collected from the residents of ihe Australian Capital Territory or in taking advantage of the national income, and especially the export income, generated in the Northern Territory and using it for the benefit of this nation as a whole. On the other hand, the Government, of course, puts back into the two Territories for administration and development considerable funds in many forms. But there is not adequate representation for the Territories in the Parliament. There is some representation in this House but there is no representation in the Senate and no expression of opinion can be made on behalf of Territory residents about the adequacy of the decisions made there.
Both these Territories of Australia exert, in their own right, considerable influence on the government of the day. In the civil service in Canberra we have perhaps the greatest concentration of technical, administrative and scientific brains to be found in any part of Australia. This hard core which is the backbone of the government of the day is composed of men of ability and years of training, who exert tremendous influence on government decisions. Anyone who has worked in the civil service and has been concerned with matters of high policy will know the great influence that the senior public servants in Canberra exert on the government of the day. These people deserve representation in the Parliament.
On the scientific side, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is an extremely capable organisation, exerts a tremendous influence on the future of this country. Surely members of its staff deserve adequate representation in the Parliament. One of the best universities, if not the best university, in Australia - the Australian National University - it situated in Canberra. This university specialises in research work. From the staff down even to those undergraduates who are over the voting age, and their families, it has a great influence. Surely these people alse are entitled to have a senator or senators to represent them in the Senate. Backing these people are th« solid work force, the general population of decent living citizens and those who provide the various services in Canberra. They are entirely justified in wanting a senator or senators in this Parliament. Recently the Parliament debated the choice of a site for the new and permanent parliament bouse. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) was able to express his opinion adequately, but there was nobody to represent the people of the Territory in the debate in the Senate. This illustrates the grave deficiency of our present electoral legislation. The site for the new building is a matter of very great importance not only to those who will sit as members in the future parliament house but also to those people who live and work in Canberra and are very closely associated with the Parliament.
The Northern Territory will have an even greater influence on our economy in the future because of developments in the beef industry and the mining industry. In the House of Representatives the member for the Northern Territory and the member for the Australian Capital Territory, whichever party they may represent, can do their best in putting forward their views, but frequently the opinions of the particular member in this House are heavily influenced by the party he represents and according to whether his party is in office or in opposition. But in the Senate, when important national issues affecting these two Territories are under review, there is no direct representation of their residents. This situation is unfair, lt discriminates against the people of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. As I said before, irrespective of the party to which the member for the Australian Capital Territory or the member for the Northern Territory belongs, each is to a degree bound by the policies of his party and his views are influenced according to whether his party is in office or in opposition. There are in this parliament few if any members who have given greater service to their constituents than has the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. He demonstrates what good representation in the House of Representatives can do. It is essential that the same standard of efficiency in representation of the two Territories is permitted by having a senator or senators to represent the people of the Territories.
When national issues come before this House, the honourable members for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory can put their views, but when national issues are debated in the Senate there is no direct representation of the people - I emphasise the words ‘of the people’ - who live in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Important matters such as the Budget can be debated in this House by the honourable members representing the two Territories. But when the Budget is before the Senate, any matter affecting the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory has to be debated by someone else, if anyone can be found to take it up. Similarly the Estimates are of great concern to people who live in the Territories, particularly those in the remoter areas of the Northern Territory. There is no Senate representative to debate the estimates of the Department of Territories, the Department of Health or of the defence departments, which ate involved in the Northern Territory. Surely the people of the Northern Territory are entitled to Senate representation to enable their views on these matters to be expressed in the Senate.
The essence of good representation of an area is to be able to hear the pros and cons of any particular issue or policy. When an area has only one representative and that representative is domiciled in the House of Representatives, it is not possible to hear both sides of an argument. The representative in this House is bound by the views of his party, but if there is representation in both Houses it is possible to hear the contrary view, and this is the essence of good government. This was the objective of the framers of the Constitution. They sought the election of senators to review decisions of the House of Representatives and to put forward the views of the States they represented. Senators were to influence, if possible, decisions affecting their areas and the people they represented.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has been interjecting. He has suggested that in the Parliament we hear both sides of an argument. I would be interested to hear his views about Gove and the possibility of greater foreign participation there. 1 would be interested to hear his views on Aboriginals. 1 have never heard them yet in this House, except in questions he has asked.
– They are sounder than your views.
– The honourable member will have a chance to express his views. He is silent. In fact, in the Northern Territory they refer to him as Silent Sam. He is vociferous in interjecting but not in making statements representing his policy. ] shall bc interested to hear what he has to say about Senate representation for the Northern Territory, because the people of the Northern Territory are most interested to learn what his views are and whether, in fact, he believes that they should be represented in both Houses of the Parliament. The development al Gove is a major issue which should be debated at some length in the Parliament, lt represents an issue of fundamental importance in respect of foreign investment in and mineral development of Australia. 1 have always, inside the Parliament and outside, given credit to the Government for its policy with respect to Gove - first of all, in the granting of original perimeter leases .to the Pechiney organisation; then the gradual ‘development, the tendering by overseas organisations for development purposes, the decision with respect to foreign investment which must have an Australian equity, and the selection of the successful tenderer, Swiss Aluminium Ltd, and the consortium represented principally by Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and insurance companies. This should bc the subject of an important debate, lt is an issue that a senator representing the Northern Territory could bring before the Parliament, lt is not being brought to the notice of the House by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Perhaps, to be fair to him, he may have something to say about Gove later on.
-Order! ] remind the honourable member for Dawson that the subject matter of the Bill before the House is Senate representation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Specific matters for consideration should not be brought into this debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have read the Bill closely, it seeks to provide representation for the people of the
Northern Territory and, of course, a representative must speak occasionally in the Parliament. A representative must represent people and issues. I am in full agreement with your decision, but I am trying to illustrate the types of issues that are of importance to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and which a senator would bring before the Parliament. One of the most important functions of a senator representing the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory would bc related to the financial setup of that Territory. This is one of the main grievances of the people of (he Northern Territory. They believe that they are poor country cousins of Canberra. This is. a definite feeling. I am not saying whether it is right or wrong. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) knows full well that this is so.
The people believe that they do not have the same representation in the Parliament as is accorded to people living in the Slates. The people of the Territories should be given a full voice in the Parliament and should be able to comment on the deficiencies that exist in the Northern Territory Legislative Council or in the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. Their views can be expressed in the House of Representatives by their representatives and they should be able to have them expressed in the Senate by senators representing them-. This is important, because one of the really hot: issues in the Northern Territory is that of finance, lt has been said before that the Northern Territory is not getting a fair go wilh, respect to Commonwealth funds. The responsible Minister and the Government have replied by suggesting that when the receipts and expenditures of the Northern Territory are compared with receipts and expenditures on State functions it can bc seen that the people of the Northern Territory arc getting a fair go. This is a subject which should be aired adequately in the Parliament, and it should be aired not only in this House but also in the Senate.
Another issue which is of vital importance to the Northern Territory, and which could be raised in the Senate, concerns land use in the Northern Territory. Land is one of Australia’s greatest physical assets, lt is indestructible provided it is properly used and properly maintained, but the Minister for the Interior knows that there is much discontent about land leases in the Northern Territory.
-Order! I again remind the honourable member for Dawson that this is a Bill to provide for Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Trritory. The honourable member has said that he is giving illustrations to indicate why this representation should be allowed. I point out to the honourable member that I do not want the debate to develop into a discussion of Commonwealth and State financial relationships or other similar matters. Strictly the subject matter before the House is the election of Senate representatives. The reasons for such representation can be supported by illustrations, but they should not become the subject matter of debate.
– The Leader of the Opposition has given the constitutional side of this Bill. I am giving illustrations of the type of work which a senator from the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory would do and value that he would be to the people he would be representing in the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory. Important issues which will be raised in the future, on which a senator from the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory could make a contribution, are agriculture and Aboriginals. Surely it would be agreed that a senator in this Parliament who represented Aboriginals or people who live and work alongside Aboriginals could make a great contribution by bringing directly to the Parliament, in the Senate, the views of the Aboriginals as well as of the other people who live in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Finally, 1 believe that people in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are fully entitled to have their views on national issues such as defence made known in this Parliament. They are also entitled to have their grievances regarding direct taxation, indirect taxation and social services made known in the Senate. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
-Is it the wish of the House to continue to the second reading debate forthwith? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– We have seen the most remarkable performance in the National Parliament today that we have seen for some time. For the first time since i have been a member of this Parliament the Opposition has taken the opportunity to introduce a Bill. Of all the issues on which the Opposition coul’d have introduced a Bill into the national Parliament, it has at last brought in a Bill seeking Senate representation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Of all the issues that have been before the national Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has never once canvassed the possibility of introducing a Bill to provide Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Of all the issues that have been raised in the national Parliament, to my knowledge the Leader of the Opposition has never introduced a Bill, on the floor of this House, dealing with any of them.
– I quoted one case this morning.
– I mean, in my time in this Parliament. AM I can say is that the Leader of the Opposition is suffering simply and surely from sour grapes. It can be put down to no more and no less. I will explain the reason why I put it in such plain terms as sour grapes. So far as the Northern Territory is concerned, the Government has pre-empted the Australian Labor Party right through the piece. It has outthought and outdebated the Labor Party. For the first time since Federation the member for the Northern Territory belongs to a Party on the Government side of the chamber, and the Labor Party has never got over the shock of losing the seat. We even have the situation in which the Labor Party is not satisfied with its representative for the Australian Capital1 Territory. It has given a complete demonstration of lack of faith in the member for the Australian Capital Territory who, as recently as last week, has gone through a preselection ballot and has lost the preselection for the seat. This decision amazed the people of Canberra who. unlike the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), have demonstrated great faith in the member for the Australian
Capital Territory, as is evidenced by the number of letters sent to editors of newspapers and by the outcry that has arisen following ihe preselection ballot.
There has been some discourtesy about the whole of the approach of the Labor Parly to this Bill in not allowing a Government speaker to follow the Leader of the Opposition, who introduced the measure. The Opposition had two speakers in a row, which is a most unusual course and one which is not usually followed by the Government when introducing measures. The Opposition has not sought a week’s adjournment of the debate, which is normally a courtesy extended to the Opposition when the Government introduces measures. However, let me deal with the measure as it has been introduced. After listening to the Leader of the Opposition 1 can only say that it might well have been wise for the Opposition to seek a week’s adjournment, because the honourable gentleman’s exposition of what he was trying to put forward to the House can only be described as difficult to understand. His figuring and mathematics certainly would come under some challenge.
I would describe the introduction of this Bill as being purely a matter of political expediency. The Bill has been introduced by the Leader of the Opposition simply in the hope of his gaining some political mileage. The Leader of the Opposition, in introducing a Bill on this question, out of all the matters on which he could have introduced a Bill, has in fact gone against all the expressed principles and policies of his own Party. I know that that may not be new. The Bill is a move against all the sacred cows as expressed year after year by the Labor Party in debates in this chamber. The honourable gentleman’s motives are very suspect and they need to be examined and understood clearly not only by honourable members but also by the people in the Australian Capital Territory and, more particularly, by the people in the Northern Territory. I say quite openly that the Leader of the Opposition is exhibiting sheer political opportunism. I would have expressed admiration for the Leader of the Opposition had he endeavoured to introduce into this House a measure which expounded genuine Labor policy. I think that all honourable members would agree that it would be fair to expect the Leader of the Opposition, in introducing the first Bill that I have known him to introduce as Leader of the Opposition, to bring down a Bill which really gets down to Labor policy in this field, that is, to provide that the Senate be abolished. That is Labor policy. He came in with a lame duck excuse that the Senate has an effective life and that we have to live with it. He said, in effect: ‘As Leader of the Opposition 1 would not dare to move a motion that would follow my Party’s policy. So what I will dare to do - what I am brave enough to suggest - is that we ought to get away from my Party’s policy and try to get Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory’. This does not sound like the attitude of a man of great principle.
The Leader of the Opposition made a point about offering opportunity for equal representation in the Senate of both the Government and the Opposition. Let me take the point that he put. He said: ‘Let us have two senators for the Northern Territory and two senators for the Australian Capital Territory’. Everybody knows the situation in the Australian Capital Territory - and what 1 am about to say is liable to fall down at the next election. For a long time the Australian Capital Territory seat has been held by the present honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser). 1 give him credit for the work he has done. But the Labor Party has axed him, so the situation regarding the Australian Capital Territory could be somewhat different after the next election. The proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition is that we should have two senators for the Australian Capital Territory, representing both the Government and the Opposition. As the figures are at the present time, the situation would simply be that on the return to the people at the first election following the elections of two senators for the Australian Capital Territory there could be a voting swing. If the Labor candidates for the Senate election were of the same calibre as the present member for the Australian Capital Territory, the chances are that following the next election the seat held by the Government would swing back to the Labor Party and it would gain an extra seat in the Senate. This is what the Leader of the Opposition seeks. I am surprised at the honourable member for Dawson. Having spoken so well of the member for the Australian Capital Territory, I am surprised that be has not used his good offices to some effect to overcome the present row in the Labor Party in the Australian Capital Territory. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition was silent on this question.
– I am glad you are keeping politics out of it.
– I must confess that the Leader of the Opposition has a policy for all seasons. At one stage the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) used the expression ‘a man for all seasons’ to describe the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is a fairly good description. The aim of the Leader of the Opposition is to catch a vote here and catch a vote there. He says: ‘Let us put up a proposition that is completely opposed to the Labor Party’s policy in the hope that it will impress the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory’.
-Order! As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Lynch) proposed:
That the dme for discussion of notices be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– I would like to move an amendment, to omit the words ‘until J 2.45 p.m.’ and insert the words ‘until 3.45 p.m.’.
– Such an amendment would not be acceptable. It would not be in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I do not need until 3.45 to explain to the Leader of the Opposition why his principles are so easily disposed of and why his practices are somewhat doubtful. I wonder whether he will follow the procedure that he followed on a previous occasion. On that occasion I was in the Northern Territory and I was shown a telegram which had been sent by the Leader of the Opposition saying: ‘The member for the Northern Territory today voted against the principles and interests of the Northern Territory’. That telegram was signed ‘Gough Whitlam’.
– Produce the telegram.
– I will produce it. The fact is that the people who showed me the telegram were laughing about it and were saying: ‘What the member for the Northern Territory is doing is not against the interests of the Northern Territory at all’. I mention this to show the sort of political opportunist with whom we are dealing in a matter of significance, electorally, not only to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory but also to all the States of Australia, in which the move for federation started.
Let me get back to another of the sacred cows of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has always been an advocate of the great cause of one vote one value. We heard him explaining how ten senators for each State at least give equal representation. This is his theory of one vole one value. How does he justify it when we find each senator in New South Wales representing about 239,000 people and each senator in Tasmania representing only about 20,000 people? Where is there one vote one value in that situation? He is now seeking to make the situation even worse. He is seeking to give Senate representation for the Northern Territory, which would result in each of the two senators representing about 10,000 electors.
The great sacred cow of one vote one value has been destroyed. The principle so often advocated by the Leader of the Opposition has gone overboard in his endeavour to win favour and to gain political marks and record political mileage. Despite the fact that he has always claimed to believe in one vote one value, and has always claimed that every member behind him has a similar belief, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) made representations to the distribution commissioners seeking the greatest possible margin of electors. I suggest that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie write a letter to the Leader of the Opposition explaining how he reconciles those representations with a strong belief in one vote one value. The great sacred cow has been thrown overboard today by the Leader of the
Opposition purely and simply to exploit a political opportunity and to gain marks in the electorates of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
What about the present representation of these electorates? The honourable member for Dawson was kind enough to refer to the representation given by the present honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. As Minister for the Interior I .must acknowledge that the honourable member gives good representation. He certainly keeps me busy. But so does the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who also more or less lives in my office, seeking an explanation for this and assistance for that. He certainly gives good representation of the electors in the Northern Territory. I know that the Northern Territory represents one-fifth of the whole of Australia and I know that the honourable member has great difficulty in representing an area of that size. But he does not complain. He does not say he is worse off than the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop), the honourable member for Kalgoorlie or the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). He goes about his work very thoroughly and conscientiously. He puts up his proposals to me as minister in charge of Ihe Northern Territory and I look at them, just as I look at the propositions presented by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. Both of these members are good, active members, and no-one can rightly claim that the Australian Capital Territory with 55,000 electors, and the Northern Territory with 20,000 electors, arc not well represented in this chamber. Every member of this House would agree that they are well represented.
In the Australian Capital Territory we have the most modern city in Australia and, the Stales say, the best schools and the best roads in Australia. The Australian Capital Territory, therefore, has not lacked representation. As to the Northern Territory, the honourable member for Dawson, in his struggle to make a speech, talked about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and about agriculture and other activities. I can only say that the Government’s monetary contribution to the Northern Territory this financial year shows an increase of 17% on the contribution for the previous financial year. The amount being spent in the Northern Territory is now greater than it ever has been. Every aspect of industry in the Territory is booming, and any problems that occur there arise not from stagnation but rather from growth. These are the problems that the honourable member for the Northern Territory brings to me day after day and these are the problems I have to try to solve.
Having disposed of the political opportunism of the Leader of the Opposition in respect of this matter, and having seen that he has enough initiative to introduce a Bill, I look forward to seeing in the months to come a few more Bills from the Leader of the Opposition. It may well be that having sat in opposition for so long he would like the feeling of being able to say: ‘I move that the Bill be now read a second time’. I know that he is frustrated sitting over there. One hopes that he will introduce other Bills of substance and that the next time he introduces one it will follow the policy of the Labor Party and not completely depart from it. Nowhere in the policy of the Labor Party is there any statement that there ought to be Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
– Yes, there is.
– Nowhere does the policy say that. The honourable gentleman interjects to say that it does, but 1 will read it to the House.
– It is on page 31 of the document the Minister is holding.
– On page 31 under the heading ‘Electoral’, paragraph 5 says:
Full voting rights for the representative of the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives and full voting rights for representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in the Senate.
I apologise, lt does have that provision.
– But what does it say at the beginning?
– Of course, there is this ambiguity. The provision 1 have just read is very skilfully worded and skilfully placed in a part of the document where it will not be noticed. The main core of Ihe Labor
Party’s electoral policy is the abolition of the Senate. But the ones who framed the policy said: ‘Let us have two bob each way. In the main part of our policy we will declare ourselves in favour of the abolition of the Senate, but in case somebody picks up a point on us we will insert a paragraph in some obscure part of our policy statement to the effect that we favour full voting rights for representatives of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in the Senate.’ This is having two bob each way. We have long known that the policy of the Australian Labour Party is to abolish the Senate. Why did not the Leader of the Opposition bring in a Bill to abolish the Senate. He did not, because he does not have the political courage to do so. His supporters, particularly those in another place, would chew him to pieces if he tried to introduce such a Bill.
Let us get back to the Bill that is now before us. lt proposes to introduce representation in the Senate for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Every honourable member will know that in 1901, when the six States federated, each was given equal representation in the Senate. That representation is now ten senators for each State. The only basis on which the six States would agree to federate was that State rights would be preserved. This was a basic element without which efforts 1o get the six States to come together as a federation would not have been successful. But the Bill proposes to fragment representation in the Senate by including two senators for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Whilst I am in sympathy with the proposition that the Northern Territory should move towards statehood - the policy of the Government, as expounded by the Prime Minister, is to encourage the Territory to do so - f do not believe that the people of Australia as a whole would at this stage accept that the Northern Territory should have representation in the Senate. In view of the principles laid down in the Constitution it would be necessary to have an expression of opinion from the people of Australia as to whether they want or do not want fragmentation of their representation in the Senate.
– But the Territory senators are to be only second class senators. The Bill gives them a term of only 3 years.
– I do not want to involve myself in an argument as to the merits or demerits of the technical details of the election of the senators. However, I agree with the honourable member for Maribyrnong that there is a disparity in the way that the Leader of the Opposition proposes to provide for the representatives of the Territories. He does not give them equal status with other senators. The honourable member for Maribyrnong is quite right, but I do not want to delay making other remarks by dealing with this point.
The six States that first formed the Commonwealth might well hold a view on the election of senators to represent the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Senate is regarded as a States House. The States might jealously guard their right to elect senators and might not like the Commonwealth intruding to have senators elected to represent Commonwealth Territories. The people in the States might well view such an intrusion as a political trick designed to change the balance of power of the Senate. I suggest, with the greatest respect to the Leader of the Opposition, that before his motion is carried it would be well to test the feeling of the people in the States, either through the Premiers or in some other way. This is an important point, lt was the six Stales that formed the federation. The Leader of the Opposition is now proposing in his Bill to get away from the basic tenet of the Constitution, not by the formation of further States, which is provided for. but by giving Senate representation to the Territories that are under Commonwealth control. The people in the States might well hold a strong view on this point.
Another point, and a very important point, to remember is that the Slates are sovereign States with their own powers whereas the powers in the two Territories are different. One, the Australian Capital Territory is already studying the possibility of self government. The ACT Advisory Council and officers of my Department have undertaken this study. Recently I introduced a Bill to change the powers of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and to give it for the first time a majority of elected members. The Territories are moving forward, but they are still not sovereign States. They are still Commonwealth Territories under the control of this Parliament, which moves a resolution at Budget time to provide moneys for the development of the Territories.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence to general business has expired. The Minister will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Report of the Public Works Committee
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Aircraft Maintenance Bases for Domestic Airlines at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
-Order! I think that the Leader of the Opposition is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, I submit that I am entitled to state the facts upon which-
-The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to state the facts upon which he claims to have been misrepresented. But I do not think that he can debate the subject in a personal explanation.
– I am not purporting to debate the matter. Since the Minister for the Interior said that I was not stating my Party’s policy, I believe that 1 am entitled to quote my Party’s policy.
-I agree with the Leader of the Opposition.
– I quote the plank by my Party’s policy platform on this matter:
Full voting rights for the representative of the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives and full voting rights for the representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in the Senate.
This plank was put into my Party’s platform last July at its last Federal Conference. This is the first opportunity that 1 have had to put this policy to debate and to vote in the Parliament.
The second matter to which 1 refer is this: The Minister stated that 1 had not previously introduced a Bill in the Parliament. Firstly. I had myself this morning quoted the occasion in May 1962 when I read a first and second time the Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill, 2 months after my predecessor, the present right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), then Leader of the Opposition, had read the Northern Territory Representation Bill. Secondly, there is on the notice paper the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1968 which I read a first and second time on 5th June of this year. Thirdly, notice was given of the present Bill, which was debated this morning, on 20th March of this year. Fourthly, as the notice paper will establish, I gave notice in August this year of a Bill to give the right to marry and to vote at 18 years of age.
The concluding matter upon which I claim that the Minister for the interior has misrepresented me and upon which I wish to correct the position is that the honourable gentleman said that I had been discourteous in following immediately with the second reading of the Bill then having the seconder speak after me. I point out that there is no other way open to any private member to debate a Bill except by this procedure. 1 recall that in 1961 the late Mr Drummond and the late Sir Earle Page followed each other on a similar motion on General Business day, which is Thursday.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
It is proposed by this Bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to authorise tax deductions on a special basis for capital expenditure on pipelines or other facilities, such as roads or railways, used for the transport of oil or gas obtained by mining in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is proposed that the deductions be spread equally over 10 years. There is already a provision in the Income Tax Assessment Act authorising special deductions for the capital cost of petroleum pipelines. This provision was enacted in 1963 and it permits the capital cost to bc written off for tax purposes over a period of 5 years, if construction of the line was begun before 1st July 1968 and is finished before 1st January 1970. When that provision was introduced, it seemed appropriate to the Government, in the light of the limited oil discoveries at the time, to authorise a relatively short write-off period and give the special provision a limited period of operation.
Circumstances have, of course, changed a great deal since 1963 and the Government has now reviewed the question from the standpoint of present day conditions. In making its review of the most appropriate way of dealing for tax purposes with the cost of pipelines and other transport facilities necessary in the petroleum branch of the mining industry - and by petroleum I mean both crude oil and natural gas - the Government had regard to the fact that, under amendments enacted earlier this year, costs of transport facilities in the general mining field can be written off for tax purposes over a period of 10 years. Following its review of the matter the
Government has decided to apply the principles of the 10-year write-off period also to the cost of petroleum transport facilities except, of course, where the cost is subject to the existing shorter write-off period. The Bill will give effect to this decision.
The basic proposal contained in the Bill is that tax deductions for capital expenditure on a pipeline, road or railway for use in transporting crude oil or gas mined in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will be available in equal instalments over a period of 10 years. The deductions will be allowable only if the primary and principal use of the facility is the one I have mentioned. To qualify for the special write-off period, the expenditure is required to be on facilities for use in getting the oil or gas from the place where the mining operations are carried on to a refinery or other terminal. In the case of a pipeline, expenditure on ancillary plant, such as pumping plant, will be within the scope of the costs subject to the 10-year write-off. So will expenditure on earthworks, bridges, tunnels and cuttings necessary for putting in a transport facility. Additionally, the capital costs of obtaining a right to place a facility on another person’s property and of compensating other persons for loss or damage caused by its construction will be within the compass of the eligible expenditure. The special writeoff period will not, however, apply to expenditure on railway rolling stock, road vehicles, ships or port facilities. Nor will it apply to expenditure on facilities used to transport petroleum products or to reticulate gas to consumers.
A final point I mention is that it is not a requirement for the deductions to be allowable that the expenditure be incurred by a person actually engaged in petroleum mining. For example, a company which is not itself engaged in petroleum mining but incurs eligible expenditure on constructing a pipeline for use by actual producers may qualify for deductions over the 10-year period.
The amendments proposed by the Bill will apply in assessments for the income year 1968-69 and subsequent years but, as I have already mentioned, the shorter writeoff time will continue to apply to expenditure that is eligible for it. Technical aspects of the Bill are explained in a memorandum being made available to honourable members and I do not think I need to make any further comments at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to enable Australia to accept amendments to the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund and to participate in the proposed special drawing rights scheme. As indicated in his statement to the House on 30th May, as governor of the Fund for Australia, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has already recorded his vote in favour of the amendments. The board of governors has now agreed to the amendments, and the next step is for member governments to accept them. The amendments will enter into force when accepted by 60% of the governments having 80% of the total voting power. When this majority has been achieved, the amendments will enter into force for all member governments regardless of whether they have accepted them or not.
However, before the special drawing rights scheme can come into operation, member governments having at least 75% of the Fund quotas have to deposit instruments with the Fund certifying that they have undertaken all the legal steps necessary to carry out their obligations as participants. Member governments are expected to have completed this legal action when they accept the amendments. Once the body of participants has been formed, the managing director of the Fund will be in a position to recommend to the board of governors that an initial volume of special drawing rights be created over a basic period of 5 years.
In making this first recommendation the managing director must satisfy himself that a large enough majority of member governments are prepared to make a collective judgment that there is a need to supplement international reserves. That the major deficit and surplus countries have obtained a belter balance in their external accounts and that there is the likelihood of a better working of the processes of balance of payments adjustment in the future. In all his recommendations for the creation or cancellation of special drawing rights he must take into account the need to avoid world economic stagnation or inflation. Decisions by governors on the creation or cancellation of special drawing rights will require an 85% majority vote. Virtually all of the governors of the Fund have indicated their support for the scheme and it is hoped that the required majority for its establishment can be secured quickly so that, providing the conditions I have mentioned are met, it can be activated without delay.
At the annual meeting of the board of governors in Washington last month it was announced that seventeen member countries, including the United States and the United Knigdom, having 42% of the voting power had already accepted the amendments. The new Articles of Agreement of the Fund containing the details of the special drawing rights scheme are set out in the schedule attached to the Bill. Expressed in legal language, the Articles are necessarily complicated. However, the essential elements of the scheme are quite simple.
The special drawing right will be an entirely new form of reserve asset which countries can add to their gold and foreign exchange as part of their official holdings of international reserves. In the past, additions to international reserves have come largely from three sources - gold, the two reserve currencies - sterling and the United States dollar - and drawing rights on the Fund. In recent years it has become evident that these sources of international liquidity will not be sufficient to finance the future growth of world trade.
Between 1951 and 1967 the proportion of international reserves to world trade decreased from 67% to 37%. For some time gold production has added relatively little to official reserves and there was actually a reduction in official gold holdings in 1966 and 1967. There has also been a growing reluctance to depend on the balance of payments deficits of the United States and the United Kingdom as a source of supply of reserves.
Member countries’ drawing rights on the Fund have been supplemented by two general increases in Fund quotas. However apart from the ‘gold tranche’, which is available virtually on demand, Fund drawing rights consist of ‘credit tranches’. These credit tranches’ are conditional in that the greater their use the more vigorous the action drawing members are expected to take to correct their external deficits. Unlike drawing rights in the ‘credit tranches’, the special drawing rights will have no strings attached to them. Once a country has been allocated special drawing rights it will be free to use them as it sees fit to finance deficits in its balance of payments. Unlike the reserve currencies, special drawing rights will be as good as gold in that changes in exchange rates will not alter their value.
The term ‘special drawing rights’ is somewhat misleading. They have been called special drawing rights to distinguish them from existing drawing rights on the Fund. However, they are not ‘drawing rights’ in the sense that they represent ‘rights’ to ‘draw’ on assets in the future. Special drawing rights are in themselves assets which will be immediately added to each participating country’s existing reserves.
There are, of course, rules governing the allocation of special drawing rights and their transfer among participating countries in the scheme. Participants will be allocated special drawing rights in proportion to their Fund quotas. Australia’s quota is 2.4% of the total of Fund quotas. Thus an initial allocation of $US5,000m special drawing rights would result in Australia receiving special drawing rights amounting to $ US 1 20m spread over the basic period of 5 years. A country needing to use special drawing rights will transfer them to other participants in exchange for convertible currencies. The Fund will keep a running list of those participants whose balance of payments positions are such that they can provide the foreign exchange. A country will have an obligation to hold special drawing rights up to three times the amount it has received in allocations, and a country using its special drawing rights will have an obligation to reconstitute its holdings when, averaged over a 5-year period, they fall below 30% of its allocations.
A country acquiring special drawing rights over and above its allocations will receive interest at H% per annum and a country using its special drawing rights will pay a charge at the same rate. All participants will pay ‘assessments’ as their share of the administrative costs of the scheme. Receipts of interest and payments of charges and ‘assessments’ will be in the form of special drawing rights.
The scheme wil’l operate outside the Commonwealth’s public accounts. Special drawing rights received by the Commonwealth will be transferred to the Reserve Bank which will include them as assets along with its holdings of gold and foreign exchange. Transactions in special’ drawing rights with other countries will be carried out by the Reserve Bank under the direction of the Treasurer. The Reserve Bank will transfer back to the Commonwealth such special drawing rights as it needs to meet the ‘assessments’ or charges to which I have already referred. In the unlikely event of Australia using all of its special’ drawing rights or of the scheme winding up, it may be necessary for the Commonwealth to provide moneys to meet any excess of ‘assessments’ and charges over interest received. It is to cover possibilities such as these that the usual provision for appropriating moneys has been included in the Bill.
Australia has played an active role in the discussions leading up to the special drawing rights scheme. We have been successful in our efforts to ensure that the scheme takes account of Australia’s position on a number of important issues. In particular, the new facility will be under the management of the Fund and thus be open to all of its member countries, including the less developed countries, on a nondiscriminatory basis. As I have already pointed out, the special1 drawing rights will have no strings attached to them and the Scheme will in no way affect our freedom of action either internally or externally.
The second set of amendments to the Fund articles of agreement involves certain changes in the Fund’s present rules and practices which take account of developments and experience since the Fund was established in 1945. Details of the changes are contained in the schedul’e attached to the Bill.
There are changes in the voting requirements for certain important Fund decisions. Decisions on general changes in member’s quotas will require a majority of 85% of the total voting power instead of the present 80% and the new requirement will also apply to uniform changes in par values. There are various formal changes relating to existing drawing rights on the Fund. For example ‘gold tranche’ drawings which are already automatic in practice, will become legally automatic. None of these amendments will make the Fund’s rules regarding the use of its resources any more restrictive. There is an amendment providing for interest to be paid to creditor members in the Fund. ‘Creditors’ are those countries which made available a net amount of their currencies for drawings by other members and Australia is in this position at the present time. Another amendment will enable the Fund to reduce or eliminate the service charge on ‘gold tranche’ drawings.
Changes are also proposed in the method of calculating repurchase obligations but these mainly affect the reserve currency countries. Finally, there is a change in the procedure to deal with questions of legal interpretation of the Fund articles. Our Executive Director on the Fund Board has participated in the discussions leading up to these amendments and 1 am satisfied that it is in our interest to accept them.
The main purpose of the amendments is, of course, to establish the special drawing rights scheme. The scheme represents an important development in the international monetary system and 1 commend this Bill to the House in order that Australia may play its part.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In his Budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) estimated that the Commonwealth’s Budget deficit this financial year would be $547m, and pointed out that we shall have to call on the Reserve Bank to finance that part of the deficit for which funds are not available from other sources.
In statement No. 4 attached to the Budget speech the Treasurer explained how the deficit in 1967-68 was financed and outlined the prospects for the financing of this year’s deficit. At this stage, there is very little I can add to what was said in that statement, except to say that we have been very successful to date - indeed, more successful than we had expected - in raising loans overseas. We know from past experience, however, that there can be many variations from the Budget estimates and it is far too early to foresee to what extent we will in fact need to call on Reserve Bank finance.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain authority for any borrowing that it may be necessary to make from the Reserve Bank during 1968-69 to complete the financing of the Budget deficit. The Bill departs from the practice of seeking authority to borrow up to a specified upper limit. That practice has proved unsatisfactory. The difficulty with specifying an Upper limit is that such a limit needs to be set high enough to ensure that, whatever our receipts and expenditures and our borrowings for the year might turn out to be, it will be adequate to cover the final cash deficiency at the end of the year. Because of the unpredictability of loan raisings and the effects which quite small percentage variations from the estimates of receipts and expenditures can have on the size of the deficit, there can be no certainty that a limit, even when set at a level considerably higher than what seems likely to be required will not, in the event, prove to be too low.
The amount to be borrowed from the Reserve Bank each year is, of course, a residual. It is the net result of all receipts and expenditures and borrowings and redemptions under other legislation approved by the Parliament. This Bill, in effect, seeks authority to borrow the amount required to finance this year’s residual amount. It is essentially a machinery measure to enable the Government to carry out policies approved by the various Acts authorising expenditure, the raising of revenue and other financing transactions. In itself the Bill does not propose the carrying out of any expenditures which will not have been authorised by Parliament.
The borrowings for which authority is now sought will be made for defence purposes and Ihe proceeds will be applied to finance expenditure from the loan fund on defence services. Total expenditure on defence services in 196S-69 is estimated at $1.2 1.7m. Of this, about $122m is expected to be met from drawings on the credit arrangements with the United States of America, leaving about $l,095m to be mct from appropriations.
It is proposed that, of the estimated expenditure on defence services authorised by the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1968- 69. an amount to be determined by the Treasurer should be charged to Loan Fund where it will be financed from funds raised under the authority being sought in this Bill. Provision for charging part of our defence, expenditure to the Loan Fund has been made in previous years when the net amount available from loan proceeds and other financing transactions has not been adequate to finance the deficit. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debute (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first lime.
1 2. 45] - I move:
That lbc Bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide that a writ of summons may be served interstate on a company in the same manner as it may be served intrastate. The uniform companies legislation provides that service may bc effected on a company by leaving the writ at or by sending it by post to the registered office of the company. Although the Service and Execution of Process Act at present does not prohibit such service it provides that if the company does not appear personal service on an officer of the company in the State or Territory where service is effected or knowledge of the process by th.it officer must be proved. In practice, therefore, a writ is invariably served personally on an officer. It is anomalous to permit postal service in one case and to require personal service in the other. The Bill would remove that anomaly.
The regulation making power in section 28 has been extended to become a general regulation making power. It is not clear at present that there is power in the Act to make regulations for the purpose of all provisions of the Act which require or permit the making of regulations. The extension will make this clear.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
12.47] - I move:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes an amendment of the Judiciary Act that will complement the recent Act limiting appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. If also proposes another amendment, of the Judiciary Act concerning State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. These matters unfortunately lie in one of the most difficult areas of constitutional law.
The effect of the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act is, as honourable members know, to limit appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court in what may conveniently but somewhat loosely be called Federal matters’. It may, however, still be possible for appeals in some Federal matters to reach the Privy Council by way of appeal from the Supreme Court of a State, thus by-passing the High Court, lt may also be possible, although this has never been decided, for appeals in Federal matters to reach the Privy Council on appeal from one of the lower courts of a State. The position has arisen in this way. Section 39 of the Judiciary Act vests in the courts of the States Federal jurisdiction subject to certain conditions. So far as the State Supreme Courts are concerned one of the conditions is that every decision of the Supreme Court of a Stale shall be final and conclusive except so far as an appeal may be brought to the High Court. This is an effective provision to prevent appeals to the Privy
Council from a decision of the Supreme Court so far as appeals as of right are concerned but there is a question, both as to the constitutional power and as to the construction of the section, whether appeals by special leave are excluded. It is not clear from the wording of the section whether it is a condition of the vesting of jurisdiction in the lower courts that there is to be no appeal to the Privy Council, whether by special leave or otherwise.
Before the Commonwealth adopted the Statute of Westminster, which made it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws inconsistent with an Imperial Act, there was some doubt whether a Commonwealth Act could abolish the appeal to the Privy Council by way of special leave from a State Supreme Court exercising Federal jurisdiction. Assuming that appeals by special leave do lie, it is now possible to abolish such appeals and the Government believes this ought to be done. It does not make good sense to keep the appeal by special leave from State Supreme Courts exercising Federal jurisdiction on foot when, if an appeal were taken in a matter to the High Court, the decision of the High Court would not be subject to an appeal to the Privy Council. It is now possible, also, to abolish any appeal, whether by special leave or otherwise, that may lie to the Privy Council from one of the lower courts of a State exercising Federal jurisdiction and the Government takes the view that this also should be done.
I turn now to the second amendment. State courts are at present invested by section 39 of the Judiciary Act with Federal jurisdiction ‘within the limits of their several jurisdictions’, that is, their limits as determined by State law. This vesting is, as I mentioned, subject to certain conditions. There are many Commonwealth Acts that have invested State courts with Federal jurisdiction beyond the limits of their jurisdiction as determined by State law. In more modern Commonwealth Acts it is the practice to make this vesting subject to such of the conditions in section 39 of the Judiciary Act as are appropriate in the particular circumstances. But some older Acts have been silent as to conditions, and in these cases there is some doubt whether the conditions in section 39 apply or whether the jurisdiction is invested unconditionally.
It is. therefore, desirable that an amendment should be enacted to make it clear that the conditions in section 39 apply in such cases unless other provision is made by the Act concerned.
It is also desirable that the proposed new provision regarding Privy Council appeals by special leave should be applied to proceedings under the Acts that do contain conditions subject to which jurisdiction is vested in State courts. Unless this is done there may be appeals to the Privy Council from courts exercising jurisdiction vested by these Acts although no appeal would lie if the vesting took place under the Judiciary Act. The Bill makes the new provision regarding Privy Council appeals by special leave applicable to proceedings under these Acts.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15 October (vide page 1918), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill gives effect to a number of Tariff Board reports and to a report of the Special Advisory Authority. The Tariff Board reports are: Reports on glucose and glucose syrup, sheepskin and hogskin leathers, tinsmiths’ snips and shears and gas fired water heaters, tabled on 14th May 1968; a report on essential oils and other substances tabled on 16th May 1968; a report on ceramic tableware tabled on 28th May 1968; and a report on bean seed tabled on 15th August 1968. On 15th August this year there was also a change in the tariff applying to certain goods imported for the use of the Commonwealth. On that date a report of the Special Advisory Authority relating to disposable hypodermic needles was tabled, as well as a Tariff Board report on the chemical industry support values review.
The Opposition does not oppose any of the specific provisions to which this Bill gives legislative effect. The recommendation of the Tariff Board in respect of glucose and glucose syrup maintains the existing level of duty for dextrose and provides a reduction in respect of other forms of glucose. The recommendation is that goods under this reference be dutiable at $0,015 per lb general rate and §0.006 per lb preferential rate. The general rate is equivalent to ad valorem rales of 35% on glucose and 25% on dextrose. After reading the Tariff Board’s report, both now and before, the Opposition has no objection to that proposal. The proposal in the report on sheepskin and hogskin leather of February 1968 is for a 22*% general tariff and a 174% preferential tariff, to be reduced by the amount by which free on board values exceed 15c per square foot. The Opposition has no objection to that.
The next report to which this Bill gives effect is that on tinsmiths snips and shears, which was presented in March 1968. The recommendation here is for a slight increase in the tariff rate. The proposal is for a 35% general rate and a 274-% preferential rate, which is a 2i% increase in each case. We do not oppose that. The next report relates to gas fired water heaters, which are manufactured by an industry that has a history and background. The Board thinks that this industry has made considerable progress. The proposal is for a 35% general tariff and a 25% preferential tariff, which is a reduction of 174 % in the first case and 74 % in the second. This is a result that we like to see. Apparently this industry is now able to maintain itself with a lower rate of tariff. Whenever this can happen, of course, it is desirable and is to be welcomed.
The report on essential oils and other substances was submitted on 4th September 1967. The Tariff Board’s recommendations are set out at page 23. Here again, in the case of menthols falling within sub-item 29.05.1, the proposal is for a general rate of 30% and a preferential rate of 20% and. in the case of citrus products falling within paragraph 33.01.13, a 20% general rate and a 10% preferential rate are proposed. The Opposition has no objection to this. The report of 12th February 1968 on ceramic tableware sets out the Board’s findings at page 14. Here again, the rates seem to be reasonable. They are 30% general and 20% preferential in each case. The Opposition does not object to that. The report of 23rd November 1967 on bean seed states the Board’s recommendations at page 10. It recommends that the goods under reference be dutiable at the general and preferential rate of 35%. It suggests a review in 5 years time. That, again, seems satisfactory.
I turn next to the report on disposable hypodermic needles, presented by the Special Advisory Authority on 19th July 1968. The conclusions are set out at page 6. The relevant matters are stated as follows:
These are set out, but I will nol go into them in detail. This also is an acceptable course.
Finally, I turn to the views stated by the Tariff Board at pages 9 and 10 of its report on the review of support values for the chemical industry. The Opposition welcomes the recommendations. With respect to soda ash, the report states:
The Board considers, therefore, that soda ash has not been imported into Australia at disruptive low prices and concludes that the production of soda ash in Australia should not be assisted by means of a duty based on support values.
I am particularly gratified at this, because last year I predicted that this would happen. I said then that it was not necessary to introduce the support value protection that had been recommended and adopted. I gave good, commonsense reasons why this should not happen. In the case of ethylene oxide derivatives, the Board recommends that there should be no support value assistance, and the Opposition welcomes that. The result is the same in the case of butyl alcohol and butyl acetates.
Up to that point I have no disagreement with what the Government is doing. But in the making of tariffs we have reached a very serious situation and I want to direct the attention of the House to that serious situation, lt would appear that the Tariff Board - I do not know whether it is backed by the Government - is beginning its work of demolishing a significant part of Australian secondary industry. This is what the Board indicates it is doing. I want to know whether the Government authorises this course. The Board, in an appendix to its annual report for 1967-68, which was presented recently, listed Australian industries according to the level of protection they receive. No-one objects to its publishing material showing what the rates of protection on various products are. Anyone can find this out. If that were all that the Board proposed to do in its new development, no-one would object to that. If people want to invest their money in industry, there is no reason why they should not know that one industry has the protection of a tariff at the rate of, say. 75% and another at the rate of 5%. If the Board hopes to influence the movement of investible funds in this way, I do not think anyone could object. But is that what the Board proposes to do? Obviously it is not. The most significant paragraph is paragraph 44 of the last annual report. It states:
As stated in the last annual report, the Board proposes a systematic review by public inquiry of the main areas of production concentrating initially on those where there has been no recent public inquiry and where the levels of protection are in the high or medium range.
No-one can object to that. The Board should have been equipped to make these inquiries much more rapidly and not leave any areas like this that have not been investigated for a long time. The report goes on:
The purpose of the proposed review by public inquiry is to enable the Board to assess, on the basis of a full and thorough examination, the protection actually needed and the long term prospects of the producing industries. In the case of areas of production which are found to have little prospect of operating with an effective rate below 50%, the Board would not recommend protection sufficient to allow the industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industries.
Does the Board intend to cut out all Australian industries that are now protected by a tariff of more than 50%? If it does that and cuts out a significant sector of industry, it will cause unemployment and disrupt the economy. How will this proposal set out in paragraph 44 be put into effect? What does the Government consider the Tariff Board is to do? The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) the other day, when making one of his few short speeches, suggested that the Government still has authority for tariff making. What will the Liberal Party say about that? I thought that we might have had a debate on that issue today, but I understand there is to be only one speaker on behalf of the Government.
– There may be more.
– We know that the Australian Country Party wants this kind of result. We know that the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr McEwen, the defender of Australian secondary industry, now has his hands tied pretty well by his Country Party associates, who want io drive a wedge between the city and the country. They want to drive a wedge between the farmer and the worker.
– What rot!
– Of course, it is easy for the honourable member to interject, but there is plenty of time for him to get up and deny it. This is my belief from reading what members of the Country Party have said. There are a number of industries like the knitting industry that need not only 50% protection but also quantitative restrictions. I should think that members of the Liberal Party would be familiar with that industry and with the people who previously owned it. I understand that some of them are officials of the Liberal Party in Victoria. If they have not brought their position to the notice of Victorian Liberals pretty vividly I would be surprised. I want to know what Liberal Party members will say about this. Are they going to permit the Tariff Board to demolish significant sectors of Australian industry, or not?
– The honourable member for McMillan attacks almost every tariff that is introduced into this House because he has a few dairy farmers in his area.
– That is not true.
– Then get up and say the opposite. This is my reading of the honourable member’s contribution to these debates. Liberal Party members speak differently in their electorate from the way they speak here.
– You have changed your views.
– I want to know what honourable members opposite are going to do now. The honourable member, who will be the ex-member for Lalor, is not one whom I would criticise; but I want to know what other honourable members opposite will say. The plan that the Board envisages must eventually result in serious unemployment in Australia. It must eventually lead to the closing of some significant sectors of almost every industry. 1 believe that is the firm and deliberate intention of the Board. Is it the firm and deliberate intention of the Government? Where is the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen)?
– In Cabinet.
– He is almost always somewhere else. If he is not attending a meeting of the Cabinet he is in Paris, and if he is not in Paris he is in London. But he is the man who is responsible for this kind of situation. We never see him here. There is always a junior Country Party Minister sitting at the table when these matters for which the Minister for Trade and Industry is responsible are being discussed. May he not one day honour the House with his presence?
– His august presence.
– Could anyone be more august in November? I should not like to lay too much stress on the latter part of that word. We are entitled to know what the Minister for Trade and Industry thinks about the tariff. He was away when it was introduced. The Prime Minister came in here with one of his shorthand speeches, which I am sure he will change when he speaks next. But we did not hear from the Minister who is responsible. I asked the Prime Minister across the table at that time whether we could have a debate upon this matter at some time or other. He said that he would not stand in our way. 1 want that Tariff Board report to be debated.
– You seem to be doing fairly well now.
– I want it to be debated properly and I want to know what those honourable members opposite who have been calling out ‘Hear, hear’ have to say about it. I want to know whether they will implement paragraph 44 of the Board’s report. I want to know how the Board will implement it. I want to know what the Government thinks of it, because it will have serious consequences for the Australian economy.
I do not intend to say any more about it now, but I should like to serve notice on the Opposition - I mean, on behalf of the Opposition - that we take a certain standard. Ministers and honourable members opposite laugh when a member makes a slip of the tongue. We know how perfect and excellent they are. I do not mind amusing them, because they seem to be pretty miserable much of the time. Our standard is that where an industry is efficient, where it has up to date equipment, where it has amenities for its staff, where it has incentives, where it attends properly to the prevention of waste, where it has proper control of production, where it has productivity and a quality product, we will not see that industry closed down. We want to know what honourable members opposite think about that, too. We say that if what is contained in paragraph 44 of the Tariff Board’s report is to be implemented some of those places will be closed down. No-one can afford to deny that.
We will not accept a different standard simply because some other country which has slave wage rates can produce goods for sale at low prices. In fact, very often a country like Australia is more efficient than those countries which have slave labour, because when there is slave labour it is not necessary to have efficiency. It is one of the facts of economic history that rising wage rates produce efficiency. Such rates have forced the introduction of labour saving machinery. Where there are slave wage rates, such as in a number of countries that today are competing with Australia, there is no need for efficiency. Very often where there are 6 or 7 day weeks and a wage of 7c an hour there is no need for efficiency. It is a mistake to imagine that because something can come into Australia at a low price it is coming from an efficient industry. Frequently it is not. I think this is the kind of unreality that is sometimes present in the minds of the Treasury and the Tariff Board.
Then we have the economics of an industry. There is an assumption that only a large firm can be economic, but certainly in a number of sectors of industry - particularly the textile section - very often the most efficient of all is the small firm. The greatest economies are frequently present in a small firm. This is a situation that is eminently suited for decentralisation. The Australian product is often the best in the world. I remind the House that of the 29 swimming events in the recent Olympic
Games. 27 of the gold medals 26 of the silver medals and 27 of the bronze medals were won by people wearing Australian made swimming suits.
– Yes, Speedo.
– That is right. In other words, 86% of ail the men who swam in ihe Olympic Games were wearing Australian made togs and 75 of the 96 women, or 79%, were wearing Australian garments. In many fields the Australian product is often the best or equal to the best. We have to strive all the time for quality and stil! greater quality, but what the Tariff Board is proposing to do will not get that for us. I want to know where the Government stands in respect of what the Tariff Board proposes to do as stated in paragraph 44 of its last report.
– I was under the impression that this debate was not concerned wilh the Tariff Boards annual report but with the Tariff Bill before the House, so I shall confine my remarks to that. However, I should like to say that this House could have seen few more extraordinary reversals of attitude than that revealed by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) in relation to tariffs. On 16th March 1967- at page 795 of Hansard - he quoted, with approval, the following statement of Sir Leslie Melville who had criticised the diversion of our scarce resources of capital into high cost industries:
What is needed is a more moderate approach to protection than we now have. Instead of providing more and more protection to virtually whatever industries seek assistance we should deliberately select for assistance only the less costly ventures.
Then the honourable member for Yarra went on to say:
That is, Sir Leslie Melville - wants to sec assistance given only to the less costly ventures and in proposing this so clearly he must recognise that al the moment the Tariff Board does not have the means to select such ventures for assistance.
– What has happened?
– I am not quite sure what has happened. What do we find in more recent times? I should like to quote what the honourable member for Yarra said on 12th September 1968, as reported at page 1045 of Hansard, regarding the Tariff Board’s intention to classify industries into those receiving high, medium and low rates of protection. He said:
If the Tariff Board is allowed to run wild through Australian industry, classifying as inefficient industries that have modern equipment and skilled labour but which still require a high tariff, it will do irreparable damage to the Australian economy.
What an incredible change. I, in common with the honourable member for La Trobe, am wondering what has led the honourable member for Yarra to reject what, as an economist, he knew and appreciated to be a sound approach to the tariff problem and to return to the traditional Australian Labor Party fold. My guess is that his enlightened remarks of a year or so ago were not appreciated by some members of his Party.
Although the Bill before the House deals with several reports concerning many classes of goods I intend to concentrate on the review of the chemical industry support values, which was the subject of a Tariff Board report on 29th April 1968 and a statement by the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Sinclair) on 1st August 1968. 1 do this not only because of the importance of the report itself but because of the importance of the whole concept of support values, which were originally introduced in October 1966.
In its original report the Tariff Board gave a lot of attention to the views expressed by the chemical industry, but it made no attempt to make a critical examination of the economic issues involved in support prices. Therefore I think it is appropriate to see what is involved when protection is afforded by this means. I can well imagine why the chemical industry pressed so hard for the introduction of high support values because their effect is largely to insulate Australian producers from the competition of overseas suppliers who, through the economies of scale, can land their products in Australia cheaper than similar products can be produced here. The Australian Chemical Industry Council in its publication titled Facts About the Australian Chemical Industry’, which was published in June 1967, stated:
Support values provide, in conjunction wilh ad valorem duties, a more adequate form of protection than that given in the past. ]f there were a collection of masterly understatements, 1 believe that that statement would hold a place of honour in it. In the same publication the following statement appears:
Support values, when effectively applied, will prevent disruption of the local chemical industry and should allow reasonable profitability.
I ask the House to note that last phrase, allow reasonable profitability’. No mention is made here of the traditional criteria for tariff protection of economic and efficient industries, lt is virtually a guarantee of profitability. What happens when an industry is placed in this happy position? Quite naturally, other firms want to get in on the act, and we have the classic situation of high protection leading to fragmentation of industry. Probably in no other industry is fragmentation more undesirable than in the chemical industry. In no other industry are the economies of scale more dramatic and in no other industry are the penalties for relatively small production more severe than in the chemical industry. 1 think there is already strong evidence that fragmentation is affecting the Australian chemical industry and making it very difficult for firms to operate profitably. But if this is the situation in Australia today - and I believe that it is in certain cases - then chemical companies themselves must realise that their difficult position is the direct result of the policies which they have advocated. The high protection which they sought and obtained has encouraged additional firms to enter the industry and now they find themselves with insufficient markets for their increased production. In these circumstances there seems to be a strong case for holding that the competition in the industry should come from imports and not from further fragmentation of the local industry. However. I might say that Union Carbide Australia Ltd apparently is doing quite well. According to a directors’ statement on 7th August 1968, profit before tax rose by satisfactory margins to new record levels for the latest 6 months and for the year ended 30th June compared with the previous corresponding periods. In the light of this information I find myself unable to work up any great feeling of concern ot sympathy at the directors’ announcement in the same statement that it will be necessary to reduce selling prices on some of the company’s chemical and plastic products as a result of the Tariff Board’s decision to eliminate or reduce many support price values.
Chemical companies have constantly reminded us that since the introduction of price support values -the chemical price index has fallen, and this is perfectly true. But what we do not know is how much further it would have fallen had there been no price support values. It is an undeniable fact - and this can be easily checked - that users of the chemical industry’s products in many other countries get these products at a very much lower price than do Australian users. I remind the House that Australian users are exporters, in many cases, and the price disadvantage under which they operate is another example of the disabilities they suffer in their efforts to compete on world markets. The economic situation faced by exporters was very clearly explained in the ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’ of 23rd September 1968. I should like to quote briefly from that publication. It states:
If the prices of exported products on world markets rise in step with rising domestic costs, the inflationary effects of a protectionist policy may concern exporters little, and those who also supply the domestic markets may even welcome such a policy if it appears responsible for developing the domestic market.
But listen to this:
But if overseas prices do not rise with local costs, and if the domestic market does not compensate for the losses of a cost-price squeeze in export markets, exporters can face min.
So we come to the Tariff Board’s report on its first annual review of support values. I congratulate the Board on ils realistic appreciation of the problems faced by Australian consumers of these products and ils decision that support values should not be allowed to be used to insulate Australian industry against genuine - and I stress the word genuine - low prices overseas. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that not nearly enough attention was paid at the original Board hearing to the effect of support values on the consumer. But the Board has now clearly demonstrated its determination to keep a very close eye on the effects of support values in the future. It is vitally necessary that it should do so, because the effects of support values go far beyond the products so protected. Since support values mean virtually the complete elimination of imports at prices more than 10% below the support values, users cannot purchase their raw materials at lower costs than those available from Australian manufacturers. This reduces export competitiveness and leads in turn to a requirement by manufacturers using price supported chemicals for further tariff protection. Of course, this is exactly what is happening in the plastics industry, lt follows, therefore, that any reductions in support values have important and beneficial implications for Australian exporters.
I am delighted lo sec recognition of this fact in the Tariff Board’s review. Of the 45 items concerned, support values will be abolished on 12, reduced on 22, remain unchanged on 8 and increased on only 3. It is very pleasing indeed to see so many important chemicals amongst those on which support values have been abolished. The most important of all - and here I agree with the honourable member for Yarra - is soda ash. Quite frankly, I have never been able lo understand why a support value on this basic chemical was introduced in the first place. Imports represent only a very small proportion of total production. There seemed no justification for the introduction of price support value on soda ash, and I am delighted lo see that it has been abolished. Probably next in importance is phthalic anhydride. Both these chemicals have widespread uses in the production of many commodities. I trUSt that the removal of support values will soon be reflected in reduced prices to the consumer.
Another welcome addition to the list is the range of 2, 4, 5-T products. The support value of 2, 4-D products is reduced by 12%, from $980 to S860 per ton. For the benefit of honourable members who may not know what these chemicals are, I point out that they are selective weed killers and they are becoming more and more important to primary producers. Farming today is a complex and highly skilled business, and for maximum returns, both from pastures and from crops, efficient and economic control of weeds is a necessity. The reduction in support values, is, I believe, substantial enough to encourage a belief that we can expect a worthwhile reduction in weedicide costs.
The first annual review of support values by the Tariff Board is yet another indication of the Board’s appreciation of the issues involved in the various forms of tariff protection. 1 congratulate the Board on its review and the Government on accepting it. If this approach to protection continues, we may expect the benefits of competition from lower priced overseas products to be reflected in lower costs to the Australian consuming public.
– As the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has said, the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. But in the wider context of tariff protection generally, I join with the honourable member in asking where the Government stands in relation to the recent Tariff Board report and when it intends to initiate a full scale debate in this House on that report. The honourable member for Yarra said that the Tariff Board is setting out to demolish a section of Australian industry. Honourable members know that this is so. Those who work on the various trade committees have had deputations from manufacturing interests and they have heard the concern expressed by those deputations about the protection of various Australian industries. This morning the trade committee of the Australian Labor Party had discussions with representatives of the Australian Knitting Industries Council. Those representatives have had discussions also with the corresponding Liberal Party committees, and they are concerned to know where the Liberal Party stands in relation to the Tariff Board’s report, and particularly paragraph 44 of it which says:
As stated in its last annual report, the Board proposes a systematic review by public inquiry o£ the main areas of production, concentrating initially on those where there has been no recent public inquiry and where the levels of protection are in the high or medium range. The purpose of the proposed review by public inquiry is to enable the Board to assess, on the basis of a full and thorough examination, the production actually needed and the long term prospects of the producing industries.
One could not find much to criticise in that, but then comes the critical statement:
In the case of areas of production which are found to have little prospects of operating wilh an effective rate below 50%, the Board would not recommend protection sufficient to allow tha industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industry.
This is the statement which most concerns the Australian Knitting Industries Council, the representatives of which pointed out that there are industries in Asia which are not as efficient as Australian industries but which have the advantage of low cost labour. Some members of the work force in Taiwan and Hong Kong work as much as 60 or 70 hours a week, and this makes it impossible for Australian industries to compete with industries in those countries. The representatives of the Council who spoke to us this morning said they had heard nobody on the Government side, particularly from the Liberal Party, stand up in the House and state clearly where he stands on the question of the protection of Australian secondary industries. This is what we on this side of the House also would like to know: Just where do honourable members opposite stand on the question of the protection of Australian industries? We are concerned with this question because of the many workers whose livelihood depends on the Government’s attitude. The Government may represent the financial interests, but we on this side are concerned with the jobs of workers.
Some interesting figures have been prepared by the Australian Knitting Industries Council. In 1964-65 there were 602 factories operating in these industries with 25,779 employees. In 1965-66 the number of factories had decreased to 592 but the number of employees had increased slightly to 25,883. By 1966-67 the number of factories had further declined to 573, while Ihe labour force, at a time when one would think it would be increasing as the population was increasing, had decreased to 25,195. If this decline continues, and if the industries referred to in paragraph 44 of the Tariff Board’s report that need more than 50% protection are no longer afforded that protection, then a large proportion of these 25,000 people in the industry will lose their employment. A good deal of investment that is at present tied up in these textile industries will be withdrawn. This is important to the Australian economy. Surely it is important from the point of view of our balance of payments deficit. The deficit on our current account has totalled something like $7,000m in the 18 years of the Liberal-Country Party administration. Surely if we can manufacture goods in Australia we should do so. After all, as was pointed out by the textile industry representatives this morning, 90% of the raw material required for the knitting industries, particularly in cotton and wool, is produced in Australia. Surely we should protect these industries against the competition of cheap overseas labour.
I am not saying for one moment that we may not have to do some planning. What co-operation has this Government offered private enterprise in seeking to plan for the future of the textile industries? Has there been any discussion at all on planning between the Government and representatives of the private sector?
– Of course there has.
– Of course there has been no such thing. We know this because we discussed the matter this morning with representatives of the knitting industries. The only discussion, if it can be called such, that there has been is the statement by the Tariff Board that if an industry requires more than 50% protection it should be considered redundant. I ask honourable members opposite to say where they stand and where the Government stands in relation to paragraph 44 of the report of the Tariff Board. Do they support it? ls the Tariff Board speaking for the Government? We want to know where the Government stands. Does it support the views of the Tariff Board or is it opposed to them? When will there be a wider debate on this issue?
– I rise to a point of order. Has the honourable member the right to discuss such a wide spectrum of matters when debating this Bill? I thought the scope of the Bill was very narrow indeed.
Order! The usual practice is to allow a broad discussion on tariff issues.
– I thank you for your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. All 1 want to know from the sensitive members on the Government side is where they stand. That is a simple request and they should get up and explain their position. Do they stand for the protection of Australian secondary industries? Is there division in their ranks? Do we have one voice from the Australian Country Party and another from the Liberal Party? Even in the Liberal Party we have representatives of rural interests as well as of urban interests. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) represents a country electorate. Therefore we find him in agreement with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull).I have no doubt that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes)–
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Reid to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I thank you for your advice and through you. Mr Deputy Speaker, I say that I am quite aware that the honourable member for Maribyrnong represents an industrial area where many people employed in secondary industries reside. If he does not support the protection of Australian secondary industries there will be a new member for Maribyrnong. We would like to know where these so-called Liberal members stand on the issue of the protection of Australian industries. Surely they should have some understanding of the need to protect our balance of payments. Last financial year Australia had a deficit on current account of $l,060m. For the first 3 months of this financial year we had a further deficit of $63m. We now have a deficit of more than $1,1 00m and my estimate is that the deficit will be more than $ 1,200m by the end of the financial year. How has the Government been able to pay the enormous debt of more than $7,000m that has accumulated during its term of office? In the words of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), it has sold a little bit of the farm every year; it has sold a little bit of our heritage every year. It has always been the same story. The Government has been willing to sell a little bit of Australia every year. It has not been willing to build up our own secondary industries and to produce in Australia the goods we need with our own manpower and our own materials.It is time that we started to plan, on the basis of co-operation between government and business, and work in the best interests of Australian industries, Australian citizens and the Australian nation as a whole.
We on this side of the House have always stood for efficiency. When the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) spoke about the efficiency of Australian industries, he was criticised. His views were distorted by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who followed him in this debate. All the honourable member for Yarra has said is that he wants to see Australian industries become efficient. The only way to achieve this is on a basis of cooperation, discussion and planning. We can encourage industries, through certain taxation concessions, to obtain more efficient machinery. We should give them some guarantee that if they produce the goods they will be able to sell them on the Australian market. Secondary industries will then be able to plan and expand. But the Government has not given that assurance. How can Australian secondary industries spend money on the renewal of plant when no guarantee is given to them that they will have protection over the next few years? The Tariff Board in paragraph 44 of its report said that any industry that needs protection at the rate of more than 50% will be exterminated. Where does the Government stand on this suggestion?
We challenge the Government, and especially the members of the Liberal Party, to stand up to the Australian Country Party. We want to know what it will do in the best interests of the Australian industry. Honourable members opposite talk about the wealth that is produced in the country areas, but they should remember that most of the people live in urban areas and that workers also should be protected. They are the people who have the purchasing power and who keep the economy moving. When will we be allowed to have a full debate on the annual report of the Tariff Board? We on this side of the House stand for the protection of Australian manufacturing industries. We want to see these industries become efficient and we will work on a basis of co-operation and discussion to ensure that they are efficient.
– I do not oppose the Bill and I had not intended to speak on it. I am not interested in any challenge that the honourable members for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and Reid (Mr Uren) may throw out. However, as there will be no opportunity to state some views on the annual report of the Tariff Board, I must at this stage put some propositions that may be in contrast to those put by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr
Street). Nor am I particularly interested in what was put by the honourable member for Reid in his closing remarks. We all know the philosophical basis of Socialism. We all know that the honourable member’s political philosophy is the very antithesis of the principles to which he said he subscribes. He is not interested in competition or in efficient enterprises. He would rather see all enterprises controlled by the Government. He has a rather poor platform on which to stand when he mouths words such as he did this afternoon suggesting that he is the defender, firstly, of the workers and, secondly, of the companies. Indeed, the prophet whom he follows, namely the honourable member for Yarra, has, as the honourable member for Corangamite said, swung as a pendulum on this issue. The honourable member for Corangamite very correctly pointed out the wide divergence between the approach of the honourable member for Yarra on this occasion and on a similar occasion last year. I do not think that the iwo Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have any right to call on Government supporters to express a view.
I am concerned that there may not be an opportunity to express some views on the paragraph in the annual report of the Tariff Board to which the honourable member for Reid referred. One of the most contentious statements that any public body has ever made without a public inquiry is contained in paragraph 44 of the Board’s report. I will not read it all, but 1 will quote a part that is relevant to this debate, if I may. It reads:
In the case of areas of production which are found to have little prospect of operating with an effective rate below 50%. the Board would not recommend protection sufficient to allow the industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industries. In the case of activities requiring an effective rate of protection exceeding 25% but not exceeding 50% the Board would be influenced by the likely effect on other industries and their prospects for more competitive production.
The question that comes to me is: For what reason has the Board fastened upon 50% effective duties as the point beyond which it will not go? It certainly has not debated this question with witneses at a public inquiry. Tt steadfastly refused to entertain a public inquiry on this matter although the Tariff Board Act provides in section 15(2.) that the question of the ‘general effect of the working of the Customs Tariff … in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth’ is a matter for inquiry and report upon a reference from the Minister for Trade and Industry. Section 17 of the Act also states that the Board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to’ in section 15 (2.).
To me it is simply amazing that the Government should accept in an annual report such a basic revision of tariff policy without insisting that the Board should either hold a public inquiry or state quite firmly and unequivocably that there will be a debate on the report in the Parliament. The questions involved and covered in the last annual report are not mere questions of procedure. They prejudge every tariff case before the Board commences an inquiry. This is a matter to which honourable members on both sides of the House should be giving grave attention, lt should be discussed before the House goes into recess. It seems to me that applicants for protection are likely to be confronted with a hostile Board, if we take paragraph 44 of the annual report as it stands, before they can open their cases, if they are unable to fit the level of protection into the arbitrary figure that the Board has laid down. In my opinion, the Government should not have accepted this report and the two earlier reports without making a specific reference to the Board under section 15 (2.). I strongly urge the Minister to ensure that the annual report of the Tariff Board is debated.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not intend to delay the House for very long, but there are one or two matters directly relating to the subject matter which has been canvassed in this debate that I wish to raise and upon which I ask the Government to make a firm statement. The first matter is as to the future of the textile industry which has been mentioned already by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). A tremendous number of Australians work in this industry. If it is to survive and remain a competitive industry, it is necessary that young people be attracted to the industry, trained within it and maintained in it. This situation cannot come to pass if we continue to leave the industry in limbo, as it is at the moment.
Textile management does not know whether the Government intends to destroy the industry or to allow it to drift into such an uneconomic state that it cannot continue. Textile management is unable to undertake or to attract long term investment because of uncertainty about the future of the industry.
Some leading spokesmen within the industry may or may not be right. 1 am not here to canvass whether their opinions are right. But they are of the opinion that it is the policy of this Government to get rid of the textile industry because, firstly, it is inefficient and secondly, it is cheaper to import made up textile goods from Asia and some European countries where governments subsidise textiles to the extent that they can compete with the cheap labour areas of Asia. Efficiency in this industry can come about only if confidence is restored and maintained.
A definite statement of Government policy on this matter is urgently needed, I believe, and should be forthcoming immediately. I do not believe that this type of thing should be allowed to hang in the balance indefinitely, as it appears the Government intends to allow it to do. People should know that they can invest with confidence in the industry. They should know whether the Government will adopt what the Tariff Board has put forward and so put the industry out of business. People should not be allowed to waste their money on what would be, if that happened, a doomed industry. All sections of the industry are not inefficient. There are some areas where the operations are highly efficient and highly competitive. Other sections of the industry must be encouraged to come up to these standards.
I raise the other matter with which 1 propose to deal because it has been the subject of public statements by leading persons in the industry in recent weeks. I refer to the motor vehicle industry. A leading official of the Ford Motor Co. said in Australia within the last week that unless the Australian Government changes its present policy on Australian manufacture there will be a lessening of expansion in the Australian motor vehicle industry. This industry, as was proved in 1961, is vital to employment. Australia has become very dependent on the industry for employment. 1 think that it is fairly clear that the policy that the Government established with relation to the manufacture of small cars was not well thought out and is not practical in the light of existing market conditions. If the Government is not prepared to think again on this matter we could well reach the situation where more industries met the fate of Volkswagen (Australasia) Ltd. The policy of the Government in that case did not help the Australian manufacturer, lt did not help Australian employment, lt put that company out of business here. This could well happen with other manufacturers. The British Motor Corporation, I think, would be in great difficulties because of the present policies.
I ask on both of these matters that the Government give immediate and serious consideration to making a firm statement of policy. I do not ask anything else. I believe that it is right and proper that the people in these industries should know exactly what the Government intends. The Tariff Board has said one thing about tariffs. The Government has made an ambiguous statement, through the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), which means very little. Something definite should be said. Some Australians have their whole livelihood invested in this industry because of the training and skills that they have attained. There are other Australians who should be being trained now to enter these industries, to make them more efficient and to enable them to continue. If the Government hedges about making a firm policy statement, is not able or is not prepared to tell the nation and the people in these industries exactly where they stand, nothing constructive can be done and the industries themselves must suffer.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this debate has developed into a wide debate on tariffs. It is right that this should happen. This has occurred in every debate of this nature as long as I can remember. I do not wish to take up the time of the House unnecessarily. I have said to the Government Whip that I will take about 10 minutes. Probably I would not have risen at all only for what the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) said. He said that we ate trying to drive a wedge between the city and the country. What he is trying to do is to drive a wedge between the coalition Parties. 1 am nol in agreement with this at all1. 1 believe that I can state my case if 1 comment on a question that 1 directed recently to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). First of all. 1 will read that question. By reading it, I can answer one or two questions put by the honourable member for Reid.
My question was asked on 10th October 1968. lt appears at page 1808 of Hansard. lt reads:
My question is addressed to the Prime Minister.
In a speech he delivered recently did the right honourable gentleman confirm that the Government would continue to be responsible for tariff policy? ls he aware that it is high costs, chiefly duc to tariff protection of secondary industry, and not lower prices for primary products that are causing the prevailing dissatisfaction, uncertainty and in many cases financial embarrassment to primary producers? In order to reduce the gap between Ihe economies of secondary industry and primary industry, will the Prime Minister make an investigation with a view to reducing tariff protection to secondary industry or to introducing substantial price support for primary industry?
In reply the Prime Minister said: lt is undoubtedly true, as honourable members will remember, that not only yesterday but the day before 1 announced unequivocally in this House that the Australian Government would make policy decisions on tariff matters following the advice of the Tariff Board but not necessarily accept that advice. In regard to the second part of the question, I do understand that it is increasing costs that are causing difficulty to many farmers in some industries, though these are being cushioned to no small extent by the greater efficiency and productiveness being shown by farmers in many industries. In regard to the third part of ihe question, I would point out to the honourable member that already considerable support and subsidies are given to many sections of primary industry. I need only mention the home consumption price of wheat, the guaranteed price for a quantity of export wheat, and the home consumption price fixed for the sale of butter, sugar and other commodities, to indicate that it would nol bc right to suggest that no price support and no subsidies are provided for primary industry.
The salient feature of that reply is that the Australian Government will make policy decisions on tariff matters following the advice of the Tariff Board but will not necessarily accept the advice. As a member of the Australian Country Party, I believe that the home market is the best market for primary products. We have to build up the population and to do so we must have people in the cities. I am not in favour of building up the city population. I would like to see the people get out into the country. We must have employees in factories; they are the consumers.
The last part of my question related to the alternative that is open to the Government. If the Government wants to have fairly high tariffs and if tariffs are essential for the building up of the population, then surely I was right in asking the Prime Minister whether, as an alternative, he was in favour of introducing price support for primary industry. What has happened in the meantime? lt was only on 10th October that the Prime Minister said:
I need only mention the home consumption price of wheal . . .
While the home consumption price of wheat is being eroded some members on both sides of this House believe that tariffs should be increased and more protection should be given.
The Country Party and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) believe that primary industry is the great contributor to Australia’s balance of trade. Seventy-five per cent of our exports are produced by primary industry. These exports contribute to our balance of trade. It does not matter if Labor or Liberal members laugh at me for saying this, because it is an established fact. They only have to read some of the text books in this great country to find that out. lt has been pointed out, that if tariffs of more than 50% are not to be granted certain industries will be annihilated. If the Government does not give primary industry some price support and if, as in the case of wheat, it continues to erode prosperity by lowering the home consumption price and by applying the other elements in the formula now used, it will annihilate this primary industry. Unfortunately, a Government member is laughing. I realise that this is a very difficult position for this Government. After all, Australia has to have balanced development while continuing to export primary products. Tariffs should not be of such a nature that they will put people out of employment.
I do not guarantee to the last decimal point the correctness of the figures I am about to quote, but I think they are right. The tariff on harvest headers is 20%; on ploughs 30%; on disc cultivators and harrows 25%; on rotary cultivators 30%; on agricultural mowers 40%; on potato diggers 27%; and on milking machines 27i%. I want to deal with agricultural mowers, which enjoy a tariff of 40%. We have had long periods of drought lately, and the use of agricultural mowers and balers has been in heavy demand for the conservation of fodder. The primary producer has to pay the 40% in question. I do not want to indulge in tedious repetition of what has already been said, but let me say that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission holds its inquiries and fixes wages in the light of what industry can pay. But which branch of industry? Of course, it is secondary industry. If one looks at the balance sheets of any of the big companies one sees that they can pay handsomely. Everybody knows this.
– Why do you not investigate how the products are made?
– The honourable member lives in a metropolitan area; so he should keep quiet. If wages were based on what the Australian primary producing community could pay, who can say by what percentage wages would come down? 1 am a believer in good wages for good work, and 1 always have been. 1 bel’ieve that wages and production should be kept high. The Government will have to consider giving primary industry high price support. The Country Party seeks for primary industry the advantage that is given to secondary industry in the form of tariff protection. That is all it seeks.
When the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) was speaking the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan), who represents a rural area, interjected. The honourable member for Yarra responded by referring to him as a man with a few cows in his area. That is what he said, and it will appear in Hansard. Why did not the honourable member for Yarra state the position properly? Why did he not refer to the great wool industry - the greatest in the world? Why did he not mention outgreat wheat industry, which has done so much for this country? Why did he not refer to our dairy products instead of a few cows? Why did not he mention our citrus groves? What about our dried fruits industry? What about the sheep and fat Iambs? All these products of the soil have been the very lifeblood of this nation. The way some people talk about secondary industry one woul’d think that it had just sprung up by itself. Secondary industry owes its existence to primary products. When I speak about primary products and praise them I am greeted with a measure of laughter. Everybody should know that our pastoral pioneers were the first ones to bring population to this country.
– I thought it was gold that brought them here.
– The honourable member is ahead of me. When gold was found in Australia in 1851. many people came out to this country and increased the population. These people wanted easily gotten gains. But when the gold to which the honourable member for Maribyrong referred petered out the people turned to something more stable - primary industry.
– That was a long time ago.
– lt was a long time ago, but the effects of it are still here. The Country Party was formed so that the people of Australia could get a voice in the Parliament of this country, and this voice is just as necessary today as it ever was. I repeat that the population came to this country with the discovery of gold and when the gold petered out these people turned to primary industry. Secondary industry was then in its infancy, lt was primary industry that built secondary industry up. Today primary industry provides nearly 80% of the exports that make it possible to bring to this country materials which are not available here but which are necessary for the satisfactory functioning of the secondary industries that we all support. Lel me put it plainly. We want population. Secondary industry is the great employer and tariff protection is all right up to a point but not tariff protection gone mad, because if tariff protection goes mad primary industry is economically annihilated. The Government has to think things over. It has to decide whether it will decrease - not increase - tariff protection and whether it will give primary industry satisfactory price support of a kind that will be the same advantage to primary industry as high tariffs have been and are to secondary industry in Australia.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. One of the most important things this Parliament can debate is tariffs, i submit that before the House at the moment there is a Bill of limited content and the debate so far,, white being interesting, has ranged over a whole area of tariff matters. As my friend the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said, there is a report of the Tariff Board for study and debate by this Parliament. But time is limited and I suggest with great respect that the present debate could be limited to the content matter of this Bill and Parliament might be afforded a chance, before it rises for the Christmas recess, to debate this very important Tariff Board report in the manner in which it should be debated.
-In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Higinbotham, I point out to the House that it has always been the custom for the Chair to allow a fairly wide ranging debate on tariff matters.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 2317), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– This debate is on a Bill to make certain amendments to the War Service Homes Act and during the course of my speech I propose to examine the amendments that are proposed by the Government. I shall examine the Government’s record in this field and at the same time tell the Parliament and the country what a
Whitlam Labor Government would do for the people who have served in the defence of this country. I think it is important for us to have a brief survey of what is proposed in the Bill. The Bill does some things with which the Opposition is in agreement. It does other things that we believe may be described as too little and too late. The Opposition will support the amendments with which it agrees.
The first thing the Bill docs - and I am not taking the amendments necessarily in order of importance - is to advance the maximum amount of loan available from the present limit of $7,000 to $8,000. It extends the widows’ assistance to the wives of merchant seamen. The Bill gives to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account the right to receive interest derived from the investment of moneys belonging to it but credited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. With that we agree. But we disagree with the proposal to abolish the War Service Homes Trust Account for the reasons that I will indicate in a minute. The Bill also contains amendments to give to the Director the power to give effect to a court order that the home of an exserviceman should be transferred to an innocent wife in divorce proceedings where the wife is the custodian of the children. I will have something to say on the last point about the differences of administration as between one State and another.
I will move amendments in Committee to increase the amount of maximum loan under the War Service Homes scheme from the proposed $8,000 to $12,000. The policy of a Whitlam Labor Government will be to give to every person who is a member of the forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged from the forces the right to receive a maximum financial benefit of up to $12,000 and increase the amount available from 90% to 95% of the valuation of the property that he proposes to build or buy. At the moment the maximum loan is $7,000. This amount is to be increased by only $1,000 to $8,000. Even then a person cannot obtain the loan unless he falls within a certain category of exservicemen. Neither can he obtain the loan, except in accordance with the 90% valuation.
I want to compare the cost of building in Australia over a period of years and to do so. with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table:
In some cases, where the Commonwealth average is not available - and this is the case from 1956 back to 1945 - I have taken the highest average cost of house and land in the State that has the highest figure, so the comparison will err on the side of the Government.
– What was the source of the figures?
– The source of the figures is the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes.I can vouch for the accuracy of these figures. In this table one can see the number of applications made each year and the average cost of building each year. We can see how the cost has gone up compared with the maximum loan available. The final column in the table shows the deficit between the maximum loan available and the actual average cost of building a home.
I want to refer to some significant features of the table. First I refer to the year 1951-52. This was the second year after the Chifley Government went out of office and the present Government in effect was reaping the benefit of about 4 non-war years of the Chifley administration. The maximum amount of loan in 1951 - and honourable members should listen to this - to an ex-serviceman was $5,500 and the average cost of building a home plus land was only $5,242. Therefore the amount of money available was more than the average cost of building a home. I hasten to add that this is the average cost in the highest price State in the Commonwealth. In that year there were 23,000 applications for loans. I want to stress the point that in 1951 applicants were able to obtain finance equal to the cost of building a home. I contrast this with the situation today. The average cost of building a home plus the cost of land in 1967-68 had increased to $11,487 and the amount of money available to people wanting loans was only $7,000. This represents a deficit of$4,487 in relation to the actual cost of the house and land.
In 1967-68 the number of people who applied for a loan fell to 7,034 compared with 23,338 in 1951-52. Do not tell me that this was because everybody eligible for a home had been accommodated. The latest report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division shows that of the 800,000 people who, as a result of service in World War II, are eligible for a war service home only 30% have so far been accommodated. I commend the report to honourable members. It is an excellent report. If only earlier reports had been as good we would have been able to see more clearly the history of the War Service Homes Division since the inception of the scheme.
The report shows that 70% of persons eligible after World War II for a war service home have not yet received assistance. The reasons for this state of affairs vary. In some cases they have not received assistance because they could not bridge the gap between the amount of the loan and the average cost of a land and house. In other cases assistance was not forthcoming because finance was not available when it was required. These people had to forfeit their right to cheap finance from the War Service Homes Division and obtain it from other lending sources. The only alternative would have been to wait an inordinate length of time to be accommodated. A
Whitlam Labor government will rectify the misdeeds of the past by giving to those people who still owe money under mortgage to other lending authorities the right to transfer the mortgage to the War Service Homes Division so that they will not be completely cheated of their right to war service homes finance.
Since 1918 when the war service homes scheme was introduced only 298.000 of the 520.000 applications for a war service loan have been approved. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the number of applications approved since 1957-58. lt is as follows:
The table is sorry evidence of the Government’s record in this field. The Government pretends to help ex-servicemen. I trust that the public and the Press will examine the Government’s sorry record wilh respect to ex-servicemen. I repeat that a Whitlam Labor government will extend the right to have a war service loan to any serving member of the forces or to a former member who has been honourably discharged. Can any honourable member opposite give me any reason why a national serviceman who has done 2 years of national service and has been prepared to defend this country should not receive a war service homes loan? Why are members of the Regular Army unable to receive a war service homes loan? Whether they serve overseas or not is beside the point. If they are prepared to sign on to defend this country in the event of attack or to go overseas in order to attack somebody else they are entitled to a war service homes loan.
Unmarried or divorced ex-service men and women should be entitled to war service finance. But at present this is not available to them. Even if they have served overseas they cannot get war service homes finance. A divorced ex-serviceman cannot get war service homes finance even if he has served overseas. Would anyone say that this is just? Nobody could justify such a situation.
An ex-serviceman’s widow with dependent children should receive greater assistance than is available to her now. Speaking for myself - I do not have authority to speak for my Party on this point - when rates and taxes are paid by the War Service Homes Division on the home of an ex-serviceman’s widow who qualities for special relief, or when repairs are made to such a home, the War Service Homes Division should not be compelled to claim from that woman or from the estate when Ihe home is eventually sold interest on any finance advanced in those extreme circumstances. Former members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, the Women’s Australian Air Force and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service and war nurses should be entitled to the benefit of war service finance whether they served overseas or not. In the Committee stage I shall move three amendments designed to give effect to the general principles that 1 have so far indicated.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill giving assistance to widows of exservicemen. In this respect I support the Bill but the Bill clearly does not go far enough. The Bill improves the Act because it provides the right of special assistance to the widows and wives of merchant seamen and men who fall into one or two other small groups. This is a good provision, and we approve it. But 1 draw the attention of Government supporters to an anomaly - I hesitate to describe it as glaring. I have already drawn this matter to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). Do Government supporters realise that a nurse who served overseas and who marries a person not an ex-serviceman is not entitled, on the death of her husband, to the benefits available to the widow of an ex-serviceman? Do honourable members opposite realise that a nurse who was a prisoner of the Japanese during the last war and who on her return to Australia married a person not an ex-serviceman who subsequently becomes insane is not entitled to the assistance that would be accorded to the wife of an ex-serviceman who became insane? This is an anomaly which the Labor Party will seek to remedy by amendment in the Committee stage.
I have brought this matter to the notice of the responsible Minister and I trust that the Government will give it the attention that it deserves. The Act does not give sufficient assistance to the wives and widows of eligible ex-servicemen because it covers only the case of a person who is permanently or temporarily incapacitated through insanity. No other form of incapacity is taken into account. An exserviceman who. because of an incapacity, is unable to bring any income into the house, could, after the expiration of the period mentioned in the Act, have his home taken from him because he could not meet the weekly instalments.
I know of a man who recently suffered an injury in an accident at work. He may get some workers compensation. He may get damages, but he may not. He may receive only a lump sum in workers compensation. Weekly payments will not be paid to him, as they would be if he were covered by Commonwealth or New South Wales legislation. The man is a paraplegic. He is an ex-serviceman. He is buying a war service home but he is about 3 months in arrears of payments. Unless he is given money or relief the home may be taken from him, but he cannot get relief because he is not insane. If the Director does his job under the War Service Homes Act as the Parliament told him to do it, he will take the home back from this man. I hope that the Director will turn a blind eye to that section of the Act which requires him to resume the home of this unfortunate person.
I turn now to the case of another person who was paralysed, though not as a result of an injury at work. He will receive no compensation, and he cannot get damages. This man is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He is not insane now but is really just like a vegetable. This man is an exserviceman who served overseas. Are we to take his home from him simply because he is unable, due to circumstances outside his control, to meet the weekly instalments? The Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) ought not to be so callous and ought not to sit there grinning. These are cases that demand careful and urgent attention. Eligible wives of ineligible persons ought to be entitled to widow’s relief, and to wife’s assistance, when the husband is insane or is permanently or temporarily incapacitated. At the Committee stage I will move amendments to this effect.
I turn now to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. I agree with the Government’s decision to alter the provisions of the Act relating to this Account. We will have pleasure in supporting this very good amendment. It is surprising to me that the Government has allowed the present situation to go on for so long without bringing in the amendment which we are now asked to pass. The money held in the Insurance Trust Account is not the Government’s money; it is money which belongs to the people who have paid premiums to insure their homes. Therefore, the Government has no right to invest the surplus and pay the proceeds into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Very correctly, the Government is providing that these investments shall be used to strengthen the Trust Account so that premiums will’ not have to go higher, or, if they do have to go higher, will not have to go as high as they would otherwise go. The Insurance Trust Account is a very well worthwhile feature of the war service homes scheme. Every time I. consider it, I wonder why we tolerate private insurance companies when, through this account, war service homes can be insured for a premium that is small compared with the large amounts we have to pay to private insurance companies.
We will have much pleasure in supporting the Bill, but we will vote against that clause which proposes to abolish the War Service Homes Trust Account. I know that at the moment the Trust Account is only a kind of bookkeeping apparatus. Repayments received from persons who have obtained war service homes are paid into it and that money is paid into the Treasury at the end of the year. I know that this is done in accordance with a recommendation made by the Public Accounts Committee in 1957, but I still disagree with it strongly.
– What do the latest figures show?.
– They show that in the year 1967-68 we paid out $46,019,000 in new advances and we received back $69,165,000 in the form of repayments on previous loans. I know that all the money came from consolidated revenue in the first place, but I am not concerned about where it came from. 1 want to see a revolving account established so that we will not have to be told by the Parliament in some lean year that, because we cannot afford it, trie ex-servicemen will not get what they ought to get. I want to sec a revolving trust account that will operate independently of parliamentary appropriation and that will be able to give to ihe 70% of applicants, who have so far been denied their right to a war service homes advance, their entitlement. There is nothing new about a revolving account. As a matter of fact, the very Account that we are now talking about was a revolving account from 1919 to 1923. lt was not until 1923 that it was changed, and it has remained changed ever since. I do not care what the Public Accounts Committee recommends. I am concerned about the rights of ex-servicemen, whether or not they have served overseas. Members of the Regular Arm)’, the Citizen Military Forces, national servicemen, and all the people who have been prepared to defend this country ought to be given the benefit of this assistance.
– May I interrupt?
– No, the honourable member may not interrupt me; I am too busy. We believe that the serviceman is entitled to an advance of $12,000. By the table that I have already produced 1 have shown that the average cost of land and a dwelling today is nearly $12,000. I have shown that there was a time when the amount of advance available was more than the average cost of land and house in the State of highest prices. If that is what we thought was proper in 1951, why have we allowed the maximum advance to slip $4,000 behind the actual cost of building? This is a scandal and a disgrace that we have sat idly by and allowed this to happen in this country, which is now well aware of the need to do something for the people who are prepared to defend its shores against foreign invaders.
We should give greater relief to widows and wives than we are now giving. Moreover, we ought to use a revolving fund to finance the building of home units for rental or purchase by service pensioners or eligible social service pensioners. When I say ‘eligible’, 1 mean people who have been members of the armed forces and who do not want or cannot afford to buy an ordinary residence. They should be given assistance. If we had a revolving fund, the money we receive could be set aside for the purpose of properly looking after these people; for liquidating mortgages that have been taken out through private lending authorities; for giving greater relief to widows; for assisting pensioners who, perhaps, are no longer capable of looking after a big home but who would like to settle for a smaller home; and for the transfer of an existing mortgage to another home in the event of an eligible person being transferred from one place to another or for the purchase of a larger, or even a smaller, home to meet the individual’s needs. Why should a person who ha3 served this country and who has still to pay $3,000 or $4,000 to the War Service Homes Division not be allowed to use that amount of unpaid mortgage to buy another home? There is nothing in the Act to say that it cannot be done. In a minute I will explain to the House how the present situation came about. Honourable members will be shocked when I tell them how these restrictions on the rights of ex-servicemen came about.
I turn to that part of the Bill which proposes to alter the Act as it affects a divorced wife who has dependent children and who was the innocent partner in the divorce. I refer now to recent decisions of the divorce courts by which the wives of eligible purchasers or borrowers have been granted a divorce and given custody of the dependent children and have obtained the benefit of a court order to transfer the house to the wife’s name, sometimes in respect of the husband’s share of it and sometimes in fee simple. In the latter case there is no problem, but where the order is for the transfer of the husband’s share of a home to the wife there is difficulty. 1 hope that 1 have, been misinformed about the situation that exists. I have been told that the Deputy Director of War Service Homes in Western Australia will allow such a court order to be executed and will arrange for the transfer. On the other hand I am told that in New South Wales the Deputy Director will not agree and will not execute such a court order against the husband. I believe that the Deputy Director in New South Wales is the one who is acting in accordance with the Act; otherwise 1 cannot see the need for an amendment to allow this very thing to be done. Whether the Western Australian Deputy Director is acting properly or whether the New South Wales Deputy Director is acting improperly J do not know and I do not care very much. It is at least refreshing to know that the loophole, if it is a loophole, is being plugged or the ambiguity is being clarified beyond all possible doubt. We will, therefore, support the amendment.
Kidman Park and Henley Beach areas. Similar acreages are available elsewhere about the same distance from the city as Grange and Henley Beach. Why have these areas not been bought? Why should we not buy them?
I know that the South Australian Housing Trust will build homes for exservicemen. 1 know that the Trust, unlike the housing commissions in other States, is able to buy land in broad acres and subdivide it and that this can be of benefit not only to ex-servicemen but also to others. I know all these things, but 1 am not convinced that the Housing Trust can do a better job than the War Service Homes Division could do if it tried. Indeed, I am satisfied that the very fact that the Housing Trust is the only body in South Australia that is buying up broad acres and subdividing them is one of the reasons why the cost of land acquisition is as great as it is.
I do not suggest that land should be acquired at a figure far below its proper value, but I suggest that where large areas of good land which is suitable for residential purposes are held out of use as they are in every capital city of Australia, the State or Commonwealth Government should impose an unimproved land value tax on that property. This tax should be based on a percentage of what the owner of the vacant land reckons the land is worth. Let him assess its value, but let it be understood that when he makes an assessment of the value of his broad acres for the purpose of the unimproved land value tax he has to sell at that assessment. If this were done, no-one could complain. The imposition of an unimproved land value tax on these broad acres would yield a tremendous amount of revenue which could be set aside and earmarked for the purpose of home building. It would reduce the cost of land. It would force more land onto the market and thus the law of supply and demand would begin to operate in favour of the buyer.
– You are a State man.
– I thank the honourable member. I turn now to another important aspect of the Act which is not touched by the Bill but which should have been dealt with. I refer to the restrictions that the Minister may impose upon the Director of War Service Homes in the administration of the Act. I want to refer to some of the more significant ministerial vetoes of the right of the Director of War Service Homes to apply the provisions of the Act to ex-servicemen. On 17th December 1948, under a Labor Government, a ministerial direction was given that assistance would not be given to members of the Citizen Military Forces and that members of the women’s Services would not be given the right to assistance unless they had actually served overseas. I disagree with that ministerial instruction even though it was given by a Labor Minister.
On 9th November 1951 a ministerial direction was issued that an advance could not be used to discharge an existing mortgage or charge unless arranged with the prior approval of the War Service Homes Division. I disagree with that ministerial restriction that was imposed upon the activities of the Director of War Service Homes without any debate in this Parliament. In April 1956 - this was the second of the directions issued by a Liberal Minister - a ministerial direction was given that approval of grants for a second home was not to be considered except on grounds of grave emergency. This ministerial direction has caused tremendous hardship, and it should never have been given. The Parliament had no opportunity to interfere with it because it was a ministerial direction. We were not consulted and we had no chance to express an opinion.
On 14th June 1962 another Liberal ministerial direction was given that additional loans were not to be used to discharge roadmaking costs except in the case of extreme financial hardship. Does anybody know what it costs to meet roadmaking charges today? These charges arc tremendous, especially on a corner block, yet the Minister had the audacity to say that the War Service Homes Division was not to make money available for this purpose.
On 22nd August 1962 a further Liberal ministerial direction was issued to the Director stating that additional loans had to be restricted to the provision of essential sleeping accommodation and the installation of the following utility services - water, electric light, gas, sewerage, drainage and hot water systems. My source of information for some of these statements is Hansard, 11th April 1961 at page 699, 18th October 1966 at page 1908, and 19th April 1967 at page 1467.
I am satisfied that we must take away from Ministers their power to deprive people of what the Act and the Parliament say they should have. The Act is the will of the Parliament and if we are to have an Act which says that certain people are entitled to these things but a Minister has the right to veto it, we might as well not have the Act at all. We might as well say to the Minister: ‘You have an open cheque; please yourself. Do what you like. Give it to whom you like’.
– That is what the Ministers have been doing.
– 1 thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his interjection. They have been doing it, as 1 have demonstrated. 1 believe that the Act should operate in its entirety unless there are restrictions placed upon it by regulations that either House of the Parliament can set aside if they are thought to be too restrictive. I am certain that neither this House nor the Senate would have agreed to a regulation giving legal authority to the sort of restrictions which Ministers have so far placed upon the Director of War Service Homes. I have indicated to honourable members the kind of persons who have been punished as a consequence of ministerial directions. I believe that there is need for appropriate amendments to the Bill (o deal with this situation.
What I have said will be the policy of the Whitlam Labor government when it comes to office. It is not just the word of a member of the Parliament standing in his place and making a statement on behalf of the Opposition or on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition personally. The statements I have made have the approval of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. They are enshrined in the printed platform and policy of the Labor Party for all to see. This is the deal which exservicemen can expect from the Whitlam Labor government if we are given the opportunity to act on their behalf.
I recapitulate the things a Labor government would do. We would introduce an amendment to the Act to provide that no ministerial direction to restrict application of the Act would be any longer legal and that any restrictions upon the Act would have to be imposed by regulation so that, if necessary, they could be set aside by cither House of the Parliament. We would increase the amount available for borne builders from the proposed new rate of $8,000 to $12,000 at 3J% interest. We would increase the amount available from 90% to 95% of the valuation of the home to be bought or built. We would give nurses who served overseas the same rights as are enjoyed by widows or wives of exservicemen who had served overseas and who were eligible to borrow money to purchase or build a home. We would extend to ex-servicemen who are now service pensioners the opportunity of owning or rentin home units or small flats in the evening of their lives. We would extend the scope of the Act to cover every serving member of the defence forces, including those members who have already been honourably discharged.
This scheme will require a tremendous amount of money - more than we have so far spent on the war service homes scheme in any year since the original legislation was introduced in 1918. I have told honourable members how we will get some of this money. We will get some of it by establishing a revolving fund to be called the war service homes trust account. Into this account will be placed all moneys repaid by those who have already borrowed money under the scheme, and it will be used in a revolving way to extend benefits to other people. This will place the government of the day - whether if be a Labor or a Liberal-Country Party government - outside of dependence upon parliamentary appropriations. All of these things will come to the ex-servicemen of this country immediately a Whitlam Labor government takes office.
– First of all, I should like to make two points. First, any criticism that I make in relation to the War Service Homes Act or its administration is not to be taken as in any way reflecting on the personnel of the War Service Homes Division, because I say without any hesitation that on every occasion on which I have approached officers at the Division I have received the utmost courtesy and the greatest assistance. But I believe there are certain anomalies in the Act which ought to be corrected. Secondly, the speech which was just made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is a typical speech of a member of the Opposition. He said: ‘These are the things we will do when we get into power”. Unfortunately, at present indications 1 do not think that the citizens of Australia should be too encouraged by what he says may happen in the future, because when the Labor Party becomes the government of this country present possible recipients of assistance under the Labor Party’s war service homes scheme may not be here to receive it.
There are certain factors in the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who presented this Bill, which give us cause for concern. He said:
The War Service Homes Act was placed on the statute book’ in 1 9 IS and on 6th March 1969 (he scheme will have been in operation for 50 years. Since (he inception of (he scheme approximately 300.000 eligible persons have been assisted lo become home owners. With the growth in the number of homes subject to the Act certain anomalies in the Act have become apparent. The opportunity has been taken in the Bill to correct these anomalies and to include a number of other amendments which will simplify and facilitate the administration of (he Act.
There might be some other anomalies in the Act, but one anomaly which has not been corrected relates to the provision of second assistance, lt is upon this point that 1 want to say something today. I think that we should give attention to this matter. The Minister concluded by saying:
This Government believes in the principle of home ownership and has always accepted the responsibility of encouraging home ownership within its constitutional powers. The increase to $8,000 and the adoption of the other measures proposed in this Bill will enable the war service homes scheme to continue making an important contribution to the national welfare by the provision of homes for eligible persons and their families in all pons of the Commonwealth.
I fully appreciate that it would be unwise to grant second assistance or further assistance automatically to eligible persons without proper consideration being given to the request. But I believe that within the framework of the Act, the provision relating to the granting of second assistance is not being administered with a degree of sympathy and understanding. I raise the point which was made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) when he recently referred to certain assistance being given to physically handicapped persons. I believe the danger here is that in these circumstances departments lose what we might call the human touch or the human approach.
– They never had it.
– Perhaps this is one of the dangers; departments tend to become so departmentalised that they lose the human touch. I say quite frankly that we, as a government, have fallen down on the job of providing second assistance to persons who are eligible under the war service homes scheme. I concede that there are occasions on which applications for second assistance should not be granted.
In one case the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) explained the particular circumstances to me and I was prepared to accept the explanation and to agree that additional assistance should not be given. But I made representations in regard to a particular case. The matter was investigated. Representations had been made through the local branch of the Returned Services League but the request for assistance was refused. The secretary of the branch of the RSL approached me and I said: ‘I think there is justification for providing assistance in this case. Give it to me and I will make representations to the Minister.’ I discussed the case with officers of the Department of Housing. I believed that it was a case in which assistance should have been provided. The Minister, in a letter to me, admitted that there were certain circumstances in the case which were beyond the control of the person who had purchased the home in the first instance. It was the case of a man who built a home in an area which at the time of building was classified as a residential area. The Council later re-zoned this area into what was termed ‘transitional business’. The businesses that were established in that area on either side of the home of my constituent are businesses that create a disturbance because of the way in which they operate. The particular person involved is a shift worker and needs to sleep at a certain period of the day. When he was trying to sleep he was disturbed by the businesses on either side of his home.
Circumstances completely beyond his control made his home completely unsuitable as a residence for him. In those circumstances he decided to sell the home, and the advance that he had received from the War Service Homes Division was repaid. I cannot see why. in these special circumstances, this man should not be given another advance. The Minister said in her letter to me:
There are over 185,000 homes in the Commonwealth subject to loans under the War Service Homes Act and an appreciable number of these would be affected in some degree by the rapid industrial development which has taken place in urban areas over the past decade. No doubt there would be a large number of purchasers and borrowers who could also claim that their health is adversely affected by industrial development in their area. You will appreciate, therefore, that if second assistance were granted to Mr………………. many other purchasers and borrowers could become equally entitled to a second loan.
May I say, Sir: So what? If there is justification in this case, and if there was justification in 50,000 other cases, then I repeat: So what? Surely this scheme was introduced so that a person who gave service to his country should have a home, and a home suited to the particular needs of the individual.
– It would not cost the Government anything.
– As the honourable member for Chisholm says, it would not cost the Government anything, because again the money would be paid back into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I am afraid that this is exactly the same kind of answer as that which was given to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) in the case that he brought forward - I think completely justifiably. I also think that the denial of the honourable member’s request was completely unjustified. 1 think the Treasury should have a further look at the matter raised by the honourable member for Bradfield, and I hope that common sense and humanitarianism will prevail and that the honourable member’s request will be acceded to.
I am delighted that the maximum advance has been increased, and I hope that the anomalies in the administration of the War Service Homes Act will be examined by the Government. I agree with many, though not all, of the points made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr
Clyde Cameron) about eligibility for benefits under the Act. I hope that the Government will consider these matters also and will not allow its attitude to be conditioned solely by considerations of finance but will have in mind the purpose for which the war service homes scheme was introduced - to provide a service for those who served their country.
– 1 listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). He will have the opportunity of supporting an amendment which the Opposition will propose later. If the honourable member is sincere, as I believe he is, and if he supports what has been said on so many occasions by honourable members on this side, who argue that the Government should be more generous and more flexible in its attitude towards second assistance for those who need it because of circumstances beyond their control, then he will have the opportunity of supporting an amendment that we will move at the Committee stage.
It is a great privilege to have an opportunity to speak once again on matters relating to the administration of the war service homes scheme. It is not very often that honourable members have an opportunity to deal with these matters. Very rarely in recent years has the Government sought to amend the Act in any way at all. This, therefore, is one of the first occasions for a number of years on which the Opposition has had an opportunity to deal in a constructive way with some of the anomalies that are so apparent in the war service homes legislation.
It is quite true, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has said, that the war service homes scheme has now been operating for nearly 50 years. During that period - and particularly during the life of this Government, as a result of the attitude of Ministers who have had the responsibility for administering the War Service Homes Division - anomalies have arisen. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in a very constructive speech pointed out the kind of anomalies that this Government not only has allowed to develop but indeed has encouraged during its period of office. For a long time now members of the Returned
Services League and honourable members on this side of the House have directed the attention of the Government to the kinds of anomalies referred to by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. The Bill now before us proposes some alterations which are, in their own way, commendable.
The primary purpose of the Bill, of course, is to increase the maximum advance from §7,000 to $8,000. This is long overdue. It follows a similar increase, authorised by the Treasurer some months ago, in the limit for advances by the Commonwealth Bank and other approved lending institututions. Once again, of course, the War Service Homes Division lags behind other lending authorities. But I want to demonstrate to honourable members, if it is necessary to do so, that the maximum advance, even when increased to $8,000, is still far below what we of the Opposition, and, I am sure, the returned servicemen’s organisations, believe would be a reasonable advance to an ex-serviceman wanting to purchase or build a home under the terms of this legislation. The Minister has proposed a number of other amendments in the Bill. These, too, are useful and I am sure they will have the approval not only of honourable members on this side but also of the returned servicemen’s organisations.
In the administration of the War Service Homes Act, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh has so effectively pointed out, this Government has a very sorry record indeed. Most of the activities of this Government in this field have flowed from a series of attitudes adopted by successive Ministers who have had the responsibility for administering the War Service Home Division. As the honourable member also pointed out, successive Ministers have taken the opportunity, as all Ministers of this Government have done, to move by means of regulation in various ways, not only to restrict the activities of the Division but also in many instances to make it extremely difficult for those eligible to apply successfully for the assistance to which they are entitled. The Government has persistently adopted this attitude and, by the use of regulations, has continued to restrict the operations of the war service homes legislation. We believe that the Act can be improved. This afternoon the honourable member for Hindmarsh very effectively related some of the ways in which it can be improved and, as he said, we will at the appropriate time move a series of amendments to the Bill, each in its own way designed not only to improve the legislation but to extend the benefit of it to those who have served this country in time of war.
I want to refer to an anomaly that has persisted because of the restriction placed on some ex-servicemen who should be entitled to assistance under the legislation but who are not able to get it. The honourable member for Hindmarsh, when referring earlier in the debate to an amendment that we will move during the Committee stage, said that the Opposition wants to extend the provisions of the legislation to all ex-servicemen who served this country, whether they served overseas or not. Let me elaborate to show how the anomaly in the Act reacts against some ex-servicemen. All honourable members will be familiar with the provisions relating to eligibility. If the prefix to the number of an ex-serviceman who served in the First World War, the Second World War or the Korean War was TX if he came from Tasmania, VX if he came from Victoria, QX if he came from Queensland and so on. he is eligible for assistance from the War Service Homes Division, whether he served overseas or not. We believe that this is proper and all governments have accepted this principle. It was not necessary for such a person to serve outside Australia.
But under the terms of the legislation any ex-serviceman who served with the militia during the Second World War is not entitled to this assistance because he did not volunteer for service overseas. However, many members of the militia served in an area such as the Northern Territory where they may have been subjected to occasional bombing. They are not entitled to receive this assistance. Let me make the point perfectly clear. A serviceman who served with the militia but who did not volunteer for overseas service is not eligible for this assistance even though he served in an area that the Government would now regard as a special area of service. On the other hand a serviceman who volunteered for overseas service but whose period of service was spent in a capital city and who never left the capital city is eligible for assistance under the terms of the legislation.
The Government has persisted with anomalies such as this and we say that they ought to be removed. The Act should be amended so that assistance under the War Service Homes Act may be provided to all serving members of the Services and to all ex-servicemen who volunteered to serve this country during the last World War, provided they had a honourable discharge. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh said, no-one could successfully argue that the provisions of the Act should not be extended to all ex-servicemen, to serving members of the permanent Army and to national servicemen who will serve Australia for their period of enlistment of 2 years. In my opinion, the honourable member for Hindmarsh correctly interpreted the attitude of the Australian Labor Party on this matter. 1 want to deal now with the size of the deposit that this Government requires from ex-servicemen. The honourable member for Hindmarsh also mentioned this aspect. As 1 said earlier, the primary purpose of the Bill is to increase the maximum advance from §7,000 to $8,000. We have intimated that during the Committee stage we will seek to increase the maximum advance not to $8,000 but to $12,000. This is in line with the policy of the Australian Labor Party. Most honourable members will understand why the Opposition adopts this attitude. The report of the War Service Homes Division for 1967-68 clearly sets out the average cost of a home. It shows that in 1967-68 the average cost of a dwelling house and land in New South Wales was $11,388, in Victoria $12,102, in Tasmania $10,031 and in the Northern Territory $8,767. If we take into account the maximum advance that will be available after this Bill is passed, we see that in Victoria a deposit of $4,102 will be required and in Tasmania the deposit will be $2,031, this being the lowest deposit required. The Opposition contends that the margin of security required by this Government is still beyond the resources of many exservice.men
Let us consider the position of a serviceman now serving in a special area overseas. A national serviceman serving in
Vietnam, which is one of the special areas, will be entitled to assistance through the War Service Homes Division. He commences his service at the age of 20 years and serves for a period of 12 months in Vietnam. As a result of that service he is entitled to assistance under the terms of the Act. Following his discharge from the armed forces at the age of 22, he no doubt would want to take the opportunity to seek assistance from the War Service Homes Division. I submit that no serviceman at this age would be in a position to provide a deposit of $4,000 in order to qualify for assistance, as is required in the State of Victoria for example. So, we believe that the maximum advance ought to be much higher. The Government has moved to increase it from $7,000 to $8,000. It ought to be $12,000. The Opposition will take the opportunity to move an amendment during the Committee stages to ensure that the maximum advance in point of fact is increased from $7,000 to $12,000.
The next matter to which 1 wish to refer is one mentioned in greater detail by the honourable member for Lyne. It was referred to also by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Again, I come back to the question of second assistance. It has been made perfectly clear not only by spokesmen on this side of the House but also by the honourable member for Lyne that the Government has been far too difficult on the question of second assistance. There are many cases that all honourable members in this House could quote which would show at once that the Government has been unrelenting in its attitude. Second assistance may be granted at this time, according to the Minister, in very special circumstances only. What are those special circumstances? Nobody seems to know because the Minister makes the final decision. As I have indicated already to the House, the conditions are much more severe than they should be. There is no reason why the Government should not look sympathetically at the question of second assistance for exservicemen who have qualified by virtue of their service and who have applied for second assistance because of circumstances which have arisen and that are beyond their control. So, the Opposition will take the opportunity to move in this direction during the Committee stages.
The Government must accept a measure of responsibility regarding the third matter that I shall raise. I wish to deal with the matter that I referred to earlier in relation to regulations. I pointed out that various Ministers during the period of office of this Government have taken the opportunity to issue regulations which have made it much more difficult for ex-servicemen who are entitled to assistance under the war service homes legislation to qualify for that assistance. I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh referred to one or two of these regulations. I take the opportunity to refer to a regulation that was issued on 9th November 1951. It prescribed that an advance would not be used for discharge of existing mortgages unless with the prior approval of the War Service Homes Division. In the terms of the regulation as it exists now, soldiers are not entitled to transfer existing mortgages. This right applied when the Labor Government was last in office. As I remember the position, in November 1951 the then Minister gave as the reason for issuing the regulation that so many applications were being made under the terms of the war service homes legislation that it was not possible for the Government to agree to the transfer of an existing mortgage. Yet this was possible under a Labor government.
The Act clearly lays down that if there is an existing mortgage an ex-serviceman who is qualified under the terms of the Act can make application for assistance to have his mortgage discharged. The Act provides for this to be done. But as I have indicated, in 1951 the then Minister, by means of a regulation, determined that in future no exserviceman would be able to transfer an existing mortgage. That was 17 years ago. During the last Budget Speech and in the Budget Speech before that, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) indicated that one of the reasons why the overall allocation for war service homes would be reduced was that there were not the same numbers of applicants coming forward for assistance under the terms of the legislation. In 1957-58 expenditure on war service homes was $70,364,000. In 1968-69, this amount will be reduced to $50,500,000. So, this expenditure has fallen by nearly $20m since the financial year 1957-58. At the time that the then Minister issued the regulation to prevent the transfer of existing mortgages, he said that far too many applications were coming forward. But the Treasurer has said during his Budget speeches that the overall allocation has been reduced because not the same numbers of applicants are coming forward for assistance under the terms of the legislation.
If this is the position, surely the Minister might have taken the opportunity to repeal this iniquitious provision. Many servicemen for various reasons have existing mortgages which should be transferred to the War Service Homes Division. But, I repeat again, a regulation which was issued nearly 17 years ago prevents this from being done. In those circumstances, the Minister should take the opportunity now to look at this provision and to repeal the regulation to enable existing mortgages to be transferred in the way that they could be transferred during the period of office of the previous Labor Government. It is important for this House to appreciate and to understand, on the basis of the figures that have been made available by the War Service Homes Division, that so far as the Government is concerned, war service homes transactions are very lucrative.
I point out that for the financial year 1967- 68 the expenditure by the War Service Homes Division was $46,019,000 while the receipts for the same financial year were $69,143,000. In other words, the Government made a very substantial profit on its war service homes transactions. In 1968- 69 expenditure will be $50,500,000 and receipts are anticipated to be $71,800,000. Again, the Government in this financial year will show a profit of $21,300,000 on its war service homes transactions. The Opposition contends that in those circumstances the Government should be in a position to increase the maximum advance far beyond the figure for which the legislation that we have before us provides. Secondly, the Government should be in a position to look more sympathetically at second assistance under the terms of the legislation. Thirdly, it should certainly look at the requirements of the Act following the direction issued by the Minister in 1951 which prevents the War Service Homes Division from discharging existing mortgages. This is a matter that the Minister should look at more sympathetically than in the past. Fourthly, the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh and which will seek to extend the provisions of this Act to enable many more ex-servicemen to qualify for assistance deserves the support of all honourable members.
Reference has already been made to a number of anomalies. I refer, first, to the fact that an ex-serviceman who has served with the militia is not entitled to assistance whereas an ex-serviceman who volunteered for overseas service but whose service was restricted to a capital city is entitled to assistance. I do not think any Government member would suggest that this is not an obvious anomaly which ought to be removed. The amendment we have foreshadowed will give Government members an opportunity to remove the anomalies I have referred to and which were dealt with effectively by the honourable member for Hindmarsh when he led for the Opposition in this debate.
We believe that those who served this country in the First World War, in the Second World War, and in Korea, and those who are now serving overseas in special areas, ought to be given every consideration under the provisions of the war service homes legislation. I think that every honourable member in the Parliament when this legislation was first introduced in 1918 believed that ex-servicemen were entitled to no less than the assistance provided for in the Act. I have pointed out this afternoon that this Government has taken the opportunity during its period of office to restrict the terms of the legislation so as to make it more difficult for ex-servicemen to qualify for assistance. The Opposition has indicated quite clearly this afternoon what its attitude would be if it were in office. It has spelt out its policy in relation to the granting of assistance to ex-servicemen through the War Service Homes Division. The Opposition believes that the Act ought to be generous and that it ought to be extended to all those who have served this country in time of war and who are now serving it, whether overseas or not. All these people ought to be entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation. I support the proposition put to the House by the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Fox)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is always very interesting to follow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), particularly if one is able to listen closely to what he says and if one has some knowledge of the subject being discussed. With the possibility of an election next year, be it in March or at the end of the year, one should take a pencil and paper and write down the promises which will be made between now and the election. Only by detailing those promises as they are made can one form a conclusion as to the cost of implementing them. The first promise has been made today. There has been some painting with a broad brush. We have listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, with a throb in his voice, state what was referred to by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) as the Whitlam policy. I do not know that anybody on this side of the House is very sure that the Leader of the Opposition will have a policy or be in a position to present one, because there seems to be a certain opponent who appears to be doing rather better than the honourable member. It may be that there will be a Yarra policy which will make the Whitlam policy out of date.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has endorsed with enthusiasm the amendment foreshadowed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. The amendment is designed to provide eligibility for war service homes assistance to all who have served in the defence forces anywhere provided they have had an honourable discharge. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that no man on this side of the House would deny that such eligibility should exist. I am not eligible, and I do deny it. Quite frankly I do not see a great similarity between the position of the man who had to serve overseas, and who did make sacrifices, and that of other people who enlisted in the last month of the war. I admit that there are anomalies which involve people who suddenly acquired a grey background to their colour patch simply because a Labor Government said: ‘As long as you get that up you are entitled to everything’. But I do not go along with the entire amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition. The
Deputy Leader of the Opposition was wrong when he kept stressing the militia and saying that the members of the militia were not entitled to war service homes.
– Members of the militia who served overseas.
– The honourable member did not say that.
– Yes, you say it now. If a member of the militia served overseas he was entitled to it.
– I had no intention to mislead.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not make this clear in his case. If one reads the instructive booklet entitled ‘Australian Labor Party - Platform, Constitution and Rules’, the picture on the front cover of which has been referred to as the sacred cow, one finds on page 16, under the heading ‘Housing - Preamble’, the following statement:
The aim of a Labor Government would be to ensure that every family can secure accommodation of its own choosing, appropriate to its own needs.
That is fair enough -
The Commonwealth can, itself, undertake the construction and financing of houses for present and former members of the forces, Commonwealth employees, migrants, social service beneficiaries and residents of the Territories.
That is fair enough. So it can. At page 17, under the heading ‘Commonwealth Instrumentality’, the same booklet states:
Expand the War Service Homes Division to cater for all persons to come within the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibility.
I have heard members of the Labor Party, when carried away, state that persons who were in reserved occupations during the last war and who were prevented from going overseas, or those in certain other sections, should be eligible for war service homes. What Labor members offer depends upon where they are speaking. They are never short of an offer irrespective of where they are; if they were in hell they would offer heaven. This is something which we should wake up to.
There is no doubt that the War Service Homes Act has worked, and it is appreciated by the ex-servicemen of this country.
Without doubt there are anomalies, and I hope to raise some of them later. When speaking to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) about the amendment proposed by the Labor Party I said to him: If you had kept it to certain specific lines I think you would have had a considerable amount of support from this side of the House’. But the Labor Party cannot do this. It always has to put its proposal on a gol’d plate and so put the whole thing out of proportion and make it quite ridiculous. As a Government, we must have some responsibility for costs and as to where the money is to come from. There must be an end to what can be taken from the people’s purse and given away.
It is the people’s purse that pays for these things. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; I think that all regular servicemen who are enlisted to serve anywhere, and who have no say anyway about what their ultimate destination may be, should have a war service homes entitlement. If I enlist in the Regular Army here - or the Navy or Air Force - and I am posted in Australia not because of my say-so but because of the decision of the high command, 1 am still, on a change of that decision, likely to be sent to Vietnam or anywhere else. Therefore, I say that all regular servicemen should be given war service homes entitlement.
If we wish lo encourage recruiting in the Citizen Military Forces or the other Services we could perhaps consider granting this entitlement to all servicemen. For instance, a man who enlisted in the CMF for 5 or 7 years should have, at the end of his service on honourable discharge, the war service homes entitlement. 1 think this would encourage recruiting. I do not say that it is an actual entitlement but I believe such a scheme would encourage recruiting. 1 am all for such a scheme. I agree that the situation that has arisen at the moment where a sailor who sails into a certain sea becomes eligible for a war service home entitlement but if his ship detours a couple of miles before that designated area he is not eligible, is ridiculour rubbish. I suggest to the Government that it should give some real thinking to this matter.
I suggest to the Government that if it were prepared lo take a vote on this proposition it would find that this side of the
House would support such an amendment. I do not suggest that we should go back to the year dot. The Labor Party has indicated that women in the AWAS and WAAF should receive the entitlement. My wife was in the WAAF. If the Labor amendment were carried we would receive two entitlements because apparently there is to be no limit. Such a situation would be quite farcical and ridiculous. I agree with much of what members of the Labor Party said but they enlarged their demands so much that the whole matter gets out of proportion. I agree that people who have existing mortgages and have not taken up their war service homes eligibility - the people may have repaid their mortgage to a degree and the granting of a war service home loan would complete the payment - should be entitled to receive the war service home entitlement, the same as the bloke who may come along later and receive the loan at the time when he requires it. I think this is administrative bungling.
I had something to say about this matter in a Grievance Day debate dealing with rehabilitation in which I did not complete all I wanted to mention. I think there must be more people employed in the Department of the Treasury to say no than there are to say yes. It is about time this situation was altered. I want to say something about road making charges. The Government has powers under an Act to cover these charges but it seems to me that administrative responsibility is lacking in this matter. If a man who has bought a home under the war service homes scheme is confronted with road making charges I think that the War Service Homes Division should be able to give him the difference between his loan and the maximum as it now is, if he has not taken up his full entitlement. Again, it seems to me to be nothing more than pigheaded ness on the part of someone to suggest that this is not fair.
It would not be a large factor because in most States of Australia now the subdivider has to meet the costs of constructing the roads. There are people in electorates such as mine who bought their homes a number of years before this was implemented in Victoria. Now they are confronted with high road making costs from local government. Although the local government authorities may allow them a period of time to pay this money back, such an arrangement is not always convenient. The ex-serviceman cannot see why he cannot increase his war service loan to pay ofl the road making charges. Indeed, I have received correspondence from my municipal councils saying that although they are prepared, because they feel there is an obligation, to give terms on road making charges to ex-servicemen, they are short of funds. There is no-one in this House who does not realise that local government authorities in the States are short of money. I think in this case we could well afford to take the responsibility.
I agree with the Opposition in respect of the matter of ex-servicewomen to which I referred a little earlier. I agree that exservicewomen, particularly those who served in a specific theatre of war - nurses, AAMWAS and to some extent the AWAS should be entitled to this entitlement. Such women should be entitled even if they are single and have no dependants. In my opinion they should be entitled to a war service homes loan. I have racked my mind to think what sort of character it is who makes the decision: ‘No they are not’. These women served in the Middle East throughout the period of the Second World War there. They were in Greece and Crete and went up to the islands. Some of them were captured by the Japanese. Also, they served in Korea and other theatres of war. Some of these women who perhaps continued serving as Army sisters may never have married. Because they have not, the Government says that they are not entitled to anything for their service as far as establishing a home is concerned.
One of the reasons that I am given for this attitude is: ‘Oh well, they do not have any dependants- whom would they leave it to?’ What a great argument this is from an organisation or from a Parliament as such. I think it is disgraceful. Let the War Service Homes Division or the Government if it likes recover the amount of money on their death. I could not care less. I have received a letter from a nursing sister which states:
It is a’ matter of great concern to many returned service women, of whom I am one, that single ex-servicewomen without dependants are not eligible, under the War Service Homes Act, for a loan to assist in the purchase of a home for their personal use.
Single ex-service-women of the 1914-18 War have been denied this privilege, and now women of the 1939-45 War, many due to retire or already retired from active nursing who seek to purchase a home are not, unless they have a dependant, permitted a loan under the Act, and yet many served overseas for several years.
You will know that the first convoy which sailed for the Middle East in January 1940, included trained nurses and physiotherapists and during the years that followed, some 2,000 trained nurses and other servicewomen served overseas.
Many of these women may not be married but may want to have a home of their own. They have served their country. Why the devil should some big minded character say: ‘Because you do not have a husband, you are not entitled to this loan, madam?’
In my electorate there is an ex-service woman who is totally and permanently incapacitated. Fortunately, there are not many ex-servicewomen in this category. But she is denied the right to receive a war service homes loan to buy herself a house. It is unlikely, being a TPI ex-servicewoman that she will marry because not too many males would be willing to take on such a responsibility. This is fair enough. Also, it is not likely that she will be able to borrow this money from a bank or a lending institution because as a TPI pensioner she would not be a good risk. But the War Service Homes Division says that she is not entitled to a ‘loan because she does not have any dependants. As 1 said before, it would be. almost impossible anyway for such a woman. to have dependants. I think this is disgraceful and something that this Government should review, lt is not too late for the Government to do this.
I think a single ex-servicewoman without dependants should be entitled to this loan. The other argument against this loan being granted to an ex-servicewoman is that if she received the entitlement it would also have to be given to a single exserviceman without dependants. Maybe he should be eligible. I see no reason why not. After all, he is human and has served his country. But I do not think his case is quite comparable with that of a woman because a man can go and live in a boarding room or a flat- he’ can make do. Also, he receives a higher wage than a woman. An ex-serviceman gets a higher pension than does an ex-servicewoman. But a woman is not always able to put money aside lo buy a home. If this Act is not amended at some future date the Government will stand disgraced. 1 would not like what I have said to be taken as criticism of the War Service Homes Division or the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). I think a good job has been done by the Division and the Minister, and their efforts are appreciated by exservicemen.
Let us remember that the war service homes scheme was set up to rehabilitate ex-servicemen. I do not suggest that the scheme should be altered, but 1 sometimes wonder when we talk about the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen from the First World War how many of them have not yet got back into the swim. I would be surprised if they have not all reoriented themselves and made up for what they might have lost through giving service to the country. I think that the scheme is worthwhile and is well administered, but I would like to see it administered with a little more compassion and understanding.
– I propose to support the amendments that have been foreshadowed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) made some constructive criticism of the War Service Homes Act. Due to his conservative nature, however, he cannot bring himself to support Labor’s proposals, because in his view they would be too expensive. The honourable member is a supporter of military recruitment.
– Hear, hear!
– We all know that he is a strong supporter of military recruitment. He supports increased expenditure on defence and armaments but he will not support an increase in expenditure lo provide amenities for ex-servicemen who served Australia, whether in time of war or in peace. In 1950-51 Australia spent 2.78% of its gross national product on defence. By 1967-68 that expenditure had increased to 4.12%. About 5 years ago the expenditure amounted to 2.48% at a time when we were spending about S400m a year on defence. Last year we spent about $1,1 00m on defence and armaments. These are huge amounts of money. We have had problems in recruiting men to the Services.
The Labour Party has put forward positive proposals that would assist recruitment. If Labors proposals to improve the War Service Homes Act were accepted they would encourage young men to join the armed forces, knowing that when they had served their time they would be eligible for a war service loan. The biggest problem confronting Australians is the acquisition of a home, lt is no less a problem for the middle aged and the elderly. The greatest burden facing any couple in the Australian community is the financing of a home. The Opposition’s proposals with regard to this legislation represent an attempt to make more homes available for people.
In introducing the Bill the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) said:
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the War Service Homes Act to increase the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme from $7,000 to $8,000. The proposed increase in the maximum loan will apply to all types of assistance at present available under the War Service Homes Act. The existing maximum war service homes loan of $7,000 has been in force since March 1962. The increase to $8,000 will offset increases since that lime in the costs of acquiring a home and will reduce the amount of funds required from the eligible person’s own resources or from supplementary borrowings.
The War Service Homes Act was placed on the statute book in 1918 and on 6th March 1969 the scheme will have been in operation for SO years.
All 1 can say is that since it came to power this Government has experienced extreme difficulty in coming up with new ideas for the scheme. At least the Labor Party is trying to inject some fresh thoughts into the debate with a view to improving the scheme. What do we suggest? Firstly we suggest that the maximum loan should be increased not to $8,000, as the Government proposes, but to $12,000. In 1945-46 the average cost of a home and land was $2,522. The maximum loan at the time was $1,900. In 1951-52 - only a couple of years or so after this Government came to power - the average cost of land and home was $5,242. The maximum advance at the time from the War Service Homes Division was $5,500. So at that time one could get from the Division enough to pay for the land and home. What is the position now? Today the average cost of home and land is $11,487 and the maximum loan available is $7,000. I suggest that to increase the maximum loan only to $8,000 represents a regressive approach to the problem. Far from moving forward we are slipping back. The problem of acquiring a home is becoming greater day by day. The Labor Party submits that the maximum loan should be $12,000. We would then once more have the position which prevailed in 1951-52.
I urge the Government supporters, particularly ex-servicemen, to examine the reports of the War Service Homes Division. They reveal that in 1951-52, when the maximum loan available was $5,500, the average cost of home and land was about $5,200. We submit that today, when the average cost of land and home is about $11,400, the maximum war service loan available should be $12,000. Surely that is a reasonable proposition when we consider costs today. We are asking the Government to engender some fresh thought in its approach to war service homes, and to broaden the area of assistance. Let us not have a narrow approach. Everyone knows how difficult it is for people in all walks of life to get a house for a family. We want to broaden the Act to cover all serving members of the forces and all former members of the forces, including members of the Citizen Military Forces. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) reminded me earlier that when a person joins the CMF he volunteers not only for home service but also for overseas service. If it is good enough for him to sign up for overseas service, it is good enough for him to be entitled to the assistance given under the War Service Homes Act, even though he may not serve overseas. If he does serve overseas, he should still be provided for by the Act whether he serves in a combat area or in a non-combat area.
The Government is trying to build up the Regular Army. Surely some further incentive should be provided under this Act to encourage young men to join the Army. The honourable member for La Trobe is a great encourager of people to go to war and to go to Vietnam. Does he want to give to men who join the Regular Army, whether or not they are sent to Vietnam, the full benefits of this Act? It seems that he does not; he says it would cost too much. The Government can increase its annual expenditure on armaments from $400m 5 years ago to the present expenditure of Si, 100m. That expenditure can be increased by S700m; yet this financial year only $46m was made available to build war service homes.
– Is the honourable member quoting from an official report?
– I am quoting the figures from the official report of the War Service Homes Division. We also want to see included those young men who are brought into the Army as so called national servicemen. We on this side of the House call them conscripts. All honourable- members on the other side of the House helped to force through a Bill, against opposition from this side, to conscript young men into the Army and have some of them go to Vietnam. Those who are forced into the Army should be given the full benefit of the war service homes scheme. If it is good enough for the Government to conscript people into the Army, it is good enough for it to give these people some benefit. Wc are asking the Government to include them under the War Service Homes Act. We also ask that all women in the women’s auxiliary forces be included. I have mentioned just a few of the aspects to which Government supporters should give fresh thought. This Act has been in operation for 50 years. I know that Government supporters are very conservative, but I am asking them to give some fresh thought to broadening the scope of this Act.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh will move certain amendments in Committee. I hope that the ex-servicemen on the other side of the House will come across and vote with us on some of these amendments. My invitation includes the honourable member for La Trobe. He says that we are spending too much money on war service homes. He supports an increase of $700m over a few years in government expenditure on armaments, but he is not prepared to spend any extra on war service homes. He quoted clause 3 on page 17 of the booklet on the policy of the Australian Labor Party under the heading ‘Commonwealth Instrumentality’, which reads:
Expand the War Service Homes Division to cater for all persons who come within the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibility.
Of course, he did not quote clause 6, further down the page. That clause quite clearly states our position under the heading ‘War
Service Homes’ and substantiates what is proposed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It is the policy of the Labor Party to raise the war service homes loan limit to Si 2,000 and to extend the purposes for which supplementary loans may be made available at an interest rate of 3J%. 1 might say that I was a member of the committee that recommended this proposal to the Federal Conference of our party.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was answering the honourable member for La Trobe who had quoted from the Federal platform of the Australian Labor Party in relation to war service homes. He quoted our policy in respect of the Commonwealth instrumentality. But he did not quote our policy on war service homes, which is as follows:
Raise the War Service Homes loan limit to $12,000 and extend the purposes for which supplementary loans can be made available at 33%.
We have before us a proposal whereby the Government intends to increase the maximum loan from $7,000 to $8,000. The Labor Party, at its last Federal Conference, intimated that if it were elected to government it would increase the maximum loan to SI 2.000. May I reiterate the figures that I gave earlier? In 1945-46 the average cost of a home and a block of land was $2,522. The maximum loan at that time was $1,900. In 1951-52. in the early years of this Government’s administration, the average cost of a home and block of land was $5,242 and the maximum loan was $5,500. In the financial veur 1966-67 the average cost of a home and a block of land was $1 1,487, yet the maximum loan was $7,000. As I said, the Government now intends to increase the maximum to $8,000. This is not enough. We intend to move an amendment at the Committee stage to increase the amount of loan 10 $12,000. This will be comparable with the situation in 1951-52 when the average cost of a home and land was $5,242 and the maximum loan was $5,500. The average cost of a block of land and a home today is more than $11,000, and the maximum loan should be $12,000. 1 ask exservicemen on the Government side to support the Opposition’s amendment, which is a reasonable proposition.
Fifty years have elapsed since the inception of this Act, yet little fresh thought has been applied to it. There has been a lack of expansion. At the Committee stage the honourable member for Hindmarsh, on behalf of the Opposition, will move amendments that will enable serving members of the forces, and former members who have served in the forces and who have been discharged, to participate in the scheme. Our proposal will include members of the Citizen Military Forces. We know that members of the CMF nowadays have to sign on not only for home defence but for service overseas. We intend to include Regular Army personnel in the scheme. We are trying to build up our regular forces in Australia, and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), who is at the table, knows how difficult it is to recruit Army personnel. Surely he will support the proposal that on discharge a member of the regular forces shall become entitled to war service homes assistance whether or not he saw service overseas in a war zone as presently provided in the Act. We believe that national service trainees should be included in the scheme. If it is good enough for the Government lo conscript them, it is good enough for them to have the right to purchase a house under the war service homes scheme when they are discharged. Of course, the women’s auxiliary forces should be covered, loo. These are some of the people who will be covered by our amendments.
Let us examine the amount that is being allocated for war service homes. In the financial year 1.962-63 the Commonwealth Government made available from revenue $75m for this purpose. In 1963-64 the provision was reduced to $70m. In 1965-66 it was retained at $70m. In 1966-67 it had decreased to $59m and this financial year all that the Government intends to make available for war service homes is $46m.
– The provision goes down as the numbers go down.
– Surely the honourable member for Barton must realise that we are trying to expand the war service homes scheme. Surely all ex-servicemen would agree with this proposal. Surely honourable members opposite would agree that persons serving in the Navy should bc included in the scheme, particularly as members of the Royal Australian Navy are serving in ships that are transporting troops to Vietnam. I know of one young man who has been to Vietnam on three occasions. He went to Vietnam first on the Sydney’, and he has been twice since on the ‘Melbourne’. These vessels have been transporting troops to Vietnam. However, because this man did not stay in a war zone long enough he is excluded from the operations of the Act and has no right to a war service home. I know of many men who served in the Second World War whose military numbers were preceded by the letters NX, SX, QX and so forth and who served alongside men who were conscripts of the day - compulsory trainees. One man was given the right to a war service home and the other was not. Our amendments will seek to wipe away these anomalies. We want to try to rectify the mistakes of the past and we want to do something about the future.
The honourable member for La Trobe is now back in the chamber. For some reason he did not remain in the chamber before the suspension of the sitting to hear my criticism of him. He criticised the Government for many aspects of the legislation but he was not prepared to go along with our amendments because of the great expenditure involved. I have pointed out that during the last 5 years expenditure on defence, on war and on armaments had increased from $400m to $1,1 00m annually. The Government has increased its expenditure on defence by over $700m yet it is not prepared to spend more money on war service homes for men who are serving in our forces. If it is good enough for a man to volunteer to serve his country, whether in peace or in time of war, it is good enough for him to have the right to build a home under the War Service Homes Act and have the facility of repaying a loan at 3i%. This year, although only $46m will be spent on war service homes, the Government will receive in revenue, as income from rents and repayments of loans, some $69m. In fact, since the inception of the scheme people who have borrowed money under it have repaid $765m to the Government. So at this stage there is more money coming into the scheme than going out. If we were to pay this money into a trust account and extend the benefits we could use the administrative services of the War Service Homes Division. The officers of this Division are well trained personnel. Instead of restricting the operations of the Division and running it down we should be expanding it. We should be encouraging its development.
We should have the foresight to try to develop this wonderful scheme which was set in being some 50 years ago. Why should the Government narrow down something that is good? Why should it make the War Service Homes Division so secular? Why should not the Government broaden its operations? If it has been proved to be good, should we not develop it and make it a fine example? This is one way in which to build houses, and we can do nothing better to help servicemen. Servicemen should not have been under shellfire or be wounded or suffer in some other way before they are able to receive assistance under the war service homes scheme. We do not want to see this continue. We want to encourage young people into the Services. We want to be able to say to young people: ‘If you join the Services we will protect your future.’ Is it not important to be able to say to every young man who enlists in the Services: ‘We will give you the security of a home.’?
We know that there is great difficulty in providing homes in Australia. Many people find the cost of housing prohibitive. I shall quote the average cost of a home, which has risen during the inflationary trend which has occurred while this and other Liberal-Country Party governments have been in office. The average cost of a block of land and a home has risen from $3,672 in 1948-49 to $11,487 in 1967-68. I am quoting these figures from official reports. I have delved into the annual reports of the Director of War Service Homes from this financial year back to 1948-49. These figures indicate the inflationery trend which has occurred during the administration of this and other Liberal-Country Party governments.
We are asking the Government to increase rather than decrease the amount of the loan moneys available under the war service homes scheme. We are asking the Government to make the same amount of loans available as it made in 1963-64, when the amount was at a peak of $75m. Yet what is the Government doing? It is decreasing the amount to $46m this year, which is the lowest it has ever been during the 18 years of administration of Liberal-Country Party governments.
– lt has dissipated the demand.
– The honourable member for Barton says that there is a dissipated demand. Surely the Government should take the advice of the Opposition and expand the war service homes scheme. Honourable members opposite love to rattle the sabre. They talk about the fear of invasion from the north. They say that we want armed forces. We are saying that it it wants to attract personnel into the Army, the Navy and the Air Force the Government should give these servicemen a fair go. Why is it that the Government can spend so much on armaments but cannot spend more in providing amenities for the personnel. The Government treats these people in the same way as it treats the worker, lt gets the worker to do the work but it will not provide him with decent conditions in which to work. We want to give service personnel - those who are serving and those who have been discharged - the right to obtain a decent home at a low rate of interest.
There is another aspect I would like to mention. In the early post-war years, when it was difficult for ex-servicemen to wait lor all the red tape to be unwound, they arranged private loans through building co-operatives, local banks or in some other way. Up to 1952 it was possible for an ex-serviceman to transfer a private loan to a loan under the war service homes scheme. But in 1952 the late Senator Sir William Spooner, who was then Minister for National Development, took it upon himself to refuse the transfer of a private loan to a war service homes loan. I believe that this was wrong. On the one hand an ex-serviceman was able to obtain a loan at 3i% interest directly through the war service homes scheme and on the other hand an ex-serviceman who obtained a private loan had to pay 6i% interest.
Honourable members opposite who are exservicemen should vote with the Opposition for the amendments which we propose to move in order to remove these anomalies from the War Service Homes Act. It is about time all ex-servicemen got a fair go. It is about time the Government stopped talking drivel and started to work in the interests of all serving personnel and ex-servicemen. If young men enlist in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force the Government should give them a guarantee of homes in the future which they can obtain at a low rate of interest. I will support the amendments foreshadowed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– 1 do not wish to delay the House for long, nor do I want to go through all the ramifications of the War Service Homes Act. But I find myself in a rather peculiar position tonight because I agree with quite a lot that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has said. As I see it, the main purpose of this Bill is to amend the War Service Homes Act to increase the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme from ?7,000 to $8,000. The proposed increase will apply to all types of assistance at present available under the War Service Homes Act. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in introducing the Bill said:
The existing maximum war service homes loan of $7,000 has been in force since March 1962. The increase to $8,000 will offset increases since that time in the costs of acquiring a home and will reduce the amount of funds required from the eligible person’s own resources or from supplementary borrowings.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has indicated that he will move certain amendments at the Committee stage. One amendment is designed to increase the maximum loan under the scheme from $7,000 to $12,000 in lieu of the Government’s proposal to increase it to $8,000. He also said that his Party would increase the amount available to 95% of the valuation of the property. 1 cannot go along with this suggestion because I believe that 95% is pretty high. It is a question of what is the true valuation. If there happened to be a reduction in costs today, the figure of 95% could embarrass some people. At the outset I indicate that I shall support the amendment which provides for an increase in the maximum loan over and above $8,000. I believe that $8,000 is not in keeping with costs in general today. I would agree to a figure a little below $12,000.
Referring to the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes 1 quote the figures for Victoria because that is the State in which the electorate which I represent is situated. I note that the cost of homes in Victoria has increased considerably. In 1966-67 the average cost of a home was Si 0.619. In the following financial year, which was the one just concluded, the figure was $12,102, or an increase of $1,483. This included the cost of land. There was a substantial increase over 12 months. When we look back to the year 1958-59, which is not so very long ago, we find that the average cost in Victoria was as low as $7,690. In the short period of about 9 years there has been an increase of $4,412.
Looking at the difference between the Government’s proposal for a maximum of $8,000 and the Opposition’s proposal for $12,000, it seems to me that there are many ex-servicemen who would be quite capable of repaying the larger amount without much difficulty, although quite often it is difficult for them to find the capital to make up the difference between the present maximum of $7,000, or $8,000 as it would be under the Government’s proposal, and the full cost of the home. After all, there are not many new properties that can be purchased today for $8,000, and the ex-serviceman has to find the additional amount required over and above $8,000.
It is worth while looking at the number of war service homes that have been provided. Particulars can be found at page 22 of the report. Since the inception of the scheme about 296,000 applications have been approved. In the last financial year the number approved was 6,788. If we study the figures over a period of years we find, as the honourable member for Reid has just said, that the number of applications being submitted annually is reducing rather rapidly. It is reducing at the rate of about 2,000 a year. The honourable member also referred to the decrease in the cost to the Government. In 1966-67 - this also appears in the report - it was $59m, while last financial year it was down to $46m. At the same time, the amount of repayments has increased. This is only natural because of the large numbers of loans that have been granted over the years. Repayments have increased from $67m last year to S69m this year, and this represents a very beneficial gain to the Commonwealth Treasury.
I turn now to the eligibility provisions. There are, of course, many different groups whose members qualify for war service homes finance. But the people about whom I am concerned are the widows who qualify because their ex-servicemen husbands qualified. As I said earlier, many people have little difficulty in finding the sums necessary for repayments of loans, but there are many widows today who would find it almost impossible to produce the substantial amount necessary over and above the maximum of $8,000 in order to purchase a new home. If the maximum loan were increased to something more in keeping with present day costs these widows would be able to purchase homes. We are really preventing some of these people from purchasing homes.
It may be said that it is not necessary for a woman newly widowed to purchase a home. But quite often when an exserviceman passes on his widow finds that she must leave the old environment, irrespective of what the ex-serviceman was doing before his death. In many cases the widow must shift. Then she has to obtain some kind of home and it is only natural for her to wish to purchase a home if at all possible. If she happens to be receiving a full repatriation pension she naturally has a reasonable income and would be able to make the necessary repayments without very much difficulty.
I think it was the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), although it may have been another honourable member, who said earlier this afternoon that the Commonwealth would have to find the money. Of course, this is always the case. It is natural that the Treasury must look at this angle. But I repeat that the income the Government is receiving in the form of repayments is increasing and the amount that it is paying out is decreasing. This is one reason why I believe there should be no trouble in finding the extra money necessary to increase the maximum loan from $7,000 to $12,000 or perhaps to some slightly lower figure. I also remind the House that we are talking not about grant money but about loan money, and this is a very important point. The money will eventually be returned in full, and of course it is being returned in large amounts each year.
I would like to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service in his second reading speech. He said:
This Government believes in the principle of home ownership and has always accepted the responsibility of encouraging home ownership within its constitutional powers.
Government members are very proud of the fact that the level of home ownership in this country is extremely high. I think about 70% of all homes in Australia are owned or are being bought by the occupants. If we can increase this figure to 80% we should do so.
I wish to refer also to clause 10 of the Bill, which provides:
Section 29aa of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: 29aa. - (1.) A purchaser or borrower in relation to land or land and a dwelling house is eligible for relief under this section in respect of the land or land and dwelling house if -
she is the widow or widowed mother of an an eligible person; or
her husband is an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane.
I understand that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will propose an amendment, but in any case I would like to know from the Minister just why incapacity cannot be included with insanity in this proposed new section. In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
The relief scheme was introduced in 1935 and provides for a reduction in the instalments payable to the Director of War Service Homes by a widow and certain other female dependants of eligible persons and for the payment of other outgoings on a war service home. For reasons which are not now apparent eligibility for relief tinder the scheme was limited at the time to a widow or widowed mother of an eligible person who was a member of the forces and to the wife of such a person who is temporarily or permanently insane. The effect of this is that the widows and other female dependants of certain categories of civilian persons, including certain members of the merchant navy, who are eligible to receive an advance under the scheme are excluded from the benefits of the relief scheme. The Bill provides for the extension of the relief scheme to such persons.
As I said a moment ago, I would like the Minister to explain why the proposal cannot be accepted by the Government. Until the
Minister gives me the reasons, 1 will find myself in agreement with the amendment that the Opposition proposes to move.
Despite the comments I have made and certain minor criticisms I have offered, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Government on the work it has done over the years. I pay a tribute to the officers of the Department. I have always found them very helpful and I have never found myself in a situation where I have not been able to praise them. The war service homes scheme has been very beneficial to many people throughout the Commonwealth, but we do not want to spoil a really good record and ruin an amendment for the sake of-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber.
– As I say, we should not ruin a good record for sake of a few thousand dollars.
-Order! I heard the honourable member for McMillan make a remark after I had called honourable members to order for engaging in audible conversation. He will withdraw the remark.
– I do not think he knows what he said.
– Yes, I do. I was speaking to the Whip about a matter that has troubled us all day.
-Order! The honourable member for McMillan will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw, Sir.
-I advise the honourable member for McMillan to cease interjecting.
Mr Buchanan - I was not interjecting.
-Order! The honourable member for McMillan will resume his seat.
– I was concluding my remarks by congratulating the Department on the work it has done. I repeat that I am sorry I find myself not so much opposed to the Government’s proposals but in support of the amendment that the Opposition will move. There is nothing wrong with the Government’s proposals, except that they do not go far enough. That is why I find myself in support of the amendment that will be moved by the Opposition.
– I will support the amendments that will be moved on behalf of the Opposition by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). As the debate progresses, more and more honourable members on the Government side seem to agree with the Opposition’s amendments. As time goes on and honourable members opposite give a little more thought to our proposals, they may have the decency to vote with the Opposition and ensure that our amendments arc accepted. If they do, more people in the community will become eligible for assistance under the Act. More will be said on this matter during the Committee stage.
It is only right that the operations of the legislation should be extended so that more members who have volunteered to serve in the armed forces will be covered. They have volunteered to fight in any place that the Government sends them and it is only right that they should come within the scope of the legislation. We know that many servicemen are not covered by the legislation because they are not serving outside Australia. This is not their fault. They have volunteered for service. Many honourable members opposite say that more people should volunteer for service in the Army, Navy and Air Force. If we extend the legislation to cover all servicemen, we will show that we are willing to look after the people who do their bit for their country.
We have been speaking about people who serve overseas. I would like to mention one section that has not yet been mentioned but is excluded from the benefits of the Act. I refer to the police who have been stationed in Cyprus. They were sent to Cyprus by the Commonwealth Government and they are doing their duty on behalf of the Government. These people should receive consideration from the Government and should be eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act: I have no doubt that the national service trainees should be eligible for this assistance. The Government has chosen to call them up for service. Some of them may go to Vietnam and many of them will stay in Australia. They may go to Malaysia or anywhere at all that the Government may decide to send them.
If the Government thinks it is proper to call them up for service, it should be prepared to extend the provisions of this legislation to them.
The Bill will increase the amount that a person may borrow from the War Service Homes Division, lt is time that the Government increased the amount of the loan. Representations have been made to me by ex-servicemen who have said that the amount of the loan is inadequate and they have waited patiently for the Government to increase it. Now it is being raised to $8,000. This amount is inadequate because of the high cost of land and the high cost of building. The amount of $8,000 is only about two-thirds of the cost of a home. Many costs other than building costs arise when a person purchases a home. I have in mind the costs of furniture and furnishings, rates and insurance which must be paid by the purchaser of a home. Many people who obtain a loan from the War Service Homes Division will also need to obtain a second mortgage. Honourable members are aware of the high rates of interest that are charged on second mortgages. Some of these people will be asked to pay 10% or 12% on second morgages that they must obtain to buy the house of their choice. I favour the Opposition’s proposal to increase the amount to $12,000. This will enable people to purchase a home with the aid of only one loan. They will then be required to make repayments to only one body and that is to the Government.
Unfortunately, during the years that this Government has been in office, it has allowed the ratio of the loan to the cost of a home to fall. I must mention the fact again that on only one occasion has the amount of money that has been made available through the War Service Homes Division been above the actual average cost of a home. This was in 1951 when the average cost of a home was $5,242. The maximum loan that a person could receive from the War Service Homes Division at that time was $5,500. Since that time the value of the maximum loan available has been allowed to slip and the stage has been reached where the cost of a home has risen to an average of $11,487. This is the amount that is mentioned in the report of the War Service Homes Division. Whilst that amount may be given as the average I believe it is very conservative. Many people are required to find another $4,000 or $5,000 - in some cases it is even $6,000 - before they can purchase a home.
I cannot understand why the Government since 1962 or 1963, with the increase in costs and in wages, has not increased the amount than can be borrowed. The amount should have been increased before this time. The Government takes a long time to get around to doing things or to get somebody moving. It has taken the Government approximately 7 years to introduce legislation to increase the maximum loan available from the War Service Homes Division. Those who have followed trends in the building industry will be well aware that many people just have not been able to borrow enough money from the War Service Homes Division.
The result of this is shown by the decrease in the number of applicants. People have not been able to wait for a loan. They have found the waiting period too long. Another factor that has influenced them is that insufficient funds have been available and they have decided to borrow elsewhere. Probably they have had to pay a good deal more in interest rates but at least they have been able to get the money in a lump sum. As a result, they have not had to seek a second mortgage. I believe that a great many of these people have given considerable thought to this matter. After all, when a person borrows money he has to pay it back. A person borrowing money has to consider all the time how much will come out of his pay packet each week to meet his financial commitments. Probably this is the reason why many people have withdrawn their application for a war service loan and have borrowed money elsewhere. No doubt some people have been refused a loan for various reasons. Personally. 1 would like to know why a number of these people have been refused loans. Has a survey been carried out by the War Services Homes Division to establish the exact reasons why these people have not been able to borrow money from the Division?
We know that at the present time 3,683 applicants are waiting for loans. They will benefit by the increase proposed by this legislation. It will assist them a great deal. But I believe that there are other people who would like to be able to borrow the additional $1,000 by which this legislation proposes to increase the amount of the loan. We hope that some thought will be given to people who, for instance, may wish to carry out some improvements to their homes. The Australian Labor Party on this occasion, rightly I believe, has brought these matters before the Parliament in the hope that it can persuade members of the Government to support it. I feel that there are many members on the Government side who are genuine enough about this matter to give us some support on this occasion. I believe that if this legislation was stood over for a couple of days and Government members gave it a great deal of thought they might turn around and give the Opposition their support.
The Opposition wants to see covered by. the provisions of the legislation many people in the community who, we believe, ought to be entitled to receive a loan from the Government for war service housing purposes. I refer especially to women who served as nurses and to members of the Australian Women’s Army Service who served overseas when called upon by their country. Many of these women were captured and made prisoners of war. Many of them may not have married. But the Government does not allow these women to come within the provisions of the Act. Unfortunately at this time they are unable to borrow money to purchase a home. These women, who were prepared to do their bit on behalf of their country, should be entitled to receive a war service loan from the Government. The Minister ought to give a great deal of thought to the matter on this occasion and ensure that people who are qualified and eligible to receive a loan may do so in order to purchase a house or a home unit. They should be able to borrow the money from the Government.
It is unfortunate that we have a Government that continues to think along the lines that it has in the past. The Government ought to be thinking in terms of 1968 and 1969. It ought to be endeavouring to give to these women a choice equal to that available to men who also have done their bit. I know that many members of the Parliament sitting on my left are criticising me on this matter. But I do not know whether they would be prepared to go home and tell their wives that they are not in favour of women qualifying under this Act to receive a loan. I do not treat this matter as a joke. Many people do not believe that women should have equal rights with men. This is one occasion when women ought to be given equal rights.
The Minister ought to give consideration to what I have proposed. I believe that these women have earned this right. Possibly many members of our armed forces who have received war service loans have never done the work that women did when they served in the armed forces. Many of these women, especially the nurses, did a wonderful job on behalf of the Australian Government. They did a wonderful job for Australian soldiers. Many Australian soldiers alive today owe their lives to the fact that our women nurses brought them back to good health. I think that these women should be included in the provisions of the Act.
I intend to speak further on this matter when the Bill is before the Committee. At that time we will be able to discuss a number of the aspects of the amendments that the Opposition will attempt to have inserted in the legislation. I say now that the members of the Government at least should give a great deal of thought to the amendments that will be moved by the Australian Labor Party. If these amendments are inserted in the legislation many people who we believe ought to be eligible for these loans from the Government so that they may purchase a home at decent and reasonable rates of interest will be enabled to do so. They will be able to make reasonable repayments, weekly or monthly as the case may be, within their means. After all, we do not want to see people spending more than they can actually afford. If they do, the result is that something else has to suffer. The education of their children may be affected. Their purchase of food or clothing may be affected. We do not want to see people up to their neck in debt because they are not able to meet their weekly or monthly commitments. I support the amendments that will be moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. 1 sincerely hope that many members of the Government Parties will support the Opposition when the amendments are moved.
– During the debate Opposition members have stated some wise things. But on the other hand some Opposition members have made reckless statements. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) stated that income received by the War Service Homes Division this financial year will be $71m while outgoings will be $50m. He said that the War Service Homes Division thereby will be making a profit of $21m on the scheme. How foolish can the Opposition get? It was simply a repayment that exceeded the amount of outgoings: it was not profit at all.
It may appear very laudable to the Opposition to raise the maximum amount of loan to $12,000; but in lending money, especially for the purchase of homes, it wants to be the recipient’s best friend. Over the years we have seen a gradual increase of the amount of loans made available by building societies and savings banks. But we have discovered that, rather than the recipient being assisted, the amount that he has to pay back has been increased. This proposal to jump arbitrarily from $7,000 to $12,000 as the maximum amount of loan will bring great distress to many people who should not have distress forced upon them. To make available $12,000 is to do wrong. Young people have no idea of the value of money. 1 have had wide experience in this field. When young people in their enthusiasm go along to purchase a home, initially the cost does not register with them. I plead with the Opposition to give this proposal a lot of thought. When young people marry most of them work out a budget, but in later years, after entering into an obligation to purchase their home with repayments at X dollars, they find that it is to their detriment.
– They enter into an obligation to fight for their country. Do not forget that.
– Yes, but I want the Opposition to be their best friend. I am not opposed to helping them, but what the Labor Parly proposes will only assist these young people to be foolish. If the Labor Party were to undertake some research it would find that since the increase of the maximum loan from $3,500 home purchasers have not been very much better off. What the earlier increases did was to assist prospective purchasers to obtain a home but it also increased their liability. The Opposition’s proposal will increase the purchaser’s liability to an even greater extent.
As I have said before there have been many worthwhile suggestions from the Opposition, but one suggestion which 1 cannot understand relates to private mortgages paid off by the War Service Homes Division. This would remove the right of decision from the Minister. This is diametrically opposed to everything that the Labor Party has put forward. It would allow the Director to decide who could do this and who could do that. How stupid can the Opposition get? I have assisted many exservicemen to obtain a war service home loan and have received letters of commendation from the War Service Homes Division. But in 1951 it decreed overnight that in future it would not pay off private mortgages. I have assisted with bank finance men who have erected their own homes in their spare time. However, when the homes were completed I was left lamenting, in respect of fourteen homes, with advances in excess of what was generally allowed. This was not a fair go. It was quite unfair and unreasonable.
It is to the disgrace of many money lenders that war service home purchasers could obtain as much money as they wished at an interest rate of 12%. There has never been any justification for usury. The only justification for high interest rates is a high degree of risk. No risk was involved here, because in the case of temporary finance - bridging finance, as it is called - the War Service Homes Division would liquidate the debt generally within 15 months. It is to the everlasting disgrace of these citizens of Australia that they lent money to war service home purchasers at an interest rate of up to 12%. The legal profession aided and abetted this action. The amount of money which the legal profession charged for the preparation of mortgages is a disgrace to the profession. Not only did it charge extreme rates; it drew up big mortgages for short periods - even for 6 months - and when the purchasers went along to their solicitor they were forced to renew the mortgage and pay additional legal fees. When they went along at the end of the 15 months to pay off the debt they found in many cases that their legal fees were so excessive that they had to come to me. I provided temporary accommodation and assisted them to get the homes in their own names and to get an advance from the War Service Homes Division.
I advise the Minister to withdraw this legislation and to make a thorough check of war service homes finance, because over the years it has been difficult to accommodate the number of people who have wanted a home. It would have been unwise to throw so many people onto the market at the one time because, with the shortage of building materials and labour, the price of homes would have been increased. Having regard to the passing of time and to the lower number of people who now require war service homes, the Minister would oe well advised to withdraw this legislation and, after putting a small tooth comb through it, to give to the Australian exservicemen who fought to defend this counT try a better go than they are receiving at the present time. The point is that I think the Act should be interpreted with kindness and compassion.
I know of a TPI pensioner who has lost his leg, and his nervous system has gone to pieces. The only sin that he has committed is that he and his wife realised it would be better for them to live in a rural area. He purchased a property in the hope that he would receive a war’ service homes loan. Unfortunately for him, he did not follow the advice given by an officer of the War Service Homes Division to buy a suburban property. The Division would have willingly granted him the money to buy a suburban home. But because of his nervous condition he suffers from claustrophobia and does not want to live near people. This man and his wife thought it would be better for him to buy a home in the broad acres at Wilberforce. To my knowledge his property is worth $10,000 at present. The War Service Homes Division had Taxation Branch valuators go out to the property.
I would like honourable members to follow me in this. The Taxation Branch valuators, who would give a very conservative valuation, assessed the value of the property as $8,125. This man wanted a loan of $6,000. The valuator from the Taxation Branch reported that there was a possible risk that , on resale of the property the War Service Homes Division would lose some money.
I want to ask honourable members: Compare the risk that man took on the night he lost his leg and the risk that the War Service Homes Division would take in lending him $6,000 on a $8,125 valuation by the Taxation Branch. The building inspector for the Colo Shire assures me that this property would bring $10,000 on resale. Other valuators have also told me this. These are the things that rile ex-servicemen. The man is a TPI pensioner with six children; and his nerves are gone. There would be no risk in regard to repayment of a loan because this man is receiving a TPI pension. The cost of running his household could be reduced by the growing of vegetables and fruit on the property. His wife is a good manager and there would not be very much risk at all. But these are the things that are done by the War Service Homes Division. The Division does many excellent things. But this is one glaring case - and there are other cases - that does not stand to the credit of the Division.
The Bill also deals with divorced or separated couples. I notice that due to the laws of various States the War Service Homes Division has not been able to transfer the property or the equity of the husband who has left his wife and family. The War Service Homes Division has not always been able to transfer the property to the deserted wife despite the fact that she is keeping up the repayments on the house, paying rates and taxes and keeping the house in repair.
I cannot understand another facet of the approach of the Division. I would have thought that the main consideration of the Division would have been the preservation of a person’s security. For the life of me, I will never be able to understand why the Division does not allow loans to enable people to make certain repairs to their property. I know that a roof required retiling, but rather than allow a loan of $400 to cover the cost of repairs the Division would have preferred the rain to go through the roof and the security to depreciate in value. These are arbitrary and bureaucratic decisions that do not make common sense.
It is for this reason that I think the Minister should withdraw this Bill and recast it. He should apply some common sense to the whole concept of war service homes.
There is another aspect that I have never been able to work out. I refer to servicemen who are concerned with transporting personnel to war zones. Servicemen on the Melbourne’ and ‘Sydney’ take troops to Vietnam. Other servicemen take troops from air bases such as Butterworth and Richmond into Saigon and other places in Vietnam. But because they do not remain in a war zone for the statutory period they do not qualify for repatriation benefits or war service homes benefits. 1 think these things have grown up over a period of time. The Deputy Whip asked us why we did not bring this matter up at the party meeting. Of course, it was a gilded lily when it was brought to the party room. We were told there that the maximum loan was to be increased to $8,000 and other concessions were to be made. Honourable members, including myself, thought that this was a very good thing.
I now refer to single people. Why should persons - male or female - who do not desire to be married, be denied the right to receive a war service homes loan in order to buy a home? They have to be housed. Why should they be forced to live in a boarding house, a guest house or a hotel, according to their circumstances? There is nothing better than for all people, whether they be married or single, to own their own homes. A nursing sister in a hospital who owned a home could have her aged parents or her sisters and brothers living with her. It is beyond my comprehension how the War Service Homes Division can deny these people the right to and the advantage of a loan. Over the period of years that I have been assisting returned servicemen, I have been appalled at the harshness displayed by the Division. I have seen the Division take judgment out against people owing $130. If the banks or any lending authorities did this, the mass media would cry out aloud. But the Division is ruthless in this regard. As I said, I have known people have judgment taken against them. Would any honourable member like to be put out into the street because he owes $130, due probably to unemployment or sickness? I have seen this happen.
I have lent people money out of my own pocket so I know what the position is. I was a bank manager for 30 years and I know what I am speaking about. I have had this experience.
I counsel the Opposition to give further thought to the maximum loan it has suggested because I can assure it with all sincerity that it will not do the best thing in pressing for this loan to be given to young people. People in the 30 to 35 years age group are usually well settled and have made their positions in life. They usually receive high salaries and can afford to borrow $12,000. But a young married person is not in a position to borrow this amount of money. Instead of being his best friends the Opposition, by its proposal, is endeavouring to put a rope, around his neck from which he would find it very difficult to escape. If a loan of $12,000 were made available interest at 3)% would amount to about $8.50 a week. If the home were bought new, after 2 or 3 years repairs would be required. In addition, rates and taxes would have to be paid annually. Insurance charges are included in the repayments of the loan. 1 am convinced that by and large the War Service Homes Division has done a very good job over the years, but in interests of all concerned I think it would be better if this legislation were withdrawn and redrafted.
I was very pleased to learn tonight that the Opposition is keen to see young married couples own their homes. Not many years ago the Opposition had a different attitude towards home ownership. A former Labor Minister once referred to home owners as little capitalists. It is pleasing to note that the Opposition has had a change of heart in this matter and now wants to see people own their homes.
– The introduction of the war service homes scheme in 1918 - 50 years ago - ushered in a new concept for housing people in Australia. The legislation was possibly one of the finest pieces of legislation ever placed on the statute book. The idea of providing homes for those who served the country received the commendation of all thoughtful citizens. I am dismayed now to find that instead of expanding the operations of the War Service Homes Division in order to meet the needs of those who are serving today and who served in the Second World War, the Government proposes to taper off the Division’s activities, nothwithstanding that due to the number of calls on available finance the Division frequently has to reject applications from ex-service men and women. The statistics show that of the 800,000 eligible ex-service men and women after the Second World War only 30% have been provided with war service loans. What has happened to the remaining 70%? Why did they fail to receive or to apply for loans? Surely there is something radically wrong here. If anybody who served in the Second World War or since wishes to build a home the Government has a solemn obligation and duty to provide that person with finance.
Under this Bill no effort has been made to correct the glaring anomalies brought to the attention of the House by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who has foreshadowed certain amendments to the Bill in the Committee stage. Those amendments deserve the support of every honourable member. It is encouraging to note that a number of Government supporters have indicated their support for the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Let us examine some of the objectionable features of the War Service Homes Act - some of the omissions and sins of commission of the Government. The Government has failed to do anything for the single man. Why should he be ignored? Why should the boy coming back from Vietnam or some other theatre of war with thoughts of marriage and establishing himself in the community be refused a war service loan? Surely no objection could be raised to his application for a loan.
The proposals of the Labor Party as put forward by the honourable member for Hindmarsh and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) indicate a sensible humane approach to this important question. Instead of tapering off the Division’s activities it should be expanded and developed to meet the needs of ex-service men and women. The suggestion that a revolving fund be established to provide finance and expert guidance for the building of a home is worthy of the warmest praise by the Parliament. The honourable member for Hindmarsh advanced a good case for increasing the amount of the war service loan so that it bore the same relation to the cost of a home and land as the loan bore in 1951. At that time the maximum amount of loan available was about $200 more than the average cost of a cottage. Today the average cost of a cottage is about $4,400 more than the maximum loan. This situation emphasises the need for a realistic approach to costs. No ex-service man or woman should be compelled to have recourse to a hire purchase company or some other lending body in order to obtain bridging finance.
The Government proposes in this legislation to increase the maximum loan to $8,000. The Opposition submits that the maximum loan should be $12,000. Having regard to today’s costs can anybody say that a loan of $12,000 with which to acquire a home and land is excessive? I submit that our proposal is reasonable. We suggest also that the maximum amount of loan obtainable should be increased from 90% of the valuation of the property to 95%. Surely there can be no objection to that proposal. A serviceman returning from Vietnam intent on marrying and faced with the responsibility of buying furniture and meeting other obligations would not have much money. It would be reasonable and realistic to make an advance equal to 95% of the valuation of a home. I would not object if the figure were 100%, because the War Service Homes Division and the Government stand to lose nothing in a transaction in which a home is built under the supervision of the Division’s inspectors. A new home would be built and it would be something with a value that could not be lost. The record of the Division clearly shows that its methods have protected the Government and the public purse. Its report shows quite clearly that much more money is coming into its coffers than is going out at the present time.
As an Opposition, we insist that every service man and woman is entitled to benefit under this legislation. There should not be any gradations or divisions. Anyone who has enlisted to serve this nation, whether under the national service scheme, in the women’s services, in the Regular Army, or in one of the other Services, should be entitled to the benefits provided by the War Service Homes Act. A cause of serious concern is the fact that some people who have served this country are denied these benefits because they did not leave Australia during their service. The Bill is not good enough, and we will seek to amend it.
Another serious matter affecting the administration of the War Service Homes Division - that is, the administration of the Minister for Housing, because, under the present legislation, he is responsible in this matter - is the difficulty of transferring a loan on a house in one centre to one elsewhere. A member of the Royal Australian Air Force, believing that he will remain at Williamtown for a considerable time, may buy a house there under the war service homes financial arrangements. Subsequently he may be transfered to Richmond or to Operational Command Headquarters at Lapstone, where he may then hope to spend the rest of his days in the Service. When he approaches the War Service Homes Division, or asks his member of Parliament to make representations on his behalf, to have his loan transferred from the home in which he was living before to another one, the Minister replies that it cannot be done. We believe that a person should have the right to transfer his equity from a home in one centre to one elsewhere. A man’s last posting before discharge from the Army, Navy or Air Force may have been in Western Australia or Queensland, but on discharge he may go to Victoria or New South Wales. He then finds that he has to go to an organisation other than the War Service Homes Division to obtain finance for a home. This is most unsatisfactory and it is a situation that ought to be corrected.
There are other aspects of the anomaly I have just mentioned. An ex-service man or woman with a growing family may need a bigger home. When such a person applies for additional finance to buy a bigger home because the present home cannot be extended on the particular allotment, financial assistance is denied. This again is a serious anomaly in the legislation and one that ought to be corrected. If the Government is not prepared to accept the amendments to be moved by the Opposition, the reasonable thing for it to do is to withdraw this Bill and have it redrafted to make provision for those outstanding cases the details of which have been ventilated in the course of this debate. This Bill needs very serious consideration. I agree with the comments of a number of honourable members who have said quite clearly and fearlessly that if it is good enough to ask young men and women to come forward and serve their country - and we accept that it is proper to do so - it is good enough to allow them to obtain satisfactory housing through the War Service Homes Division when they are honourably discharged from service.
There is another aspect that might interest the country members in this chamber. A person in the country may want to build a home on the 20, 30, 40 or 50 acres of land that he owns. He has to submit his plans to the War Service Homes Division, but frequently the Division is not concerned about the plans for the home to be erected on the land. It looks at the land and says: ‘This is not a satisfactory property. You will never make a living out of this.’ Applications for loans have been rejected on these grounds. I know of one such application that is before the War Service Homes Division and the Minister at the present time. The man’s need for a home is not being considered. What is being considered is whether he has a good farm and will be able to make sufficient money from it. The farmer must be the best judge of whether he has a good farm. The fact that the man needs a home has been disregarded by the Minister in this instance. This anomaly should be corrected. We must trust the judgment of the farmer in this sort of matter. The needs of the individual deserve more consideration than the commercial aspects of the location of the home he wants to build, his occupation or any other matter.
Other grave anomalies affect widows. A widow has her difficulties. The Government, through the War Service Homes Division, has provided that the cost of painting the homes of widows may be met, their rates may be paid and payment owing to the Division by them may be waived. But think of the woman who served this country as a nurse and whose breadwinner dies. Though she no longer has the help of her husband in meeting the bills, she is denied this consideration, but a widow in different circumstances may receive it. Anomalies such as these become apparent over the years. The Government should face its responsibility fairly, justly and honestly and correct these outstanding and serious short comings in the present legislation. The proposals made by the Opposition seek to correct these defects. I only hope that for the sake of those who have served this country, those who are serving it today and those who will serve it in the future, the Government will adopt the right attitude, listen to the Opposition and some of its own members and have this legislation amended in such a manner as to give satisfaction to those who are being penalised, victimised and discriminated against at present.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hallett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
Since the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was enacted in November last year to enable the introduction of permanent employment in the stevedoring industry, a number of ports - Sydney, Port Kembla, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Brisbane - have been declared permanent ports and approximately 75% of waterside workers are now employed under permanency arrangements. In carrying out these arrangements, certain anomalies have arisen which require amendments to the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act. There are three matters all of which relate to section 7 of that Act. They are: First a matter relating to payments by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to the holding company in respect of annual leave, to which the waterside worker became entitled as a result of his employment as a casual waterside worker rather than as a permanent waterside worker; secondly, payments for redundancy purposes by the Authority to the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour; and thirdly, the need to provide for a refund of part of the charge imposed by the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-67 to employers who employ waterside workers under special agreements for weekly hiring.
I will comment on these matters in the order in which I have just mentioned them. With regard to the first one. although permanent employment applies in the ports to which I have referred, it is still necessary for waterside workers to transfer to other non-permanent ports to meet either seasonal labour requirements - for example, transfers to Hobart for the fruit season or elsewhere where labour demands are high and transfers are considered to be necessary for the efficiency of the industry. In these circumstances it is inequitable that the holding company or the operational employer should pay for that portion of annual leave which is accrued by a waterside worker during his service on transfer, particularly as the employers in the casual port to which he has been transferred are paying a statutary levy which includes an element for annual leave. Thus the Bill provides an amendment which will give the Authority power to make payments for that portion of annual leave accrued by a waterside worker during casual service in any one year in the circumstances I have just mentioned.
An anomaly concerning annual leave has arisen in another context. Under the waterside workers award, casual waterside workers become entitled to annual leave on 30th June in each year. The National Stevedoring Industry Conference agreed that employers should take over from the Authority the responsibility for payment for annual leave which accrued at the 30th June in the year in which a port became a permanent port. The question of who should be responsible for the payment of pro rata leave for waterside workers who became permanent employees but who deregistered before 30th June in the year a port became permanent was not determined by the conference. As section 7 (c) of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act is worded the employer is required to meet this obligation.
Following the introduction of permanency some waterside workers have commenced work with an operational employer only to deregister and leave the industry a short time afterwards - in one case after a matter of days. It is unreasonable that the employer is liable for payment of pro rata leave even though he may have had the services of the employee for only a short period. It is proposed therefore to amend the Act to pro vide that where a waterside worker deregisters within 12 months of the port becoming a permanent port, the Authority shall be responsible for the payment to the holding company of that proportion of pro rata annual leave attributable to his service as a casual waterside worker.
The second matter arises from the provision in section 7(b) of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act which enables the Authority to make payments to the holding company for the purpose of meeting the cost to the holding company of payments to be made to redundant waterside workers. Under the conference scheme provision is made for both pensions and redundancy payments and the statutory levy contains components to cover both these provisions. The Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, a registered organisation under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, will have the responsibility for making applications to the Authority for redundancy declarations and it has already set up a redundancy fund. Doubts have been expressed as to whether the existing legislation authorises the Authority to make payments direct to the Association for this purpose and the Act is being amended to put this beyond doubt.
Finally, I turn to the matter relating to the refund of part of the stevedoring industry levy to employers’ who employ waterside workers under special agreements. Prior to the implementation of permanent employment, there were small pockets of permanent employment in the industry under special arrangements negotiated between the Waterside Workers Federation and particular stevedoring employers. These special arrangements operated mainly in areas where continuity of operations was essential, for example, the Australian National Line terminals for roll-on roll-off vessels or drivers or operators of mechanical equipment at special wharf terminals. Before the enactment of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act, as these employers met the costs of annual leave, sick leave, public holidays and long service leave for their employees, they were exempt from the payment of the statutory levy then in force in the industry. Under the new arrangements all these matters are covered by the levy including provision for redundancy and pension payments.
As the reasons for this exemption no longer applied, the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act was amended to provide that in future these employers should pay the levy applicable to employers of waterside workers on weekly hiring. However, these employers do not draw upon labour from the holding company and they make no claims on it in respect of time when waterside workers are available for work but are not required to work as the employees are used on other duties. The conference recognised that some adjustments would be needed to meet this particular situation, which would only be equitable. I should mention that only about 400 employees would be involved out of a work force of approximately 20,000.
The Bill, therefore, provides that the Authority be authorised to reimburse a registered employer for a portion of the levy paid by him in respect of class A waterside workers whom he employs permanently under special agreements in continuous non-permanent ports or in permanent ports. The amount to be reimbursed shall be as approved by the Minister from time to time as this will vary with any change in the rate of the statutory levy. As permanent employment for waterside workers commenced in Sydney on 27th November 1967, it is intended that these amendments to which I have referred should have effect as from that date. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1968.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1968.
Debate resumed (vide page 2644).
– The main purpose of this Bill is to increase the maximum war service homes loan from $7,000 to $8,000. It is interesting to note that this legislation has been in force for almost 50 years and that approximately 300,000 eligible persons have been assisted to become home owners. My main reason for rising this evening is to refer to clause 4 of the Bill, which relates to leasehold land. When 1 first came into this House there were one or two aspects of this legislation about which I was concerned, including discrimination between eligible people on the basis of where they lived. If a person lived in a city or town of some size he had little difficulty in obtaining a loan. But if he lived beyond the limits of the metropolitan area or a town he had no chance whatsoever, in practical terms, of obtaining a loan. My concern was that this was discriminating against certain returned men who chose to take up occupations in rural areas.
Over the years there has been an easing of the situation in relation to farmlands held under freehold. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has agreed that certain loans will be made available in relation to freehold land. I note that under clause 4 of the Bill leasehold land is to be covered by the War Service Homes Act. This is very pleasing, because for some 2 or 3 years - since some easing was obtained in the provisions relating to freehold land - I have been endeavouring to get the Government to agree to extending the provisions so that returned servicemen who took up certain leasehold land and who were eligible to receive assistance under the Act were able to obtain that assistance, which is $7,000 but is to be increased to $8,000. I understand that under clause 4 this problem will be overcome. I am exceptionally pleased about that.
As I see it, no war service land settlement scheme is presently in operation for the chaps who are returning from service overseas, and there would be no opportunity for them to take up their entitlements in areas which I know very well in Western Australia - they are known as conditional purchase land areas held under lease from the State Government - if, in fact, the Bill which is before us tonight were not amending section 4 of the Act. This matter is important to these chaps, who in my book should have some consideration if they take up their entitlements in country areas instead of in city areas. There should be no discrimination. Any person who is entitled under the Act to receive this money should receive it regardless of where he takes up residence. This has been done in relation to freehold land and it is now to be done in relation to leasehold land.
Paragraph (b) of sub-section (4.) of proposed new section 4 of the Act provides that where:
The applicant satisfies the Director that the applicant has a reasonable prospect of carrying out the terms, conditions and covenants of the lease, the land shall be deemed to be a holding for the purposes of this Act in relation to the applicant.
This proposed new section will correct the position. I sincerely hope that when these chaps who return from overseas and who are eligible for assistance under this Act make an application to take up their entitlements when they have established themselves, to some degree, on leasehold land in Western Australia or anywhere else in Australia, it is accepted.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I would like to speak on this Bill for not more than 5 minutes.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
-I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for giving me an opportunity to speak for a very brief period. I shall honour my undertaking and terminate my remarks within 5 minutes. 1 have been inspired to say something about this Bill which is designed to increase from $7,000 to $8,000 the amount of loan money granted to applicants under the war service homes scheme. 1 support the amendments to be moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) at the committee stage. His studious, active and fertile mind, coupled with a heart brimming with compassion, has caused many honourable members opposite to waver considerably about whether to support the amendments to be moved by him.
I say that $12,000 is a mere drop in the ocean towards the cost of building a home today. The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, recently visited northern Western Australia. We were able to ascertain at first hand that homes being built for the workers at Mount Tom Price were costing the company there $19,000.
This was the cost without land. If the cost of land were added one could say that the cost of building a home there would be infinitely more. We also learned that land in Darwin is at an exorbitant price. That probably amazes many honourable members. Servicemen returning from Vietnam, who have enlisted or been conscripted from areas such as Mount Tom Price, Dampier, Port Hedland or Darwin in the northern part of Australia and who wish to return to settle in the environment in which they were reared, will find that $12,000 is a mere drop in the ocean. In those areas it would not buy a toilet, and I mean an unsewered toilet. So I believe that the longer a vote on the amendments which the Labor Party proposes to move is debated the more inclined honourable members opposite will be to support the amendments at the Committee stage.
Land sharks have moved in on Australia, sending up the cost of houses. Not so long ago we had a shocking example in the Warringah Shire, which is controlled by a Liberal council. A shocking racket was exposed to the community. Land sharks were buying land, with the collusion and through the corruption of certain aldermen and were charging home builders exorbitant prices for blocks. When the matter was raised in the State Parliament Mr Askin, the Liberal Premier, refused to allow an open inquiry to be held into the matter, despite the fact that statutory declarations were made which exposed the evilness of certain Liberal aldermen in the Warringah Shire. Therefore I appeal to honourable members opposite to give serious consideration to this matter when the amendments are moved at the Committee stage. One amendment has been drawn up by the honourable member for Hindmarsh in the hope that this reasonable amount of $12,000 will be agreed to. I believe that it will meet with the approbation of the overwhelming majority of Australian electors.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Hon. W. C. Haworth)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended - (a) by inserting after the definition of ‘Female dependant’ in sub-section (1.) the following definition: “Government authority” means a public authority (including a local governing body) established by or under a law of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a Territory of the Commonwealth:’; and
– I move:
The Committee will be glad to know that Opposition members do not intend to talk at great length on the various clauses of the Bill, because, during the second reading debate, many of us on this side of the chamber fully covered the case that we wished to put.
Section 4 of the existing Act, which the Bill seeks to amend and to which we are now proposing a further amendment, goes into a long rigmarole about who is to be described as an ex-serviceman. The section covers nearly two pages of (he Act and we believe that the definition of ‘Australian soldier’ excludes many people who should be included. We have said in ihe second reading debate, and I now repeat, that it is the view of the Opposition that any person who is a serving member of the Forces, whether or not he serves overseas, ought to get the benefit of war service homes entitlement. Any person who has served in the forces and who has been honourably discharged should get such benefits. This would bring in a very wide range of people not now entitled to any benefit. Tt would include, for example, members of the Australian Regular Army. It would include national servicemen.
Let me pause here for one moment to say that these young men are being balloted to undergo national service. For 2 years of their lives - the best 2 years from the point of view of training and of learning - they have to go into camps and learn to be soldiers. While the war in Vietnam continues and we pursue our present policy of participating in this unwinnable and terrible conflict, these young men will be conscripted to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. Those who actually go there will, of course, get the benefit of war service homes entitlement. Those who remain at home and have to spend 2 years of their lives training to defend this country - and they represent in number only a very small fraction of the total number in their age group - are granted no war service homes entitlement. It is little enough if we say to these young men: :When you have finished your 2 years national service training, you can come to the Government and secure finance at an interest rate of 3$% to buy yourself a home’. We ought to do this. We ought not to do any less than this. The regular soldier, who signs up for service and who is willing to go anywhere that he may be sent but for good reason or bad is not sent outside the country, ends his 6 years training wilh the Regular Army without any entitlement at all to assistance under the War Service Homes Act.
I turn now to the case of people who served in World War II but did not go overseas. Amongst these people are members of the Women’s Auxiliary Force who served during the war. They did a first class job. Many of them served for 3, 4 and even 5 years. But they receive no benefit at all. This situation cannot be justified. The aim of the Parliament ought to be to give to every Australian the right to own his home and to obtain a loan at a low rate of interest. It is not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament to give this assistance to a person unless such person can be brought within the scope of the defence power, immigration, social services or the other powers that are given to the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution. It is all very well for us to say that only the States can make provision for housing. To a large extent that is true; but it is not as true as we pretend it is. If we were to give to every exserviceman from World War II, to every person who served in the Regular Army, to every national service trainee and to every member of the Citizen Military Forces the right to obtain finance under the War Service Homes Act to purchase a home, we would cover a major part of ihe people who now need housing. Sometimes we try to excuse our inactivity by pleading that we do not have the power, but this is not always true. We have the power to do much more than we are now doing and we ought not to shirk our responsibility. One way to widen immensely the scope of our activity in housing is to accept this amendment. Then every serving member of the armed forces and every person who has been honourably discharged from the forces in the past will be eligible for financial assistance.
I press the amendment no further. I think 1 have explained clearly enough to the Committee that the purpose of the amendment we now seek is to deny to no-one who has served his country the right to obtain finance for the purchase of a home at reasonable rates of interest. I almost forgot to mention one small section. I speak now of the ex-serviceman or woman who is single or is divorced. An ex-serviceman or woman who has never married cannot get any assistance. An ex-serviceman or woman who is divorced can get no assistance after the divorce. This is not right. Very often a man who is single perhaps has a greater need for a home, if that is possible, than the man who is married. How can we justify distinguishing between a single man who has served his country and a married man who has served his country? What does the marital state matter? Why is this distinction brought in? Who was ihe genius who thought of it?
– A woman hater.
– Yes, and a man hater too. Let me tell the Committee of one case. A woman who could no longer live with her ex-serviceman husband divorced him. He, poor devil, suffered from war neurosis. He used to attack her and beat her but he did not know what he was doing. He was not responsible for his actions. He was the victim of war neurosis. But eventually she had to leave him; she could not stay with him any longer. She divorced him. The judge would have the right to order that the home be transferred to the wife because she was the innocent party. The husband, being a divorced man, would have no home and would not have the right to obtain finance from the War Service Homes Division to buy one.
That is all I wish to say about this amendment. If we had a real compassion for the people about whom I am speaking, we would adopt the amendment.
– Under the existing provisions of the Act, eligibility in respect of service in the forces is based on enlistment for active service overseas or actual service overseas.
– We want it altered.
– The viewpoint has been put, if 1 may say so, much more eloquently than the honourable member could put it. Qualifying service is restricted to service in time of war or service in warlike operations. No provision is made for eligibility based on normal peace time service. The effect of the proposed amendment to clause 4 would be to extend eligibility under the War Service Homes Act to all serving members of the forces and all former members of the forces who received an honourable discharge irrespective of the nature of their service and where their service was performed. A major result of the amendment would be to include as eligible persons all persons who served in the Citizen Military Forces or in the Women’s Auxiliary Forces during the 1939-45 War and who did not serve outside Australia. These persons do not qualify under the existing provisions of the Act.
The provisions of the Act have been particularly applicable since the end of World War II in 1945. The predecessors of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) - I do not say we should be held to all the acts of our predecessors of our own political persuasion - quite rightly, when they were in office, reviewed the legislation carefully over a period of years. They came down with the provisions that existed then and those provisions have been amended since only to meet particular situations that have arisen subsequent to World War II. The amendment would also make eligible all persons who served in the forces subsequent to the 1939-45 War and who are not already eligible by virtue of service in the warlike operations in Malaya, Korea, Borneo and South Vietnam. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
– Nothing that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has said has convinced me that the Opposition’s amendment ought not to be accepted by the Committee. The Minister said that if this amendment were carried ex-servicemen who had previously not qualified under the Act would qualify. The Opposition does not dispute this; it is what we are putting as a reasonable proposition. If the Minister had been here this afternoon he would well understand the arguments that have been advanced by Opposition members and would have been aware of some of the anomalies in the Act. We believe, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has pointed out, that a serving member who has enlisted for a period of 6 years in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force ought to be entitled to assistance through the War Service Homes Division. There is no reason why he should not be accepted for such a loan.
This afternoon, I referred to the circumstances that applied during the last World War. The Minister should understand - I am sure that he does - that any member who enlisted during the last World War, or for Korea, or who volunteered for and saw service overseas, is eligible to receive a loan under the terms of the War Service Home3 Act. These people can apply for assistance. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) pointed out that when I referred to this matter this afternoon I did not indicate that a member of the militia was entitled to apply to the War Service Homes Division if he served outside this country and should be successful in his application. I certainly had no intention of misleading honourable members in this respect. I do not want to do that. I freely acknowledge that that is the position. But 1 also believe that a member of the militia who served with a member of the armed forces in what was regarded as a special area, for example in the Northern Territory, should enjoy the same rights as that member. If the member had inlisted for overseas service and served in the Northern Territory he would be eligible lo receive a loan under the terms of the Act because he had served in that special area. But the person who had enlisted in the militia would not be eligible for a loan. Surely the Minister for Labour and National Service, who sits at the table now, would not regard that as being a reasonable proposition. 1 refer again to circumstances in which two men served in the one area. One had enlisted for overseas service while the other compulsorily had become a member of the Forces. Both served in the same area probably for the whole of their war service. One is eligible and the other is not for a war service loan. This is the kind of anomaly that the Opposition wants to remove from the Act
Surely the Minister will not argue that we are not in a position to provide the benefits of Ihe War Service Homes Act to those who enlist in the military forces of this country on a permanent basis or who are called up for national service. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has put the case respecting a young citizen who was called up for service for a period of 2 years. This Government already has recognised to a certain extent - and the Opposition gives the Government full credit for its action - that the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund legislation should be extended to national service trainees and lo members of the permanent forces. Legislation dealing with this matter was before the Parliament earlier this year. The Opposition commended the Government for introducing that legislation. Now it recognises the need to apply the benefits of this Act to national service trainees. Yet, the Government says that a serving member of the Forces or a national service trainee who enlisted for a period of 2 years is not eligible for a loan under the terms of the Act unless he serves in a special area. A serviceman does not decide - indeed he has no part in any decision that is made by his superior officers - where he will serve. If a serviceman serves in a special area overseas, clearly defined by this Act, he becomes eligible for a loan under the terms of the legislation. But if he remains in Australia for his period of service he is not entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation.
The Minister has given no real reason why this amendment should not be accepted by the Committee. A great deal of logic is to be found in our proposition. We merely suggest that all serving members of the forces, and those who have been honourably discharged from service in the Second World War and in Korea, as well as those who are serving overseas now, should be entitled to the benefits of this legislation. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) during the second reading debate referred to those serving in the Royal Australian Navy who have made periodic visits to Vietnam. They are not eligible under this legislation. This is a fantastic situation. How does any honourable member who sits on the Government side justify these anomalies. I am sure that Government members can realise the significance and the importance of an amendment of this kind. 1 submit, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh did a few moments ago, that this is a reasonable proposition. If carried it would provide a measure of justice for a great many people who have served this country overseas or who are now serving it and who ought to be entitled to the benefits of the war service homes legislation. I submit that the amendment should be carried by the Committee.
- Mr Chairman, I want to do one or two things in the short time at my disposal. First of all, I want to say that the pleas of honourable members opposite will fall on deaf ears when they talk to the ex-servicemen on this side of the Committee. This is a yearly exercise carried out at Budget time in an attempt, so the Opposition thinks, to embarrass some of us as to how we will vote. If we go back to the Budget Speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) we see that the Treasurer set out quite clearly there what his intentions were and what was to happen. He said:
We propose to increase the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme from $7,000
2471 1/6S - R - (951
to $8,000. Pending assent to the necessary legislation, applications for the increased loan will be accepted from eligible new purchasers and borrowers.
We voted for the Budget. So did the Opposition. It accepted in principle what the Treasurer said.
I do not have to be reminded, nor does any other ex-serviceman on this side of the Committee, of my responsibilities to exservicemen. Indeed, on this side we have members like the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) who spend the whole year looking at these matters and going to the Government about them. They will continue to do so. It is useless for the Opposition to move an amendment such as this. The Opposition says to the Government: ‘You single out people. You conscript youths to fight in the jungle. Admittedly, they are eligible for these loans. But what about the others who do not leave the country?’ Cannot honourable members opposite cast their minds back to the 1939-45 period when a Labor Government did exactly the same thing?
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– That is a wonderful thing to say. The Labor Government at that time conscripted 18-year old people. The areas in which they were to fight were delineated. Some of them served in areas that were designated as operational areas, making them eligible to receive a war service loan. Some did not serve in those areas. I invite honourable members opposite to look at the sheer economics of their proposal. It is all very well for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), to get up and draw attention to the case of a man who has flown an aircraft to Vietnam or who has sailed on a ship to Vietnam and say that that man is not eligible to receive a loan. In fact, the Opposition is not saying that at all. The Opposition is saying that anybody who has served - even a person who has had a uniform on for only eight parades in a year - is eligible to receive a war service loan.
– What is wrong with that?
– I will tell the honourable member what is wrong with it. I wonder whether the Opposition’s shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), has looked at this matter in the light of what would happen if the Opposition was in government and it implemented this proposal off its own bat.
This proposal seems to me to be a very good indication that the Opposition does not believe it will gain the Treasury bench. That is what I think when the Opposition puts forward a proposal like this. What the Opposition says is that everybody, including those who serve in the Citizen Military Forces, should receive a loan of $12,000 at 3i% interest. The Opposition includes in the scheme everybody who has served in the CMF at any time.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honourable member asks what is wrong with that. Let us take a conservative estimate of the number of persons involved. During the Second World War 1 million Australian men and women were in our Services. Since that time, with the CMF running at the strength it has, another 200,000 people would be involved. Then we must take into account the national service scheme.
– What about-
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide and the honourable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
– It is amazing. Honourable members opposite cannot stand the truth in any argument. If we take into consideration all the people I have mentioned, whom the Opposition says it will throw into this scheme, we see that over 1 million people will each receive $12,000, which means $12 billion provided in loan money at 35 %.
A lot of criticism has been directed at the amount of the loan. But has any honourable member opposite said anything about the rate of interest that applies? The rate1 of interest, which is 3i%, was calculated at a time when the ruling bond rate was 3i%. It was Wo above the ruling bond rate. Today, the ruling bond rate is 5i% but the interest rate on these loans remains at 3i%. This is the cheapest money avaiilable in Australia. We are proud that it is. But no honourable member opposite has acknowledged the fact that the Government over this long period has kept the rate of interest at 3f%. Honourable members opposite should think what they would do if they were in office. They could well put up the rate to 6% or 6i%. At 6% it would be i% above the ruling bond rate. lt is very easy for the Opposition to suggest the introduction of something which will cost only $12m. There was no mention of Si 2m by members of the Opposition who spoke on the amendment. When a Social Services Bill came up for consideration the Opposition could make another suggestion which would cost $12m to implement. As long as it does not have the responsibility of finding the money, the Opposition will continue to do this. If a person heard a proposal such as this over the air he would say: ‘What a wonderful idea that is.’
– You want us to agree to all your legislation.
– The Opposition does not measure up to its responsibility. Everybody realises, as the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) said, that money can be pushed into the hands of young people but whether they are capable of meeting their future commitments is another question altogether. It is very easy for the Opposition on occasions like this to offer this bait and to say to the servicemen on this side: ‘Why do not you come over here and vote with us?’ If the members on this side thought that there was any logic in the Opposition’s proposal maybe they would be convinced; but the Opposition cannot convince me that the proposal put forward tonight is a logical one. When the vote is taken, I as an ex-serviceman will support the Government’s policy because I believe that economically it is sound.
– The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) has expressed great indignation and concern at the amendment. He set out to salve his conscience by protesting most vigorously about the suggestion that every ex-service man and woman in Australia should be housed. Surely that is the right of every person in Australia, whether or not that person is an ex-service man or woman. It is the birthright of every person in Australia. There should never be any question about things such as housing, shelter and clothing. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has proposed an amendment that provides for new categories and which seeks to overcome acts of omission and commission in housing ex-service men and women. I am amazed, shocked and extremely disappointed to think that the honourable member for Perth would adopt the view which he has adopted on this matter of supreme importance. Every avenue should be explored to house every person in this country and, above all, to look to the needs of the ex-service men and women of our nation.
I make these observations because I feel that there is no need for honourable members to become so bitterly involved in this matter. This is a matter in relation to which they ought to adopt a reasonable attitude. Surely it is not a bad investment to provide homes for ex-service men and women and nurses who have served this country, and for the single people who are now fighting in Vietnam. There should not be one person in this chamber who opposes this amendment. It is the responsibility of us all to look at the difficulties, explore the problems, and try to reach this justifiable goal.
– 1 do not know whether the term ‘pious humbug’ is unparliamentary, so I will not use it. I have not been impressed even slightly by the remarks of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). When the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) moved the amendment he mentioned national servicemen. Quite frankly, I go quite a fair way with him on this subject.
– How far?
– The position would be different if the Opposition were effective enough so to phrase the amendment that it dealt acceptably with the matter it is trying to highlight and if it were not possible for us to show up its shortcomings. I do not think that the Opposition has thought out the amendment so that we could go along with it. I agree with the remarks made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh about members of the Regular Army. I think that these people, wherever they serve, should be entitled to war service homes. What the amendment does is literally to make finance available to the regimental goat. All the beneficiary has to be is an Australian servicemen who has been honourably discharged. I admit I am being farcical. There is hardly a regiment I know of that has not had a regimental mascot, with a regimental number that has not had a regimental discharge certificate at the end of its service.
– lt looks as though you are in that category.
– If the honourable member for Port Adelaide had enough intelligence or if he had seen a unit anywhere he would know a bit more about this matter. It would be extraordinary to say that a member of the militia who had attended a parade once a fortnight, who lived at home, who had his own job and received his militia pay in addition to his civilian pay should receive the same entitlement as somebody who went to war. I do not think that you would get one ex-serviceman in Australia who would support this amendment. What the Opposition is trying to do is to widen the scope of the legislation so that these entitlements would be given to persons in reserved occupations, including a person who, because he was a union secretary, could not go to war. The Opposition has never costed this proposal; it has no idea of what it would cost, and it could not care less. All it wants to do is to get into office, lt could not care what methods it uses to get into office. I will not vote for the amendment, because I think it is stupid in the way it is phrased.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). I think this is a good amendment, because I firmly believe that anybody who defends this country should be looked after, whether it be by way of medical care or housing. I think that honourable members who have spoken on behalf of the Government have risen only because they have guilty consciences. One has only to know the facts to know that these people ought to be looked after. The hawks on the other side are always crying out about having a standing army. The only way to get people to join the armed Services is to look after them. This proposal is one which will encourage people to join the Services.
There are many members opposite who have never put on a uniform. Those members will vote against the giving of assistance to the young national conscripts who have been called up by the Government. Admittedly, many of them will not go to Vietnam. But this Government has tied these young people up for 6 years, of which 2 years will be spent in full time training. They ought to be able to get money from the Government at reasonable rates of interest. The Commonwealth Government should make money available to all sections of the community at a rate of interest of no more than 3i%. If one looks at the reports submitted year after year by the War Service Homes Division one finds that the Government makes a profit out of this rate of 3i% . We ought to see that the majority of the people in this country are able to get money at reasonable rates of interest instead of being left to borrow from the insurance and loan sharks and other lending organisations, who charge exorbitant rates of interest. If some honourable members opposite think that some sections of the community are not being exploited today I suggest that they ought to talk to some of their constituents, especially migrants, and ask about the interest rates those people are paying. If a fellow is prepared to put on a uniform for Australia, the Government ought to be prepared to look after him.
I read in a newspaper a couple of days ago that pilots who have been training on Fill aircraft in the United States of America have returned to Australia. Do not tell me that those fellows were not taking a grave risk. They are prepared to take a greater risk than any of you fellows in Parliament. They were prepared to take a risk to fly those aircraft. We know the results of some of the tests that have been going on. But when the airmen come back to Australia they find they are not entitled to war service homes benefits. Government supporters are quite prepared to talk about money, they are quite prepared to spend $300m on aircraft that will not fly but they are not prepared to allow trained pilots to have finance to build homes in their own country for their families. I believe that the Opposition has put forward a reasonable request. It is a request that we believe should be granted to all members of the Australian forces irrespective of what sort of uniform they wear.
I think that the Government, by not accepting the amendment, is just showing its complete contempt for the Australian serviceman and for the Australian forces that are prepared to do something on its behalf. Personally, I feel that many of the honourable members opposite who have spoken tonight - I have said this previously - have a guilty conscience. Honourable members ought to give this matter a great deal of thought. They are half-hearted. They are saying that our proposal is not a bad one. However, they then say: ‘But if you had this word changed, or that word changed, well then we may give you some support’. They have to come out and be reasonable and straightforward about this. They are either with us or against us. They cannot be fifty-fifty, going up the middle of the road. We say ‘Australian soldiers’ and 1 think it is pretty definite what we mean by that. We mean we want to look after those people who are prepared to put on a uniform and 1 think that Government members should support us.
I am not concerned about cost because I feel that there has been a great waste of money in this country by this Government, especially in the field of defence. We know the amount of money that is being wasted on defence. We know that every serviceman that the Government has in Vietnam is costing $10,000 a year. At the moment we have 8,000 troops in Vietnam. This great amount of money could probably be used to enable Australian servicemen to build houses for their families. I do not accept the argument about how much our scheme will cost because we all know that when there is a war the Government can always find millions of dollars to fight it. It is marvellous - we can never find, the money to look after the people who go overseas and do their bit on our behalf. I believe that this is a reasonable amendment and I would like to see the Government support us on this occasion.
– I am one of those who have put on the uniform for a year yet, according to the Opposition, I deserve to have the benefits of the war service homes entitlement. This is despite the fact that I was in the Citizen Military Forces and I have really never gone outside this country. According to the Opposition, like so many other Australians that have been in the same situation, I am eligible for a war service home. We had the classic statement of all from a member who, after the next election, will cease to be a member of this House. He said that he is not concerned about what the war service homes scheme costs. The point is that everyone would like a hand-out from the bag of priorities. But there is only so much to hand out. We have only to turn to Tasmania to see one Labor government’s policy on housing. The Tasmanian Labor Government will allow building societies to lend only $7,000. The building societies have been asking for $9,000. The hypocrisy of the amendments put forward tonight is underlined by this example.
Honourable members opposite are screaming and yelling in an unruly manner. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) hit them hard tonight when he put reality before them. Sure, we have a country which has the best housing record in the world but honourable members opposite seem to put that fact aside as though it counts for nothing. I believe that the Opposition tonight, instead of really feeling for ex-servicemen, has been motivated by its basic philosophy of Socialism and is trying to use ex-servicemen to peddle its own cheap junk.
– It appears to me that the principal objection of Government speakers is to the entry of the Commonwealth into the field of low interest housing. When honourable members opposite talk about a large amount of money being involved and say that only so much can come out of the public purse, I think it is well worth recording that in the past 12 months $69,169,313 was paid into the War Service Homes Trust Account. This sum represented repayments; the loans are not money that will be lost forever; it is money that is being repaid with interest; it is money that we are suggesting should be made available to people who have joined the Services or who are prepared to join the Services.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) said he was a member of the Citizen Military Forces. I do not know when he resigned but my understanding is that every person” who joins the CMF today has to be prepared to serve overseas. The matter of discharge has been mentioned. I think this clears up a matter of whether there is any difference between the
CMF and members of the regular forces. It should be remembered that members of the CMF have their civilian duties to attend to. We believe that recognition should be given to these people who give up so much of their time to serve in the CMF. One of the problems in Queensland is to find young men who are prepared to undertake officer training courses. There is a certain amount of hardship attached to this. Such people have to leave their families for periods and give up their weekends. Here is an opportunity for the Government to offer this additional attraction to members of the CMF. The Government has a chance to make them eligible for this entitlement.
A number of honourable members have spoken about the meaning of the definition of ‘eligible servicemen’. The definition in the amendment proposed by the Opposition is a simple one. Members of the Opposition - and even honourable members on the Government side - have stated clearly that they believe single persons should not be excluded from the war service homes entitlement. There are very good reasons why this should be so. Much mention has been made of women who have served in the Services and who for various reasons have never married. These women, in their later years, might like to own a home, but because they are single and do not have dependants, they are ineligible for a war service home loan. They offered themselves and served their country. It is all right to give loud cheers for those who go to fight for us and say: ‘Good luck to you.’ When they come back, the Government is not prepared to give them the full entitlement in respect of housing. This is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to offer an incentive to people who want to join the CMF or the regular forces. Having heard Government supporters speak on this subject I have gained the impression that their principal objection is to the Government’s entering the field of low interest housing loans. If they were to take this stand to extremes they would not bother to provide loans at all. The war service homes scheme has been a way of life in this country for almost 50 years. It has given some recognition over the years to the service rendered to the country by many ex-service men and women. I would like to see the scheme expanded. I believe that there is every justification for supporting the amendment.
– I do not wish to become emotional about this issue - I could easily do so - but I am forced to rise to my feet by some of the remarks–
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. ..22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
The Committee divided.
That the amendment (Mr Clyde Cameron’s) be agreed to. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 - by leave - taken together.
Section 19 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words ‘Seven thousand dollars’ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘Eight thousand dollars’.
Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘Seven thousand dollars’ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘Eight thousand dollars’.
– I ask for leave to move the amendments relating to clauses 7 and8 together so that honourable members may speak on both clauses together and so that only one division will be necessary.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
These two amendments will have the effect of increasing the amount of the maximum loan specified in the Bill from $8,000 to $12,000.I want to show the Committee what has happened over the past 22 years in respect of the maximum loans that have been made available, measured against the average cost of purchasing or building a home. In 1946-47, the first complete financial year after the war, the maximum loan available was only $272 less than the average price for a house and land combined in the State where prices were highest. In 1947-48, the difference was $258; in 1948-49, $672; in 1949-50, $254; and in 1950-51, $712.
In 1950-51 the Menzies Government increased the loan limit from $4,000 to $5,500. For the first time - in recent history, at any rate - the amount of the loan available was more than the average cost of land and house in any State. In fact, it was $258 more. In that year prices were highest in New South Wales, where the total cost was $5,242. Prices were very much lower in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Then the rot set in and the loan limit fell further behind costs. The figures for the following years were: 1952- 53, $446; 1953-54, $826; 1954-55, $1,272; 1955-56, $1,466; 1956-57, $2,064; 1957-58, $1,759. In that year land prices and building costs came down a bit and the gap narrowed. The figures continue: 1958-59,
$2,108; 1959-60, $2,340; 1960-61, $3,026;
1961-62, after the credit squeeze, when many prices and costs dropped slightly, $2,981. In 1962 the Government increased the loan limit to $7,000, and this reduced the gap, in 1962-63, to $2,693, but it immediately started to climb again. In 1963- 64, it was $3,060; in 1964-65, $3,186; in 1965-66, $3,643; in 1966-67, $3,812; and in 1967-68, $4,487.
The Government, to meet the changed trend, in 1951 increased the loan limit from $4,000 to $5,500, which raised it $258 above the average cost of house and land. The Government did nothing more until 1962, when it increased the amount available to $7,000. This represented an increase of only $1,500 to meet an increase in building costs of $4,251. The position was $3,000 worse than it was in 1951. It is now proposed to increase the loan by $1,000 to meet the $1,794 increase in building costs that has occurred since 1 962 when the existing loan of $7,000 was introduced. Even with the proposed $1,000 increase the gap has increased to $3,729. How can the Government justify an increase in the amount of loan that leaves the ex-serviceman $3,729 worse off than he was in 1951?
I want honourable members to examine the gap between the amount of loan and the cost of building during the years from 1946 until 1950 when the Menzies Government took over from the Chifley Labor Government. In 1946, under the Chifley Labor Government, the deficit was only $272. In 1947 it was $258. But when it rose to $672 in 1948 the Chifley Government immediately said: ‘There is too big a difference between the amount of the loan that is available and building costs. We will increase the amount of the loan by $ 1 ,000’. So the loan was put up to $4,000, thus reducing the gap once again to $254.
We believe that no country properly discharges its obligations to its fighting men and women unless it enables them to have a home in which to live. What are they fighting for? What does a country mean to a person if it will not enable him to have a home? What right have we got to ask a person to lay down his life for his country if we will not give him a house to live in? Please tell me what a man is to fight for if he does not have somewhere to live. What sort of country is he fighting for?
What sort of government is it that allows a man who puts his body between his country and the enemy to go without a home? The average fighting man - the majority of the 800,000 fighting men and women of the Second World War - could not possibly find the amount needed to bridge the gap between the $8,000 which will be available under this legislation and the $11,487 which is the average cost of a house and land in Australia. The situation is much worse than it appears. Not only has a man to bridge that gap, but he can get by way of loan only 90% of the valuation of his house. So the real gap that he has to meet is much winder than the $3,487 to which I have referred.
– (Quorum formed). The Government opposes the amendment, which is designed to increase the maximum amount of loan under the War Service Homes Act to $12,000. The reason is that for a long time the maximum loan under this Act and the maximum amount advanced by the Commonwealth Savings Bank have been kept in line. If the amount going into housing is too large, as the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) very appropriately pointed out earlier this evening, the main effect is to increase the price of houses to the purchasers rather than to produce more houses. In recent months the rate of home building in Australia has stretched our resources almost to the extreme.
War service home loans are available at a highly concessional rate of interest - 31% - and for a term of up to 45 years or, in the case of a widow, 50 years. These concessions, together with other concessions that have been specially granted, are already very much to the advantage of war service home borrowers as compared to the rest of the community.
– Why should they not be?
– They have been made this way for a very good reason.
– Then why labour the point?
– Any further extension of this gap, certainly at present, is hardly justified. An increase in the amount of maximum loan in excess of $8,000 would require a large increased budgetary allotment. 1 know that this makes no impression on the Opposition, which has never shown any regard for the taxpayer and the limits of the burdens which can be imposed on the public to meet the things that excite the Opposition’s passing interest. There will have to be either a large increase in the budgetary allotment or a restriction in the number of loans. One of the most important points about this is that even with the current limit of $7,000 it has been necessary for only 17% of eligible persons to seek additional financial asistance. The Government’s policy is to keep the maximum of these loans in line with other housing loans. It is in the interests of potential builders and purchasers of houses that the amount of money applied to this purpose should not so greatly exceed the resources available that prices for all are pushed up to unnecessary levels. Therefore, we oppose this amendment.
– Whenever the Minister for Labour and National Service–
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Clyde Cameron’s amendments) stand part of the clauses.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 7a and 7b
– I seek leave, Mr Chairman, to move two amendments together and to have one vote on the two amendments.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
These amendments seek to alter the principal Act by taking from the Minister for Housing the right to issue directions to the Director of War Service Homes on matters of policy in respect of the granting of loans for the enlargement of a dwelling house, the discharge of a mortgage, the completion of a partially erected dwelling house, the purchase of a dwelling house together with the land on which it is erected, and one or two other things. But I dwell principally on the first two matters that I referred to. The Act now provides in section 20 (1.):
Subject to this Act, and to the directions of the Minister as to matters of general policy, the Director may . . . make an advance to an eligible person . . . for the purpose of enabling him … to enlarge a dwelling house owned by him; or . . . discharge any mortgage, charge, orencumbrance already existing on his holding.
Then section 20a, which is more positive, says:
The Director shall not–
And here is the prohibition - except with the approval of the Minister -
Proposed new clause 7b would reverse the situation. If the amendment is agreed to, section 20a, instead of providing that the Director shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, do certain things, will provide that the Director may, unless prevented by regulation, do certain things.
– The honourable member for Hunter sees the significance of this. We would also insert the words ‘unless prevented by the regulations’ in the previous section. The Director would then be told, in effect: ‘You can do all these things unless we approve of a regulation prohibiting you from doing them’. If no regulation were made the Director would have an unfettered power to do all the things mentioned in sections 20 and 20a.
I have already explained in the second reading debate how on five separate occasions Ministers have exercised their authority under sections 20 and 20a of the Act to write to the Director and issue ministerial directions. On one occasion the ministerial direction prohibited the Director from giving loans to personnel of the Citizen Military Forces and of certain women’s auxiliary services. On another occasion the Minister wrote giving a ministerial direction about the discharge of mortgages. On another occasion a ministerial direction was issued concerning the transferring of loans. On another occasion there was a ministerial direction concerning loans for the cost of road making. At another time there was a direction placing limitations upon the Director in respect of loans for the purpose of extensions.
If there is justification for limitations of the kinds 1 have just mentioned, those limitations should be clearly stated in a regulation. A regulation has to be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament so that there is an opportunity to disallow it. If regulations imposed upon the Director restrictions which were unreasonable, they would have the effect of denying help to people who, we believe, should be helped. Then either House of the Parliament would have the right to disallow the regulation. That is the proper way to govern a democratic country. We cannot disallow a Minister’s letter; indeed we never learn about it until many months after it has been written. Very often we never discover anything about letters that are written by Ministers. This is the reason for the amendment. We want all restrictions upon the Director to be set out in regulations which have to be tabled so that we in this chamber and senators in another chamber will have the right to examine them and to disallow them if we or they believe the regulations should be disallowed.
– The Government regards it as quite essential that a matter of this kind, which has such important and far reaching financial implications, should be regulated by the Minister, who in turn is responsible to the Parliament. Financial matters of this kind should be subject to the closest possible parliamentary scrutiny and control, and to take this power out of the hands of the Minister would be to remove an essential part of the general financial and budgetary control of this country. I should conclude by saying that all acts of the Minister in this connection are subject to and do receive the close scrutiny of this chamber.
- Mr Chairman–
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr Clyde Cameron’s amendments) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Section 29aa of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - 29aa. - (1.) A purchaser or borrowerin relation to land or land and a dwelling house is eligible for relief under this section in respect of the land or land and dwelling house if -
– Mr Chairman,I seek leave to move two amendments relating to clause 10.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
After paragraph (b) of sub-section (I.) of proposed section 29aa add the following paragraphs:
Mr Chairman, the purpose of the amendments is to provide that the wife of a serviceman who is temporarily or permanently insane shall benefit. In addition, a new classification of incapacity is to be introduced to cover the case where a person is permanently incapacitated just as much as if he were insane. We propose that the words ‘or incapacitated’ be added after the word ‘insane’ in paragraph (b) of subsection (1.) of proposed section 29aa. Incapacitation can cover types of illnesses or injuries which render a person incapable of supporting himself or his wife and therefore unable to meet his obligations to the War Service Homes Division, as if he were insane. A man with Parkinson’s disease, a man with paralysis or a man with a very bad heart complaint could not work at all and would be unable to earn any income for his wife.
The same can be said of a paraplegic.I have mentioned before the case of a paraplegic who is nothing more than a tennis ball with eyes, a mouth and a little bit of body. This type of person is just unable to do anything at all by way of maintaining his wife. The wife of a person of that kind virtually is in the same position as the wife of a person who is insane. If a man is insane, invariably he finishes up in a mental institution and his wife does not look after him; nor should she have to. But a person who is paralysed, who is a paraplegic, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease or who has a very dangerous heart condition is not sent to a hospital or a home to be looked after but is usually looked after by his wife. This means that she cannot go out to work. She is, to that extent, worse off than the wife of a person who is insane and who has been sent to an institution.
I move from the case of the wife of an ex-serviceman who is insane or incapacitated to the four new categories that we propose. These are not now covered at all by the Act but the Opposition believes that they should be covered. For that reason. I have moved the second part of my amendment. The first type of person to whom I refer is a woman who is an eligible person and who is the widow of an ineligible person. I do not think that very many Australian women served in our forces overseas. The Opposition has already indicated that, in its view, women who served in our forces, whether overseas or not, should be eligible for assistance. But our amendments to that effect have been defeated and those clauses of the Bill have been passed. Looking at the Act as it now is and as it will remain, we find this situation: Nurses were among the very few women who served overseas. Many women went overseas as war nurses. I illustrate the case of a war nurse who returned after the war and married a man who was not an ex-serviceman. She would have no relief entitlement at all if she became a widow, nor would she have any entitlement if her husband became permanently insane or incapacitated. The Act says that the only widows who can qualify for this benefit are the widows of eligible persons. The Committee will see the significance of the second part of our amendment which relates to the wife of an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane or incapacitated. Because a war nurse is not married to an ex-serviceman, and therefore is not married to a person who is eligible for a war service loan, she becomes ineligible for the benefit of a widow’s relief or the relief that is given under the Act to the wife of an eligible person who is incapacitated.
There are two other groups in addition to the two with which I have just dealt. Honourable members will notice that to paragraph (e) I have added the words ‘or divorced’ after the word ‘unmarried’. This is the amendment that will be put to the Committee but the addition has not been made to the circulated copies of the amendment. It refers to an unmarried or divorced person who is temporarily or permanently insane or incapacitated. The Committee will recall that this ties in with our earlier amendments in which we sought to have the legislation extended to cover unmarried or divorced people. We say that if one of these people becomes permanently insane or incapacitated, the home should not be taken away but that he or she should be given the same kind of benefits as are given to the wife of an eligible person who is insane or incapacitated. Finally, the Opposition refers to the case of a person who is the sole purchaser or borrower and he or she, or his or her spouse, is temporarily or permanently insane or incapacitated. This class of person should be covered as well.
I had a talk with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) earlier this morning. Unfortunately, because of the postal strike situation the Minister had to attend a conference where, according to the Press, he has had 5 hours of solid discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Amalgamated Postal
Workers Union. I understand also that in those circumstances he has not yet been able to consider properly the case of war nurses. I did talk to the Director of War Service Homes about it and he very properly pointed out to me that it was a policy matter and he could not express an opinion on it. I appreciate that that is the proper way for a public servant to react. As the Minister is the only one who can deal with this situation, and as I realise that he cannot do it now, I ask him whether he will consider asking the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to look at these points when she introduces this Bill in the Senate to see whether they can be rectified. I know that not many persons are involved. I cannot guarantee there are any, but it is of no use waiting until a case occurs and then saying: ‘What a pity we did not do it when the matter was dealt with away back in 1968.’ If it is possible to close a gap in the law now, then let us do it. I leave it to the Minister in the hope that he will see the points of my argument, particularly in relation to the eligible person who is the widow of an ineligible person and the eligible person whose husband is temporarily or permanently insane. I hope that the Committee will carry the amendment.
– As the honourable member for Hindmarsh has mentioned, there has not been a great deal of time to study this proposal. Nevertheless I can give some quite advanced reactions to it. Whatever further fossicking might produce, there are a number of objections in principle that one sees at first sight. The grant of assistance to the wife of a person who is temporarily or permanently insane has normally been justified on the basis that her husband is not fit either mentally or physically to manage his own affairs or to earn a living, and therefore the wife should be able to stand in his shoes. The same argument would not apply to the wife of an incapacitated person who, although physically handicapped, is usually able to manage his own affairs.
The relief scheme for widows is designed to assist widows and other family dependants in the practical position of a widow, whereas the wife of a physically incapacitated person is not really in this category. There are many degrees of incapacity and a provision on the lines of the amendment which has been drafted would be extremely difficult to administer in practice. It is felt that the amendment would probably create more anomalies than it would solve. If the relief scheme were to be extended as proposed the question would arise as to whether similar treatment should be extended to the wife of a person who, though not incapacitated, is unemployed or unemployable through age or for other reason. In fact, of course, the whole compass of this proposal would have to be given very careful consideration.
I shall state the objection to the second part of the amendment. The relief scheme was introduced in 1945 to assist a particular category of person, namely, the widow of an Australian soldier who as a result of a considerable reduction in the family income because of her husband’s death was experiencing hardship in meeting commitments on a loan granted to her husband. This is a scheme which has been looked at continuously by successive governments and it was not intended to be used to assist persons who were granted a loan in their own right and accepted the responsibility to repay the loan. To do that would mean, in effect, that loans were granted on the basis that relief from repayment might be granted to the actual borrower in the future. This is hardly consistent with the concept of home ownership incorporated in the Act. The amendment also singles out some persons for special treatment because of financial hardship through a change in their circumstances, but there would still be a very large number of needy persons who were not covered - for example, pensioners.
I will convey to the Minister for Housing the thoughts which the honourable member for Hindmarsh has expressed, although I can say that the Government could not accept the amendment in its present form. The matter will be sifted thoroughly. There are so many possibilities that it is not easy to come to a rapid conclusion, and 1 at this stage cannot hold out any promise or indication that the Minister would in any way be likely to accept the amendment.
That the amendments (Mr Clyde Cameron’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
(The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Friday, 8 November 1968
– The Opposition is opposing clause 14, which sets out to abolish the
War Service Homes Trust Account. We believe that this is an account or a trust fund that could be converted into a revolving fund for the purposes of financing future liberalisations of war service homes loans. For that reason we will vote against this clause.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
(The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) - by leave - read a third time.
Health - Ships Trading with North Vietnam - Communism
Motion (by Mr Bury) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Last night, you will recall Mr Speaker, I found that 1 could not refer to a matter that had been debated during the day.I propose now to restrict my remarks to matters of health policy. There is a view current in Government circles that nothing is to be gained by enlarging the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission beyond its original field of immunology. This view is patently disproved by just one example -the Laboratories’ pioneering production of penicillin in this country. In their fear of public enterprise some honourable members opposite are prone to state that they know of no original medical research in Communist countries. They forget, of course, that Sabin vaccine is now preferred throughout the world to the American Salk vaccine for immunity against poliomyelitis.
There is a striking example of a drug developed concurrently in Britain and the Soviet Union which should be knownto spokesmen on health matters on the other side of the House although it is still in the experimental stages. I refer to an antimitotic derivative of phenylalanine. This is conceived as a logical cure for melanoma because of the melanin pigment of skin, and so of the malignant growth of pigment cells known as melanoma which is derived from phenylalanine in the diet. The antimitotic component is thus selectively carried to the site of major melanin production - namely the active parts of the tumor. This offers hope of destroying this usually fatal growth by stopping mitotic division of the self multiplying cells.
The Soviets have, in any case, deliberately concentrated on preventive and environmental medicine rather than on the profitable field of curative drugs. Honourable members on both sides of the House have had cause to say that this is a field that has been neglected in the Government’s health policy. But the Commonwealth Scrum Laboratories are good enough to stand on their own feet without appeals to Communist countries. If no other proof were available it lies in the unusual preeminence or universally admitted preeminence of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in the field for which they were created - immunological drug production, that is, mainly vaccines. Here the Laboratories have succeeded where private enterprise and its proteges - conservative governments - quailed, baulked and recoiled from the task. Now the Laboratories still more than hold their own in this and other fields of biological products.
It was an accident that the unforeseen and now lucrative field of anti-biotics was covered in the original definition of the Laboratories’ field of work. If the Laboratories had not taken efficient steps to enter this profitable field it is very unlikely that we would have seen a few years ago the scandalous spectacle of the Government flirting with foreign private interests to sell out the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The couragesous sell sacrifice ot Dr Bazeley, who pioneered Australia’s Salk polio vaccine production, was probably the deciding factor which saved this great public enterprise for the Australian taxpayer. The Government demoted Dr Bazeley from the directorship of the Laboratories because he dared to comment publicly on the prospect of Mich a sell-out. Thi.-, was an unjustifiably severe penalty. In argument for the private drug firms we have been told that pharmacologists are returning to this country to take part in original research in developing neurological drugs. But this country has been the leader in neuroanatomy and neuro-physiology for almost as long as it has had a medical school. During World War 11 Australia produced by brilliant team work and foresight in planning the world’s best antiseptics. I refer to the aminocrine group.
– What has this to do with anything?
– I repeat that none of these fields was pioneered by drug firms. They were pioneered by academics in public institutions. While I am on the subject of drugs I must quote from a United Kingdom publication. It is the Report of the Inquiry into the Relationship of the Pharmaceutical Industry with the National Health Service 1965-67. The report recommends the establishment of a medicines commission. I commend the publication to the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and his Department, because the arguments for the medicines commission apply with equal force in this country. The report says:
We have been struck by the absence of any co-ordinated structure for dealing with matters concerning medicines. There are committees on safety and on classification; there is a committee to compile the National Formulary and another one lo produce the Prescriber’ Journal. The Medical Research Council play some, but not a major part in pharmaceutical research. The National Research Development Corporation make arrangements for the patenting or development of discoveries originating in governmental and university research establishments. Most of these bodies have no statutory powers; none has powers of compulsion. There appear to be gaps. We have, for instance, received complaints that it is sometimes very difficult to arrange clinical trials of new medicines which are not obvious major advances. And there is not yet a system for licensing new medicines.
We have come to the conclusion that there is an urgent need to set up a new body to deal with these matters and to advise the Government in the whole field of medicines. … lt should have an independent constitution-
Some of the functions envisaged for this body are to make doctors familiar with the relative prices of competing medicines; to keep them in touch with pharmaceutical development; to enforce its regulations; to be the body to which the Government could turn for advice; to present an annual report; to require that therapeutic classifications should appear on all medicines and advertisements; to inform doctors about new drugs and new forms of drug therapy; and to give an independent scientific service to doctors as is being studied in the United States. One of the recommendations in the report reads:
There are other very sound and far sighted provisions in the report which time will not permit me to mention. We hear the most extraordinary self contradictions on the matter of broad fundamental health policy. What we should have agreed to, according to an expert from the back benches opposite, is a centra] authority for broad tactical planning, leaving more detailed matters for decentralised control. This is putting into other words the Opposition’s proposal for regionalised health care. It is putting into other words the basis of the alternative national health scheme proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
Finally there is a curious disparity between Government supporters regarding the setting up of a compulsory insurance scheme for those who are unable to meet the cost of health fund premiums. I understand that the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) advocates that the Government should subsidise or compel the destitute to join a fund of their choice, although I have not heard the honourable member enlarge on that statement. This is a matter more of emphasis than of fundamental difference with the ALP scheme. The alternative government of this country would prefer to impose the burden of the premiums more equitably on all the population at risk, although it would do it more economically by using a central authority for efficiency. We could allow the rich to opt out rather than goad the poor to opt in. The Department of Health and the front bench members of the Opposition should have more facilities to do research in these matters.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s lime has expired.
a.m.- If 1 have nol just heard an earlier debate being repeated in this discussion on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I have never heard anything before. Obviously the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) has been discussing a matter that was debated previously. I will refrain from following in his footsteps and will confine my remarks to a few matters of political principle. I will deal first with the last part of the honourable member’s speech, relating to national health schemes. Obviously there is not time to canvass this very extensive field. Tn the first place I would like to clarify any misapprehension the honourable member may have to the effect that 1 am advocating anything re motely resembling the sort of so called health scheme proposed by the Opposition. In the first place, the Opposition does not have a proposal for a health scheme. It has never come to light with one. It has recently been talking in ad hoc terms about a scheme, but I have never heard anything more ad hoc than the suggestions just made.
I have studied innumerable health schemes, and I have never found one socialised health scheme that provides care of the standard that is provided in this country. It is all very well for the honourable member for Capricornia to talk about goading the poor into a scheme which appears to be a gross misrepresentation of the concept of health insurance. The standard of treatment that they would receive under the sort of scheme he has in mind and the standard of treatment for pensioners under the present scheme are not comparable. The standard under the present scheme transcends anything that one can see anywhere else in the world.
Let us consider the Socialist paradise, Great Britain, for a start. There people have to line up at central diagnostic clinics, which are becoming more and more centralised. As a result of this, patients have to go further and further afield to clinics. The concept of individual attention by the doctor and of individual patient care and even the convenience of the patient have been forgotten. In Soviet Russia, which is the absolute Mecca of honourable members opposite, a limit is placed on the time a doctor may spend on a patient, no matter how complicated the diagnostic problem may be. I would like to clear the air in this regard. There is a wide gulf between the technical planning of hospitals and the care that should be provided in particular areas - in other words, rationalising services - and socialising them completely.
Let me now refer to the earlier parts of the honourable member’s speech. In the first place he was clearly quoting from a speech that I had made. I shall not refer to that further, except to say that anyone who alleges that I say that the Socialist countries have never produced a therapeutic agent grossly misrepresents me. On numerous occasions I have said that Socialist countries have produced virtually no advances in therapeutics. That is quite right. The honourable member, scratching around, ha« been able to produce only two infinitesimal items, neither of which could be called a therapeutic advance. Although the Sabin vaccine may be very convenient and effective, it is only an alternative to a very effective one already in use.
When the honourable member talked about an anti-mitotic for melanoma he was purely in the realm of hypothesis. Admittedly, plenylalamine is an essential metabolite in this process of which he spoke. But this method of approach is old. It is a method which has been developed not in the Socialist countries, and it has been very imperfectly successful. The same type of therapeusis has been applied to other malignancies, and it is at best a palliative. Take these two feeble examples that the honourable member mentioned and put them against the tremendous spectrum of advances in therapeutics since 1936. We have diuretics, antibiotics, chemotherapeutics, other cyto toxics and hypotensive drugs. These are just a few which spring to mind and which have transformed the practice of medicine. Not one of these has come from an advance that has taken place in a Socialist country. So I would ask the honourable member to think again.
Of course, a lot of these advances are made initially in a university. Research centres all over the world are studying these matters, and the initial step is very frequently taken in a research centre. But this is not in any way to deny my argument that, fundamentally, all these advances have taken place in the non-Socialist countries. This reflects partly the greater stimulus to research in the free countries as distinct from the dismal situation that exists, for example, in Russia. The Russian Academy of Medical Sciences is so laden with doctrinaire Marxists that there is not enough scope for any real research scientists there. If the honourable member for Capricornia had a good look at the constitution of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences to see how it works, he would not be a bit surprised that it has not done much except produce a few prestige papers to further the interests of the existing members of the Academy who are and must be doctrinaire Marxists and good party men who toe the line pretty effectively. If they were not they would not get into the Academy of Medical Sciences.
I do not have time to deal with the problem of the Commonwealth Serum Labora tories in detail, but let me say that when penicillin first came out it was a matter of urgency that it be produced. The CSL was one of the few places in Australia that had the sort of equipment which could do this. I will not have the honourable member misrepresent me as to the excellent work the Laboratories have done in the field of immunology. I commented that the members of the staff there are specialists in this field and should continue in it. I do not recall the honourable member’s exact words, but he indicated that other people shied away from the field of immunology. He is quite wrong. Excellent vaccines have been produced by a number of companies. Some of these vaccines are of a higher quality and are more refined than those produced by the CSL. Nevertheless, this is not to decry the excellent work that the CSL has done in this field. I ask the honourable gentleman to consider how much additional capital would have to be provided for the CSL if it were to take any worthwhile steps in medical research, and to reflect on how much we could expect to get for the additional capital provided. We would get very little for an enormous outlay of money, that we can ill afford. We need all the money we can find in this country at the moment for more essential matters, for real social welfare measures, and for the defence and development of our country, not for doctrinaire ideas that will turn over the production of therapeutic agents more and more to government agencies.
– The events of recent months in Czechoslovakia have demonstrated three things. They have demonstrated, first of all, that those who claimed that there was a degree of freedom within the Warsaw Pact countries, including Russia, were incorrect. They have also demonstrated rather tragically, how fatuous was the argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to the effect that Russia’s entry into Czechoslovakia could be justified because the United States of America had a presence in South Vietnam. The third fact which these events demonstrated is that there is complete integration of the Warsaw Pact countries, in an economic and administrative sense and, more significantly for our purpose, in a military sense. This provides the backdrop against which one desires to consider the recent expansion of the Soviet merchant marine and the activities of the merchant marine of another Warsaw Pact country, Poland, in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. It has been perfectly clear that in the early 1960s the Russians decided to expand their Navy. This has been manifested through their activities in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Indian Ocean. It is also perfectly clear that a decision was made to expand the merchant marine and that this expansion was to accompany the expansion of the Russian Navy a few years later. I refer to the latest edition of ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’ in the foreword of which the following comment appears.
But now, national priorities for a strong fighting navy having been met, and with modern shipyards available for commercial construction, the USSR is able to devote her attention to the build-up of her merchant navy even more than for some years past. The growth of the Soviet merchant marine is inextricably linked with the political and military aims of the USSR and to this end it must encompass the Seven Seas. As the size of a nation’s mercantile marine is the measure of her maritime interest and of necessity the might of her fighting navy it is evident that the Soviet Navy will for years to come be a force to bc reckoned with.
Russia’s merchant marine has had an activity in our part of the world and that activity has been accompanied by a similar activity on the part of the Polish merchant marine. The one other Warsaw Pact country which has expanded her merchant marine over the last 15 years, and which has done so to a greater extent than any other merchant marine power in Europe, has been Poland. Over the years Poland has expanded her activities by nearly 500%.
What relevance has this to Australia? It has a very simple relevance to this country, because last year a number of Russian ships expanding into the Pacific Ocean and the Western Hemisphere had runs which included Haiphong and Australian ports. In fact, the Australian part of the HaiphongAustralia run, sometimes with Singapore as an intermediate port, has made this expansion an economic proposition. It is quite true that this has rather ceased in recent times and is not expected to be as significant in the year to come as it was in the year immediately past, but the interesting feature is that the activity of the Polish maritime service is to be substituted for the activity of the Russian maritime service in this part of the world.
We witnessed in Brisbane within recent days a Polish ship, part of the far eastern traffic - which is a significant part of the traffic of the Polish maritime service - coming to Brisbane. The ship is the ‘Marcelli Nawatko’ and it is in Brisbane at present. It is due to leave that city within a day or two. The fact is that other Polish ships are deputed to take part in this run within the next 2 months. Those ships are the ‘Jamet’, which is expected within a week or two; the ‘Kraficki’, which is expected within some weeks; and the ‘Emilia Plater’, which is expected in Australian ports early in December. All these ships have their activities on the Haiphong-Australia run as a significant part of their economic activities in this part of the world.
One becomes concerned at this and it is appropriate to ask a number of questions. Is the Haiphong-Australia run to be allowed to make the Polish Far East maritime service economic? ls the Haiphong-Australia run to be allowed to become an economic arm of a maritime power of the Warsaw Pact? Is this run to be used to make profitable the carrying of sustenance - arms on some occasions and on other occasions not arms, but nevertheless economic sustenance - to an enemy, North Vietnam? Then one asks this question: Would not the Australian Government consider it appropriate to bar Australian ports to ships which are directly engaged in this traffic?
I know that there are difficulties in knowing whether ships are going to come here. It is impossible to know on some occasions, but one would ask that the Polish Government at least be informed by this Government that ships which are directly engaged in this traffic do not have unfettered right of entry to Australian ports. This can be done with fishing vessels. It has been foreshadowed that it will be done with fishing vessels. It would appear to be possible under the 1923 convention. One would ask that this at least be considered. If that action is too strong, one would ask that the agents be asked to inform the authorities responsible for the service that they are not to be allowed unfettered or without proper investigation into Australian ports. This is distinct from British flagships entering Haiphong. In that case it is quite apparent that very little in fact can be done, and doing something or even attempting to do something might make the last situation worse than the first; but the matter I raise at least demands some attention. It is a matter that concerns a lot of Australians. 1, frankly, am very puzzled at the situation and I ask that an attempt be made to make it clear that these ships are not welcome in this country, that we look at the situation somewhat askance, and that we are concerned about the effect on our people. We are concerned at the erosion of opinion that can occur if this practice not only is allowed to continue but is allowed to expand. I am delighted that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) has entered the chamber because I indicated to him that a matter of this nature would be raised. I ask him to give earnest consideration to it because many people are concerned and they are extremely worried at the position.
– The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who is a holy warrior in spreading the negative anti-Communist smear, moved like a bumble bee from his reference to the Warsaw Pact and the invasion of Czechoslovakia into the Indian Ocean, and tried to correlate happenings in the Indian Ocean with the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This is just a negative splurge put out by the honourable member. He states dogmatically that there is absolutely no freedom in Warsaw Pact countries. I make it perfectly clear that there is only limited freedom in those countries. Nobody has been more appalled than I and many of my colleagues at the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries. We know that there have been developments in the Warsaw Pact countries where there has been a fine balance of power. Members of the Australian Government know that there were wide divisions of opinion regarding the action that was taken. There was a division as to whether there should have been an invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Premier Kosygin and men such as Suslov, who was an ideological theoretician in the Soviet Union, are reported to be opposed to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw
Pact countries. Many people in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries have realised that it was stupid and foolish for the Warsaw Pact countries to invade Czechoslovakia, and that the action has even been partially responsible for Nixon being elected President of the United States of America. This is what these hard line dogmatists and militarists have achieved. I saw the progress being made in this part of the world. We cannot make the world to suit our own image. We have to accept it as it is. I am stressing the point that there are men in these Communist countries, in which progress is being made, who believe in a policy of peaceful co-existence. They want to co-exist with us. There were other people who had a fear complex, and who wanted to invade Czechoslovakia. They, in fact, over-magnified their fears. They said that there was a threat from Western Germany. I do not agree with this. Any honourable member who studies what I said during the debate on the estimates for the Department of External Affairs will clearly see my views in this regard.
In my view, at this stage of history Western Europe is weaker in conventional military arms than it has been since the Berlin airlift. Those members of the parliamentary delegation which recently visited the European Economic Community countries and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation know that the NATO leaders told us clearly how strategically weak the NATO forces were with the withdrawal of France. If honourable members look at a map of Europe they will see that the neutrality of Austria and Switzerland and France’s withdrawal from NATO cut the NATO forces in Europe in two, north and south. All the western European forces are under strength.
This magnified fear in the Soviet Union which made it invade Czechoslovakia was based, in my view, on three major issues. The first was the balance of power in central Europe, the second was the free Press of Czechoslovakia and the third was that after 20 years of Socialism or Communism in Czechoslovakia there is more than one political party. This has nothing to do with the fear of Communism expanding into the Indian Ocean. It is utterly stupid to suggest that.
The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia for the sake of survival. In the long run it may prove to be a very expensive action. It may even open up a new arms race. This is what we should be greatly concerned about. We on this side of the world do not want to see a new arms race against the Communist countries. I was in the Communist countries recently. People in those countries want to see their standards of living increased and they want greater freedom. They do not want to enter into an arms race or develop another cold war. It is utter stupidity to say that there is absolutely no freedom in the Warsaw Pact countries. I admit there is only limited freedom, but freedom is growing. What we in this Parliament should be doing is trying to build bridges of friendship between our country and the Communist countries.
The honourable member for Lilley referred to ships trading with North Vietnam. He knows that the Government which he supports sanctions trade in wheat and wool with Communist China. He knows very well the balance of trade position with the eastern European countries which are members of the Warsaw Pact. Let us end this hypocrisy and look at the balance of trade position..
-Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member should watch his verbiage.
– 1 am using the word ‘hypocrisy’ very advisedly because the Government is, in fact, trading-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member that when he uses the word in reference to a member or members in this House he should watch his verbiage.
– I am referring to the hypocrisy of the Government in trading with the Eastern European countries which, in effect, are the Warsaw Pact countries. The Government is building up a credit balance with all those countries, lt is not running into the red with those countries as it is with Britain and the United States. It has a credit balance of trade with all of the Warsaw Pact countries. This is what is happening under this Government which the honourable member for Lilley supports. Let us drop this veil of negative anti-Communism. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact countries is a great setback for progressive thinking. People on both sides of the ideological world were trying to build bridges of friendship. I was in the Soviet Union. I argued very strongly against any possible invasion of Czechoslovakia. I found people of good will in the Soviet Union. So far as I am concerned, there is not all bad on one side and all good on the other side. I want to strive for tolerance from both sides. I want to strive for political progress and good will to all men.
I was deeply shocked and hurt to see what happened in Czechoslovakia because I have been to that country. The point that impressed me most was that here was a Communist government which was prepared to look at its past sins. It was prepared to try to rectify its own, often criminal, actions which it had perpetrated on the citizens of that country. But the Czech Government was not given an opportunity to do this. I believe that for honourable members to get up in this Parliament and adopt a negative anti-Communist attitude will not ease the problem. The only way to solve it is to adopt an attitude of tolerance, patience and understanding and to try to bring peace freedom and friendship to all sections on both sides of the world, so that we can live in a peaceful and tolerant world.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) 1 1 2.48 a.m.J - The honourable and gallant member for Reid (Mr Uren), who was a colleague of mine in World War 11, has some strange ideas. 1 agree with his idealism but he seems to lack realism and he interprets events, such as those which occurred in Czechoslovakia, in a rather strange way. But I do not want to deal with that matter. I want to support, very briefly, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). 1 thought that the Polish ship to which he referred had left Brisbane. 1 know it was in Brisbane, lt is to call at Sydney. Melbourne and other ports. It is to pick up backloading at a reduced freight rate. This has been arranged through British and European exporters. I also know, through intelligent sources, that this ship called at Haiphong and offloaded arms and equipment. I am not saying that on no evidence whatsoever but from certain intelligence sources who discovered this fact while the ship was in Brisbane. This is not the first occasion on which I have raised this question. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is asleep on the front bench, used to be a very strong antiCommunist, and still is, I take it, but he does not seem to be very interested at the moment. He is a member of this Government, and I say again, as I have said before, that it is difficult to support a government that sends troops to fight in Vietnam and does not give them 100% support.
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), last Tuesday, in an excellent speech on the Vietnam situation, said four or five times that we are at war with an identifiable enemy. If this is so, why do we allow ships to carry into Haiphong arms and equipment which are to be used against Australian soldiers? Why do we then allow those ships to enter Australian ports, undercut freight rates and carry wool and other produce for British and other European ports? It is of no use to say that, because of the doctrine of freedom of the seas, we cannot stop this. As the honourable member for Lilley says, we stop fishing vessels from coming into our waters. Having in mind the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister that we are at war, I just cannot understand why we allow ships that trade to Haiphong to carry our exports. As long as I am returned to this Parliament and have any breath in my body 1 will protest most strongly against a government that asks Australian troops to go into the front line to fight for the peace and security of Australia and then does not support them, but instead allows this kind of practice to continue.
- Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.52 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– In answer to the honourable member’s questions, the following information has been made available by the responsible Ministers: 1. (a) Visits by French Aircraft - In the 25 months from 1st August 1966 to 31st August 1968 French aircraft known to have been proceeding to or from Tahiti have called at airports in Australian territory as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Yes. 11. (a) An amount of £14,500 was paid to the company in 1945 in respect of damage to or loss of chattels prior to August 1944, pursuant to an agreement between the parties.
Photographs of Demonstrators in Canberra (Question No. 492)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. Members of the Commonwealth Police Force and the Australian Capital Territory Police Force were present on the occasion referred to on 19th May. No members of the Commonwealth Police Force took any photographs on this occasion. The Minister for the Interior has informed me that photographs of demonstrators were taken by a sergeant and two constables of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The following information has been provided by the Minister for Labour and National Service in relation to Commonwealth instrumentalities and by the Public Service Board:
The term ‘equal pay’ usually means that females should receive the same remuneration as males if they perform the same work under the same conditions. In the context of this definition the estimated additional cost to the Commonwealth would be$6.5m per year for the Commonwealth Public Service and$2.5m per year for Commonwealth instrumentalities - a total of $9m per year.
If equal pay were introduced by instalments over a period of years the annual cost would rise by $3.0m per year over a 3-year period,$l.8m per year over a 5-year period and approximately $1. 29m per year over a 7-year period, until in each case a total annual cost of $9m was reached.
On the other hand, the claims for ‘equal pay’ recently lodged by staff associations and unions with the Public Service Arbitrator in effect seek the elimination of the differential in the former basic wage for males and females irrespective of whether or not the females perform the same work as males. On this basis the estimated additional cost to the Commonwealth would be $16m for the Commonwealth Public Service and $5. 5m for instrumentalities - a total of $2 1.5m per year.
On this basis the annual costs would rise by approximately $7.1 7m per year over a 3-year period, $4.3m per year over a 5-year period and approximately $3.07m per year over a 7-year period.
These estimates are made on the assumption that the current female staff levels remain constant over the period mentioned and that the annual instalments are equal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following information:
Insurance Corporation to the closing of the deposit gap.
Prosecution of Demonstrators in Melbourne (Question No. 573)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Wilh reference to question (1), Mr B of this office, as prosecutor, mentioned in opening that in addition to twenty demonstrators in the foyer of the Federal Members’ Rooms, there were more than a dozen placards which were either held by demonstrators lying on the floor or affixed to the windows in such a manner that they could be read from the street. Mr B said he was instructed by the Victorian and Commonwealth Police that, after the demonstrators were arrested, the police were obliged to clear the “ litter “ up. The placards (i.e., the “ litter “) were produced in Court. Mr B in using the word “ litter “ was referring to the placards and not the demonstrators, but as he referred to the matter immediately after speaking of the arrest of the demonstrators, it may be the impression was gained that the word “litter” included the demonstrators. The Magistrate asked Mr B whether he was referring to the human beings and he replied, “ Yes upon instructions “ intending to convey that they were responsible for the litter and not meaning to convey that they were also “litter”. The Magistrate became concerned and Mr B withdrew the remarks voluntarily and without any order or intimation from the Magistrate. The whole episode took place in a matter of some seconds and was a misunderstanding between the Magistrate and Mr B. The incident was misreported in the press.’
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information: 1 and 2. There is no indication that there has been a significant increase in the incidence of nervous disorders amongst ex-prisoners of war (Japan) in the last 2 years, or that there has been a notable deterioration in the general medical condition of these ex-servicemen in that period. It is now 23 years since the 1939-45 war ended, and it is only to be expected that, with advancing age, there would be some lessening of the health standards of ex-servicemen generally.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1, 2 and 3. The information sought is set out in the following table. The statistics relating to the number of students who qualified refer to those who had degrees, diplomas or post graduate diplomas conferred between January and July 1967. Information on the number who qualified at the end of 1967 will not be available until later this year.
The Commonwealth Government does not have information on those parts of the questions relating to State public services and local government bodies. The number of qualified social workers employed by Commonwealth Departments at 20th September 1968 is shown in the following table:
Each year the Public Service Board obtains staff and establishment information from departments for the following three years in order to determine the total intake of Cadet Social Workers. The latest preliminary estimates available suggest that the total number of Social Worker positions will increase to between 200-210 over the next three years. There are also approximately 15 current vacancies. Against these needs the Commonwealth Service has 29 Cadet Social Workers in training and plans to recruit a further 13 to commence their cadetships in 1969.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What would it cost the Commonwealth to apply the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value in (a) the Public Service, and (b) industries and undertakings operated by the Commonwealth and (c) work executed under the terms of contracts let by the Commonwealth?
– The following information has been provided by the Minister for Labour and National Service in relation to Commonwealth instrumentalities and by the Public Service Board:
The term ‘equal pay’ usually means that females should receive the same remuneration as males if they perform the same work under the same conditions. In the context of this definition the estimated additional cost to the Commonwealth would bc:
S6.5m per annum for the Commonwealth Public Service;
52.5m per annum for Commonwealth instrumentalities;
It is not practicable to make an estimate of costs in respect of work executed under the terms of contracts let by the Commonwealth.
Claims for ‘equal pay’ recently lodged by staff associations and unions with the Public Service Arbitrator in effect seek the elimination of the differential in the former basic wage for males and females irrespective of whether or not the females perform the same work as males. On this basis the estimated additional cost to the Commonwealth would be S16m per annum for the Commonwealth Public Service and $5. 5m for instrumentalities. These estimates are made on the assumption that the current female staff levels remain constant.
John McEwen House (Question No. 814)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
For what Commonwealth authorities or departments, and on what terms, has his Department rented accommodation in John McEwen House?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Office accommodation has been leased in John McEwen House, Canberra, for the Department of External Affairs. The lease term is for 5 years at a rental of $3.75 per square foot per annum for 10,992 square feet of space with an option of renewal for a further 5 years at a rental to be negotiated on expiry of the initial term. The date for commencement of rental was 9th September 1968.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1. (a) Seven; (b) seven.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
On what occasions, by what means and with what results has the Commonwealth arranged periodical consultations with each State, as required by the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation, with a view to promoting coordinated action to give effect to Convention No. 100 and Recommendation No. 90 concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value and Convention No.111 and Recommendation No.111 concerning Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) between the second edition of his Department’s publication on equal pay in May 1963 and the third edition in January 1968?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The position regarding these international instruments up to May 1964 was set out by my predecessor in answer to a similar question from the honourable member on 12th May 1964 (Hansard, page 1800).
Since then, the Conventions have been kept under review. During the past year the States were asked to indicate their current attitudes toward ratification of Convention No. 100 and the Convention was considered at this year’s meeting of the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee. The present position insofar as it might bear on the provisions of the Convention is detailed in the third edition of my Department’s publication - Equal Pay - Some Aspects of Australian and Overseas Practice’. No State has advised its agreement to ratification of the Convention.
As to Convention No.111, in April 1965 the then Prime Minister wrote to all State Premiers drawing their attention to the provisions of this Convention, in particular to those relating to discrimination in employment on the grounds of race or colour and suggesting that they might wish to have labour and other relevant State legislation examined to see whether it contained provisions which discriminated on the grounds of race or colour. Action has been taken, or is proposed in all States, to remove such discriminatory provisions where they exist. The Convention has also been considered at each annual meeting of the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee.
Leprosy (Question No. 837)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
On missions, settlements and pastoral properties with resident nursing staff, the qualified sisters supervise the individual treatment and patients are seen usually at fortnightly intervals by the sister and reviewed every 6 months by the visiting aerial medical service doctor. On those routine checks the urine of patients is tested with a special reagent to determine if in fact tablets are being taken. Patients are kept under review from the time of diagnosis until they die and in case of movement interstate the appropriate health authorities are notified.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many persons, other than Aborigines, living in (a) the Kimberley Division of Western Australia and (b) the Northern Territory were considered to be suffering from active leprosy in each year since 1955?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of cases diagnosed iti the Northern Territory for each calendar year in persons who have no admixture of Aboriginal blood were as follows:
My Department does not have the figures for Western Australia.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My Department does not have the particulars requested by the honourable member in regard to Western Australia. In regard to the Northern Territory, all medical officers and sisters employed by the Department of Health in rural health work are given special training in leprosy control. Tn addition, special courses are run for staff not employed by the Department. The leprosy control organisation is headed by the Medical Superintetndent of the Leprosy Hospital who has a post graduate diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and who also received special training in leprosy work during the tenure of a World Health Organisation fellowship. Additional medical officers employed on this work include four senior registrars and five medical officers, all of whom are specially trained in leprosy control work. AH survey sisters hold triple certificates and have received special training in leprosy control. Sisters employed or subsidised by the welfare branch of the Northern Territory administration are given special training in leprosy control.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– My Department does not have the information requested by the honourable member.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
On what dates have governments become or ceased to be partners in the Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Director of the Captain Cook Bi-centenary Celebrations. Rear Admiral Oldham will supervise the planning and development of all Commonwealth activities and also co-operate as necessary with the authorities or committees appointed by the States lo organise celebrations. A wide range of proposals has been received and the Government proposes to mark the occasion in a fitting manner. 2 and 3. These proposals will be considered, along with the many other suggestions the Government has received for celebrating the occasion.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
There is no Commonwealth Music Fund as such but there is a scheme of Commonwealth Assistance to Australian composers under which, on the advice of an Advisory Board, assistance is made available to aid projects which will facilitate the performance of Australian serious music composition and promote a better understanding of Australian music. Since the Board was established in 1967 the following projects have been assisted on its advice:
Appeals from Administrative Decisions (Question No. 922)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
September prior to Professor Whitmore’s departure overseas. Formal confirmation of appointment was forwarded to each member on 29th October 1968.
The committee’s terms of reference are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681107_reps_26_hor61/>.