26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. 3. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, my question is directed to the Prime Minister. It is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Perth last week of the Minister for External Affairs in relation to the Australian Government entering into discussion with the Russian Government in regard to a system of collective security in Asia. The Prime Minister will recall that Mr Brezhnev had told the World Conference of Communist Parties in Moscow on 7th June last that the Soviet Union was of the opinion that events are putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia. I ask: Was it arising from that statement that the Australian and Russian Governments had been in contact both in Moscow and in Canberra on matters of bilateral interest? I ask further: If these contacts did not involve discussion of a proposed security treaty with the Soviet Union, why did the Minister for External Affairs refer to Mr Brezhnev’s statement in his statement to the House on 14th August?
– The answer to the first part of the question is no, there have been no discussions whatsoever, nor will there be any discussions whatsoever between the Australian Government and the Russian Government as to any kind of collective security pact. I believe I made it perfectly clear on behalf of the Government in Adelaide that we would regard the establishment of any Russian bases as being threatening to Australia, that we would regard a military presence by Russia to our north as being inimical to our interests and that we would not wish to see a collective security pact among the nations to our north in which Russia was taking a military part, though we would wish to see a collective security pact among the nations to our north, because that is one of our objectives.
On the second part of the question, the bilateral discussions to which the Minister for External Affairs referred, to the best of my knowledge and understanding, were confined to such things as fisheries and other matters of common interest which one discusses with any government at any time. I would add to what I have already said, by saying that the mere fact that Mr Brezhnev has said that something was putting collective security on the agenda in no way qualifies or affects what I have already said in regard to a Russian military presence - not in the very least. What proposals, if any, might eventuate, we do not know. We have said we would look at them, if they came, with interest and with scepticism, but without gullibility. I could add to that that I do not know of any occasion in the past when a Russian government has taken action concerning other countries, where that action has not been designed to further the spread of Russian Communism.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. On Tuesday a Sydney afternoon newspaper published on its front page a statement in bold headlines covering almost the whole page that the Prime Minister intended to announce in his policy speech at the forthcoming election a reduction of taxation for those whose incomes exceed $100 a week - incomes between $5,000 and $10,000 a year- and that no reduction was contemplated for the lower incomes. Yesterday in answer to a question the Prime Minister stated categorically that there was no truth in or basis whatever for the statement. Was this false statement intended to damage the Prime Minister personally or this Government? Was it intended to deceive the people into believing an outrageous falsehood? What action can be taken to rectify the public damage done to tens of thousands of unsuspecting people? Is it too much to ask that the Press publish in the same bold headines a denial of the truth of the statement? What is the Prime Minister’s view on the freedom of the Press if it is to be abused in this way?
– The headlines to which the honourable member refers did state categorically and as if it came in some way from me - I think there were quotation marks used quite improperly - as the honourable member has said, that the Government was not considering taxation reductions for anybody earning below $100 a week. As I said yesterday, that statement was completely and utterly without foundation and is absolutely false. There has been no report from the Treasury to the Government as to the actions we would take and therefore this has absolutely no foundation in fact whatsoever. I think it would have misled a great number of people because it was presented as if it was fact, and in fact it was not. The reasons for such an attempt to mislead, if it was a deliberate attempt to mislead, I do not know. All I do know is that it would have misled a number of people and that it is completely untrue and quite without foundation.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I preface it by informing him that the Victorian Little Athletics Association in 1967 catered for some 3,000 boys and girls under 12 years of age; that last year it catered for some 22,000 boys and girls and that this year it expects to cater for some 35,000 boys and girls. The Treasurer will understand the financial problems that are associated with such a very large endeavour, which comes mainly from parents and voluntary organisations. I ask him whether in any consideration of tax relief he will give priority to organisations of this type, which are providing the young people in our community with a really worth while form of recreation.
– I will give very careful consideration to the question asked by the honourable gentleman. I can assure him that in my view, and I would be fairly certain in the view of the Government as a whole, these organisations deserve sympathetic consideration. I can do no more at the moment than confirm that I will respond as quickly as I can to the question asked by the honourable gentleman.
– My question is adressed to the Treasurer. In view of suggestions that there could be a supplementary budget early in the life of the new Parliament, I ask the Treasurer whether he is able to clarify the position so that the people of Australia may know where they stand in this matter.
– The statements that have been made and that I have read have been in every case either sheer speculation or propaganda. There is not now and there has not been any intention of introducing a supplementary budget. Anyone who makes that forecast could not know the facts and could not have considered what has been stated in the Budget itself. I made it clear in the Budget that this year we will have a very substantial rise in production of the order of 6% or more in real terms. Whilst we will not have as big an increase in civil employment as we had last year, nonetheless school leavers and migrant workers will add a very large number of people to the potential work force. We must ensure that these people will be effectively employed. It was for these reasons that when introducing the Budget I said that I believed it was one based upon sound economic principles and a liberal and humanitarian approach to the problems of the needy in the community and the elderly. I went on to say that I regarded the Budget as probably the best that had been introduced since the Government had been in office. I want to point out as well that while I believe that at the moment we are in fact pushing against the limit of resources and do not therefore want to see any further significant stimulus to demand, the position today is a very healthy one. If any country should be proud of its position with regard to rising levels of income and production, it is Australia. I would make only one other point, and I make it particularly to members of the Opposition. There are two ways in which the economy may be controlled. Basically the primary control must be by fiscal or budgetary measures but if it is ever felt that at the fringes there might be some indication of overheating or some indication of excessive liquidity or money supply, we can always take action through the banking system or interest rates policy to moderate those influences. We can do this very quickly and the processes can be reversed just as quickly. Already we have taken action through the monetary system to reduce the money supply by calling up bank deposits. If it were ever thought necessary - it is not contemplated that such action would be necessary - we could take action through our monetary policy, but I repeat for the benefit of those who have been speculative about this matter that there is no intention at the moment of taking any further action.
– For well over a year now the Minister for National Development has forecast legislation to substitute the Dartmouth Dam for the Chowilla Dam, to convert the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority into a Snowy Mountains engineering corporation, and to protect the non-living resources of the Great Barrier Reef. Will he introduce Bills on any of these subjects next week?
– So far as the Dartmouth Dam is concerned, amended agreements are now before the State governments involved. Until we have replies from them we are unable to proceed with legislation. I am still hopeful that we will get replies but I think it is rather doubtful whether these will be available in time for legislation to be introduced before the House rises. If it is not possible to bring in the legislation next week, it would be introduced at the earliest possible moment after the elections. Of course, legislation must also be passed by the three State Parliaments concerned, so at present there is no delay because of the inability of the Commonwealth to introduce this legislation into this Parliament. As for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, I have already made a statement on the Government’s intentions. The Legislation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department is working on this matter. The AttorneyGeneral’s officer has informed me that there are some difficulties involved but that there is still a possibility of the legislation being introduced next week. The other matter raised by the honourable member does not directly concern my Department.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I explain my question by pointing out that in selecting the city of Orange as the site for the next regional taxation office in New South Wales the Taxation Branch is fast joining the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Labour and National Service in the decentralisation of Federal administration. Other departments send officers travelling around the countryside. I ask the Prime Minister whether, as the next step in this direction, the Government will consider setting up Commonwealth offices in decentralised places not big enough to justify the establishment of a full regional departmental office? These offices would not necessarily require a large staff or large buildings but could be staffed by skilled officers who have a diversified knowledge of the business of Commonwealth departments not already mentioned, and could have direct communication with their headquarters. This would be a very real benefit to the general public living long distances from such unrepresented branches of Commonwealth Government departments.
– Some Government departments obviously lend themselves to such examples of decentralisation as those to which the honourable member referred. In fact, some Government departments demand it. The Post Office is a clear indication of this. Others do not lend themselves at all to such decentralised setting up, but it depends entirely on what the functions of the departments are. The matter raised by the honourable member in this connection is one that would have to be considered in regard to policy and in regard to the proper working of the department in its dealings with the Australian people. I do not think I can go any further than that for the honourable member, but I do point out to him and to the House that there has been, as he has indicated, where it has been able to be properly done, attempts to decentralise such departments for the benefit of decentralisation generally.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. Why has he made no announcement of the action being taken to establish several regional headquarters of the Snowy Mountains Council? Has this action proceeded so far that plans have been drawn, tenders closed and building approval given for a headquarters at Jindabyne which will cost $500,000 in all? Are similar headquarters now being planned for Cabramurra, Khancoban and Lower Tumut? Why is this being done without a public announcement? Does it mean that of the 430 members of the staff of the Snowy Mountains Council only about 100 will be stationed at Cooma? Does this mean that all the figures given so far by the Minister are incorrect and that the combined staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority and the Snowy Mountains Council in Cooma may now be as few as 350 people?
– The Snowy Mountains Council has, of course, for some time been operating the various Snowy Mountains installations. It was always envisaged that the Snowy Mountains Council would take over the job of operation and maintenance. Naturally the Council wishes to have its operators as close as possible to the things they are operating. I can see no reason why the Snowy Mountains Council should keep all of its personnel in Cooma when it is much more suitable to have them close to the installations at Jindabyne, Murray 1 and Murray 2 and later at Talbingo. The Snowy Mountains Council will have in all something like 400 employees responsible for the maintenance and operation of Snowy Mountains installations. In addition, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, as I have told the House, will have a body of people who will bring with them the best skills of the Snowy Mountains Authority, and while we have no final figure on this, at the present time it appears that there will be about 250 people employed by the Corporation. We believe this number will increase, if sufficient work is obtained, to something like 400. At the present time the Snowy Mountains Authority has about 600 man-years work ahead of it and undoubtedly an organisation of reasonable size will be required to cope with this work.
– I ask the Treasurer a question concerning that member of the community known as the family man. Is it a fact that whereas farmers, pensioners, exservicemen and many other sections of the community have formed themselves into groups in order to exert pressure on Governments or political parties, the average citizen who is trying to pay his home off and educate two or more children has no collective voice? Has the Treasurer under taken any study of areas where this group can be relieved of hardship and assisted? If so will he bring the results of such a study before the Government so that an announcement can be made by the Prime Minister at an early and appropriate date?
– The honourable gentleman will know that two Budgets ago we did bring down proposals, which were agreed to, that the family group, the wife and the children, should receive concessional deductions. I can assure the honourable gentleman that in the course of the discussions on the last Budget careful consideration was given to the problems of family responsibilities and the way in which families could be assisted. I have also made it clear, Mr Speaker, that in the Treasury we have carried out a thorough review of the total taxation structure of the Commonwealth and, if I can repeat a phrase I used in the Budget speech, a consideration of the responsibilities of the family man. Ways in which assistance can be given to those who have to educate and rear a family to see that they are given all the opportunities that are available to Australians, have been thoroughly considered. I can go no further than that at the moment other than to say that as soon as I can, after the pressure of work eases up a little, I shall be able to submit the review, which is one based upon fact alone, to the Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that the suicide attempt earlier this month by a staff cadet at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, was not reported to civil authorities? If this is so why were normal legal procedures not followed? In view of the fact that it appears that the bastardisation, which has been described as the method by which junior members at the College have been victimised, has been condoned by some of the permanent military staff at the College, and since I have now been able to consider fully the terms of reference under which the inquiry has been set up to investigate these matters, I ask: Why are not the terms of reference wide enough to cover this aspect which ought to be considered instead of directing all of the inquiries merely to the cadets at the College?
– Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman has posed two questions. Firstly he has referred to allegations concerning an attempted suicide. I use the word allegations’. I remind the honourable gentleman that in a Press statement which was issued by me last Monday morning 1 indicated that, on the basis of evidence which had been taken from the student who was the subject of these allegations and whose name, of course, I do not state to this House; in the light of evidence received from the medical officer who investigated the matter at the time and in the light of the evidence supplied to me by an independent consulting psychiatrist, I had been assured by the Commandant of the Royal Military College, Major-General Colin Fraser, that he was satisfied that the incident to which the honourable gentleman has referred was not in fact an attempted suicide. 1 can provide further details and T would be happy to do so privately to the honourable gentleman. Of course he would understand, Mr Speaker, that to a considerable extent medical evidence is privileged and therefore there is a certain restriction on me in relation to stating the complete facts of this matter before the House.
The second part of the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition relates to the terms of reference of the board of inquiry. He will appreciate that it is a little late now to make any statements about the terms of reference, which have been available to him for some days. I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and any other member of the Opposition who has any queries that I have made it quite clear that I hope to be able to make a statement to the House next week or to answer questions on the matter. When I have done that the Leader of the Opposition will be able to make a judgment on the results of the inquiry and determine whether the terms of reference were sufficiently wide. I have been assured by senior authorities who have looked into this matter quite closely that the terms of reference are wide enough to enable the board of inquiry to make the fullest possible examination of the matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would be well aware that the board is taking evidence from cadets who have left the college. The taking of evidence will not be confined to cadets who are at the college at present; it will also be taken from those cadets who left during the last 2 years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition can be quite assured that this matter is being checked out in a most thorough way.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of increasing participation in occupational superannuation and retirement benefit schemes - a participation which will be considerably encouraged as a result of the introduction of the tapered means test - I ask: Firstly, will the Treasurer ask the Commonwealth Statistician to seek and publish comprehensive statistical information concerning these schemes? Secondly, will he ask the Commissioner of Taxation to gather and publish statistics of those claiming total and partial exemption from tax at the normal rates under the age tax allowance?
– I shall draw the attention of the Insurance Commissioner, the Commissioner of Taxation and the Secretary to the Treasury to the content of the question asked by the honourable member. As soon as 1 can find out from them whether it is practicable or wise to produce the information requested or part of it, I shall inform the honourable member.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the reported decision by President Nixon to suspend for some months ahead the call-up in the United States of America of troops for Vietnam and the fact that in the last day or so the United States Senate rejected a request for the maintenance of United States troops in Thailand, will the Prime Minister give an instruction to the effect that no more Australian conscripts should be called up for national service?
– The answer is no.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. When the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority completes the Murray 2 power station in the near future will there be an official opening? Is it the last of the major works to be carried out by the Authority as presently constituted?
– Invitations are being extended to all members of the Parliament and to many members of the public to attend the . Official opening of the Murray 2 power station, which will be held on 11th October of this year. I realise that it may be difficult for some members of the Parliament to attend but, as it marks the completion of the diversion of the waters of the Snowy River into the Murray River, I hope that as many as possible will be able to attend. Although the new power station will not at that.stage be in my electorate I hope to be representing the area as the member for the new electorate of Farrer after the election a fortnight later. Of course, this is not the last of the works being undertaken by the Authority. The Talbingo Dam and Tumut 3 power station have yet to be completed. Tumut 3, which will be by far the largest power station and will have pump storage will not be completed until about 1974.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The answer he gave to a question asked of him in the House yesterday indicates that the Minister is aware of statements made by a Mr Grenville concerning the recent conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in Sydney. Does the Minister agree that the statements by Mr Grenville are an attack on the character and credibility of Mr Albert Monk, Mr Harold Souter, Mr Bob Hawke and many other highly respected leaders of the trade union movement in Australia? Does the Minister consider that Mr Monk, Mr Souter, Mr Hawke or any other trade union representative at the ACTU conference would be a party to the allegations made by Mr Grenville? Is the Minister aware that the executive of the Victorian Trades Hall Council has repudiated the remarks of Mr Grenville?
– As Minister for Labour and National Service I am responsible for the administration of that Department and the things with which it is connected. I am not an authority, nor do I claim to be, on all the Press reports and misrepresentations of various kinds by people with minds twisted and not twisted. I find it quite impossible to tread my way through all the machinations of this jungle for which I am in no way responsible.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. I refer to my previous request concerning the possible delay in the proposed construction of the high schools at Casuarina and Alice Springs. Is the Minister in a position to advise whether consideration has been given to my suggestion that planning should proceed before reference to the Public Works Committee?
– On Wednesday of last week in a debate in this House the honourable member for the Northern Territory made a very strong plea for documentation to proceed before the Public Works Committee hearing of this matter. That plea was supported by other honourable members. On Thursday last the Chairman of the Public Works Committee informed the House that the Committee had met and agreed to write to the Minister for Works asking that the Government approve of the suggested course. I am happy to be able to inform the honourable member that his strong representations in this matter have been successful.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the right honourable gentleman is very disturbed and distressed at the recent issue of dollar bills with the numbers, under the photograph of Her Majesty the Queen, prefaced by the letters ‘ALP’? Is it also a fact that he endeavoured, without success, to prevent the issue of these notes at the instigation of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and members of the Liberal Party who fear its political consequences? In any case will he assure the public that the notes are genuine and all the more valuable as they bear the proud and honoured letters ‘ALP’, the initials of the Party which will be Australia’s new government?
– I confess that I am distressed about this matter. 1 thought it was an obituary notice for the Australian Labor Party. As 1 listened to the honourable member for Grayndler, who for some time felt that he was in danger of losing his seat and for whom I have a considerable personal regard, I thought that it might take more than his and my combined efforts to defeat the efforts of his Leader to defeat the honourable member in his own constituency.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Has he seen a reported statement by a Reverend W. Salter of Melbourne who claims to head an organisation calling itself the Protestant Information Centre, that he has invited the Reverend Ian Paisley of Northern Ireland to visit Australia and that he hopes Bernadette Devlin will come to Australia also? Is the Minister aware that this gentleman is reported as saying: ‘We will not begin the shooting but we may fire the last shot.’ Has the Minister also seen a letter to the Press by the Reverend L. FarquharGunn, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, that Mr Paisley has never been a Minister of the Presbyterian Church or even a church member, and that none of the following churches in Victoria, namely, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Church of England, the Congregational Church, the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ belongs to this socalled Protestant Information Centre in Melbourne? What powers does the Minister have to prevent both Miss Devlin and Mr Paisley from coming to Australia to endeavour to stir up similar religious strife as is at present going on in Northern Ireland?
– I have no doubt that all honourable members of this House and, indeed, everybody in Australia will feel considerable distress at what has happened in Northern Ireland but, at the same time, everybody will recognise the very different historical situation and very different environment that exists there as compared to Australia. It is my belief that Australia is a country where people are very tolerant and understanding of the different views of other people. Indeed, I believe that in Australia religious differences between one person and another are no barrier to friendship and understanding. The religion of a man has no determining point as to his progress. This, I believe, would indicate that Australia has a degree of maturity and of tolerance to enable it to allow people of this kind to come into Australia without its having any ill effect upon the Austraiian community.
So far as power is concerned, I assume that these people hold British passports and, as British passport holders, could go to a booking agency, pay their money, receive a ticket and arrive in Australia. The power that I have would be to prevent their entry upon arrival. Positive action would have to be taken. For my own part, I have not given direct consideration to this matter because, so far as I know, there is no intention on the part of either person to come to Australia. I would not propose to spend my time deciding what I would do in the eventuality of something happening, but I would consider the matter in the light of what I have just said about the maturity of our own community.
– Is the Treasurer aware that for the period July 1968 to June 1969 the monthly average of unemployment benefit recipients as a percentage of vacancies registered with the Department of Labour and National Service was 45.2% for Australia, but for Queensland the rate was nearly four times larger at 174.2%? As this evidences a much larger hard core unemployment problem for Queensland than for the rest of Australia will he outline what policies his Government has in mind to overcome this problem?
-Order! The honourable member cannot ask a question on a matter of policy.
– I ask: What steps does the Government propose taking to overcome this problem and, explicitly, will the Treasurer indicate how the current tighter monetary policies can be adapted so that this disproportionately large hard core unemployment problem affecting Queensland will not become aggravated?
– I should like, first, to thank the honourable gentleman for asking this question, I remind him that during the Budget we did introduce increased payments for unemployed recipients and for their dependants. Therefore, we have put into practice again the humanitarian approach of the Government. Secondly, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, and as I am glad now to be able to confirm, we. have assured the Queensland Government that for all expenses that are ‘incurred by it in combating the problem of drought relief - and this includes the relief of unemployment in drought areas or areas that might be affected by drought that is occurring elsewhere - we will pay all costs in excess of $2m. We have done this with the approval of the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Treasurer.
– What about non-drought areas where there is unemployment?
– If the honourable member had listened carefully to what I said - if he heard it he did not understand it - I mentioned that if an area-
– But you-
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley has asked his question and he knows fall well that interjections are out of order.
– The Government has taken action already to ensure that unemployment is kept to the minimum practicable level in Queensland. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, as recently as within the last 48 hours - I rather lose track .of days when the House sits so long throughout the week - I did have a talk with the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Gordon Chalk, about whether special arrangements could be made, in the monetary field, on a State basis where unemployment might perhaps grow. I assured him that I would take this matter up not only with the Treasury officials but also with the Reserve Bank to ensure that monetary policy should be adapted in such a way that it would not make an overall national impact but would be applied in areas where the greatest demand existed. In other words, and to put it precisely as far as Queensland was concerned, if there was a tendency for unemployment to grow we could quickly take action through the monetary fund to see that there was little or no restriction on advances in the Queensland area.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Does the right honourable gentleman know of any development in military strategy which requires that Australian security is best preserved by withdrawing all military forces back to the Australian mainland? If he does know of such developments, would they render the principle of forward defence completely invalid? If he does not know of such development, would he therefore regard any proposal to declare Australia’s strategic frontiers as extending no further than 3 or 12 miles out to sea as incredibly disastrous, even though this has been proposed by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition?
– I know of no such development as the honourable member suggests, but I do know, and I believe the country should pay great attention to the fact, that it is intended as a part of the’ Labor Party’s policy, should it ever by any mischance have a chance to apply policy, to withdraw all Australian troops from Malaya, Malaysia, from Singapore, from any area outside Australia.
– Is that Malaya or Malaysia?
– You propose to withdraw them from both - let us have that quite clear - from the peninsula of Malaya and the rest of Malaysia. The Leader of the Opposition has confirmed that they would propose to withdraw all Australian troops from all areas should they have the opportunity to do so. I am glad to have the confirmation from him and the cheers of support from his supporters on the other side of the House because I do agree with the honourable member that this would be extremely bad for Australia’s defence posture, that it would be bad for Australia, that it would be bad for our relationships with the other countries of the Five Power Pact. This is something of great significance for Australia’s future, which should be borne in mind by the people of this country because there is some attempt sometimes by the Leader of the Opposition to fudge this clear situation and pretend that he would not in fact do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which arises from cables giving comments made by the Minister for External Affairs yesterday at the AmericanAustralian Association luncheon which he addressed in New York. 1 ask: Does he agree with his Minister that there will be consultations with the Nixon Administration on the subject of the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam? Further, I ask: What arrangements have been made for such consultations in the light of the President’s announcement of a second withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam?
– The Australian Government is in constant consultation with the United States government on this matter and other matters and arrangements have been made for continuing consultation among the allied troop contributors generally and with the United States government and the South Vietnamese government on all aspects of matters connected with Vietnam.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the doubts that have been aroused in the minds of some investors due to the activity of deputy commissioners in some States in raking back over share transactions, would the Treasurer consult with the Commissioner in Canberra to try to lay down understandable guidelines along tines such as this: If a share is held for over 6 months it is an investment and if it is sold before that it becomes subject to tax?
– lt has long been the law that there is a distinction between investment and trading in shares. When it is investment and can be proved to be investment, no tax is payable on profits. When it is trading, that is, when a person is investing for the purpose of re-sale at a profit, tax on profits is payable. Always there is a right of appeal from the decision of the Commissioner of Taxation to m administrative tribunal, that is, to a Taxation Board of Review. I think the honour able gentleman can take it that the onus of proof in these cases is upon the Crown, and so far as I can detect, the Board of Review goes out of its way in an attempt to protect the taxpayer.
The second point I would like to make is that 1 have already had discussions with the Commissioner, who has informed me that so far as South Australia and Western Australia are concerned, he has given instructions that for the time being there will not be a general examination made of the accounts of brokers in an attempt to discover whether taxation has been avoided. He has also gone further and is attempting to introduce the same types of procedures into all the States, that is to make the position in every State the same as it is in New South Wales and Victoria.
In regard to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, as to whether we can be precise in terms of tax, I do not like the idea of a general capital gains tax to meet a special problem but, nonetheless, in deference to his wishes, I will have the matter examined and a report submitted to me.
– I present the following paper:
Taxation - Forty-eighth Report of the Com missioner of Taxation dated 1st September 1969, and move:
That the report be printed.
Honourable members will recall that it is the practice of the House to agree forthwith to the motion to print this paper so that it may be covered by parliamentary privilege. This course has the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). When the motion to print is agreed to, the report will be circulated immediately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That (he Bill be now read a second time.
This is the first of three Bills designed to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to establish a scheme of drought bonds for the benefit of graziers in arid areas. The three Bills will together give effect to the scheme and I think it would best suit the convenience of the House if in this speech, I give an outline of the scheme as a whole. Honourable members will recall that reference to drought Bonds was made in Last Year’s Budget Speech. On that occasion, I outlined in broad terms what the Government had in mind and indicated that legislation would be introduced as soon as the details of the scheme had been settled. Later - on 1st May of this year - I made a statement in the House of the Government’s decisions on the main principles of the drought Bonds scheme.
The Commonwealth Government has provided considerable assistance to primary producers, partly in the form of Government sponsored research and partly by way of taxation and other incentives to encourage the conservation of water and fodder. However, producers in drier areas cannot easily take advantage of these measures, and the drought bonds scheme has been designed to assist them. Experience has shown that in these areas the appropriate policy for producers to follow is to build up cash reserves in good years in order to reduce the impact of a drought on long term farm profitability. The drought bonds scheme is designed to provide producers with an opportunity to follow this policy and also to enable them to make financial provision against damage or loss to livestock or pastures through fire or flood. The incentive to make financial provision under this scheme lies in the treatment for income tax purposes of moneys subscribed to drought bonds and of proceeds of the redemption of drought bonds.
For the purpose of the scheme, an eligible grazier is one whose income from grazing sheep and/or beef cattle in an income year represents at least 90% of his gross farm income for that year. Subject to an overall limitation of $50,000, he will be allowed an income tax deduction of the amount of his subscriptions to drought bonds up to a maximum of 20% of his gross income from sheep and/ or beef cattle in any one year. When the grazier experiences drought, or incurs substantial damage or loss to pastures or livestock through fire or flood, he may apply to have his bonds redeemed. In these circumstances, the proceeds of the redemption will be included in his assessable income to the extent of tax deductions allowed. If his bonds become redeemable for any other reason allowed under the scheme, a special income tax will become payable which will equal the tax he originally saved when he subscribed to the bonds.
The income tax advantages of the scheme lie, firstly, in the deferment of an amount of tax payable by the grazier and, secondly, in the fact that the tax saved when subscriptions are made to the bonds in good seasons will in most cases exceed the tax payable on redemption on account of drought, fire or flood. This is because the grazier’s income could generally be expected to be lower in a year when bonds become redeemable, for one of these reasons, than in the year when bonds were purchased.
As I have said, three separate Bills are necessary to provide for drought bonds. The Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969 provides for the creation, issue and redemption of the securities, which will be called drought bonds. The second Bill. The Income Tax (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969, imposes the tax payable when the bonds are . redeemed for reasons other than drought, fire or flood. The third Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1969, covers all other taxation aspects of the drought bonds scheme, including provision for deductions on purchase, and the consequences of redemption. The legislation is necessarily complex. All circumstances which can be foreseen of the issue, holding and redemption of drought bonds have been taken into account, and the income tax provisions have been designed to provide fair treatment of the bond holder in each of these circumstances.
I turn now to the principal features of the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill. Part I of the Bill provides that it will come into operation on the date of royal assent, and this is also provided in the two associated Bills. It is proposed to issue the first series of drought bonds on 3rd November 1969 and the legislation should therefore be operative as early as possible.
Under the provisions of Part II of the Bill the Governor-General may by order create drought bonds and authorise the Treasurer to issue them. The provisions of Part II of the Bill are very much in line with other loan raising laws except for three aspects of drought bonds which, quite apart from their income tax treatment, distinguish them from other Commonwealth Securities. Firstly, the proceeds of sale of drought bonds will be transferred to a new Drought Bonds Trust Account which this Bill establishes. Bonds will be redeemed from funds standing to the credit of the Trust Account. Any moneys in the Trust Account may be temporarily invested in other Commonwealth securities. Secondly, the bonds will be issued only in the form of inscribed stock, and the appropriate parts of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act will apply to drought bonds. Thirdly, drought bonds will be inscribed in the name of one person only, except when they are transmitted on death or bankruptcy, and will not be transferable from one person to another. The income tax treatment can be effective only if the bonds are purchased and redeemed by the same person. This rules out the use of bearer bonds and precludes the transfer of bonds by sale or otherwise.
Part III of the Bill deals with the redemption of drought bonds. Since the income tax treatment of the proceeds of redemption of drought bonds is dependent on the circumstances of the redemption, it has been necessary to ensure that the provisions of this Part of the Bill and the proposed income tax legislation are on parallel lines. The Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill appoints the Commissioner of Taxation as the person authorised to determine all requests for the redemption of drought bonds and authorises him to declare, in certain circumstances prescribed by the Bill, that bonds have become redeemable. Bond holders have the’ right to refer to a
Taxation Board of Review a request for redemption which is refused by the Commissioner.
Where drought bonds are redeemed on account of drought, fire or flood, the proceeds of bonds in respect of which Tax deductions have been allowed will be included in the taxpayer’s assessable income of the year of income in which they are redeemed.
Where drought bonds are redeemed for any other reason, the proceeds of the bonds will be repaid net of the tax which was saved through tax deductions allowed at the time of purchase. These situations will arise: 1. When the bonds mature; 2. When the bondholder suffers serious financial hardship; 3. When the bondholder has permanently ceased to carry on a grazing business; 4. On the death, bankruptcy or, if a company, winding up of the bondholder; 5. Where income tax deductions are not allowed for bonds purchased; and 6. In certain circumstances, on the sale of a grazing business - when the bondholder requests redemption and re-issue of the bonds to the purchaser of the grazing business. Redemption of bonds on account of drought will be permitted where the area in which the property of the subscriber is locate has received inadequate rainfall over a sufficiently long period to have suffered a significant adverse effect on the normal pattern of production and where this area has been declared a drought area for this purpose by the Minister for Primary Industry through a notice in the ‘Gazette’. When the drought is over the Minister will revoke his earlier declaration. In addition to publication in the Gazette’ it is intended that such declarations and revocations will be advertised in the area or areas concerned.
The total maximum holding of drought bonds and, therefore, the maximum total income tax deduction at any one time by any one person is to be limited to $50,000. As I have indicated, the drought bonds scheme provides certain financial benefits for eligible primary producers. It is desirable, therefore, that bond holdings should be kept within limits considered reasonable and adequate. The Bill provides for the making of regulations to assist the implementation of the scheme and to allow certain regulations made under the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act to apply to drought bonds. Prospectuses, application forms, etc., for the first issue of drought bonds on 3rd November 1969 are in course of preparation.
The income tax concessions which the bonds carry for eligible persons mean that the effective return on the bonds will exceed their rate of interest. It is therefore desirable to avoid the bonds being used merely as an investment by persons for whom the income tax concessions are not intended. For these reasons, and because it is not practicable to restrict their purchase to eligible persons only, the rate of interest payable for the first series of bonds is being set at 3% per annum. This rate will be kept under review and could be changed with subsequent series if this is considered appropriate.
It is intended that a new series of bonds will come on issue each 12 months - normally on 1st -September. The first series, to be issued on 3rd November 1969, will be succeeded by series 2 on 1st September 1970. The bonds will be issued for a term of 10 years, and the first series will mature on 1st September 1979.
Graziers who purchase drought bonds during November and December of this year, and who are eligible for an income tax deduction, may elect to have the deduction made from assessable income for the income year ended 30th June 1969. The drought bonds scheme should be of great value to those graziers in the more arid areas who, in the normal course of events, are unable to adopt other measures to overcome financial losses incurred as a result of drought, fire or flood.
I have already outlined the substance of the main taxation provisions of the legislation. A memorandum giving comprehensive explanations of all three Bills is being circulated and I think it may be sufficient for me, in this introductory speech, to refer briefly to certain other tax aspects which are of practical significance and to which, in my outline of the scheme, I have not so far specifically referred. Tax deductions will be available for drought bonds purchased by an eligible grazier whether carrying on business as an individual, as a member of a partnership or as a company. For a member of a partnership, eligibility will be determined by reference to any separate operations of his own in addition to his operations through the partnership of which he is a member. For a number of technical reasons associated with the basic concept of the scheme it has not, however, been found practicable to make drought bond deductions available to trustees of trust estates carrying on a grazing business.
There are technical provisions to ensure that, in broad terms, appropriate adjustments are made to assessable income, or an appropriate amount of original tax saving is restored to the revenue, when a holding of drought bonds in respect of which tax deductions have been allowed is redeemed. For any of the various permitted purposes, either at the one time or over a period. I have explained that, when drought bonds are redeemed for reasons other than the existence of drought or loss by flood or fire, the tax saved from the deduction for the purchase price of the bonds becomes recoverable by the revenue. Tn these cases, the Commissioner of Taxation will be obliged to issue a determination setting out the amount of the tax saved at the time of purchase that is to be deducted from the proceeds on redemption. A taxpayer dissatisfied with the Commissioner’s determination will have the same rights of objection and appeal against it as are available in respect of assessments.
I mention also that it is proposed that, where a subscription to drought bonds is not fully deductible in 1 year of income - for example, because it exceeds 20% of a grazier’s gross receipts from maintaining sheep or beef cattle, or exceeds the amount that would, but for a deduction for the subscription, be his taxable income for the year - the amount not deducted may be carried forward for deduction in a subsequent year of income. Alternatively the subscriber may, without any tax consequences, redeem the amount of the excess investment. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr McMahon) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr McMahon) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill provides for the validation until 30th April 1970 of customs duties collected in pursuance of customs tariff proposals moved in this House since 14th August last. Honourable members will appreciate that legislation to enact these changes could not be properly debated before the House goes into recess. A Bill to enact the tariff changes can be introduced into the House in the next session. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Leave granted for debate to be continued forthwith.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of sleeping quarters for officers and junior sailors at HMAS ‘Albatross’, Nowra, New South Wales.
The proposal involves construction of two sleeping blocks for 9 senior officers and 78 junior officers and one junior sailors’ sleeping block for 144 men. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $900,000. I table plans of the proposed works.
– There are one or two comments I would like to make concerning the motion moved by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly). As the Minister will recall, I visited HMAS Albatross’ earlier this year. On that occasion I had the opportunity to investigate, amongst other matters, the sleeping quarters that were available to the officers and men stationed there. The Minister also will recall that when I returned to Canberra following upon that visit I had a number of personal discussions with him on this question. I subsequently wrote to the Minister pointing out that I believed it was necessary for some improvements to be effected in this way. Therefore the Opposition supports the motion that the Minister has moved, for the purpose of referring this matter to the Public Works Committee.
The Minister will readily agree that some of the accommodation at HMAS ‘Albatross’, while probably not sub-standard, has been there since the last war and is certainly unsuitable for present day requirements. In recent years some additional quarters have been provided and they are of a much better standard. If this naval station is to be a permanent station - and one would assume that the Government has decided it will be - then quite obviously all accommodation there ought to be brought up to the same standard. It is quite certain that ratings and officers required to sleep in the present accommodation would be disturbed by the noise of aircraft. For that reason also I believe some alterations and some improvements are necessary.
I have often referred, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the number of ratings who have not offered for re-engagement. I think one of the reasons why the rate of re-engagement is not as high in the Service as it might be is because in many instances there is substandard accommodation. This is so not only at this naval station and at other naval establishments but in the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force as well. Indeed, on 16th October 1968, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), pointed out that in 1963-64 the rate of re-engagement was 68%. By 1967-68 the re-engagement rate for the Navy had fallen to 36%. That is rather a drastic decline in the number of servicemen who offered for re-engagement in the naval service. Quite obviously one of the reasons for it would be sub-standard accommodation.
I am rather disappointed that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate), who has some responsibility in this matter, is not here to offer some opinions on what, after all, is an extremely important proposal. However, I conclude by expressing appreciation for the prompt action of the Government in moving to rectify what was obviously a very serious anomaly at this naval station. The accommodation was unsatisfactory. It was unsuitable both for officers and men. The Minister accordingly has moved to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee. I hope that the work will be commenced as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 18 September (vide page 1650).
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
– Mr Chairman, I propose to move for the postponement of this clause. I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee by calling a division but I want a vote on the voices. It is most important that we have a vote on the voices. If the vote by voice is declared against my motion for postponement then that will be a clear enough indication for me that there are more Government voices opposing the motion than Opposition voices in support of it. The fact that the voices may be so clearly against us will obviate the need for a formal division. I have made these remarks to enable the smooth passage of the Bill through the Committee.
The Opposition objects to those parts of clause 3 which define an eligible pensioner as being a person to whom section 30a of the Social Services Act applies. The Opposition sees no reason at all why there should be a distinction between single pensioners and married pensioners. Very properly the Aged Persons Homes Act made no distinction. Married pensioners are entitled to go into homes erected by means of finance provided by the Commonwealth under the Aged Persons Homes Act and we see no justification for departing from this and making a distinction in this Bill between married pensioners and single pensioners.
It is quite true, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) pointed out, that there are many single pensioners in dire circumstances. A pensioner has to be in dire circumstances before qualifying for benefits under section 30a of the Social Services Act. I concede that. But whilst there are many single pensioners in this category there are also many married pensioners whose housing situation is serious. This is due to the exorbitant rent that they have to pay. They are left with little money to buy food and clothing and to meet the cost of heating. They are left with as little money as are the single pensioners who are perhaps paying a smaller rent and may have some small income. They are not allowed to have much income, as everybody knows, otherwise they are automatically disqualified under section 30a of the Act. I therefore formally move:
That the clause be postponed.
I do so in order that the Committee may indicate its disapproval of the Government’s departure from the principles contained in the Aged Persons Homes Act; namely, that there be no distinction between married couples in dire need of good accommodation at reasonable rental and single pensioners with the same need. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the official figures incorporated in Hansard last night by my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I invite honourable members to turn to page 1647 of Hansard where it is shown in the table that at the moment there are 102,642 pensioners in receipt of the supplementary allowance provided for in section 30a of the Social Services Act. In addition, 46,520 pensioners in similar circumstances receive the invalid pension. A total of 20,590 A, B and C class widow pensioners are in the same category.
When one adds up the figures one finds that a total of 168,000 pensioners in Australia today are paying rent. This is a large number of people. It means that there are at least 168,000 people who do not own their own homes but are dependent on others for their accommodation. In some cases the rent paid is reasonable. Included among the 168,000 pensioners would be many who are already provided for by way of accommodation made possible under the Homes for the Aged Act. Many would be living in nursing homes, too. Single pensioners qualify for the supplementary pension upon entering a nursing home, but married pensioners do not. The Opposition contends that many married pensioner couples are experiencing great difficulty in providing suitable accommodation for themselves. The Minister will no doubt say in reply that we should put first things first and have a proper order of priority.
One would naturally assume that a single person living on only one pension and paying rent is in a much worse position than a married couple with two pensions coming in each week. Up to a point that is a reasonable argument, but it overlooks the fact that there are exceptions to every rule. A single pensioner may be able to obtain accommodation at a reasonable rent but it may be much more difficult for a pensioner couple to obtain it at a reasonable rental. I am not saying that single pensioners can get suitable accommodation at a reasonable rental; I am saying that the type of accommodation that single pensioner can obtain - poor though it may be - may not be available at a reasonable rental to married pensioner couples. The Minister covered the point I am raising now in his second reading speech by saying that the standard of accommodation available to single pensioners is often miserable. In some cases these pensioners cannot obtain even this standard of accommodation at a reasonable rental but are compelled to accept it and pay a high rental.
The Minister made the point that the standard of accommodation single pensioners have to accept is often so bad and the living conditions imposed upon them are often so onerous that their health is impaired and their lives shortened. With all our wealth we should not impose these circumstances upon our citizens. The Opposition believes that, whilst the Minister is right in pointing out these facts in relation to single pensioners, it is a pity the Minister did not also recognise the dire circumstances of those pensioner couples who have to pay rent for poor accommodation. These people are also having their lives shortened by the low standard of accommodation that they have to put up with. The Opposition has therefore drawn attention to this particular aspect of clause 3 of the Bill by formally moving its postponement. This will indicate to the public at large whether the supporters of the Government are willing to support our contention that, though the need for good accommodation at low rates of rental for married couples is not as great as it is for the single pensioners who will be eligible for assistance under section 30a of the Social Services Act, it is nevertheless very great indeed in some cases.
– The Government is unable to accept the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). There is no question of a precedent in this instance because this is a new measure that is designed to assist in coping with a very serious problem. There is no direct relationship between this legislation and the Aged Persons Homes Act, which is a measure providing matching grants on the basis of a $2 Commonwealth contribution for every $1 contributed by charitable and religious bodies to provide homes for the aged.
The purpose of this legislation is to assist the States in the very important field of accommodation for single age pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance. These people constitute the bulk of the waiting lists of the State housing authorities. The Commonwealth is channelling its assistance to the area of greatest need. Invalid pensioners and age pensioner couples are not so numerous and their housing needs do not present nearly the same degree of problems for the State housing authorities as single age pensioners. That is why the Commonwealth’s assistance is being channelled towards this area of greatest need.
If the amendment posed by the Opposition were accepted it would result in a dilution of the amount of aid which could be provided to meet this most serious problem as assistance would be distributed over a wider field. Thus the amendment would delay an attempt to improve the position of the single age pensioners, for whom this legislation is specifically designed.
Mr UREN (Reid) (11.57]- I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) pointed out in his second reading speech, the assistance provided under this legislation will be welcomed by the community. The Minister said that the Government is trying to channel assistance to the area of greatest need. The Opposition believes that it has taken the Government far too long to introduce proposals of this nature. Of course, the need for assistance is great. The sum of $2Sm may seem a large grant but it is insignificant when one takes into account that it is to be made over a period of 5 years and will be divided up between the States. The Minister is probably aware of the backlog in the waiting list of the State housing authorities. Last night I quoted certain figures in relation to the housing situation in New South Wales. Over 7,000 people are on the waiting list of the Housing Commission of New South Wales at present. New South Wales will receive only $2,150,000 out of the grant of $25m. Last year 454 homes were built in New South Wales at a cost of $2.1m.
The cost of land is an important factor. Surely the Minister is aware that land is very expensive to purchase. In regard to this aspect the Minister said in his second reading speech that land should be purchased in the older, inner suburbs of the capital cities. I am afraid that the money made available under this bill for the purchase of land would not go very far at all. The Minister comes from New South Wales where there is probably more work done in the field of housing single people and also married couples than in any other State. I will deal with this aspect later on. Surely he is aware that the people who live in the metropolitan area of Sydney are now moving out to places such as Green Valley which is more than 20 miles from the heart of the city.
If the Minister examines the difficulties of the New South Wales Housing Commission in the purchase of land surely he will agree that under the provisions of clause 3 of this Bill with the money that is being made available it would be an impossibility to purchase land in the inner suburbs of Sydney on which to build these homes. The NSW Housing Commission is now using land for the erection of Commission homes on the outer fringes of Sydney. The reason that the Commission erects so many homes in my electorate is that the land in that area is less costly than the land in the inner suburbs of Sydney. I do not think that the Minister has given a great deal of thought to this matter.
The Bill defines ‘self contained dwelling’ as:
Is it a correct interpretation of the words not shared with another dwelling’ to say that only a single person can use such a dwelling? Why the Government has adopted this narrow concept and limited the occupation of such dwellings to single persons is beyond my comprehension. I fail to see why the Government has not realised that married couples have difficulties in this field. Under the aged persons homes scheme the Government has made available homes not only to single persons but also to married couples. I would like to know why the same principle was not adopted in this case.
If one looks at the statistics which are available one finds that the number of dwellings for aged persons constructed in New South Wales is 4,500 units of which 3,723 are single units, that is, for single people, and only 827 are for married couples. If a study was made of these figures it would be found that there are more single persons who need housing facilities than there are married couples. I would like to know why the Government has adopted this narrow concept of providing self-contained dwellings only for single persons. I point out that in the field of age pensions the Government is now differentiating between the payments for single pensioners and those for married couple pensioners. I think that this differentiation is wrong because there are many married age pensioners who certainly are as badly off as some single pensioners, if not worse off. The Government has said in a kind of dogmatic manner that it will deal only with single pensioners who in certain circumstances receive supplementary assistance. This seems to me to be a narrow policy. It is too dogmatic. Individual cases should be judged on their merits. The NSW Housing Commission has dealt with each case on its merits. It is my belief that this legislation should provide for cases to be dealt with on their merits. The State housing authority should have officers to determine who most needs the assistance - single persons or married couples. The figures I have given indicate that the greater number of people who have been assisted are the single persons. Why does the Minister completely discard the married aged couple? I want to know the reason for this. Under the aged persons homes scheme the Government recognises the fact that married couples as well as single persons are entitled to assistance under that scheme. Under that sheme the problems are dealt with in a more rational manner, but under this scheme the Government does not want the Housing Commission of NSW to grant the subsidy to the married aged couple. I call this $1 for SI provision a subsidy or a matching subsidy, although the Minister may apply a different phrase.
– It is not a matching grant.
– My colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, informs me that it is not really a matching grant.
Actually it means that if you want a million you have to spend a million.
– No. If you get a million you must spend it for this purpose.
– If the Commonwealth gave to a State Sim would it not be spent on housing for the aged? Of course it would. This Bill, as it is drafted, is vague and confusing.
– Has the honourable member read it?
– We on this side have read it and we have discussed it in our Party room. I am pleased to say that at least our drafting committee is clear on it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has such great difficulty in grasping the point that this is not a matching process. I have already explained this in the House on two occasions. The only provision in this Bill which could in any way be likened to a matching process is the commitment, to be undertaken by the States, that because this legislation provides more funds for pensioner housing the States will not therefore spend less and withdraw from this field as this new Commonwealth money comes in. I repeat that this money will be directed to areas of greatest need. The greatest need rises from the fact that this is a serious problem confronting the State housing authorities because the bulk of their task is to find accommodation for single age pensioners. The fact that funds are flowing into this work generally means that the States themselves will be able to spread their efforts more widely over the rest of those concerned. So this legislation in no way cuts out married persons. It directs funds to assist where the serious problem exists. The bulk of the problem which the State housing authorities now have is attributable to single age pensioners. This does not mean, in any sense, that the Bill will in fact cut off married couples from being assisted by the State housing authorities.
The honourable member for Reid referred to my earlier mention that the greatest need in the large States for pensioner accommodation was in the inner metropolitan areas. He pointed out that it would be cheaper to house many of these pensioners in Green Valley, in his own electorate or in more outlying parts of Sydney, but the fact is that these age pensioners do not want to move from the district where they live, from their friends and from all the associations that they have built up probably throughout most of their lives. If someone has lived in Redfern for 50 years, when he is old it is not necessarily to his taste to move to Green Valley even though the accommodation that might be provided in Green Valley would be somewhat cheaper. This is the problem. As far as possible it is desirable for individual choice to be exercised. The inner suburbs are where the housing authority in New South Wales is finding the greatest need for housing of pensioners. I mention this as being the great problem. I feel confident that the Housing Commission of New South Wales will meet the problem and the provision of these funds will help it greatly in doing so. But this certainly will not change the lines of its well laid down policies. It will enable the Commission to achieve results much more quickly.
– I am grateful that the Minister has cleared up the question concerning what I believed was to be a $1 for $1 subsidy. This matter was discussed by my Party and my impression was that it was to be a $1 for $1 basis. I gained this belief from my reading of clause 6 of the Bill. I am pleased that it is to be a direct grant although I understand that the Government wants to maintain expenditure by the States at the present level. Whilst I did not get the Minister’s point regarding the provision of these funds, the Minister did not get my point either. During the next 5 years New South Wales will receive S2.15m annually. As I pointed out last night which appears at page 1647 of Hansard, last year 454 homes were built by the New South Wales Housing Commission under this scheme and $2,100,000 was “pint. Most of the homes were built in the outer suburbs of Sydney at places such as Green Valley, Carramar and Fairfield.
– Who built them?
– They were built by the Housing Commission of New South Wales. Land was available in the outer suburbs. I have tried to do my homework on this matter but, unfortunately, the Minister has not done his. If the Minister checks with the Housing Commission he will find that for every house that was built by the Commission in the inner suburbs ten were built in the outer suburbs. Land is too dear in the inner city and the money that is being made available to purchase land is insufficient. The cost of land aggravates the position. More units for aged people are being built in Sydney than elsewhere, but has the Minister made inquiries to find out how many of these homes have been built in Double Bay, Vaucluse, Watson’s Bay or Paddington - and I mention Paddington as a type of comme-ci comme-ca suburb? How many have been built in those suburbs? Hundreds have been built in my area because land values are lower there than they are in the area of suburbia which the Minister represents. Even in Redfern land values are getting too dear to enable the Housing Commission to construct great numbers of age pensioner units. The Housing Commission has been forced to go to the outer suburbs.
I point out to honourable members that there is a waiting list of more than 7,000 applicants for these units, but only 450 units were built last year in New South Wales. Even with the present subsidy, and assuming that building costs, land values and labour costs remain constant, the Commission will be able to build only an additional 450 units, making a total of 900 in one year. On that basis it will take at least 8 years to catch up with the waiting list. It is interesting to refer to the number of pensioners who are receiving supplementary assistance in New South Wales. At present 45,000 age pensioners, 19,000 invalid pensioners and 8,000 widow pensioners are receiving supplementary assistance so obviously there will be more applicants for the type of accommodation that we are discussing. How in heavens name can the problem be solved by making available only S2, 150,000 a year? The Minister wants units provided in inner suburbs, although probably not in his own electorate where it would not be economic for workers or aged people to live, even though some may have been living there most of their lives. It is difficult for them to get homes in most of the inner suburbs because of the high value of real estate. The Minister mentioned Redfern but land values are too high there. lt is time the Government faced this question realistically.
As I explained last night, the great bulk of the revenue for financing these homes for the aged in New South Wales has been gained from poker machines. Fancy, in 1969 having to use poker machine revenue to build homes for the aged. The Government will spend $250m of Commonwealth revenue on twenty-four Fill aircraft which it does not know will fly and $1,1 00m on defence but will provide only $25m over a 5-year period for this type of accommodation. The Government could afford to give only $2,150,000 a year to New South Wales, which theoretically is the most populous State, to house these aged people over the next 5 years.
These are the challenges that the Government has to meet. We are not saying that we are not grateful for some of the crumbs that fall from the table of this conservative Commonwealth Government - this Government that really represents the wealthy sector of the community. However, our great concern for people living under difficult circumstances, whom we have known of for years, has at last been noticed by the Government. The wives of honourable members who go around from house to house working for the Meals on Wheels organisations, as my wife does, will know of the difficult circumstances under which these people live. My wife tells me of the terrible conditions under which some people are living. The Minister knows about these conditions.
The amount of money allocated under the Bill is a mere pittance, and the Minister says dogmatically that assistance will be given only to single people. Under this scheme he is not allowing for married couples. In fact, he is not even allowing for widows or invalids. The Minister has said dogmatically that the assistance given under this Bill will be for single aged people who are pensioners or people who may be receiving a service pension. I would like to see this legislation broadened. I would like to see the Minister do a little more homework. I want him to work on the basis of understanding the cost of land values in inner Sydney suburbs. The $2,150,000 allo cated to New South Wales under this legislation will not go anywhere towards providing houses for pensioners. Instead of succeeding in wiping away the great backlog that exists in the housing field this allocation will fail and fail miserably. The Government is not even coping with the growth of poverty. We should be attempting to stop and eliminate poverty. It is about time that aged people, invalids and widows in our community received a fair go. This Government has been in office for 20 years. It has taken far too long to do something about the problems facing pensioners.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) gave a dissertation on the cost of land and where it is cheaper to build houses. In passing, J might mention that if the honourable member came to my electorate he would find that the cost of land has gone close to sky-high. Yet the number of dwelling units in my electorate has increased. Before very long I shall have a very extensive network of aged persons’ homes right on the fringes of Paddington and Edgecliffe, which the honourable member mentioned and which are within my electorate. The high cost of land is well known and it needs no reiteration by the honourable member for Reid or anyone else. What I did say and what I would like to emphasise is that it is desirable as far as possible that the place of living of aged persons should be where they want to live. It is quite obvious that the housing commissions have to move their activities out of the steadily crowded cities to outlying areas because the price of land is continually increasing and it is cheaper to buy land in outlying areas. This does not get rid of the fact that as far as possible it is our desire to house aged persons and pensioners -in areas that they know and have known for a long time, if in fact that is where they want to live.
The honourable member for Reid of course, ranged more widely. He said that the amount of money allocated under the Bill now before us is not enough to solve the problem of housing pensioners. Of course it is not. This country has an enormous number of problems that cannot be dealt with in full or dealt with more quickly than at a certain pace. We have an economy that is fully employed and which does not have any further spare resources. However, the funds allocated under this Bill are an important contribution to what other bodies are doing, particularly the States. This allocation helps such bodies to house pensioners. The funds are directed at the point of the greatest immediate load in housing these people. This is the purpose of the Bill, to render some considerable assistance, which in fact, it will do.
It is useless to pretend that the funds allocated under this Bill will solve the housing problem of aged persons or even the housing problems of pensioners receiving supplementary assistance, to which this Bill is confined. This is not the only housing measure by any means upon which the Government is engaged, lt is one sector of a wide compass. The Bill before us breaks into a new field to help the States deal with problems which, at present, are very great for them indeed. The Bill makes a contribution and we do not claim that what has been allocated will solve the problem or that it is adequate to do so. Even if the resources of this country were unlimited, and if we had more resources and large numbers of unemployed skilled building labour and so on, it would not necessarily be desirable to spend more. The government keeps within the realm of the practical. That is why at the moment we enjoy a fully employed condition and greater prosperity than Australia has ever known. This is why, indeed, any change in government could seriously jeopardise this prosperous state.
– I would like to comment briefly on the Bill before the Committee. I appreciate the explanation given by the Minister for Labor and National Service (Mr Bury) in answer to the contributions made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). It is obvious that the Minister appreciates the problems concerning the implementation of the Bill in a wide enough field to make a great impression. I appreciate that this is a new venture. However, I venture to say that the amount made available under this legislation is so small that it could embarrass the scheme’s success. For instance, Tasmania is to receive the handsome sum of $130,000 a year. How many homes for single aged people could be built for $130,000 when land has to be acquired to start off with? This is the problem. As I see it, if this Bill allocated $50m or SI 00m over 5 years we would have something to bite into. However, are we going to make a big enough impression on the problem with such a small amount, especially the small amount that has been granted to Tasmania?
Although $130,000 has been given to Tasmania in proportion to the number of people receiving supplementary allowances, this amount of money is still hopelessly inadequate even to start this scheme. The contribution made by the honourable member for Reid pinpointed the areas of our concern with this matter. Firstly, he mentioned the cost of land. Pensioners who need a single home mostly live in the inner areas of cities where the cost of land would be highest. It is a very nice concept to say: ‘We will build a home for you where you have lived all of your life’. Not many States will be able to carry out this provision. As the honourable member for Reid said, the cost of land is creeping up in every city. The price paid for land will eat up a great proportion of the $25m that has been provided over 5 years even before we start to build the units. Added to this, buildings costs are very high, especially in some areas.
I think that the Commonwealth is putting another burden on the States in that the States will have to have a separate organisation to run this scheme. The scheme we are talking about is not separate from the homes for the aged scheme; it does not attract assistance on a $2 for $1 basis. The scheme will require a new administrative job to be done quite separate from everything else. Obviously, the State Housing Commissions will have to administer the scheme. But they may well have to increase their staffs to do this. The money provided under the scheme cannot be spent for any other purpose than those mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech. According to the Minister, this proposal is an entirely new concept. As the money becomes available from the Commonwealth it will have to be spent precisely in the way which is set out in the Minister’s second reading speech, which states:
The purpose of our offer of advances to the States is to assist them to carry out a number of building projects. A project may include the purchase of land, the preparation of land for the erection of a building, the planning and erection of a building and the installation of water, electricity or other services to provide self contained dwellings for eligible single pensioners.
There is no cost greater than that involved in building single unit homes, lt is cheaper to build a multi-group of homes in one area than to build units which are quite separate. I believe that widows should be given special consideration. There should be a widow’s home building scheme within the total range of the housing programme provided by this Government. I ask the Minister whether a single person, who is a widow, would be eligible for assistance under this legislation. This is important.
– It refers only to aged persons.
– That would mean aged widows over 60 years.
– If a widow was aged 52 years she could not receive assistance under this legislation.
– No. I think that the scope of the scheme should be broadened immediately to include widows of all ages who have no children. I think they are being hit very hard today. They receive no consideration at all in the Government’s housing programme. As the honourable member for Reid stated, the limitations in this scheme are frightening.
– A widow would have to be single to get assistance.
– She would have to be a deserted widow or a divorced widow - a widow in that sense. I know there are different definitions of a widow, but in the broad sense I think that a widow should be given special consideration in a scheme such as the one we are considering because she certainly has a great battle on her hands to make ends meet and to gain security. There are imperfections in the present proposal, and I am sure that the officers of the Department and the Minister will be the first to admit it. I am glad to note that a report on how the scheme is operating will be given by the Minister each year. After the first 12 months of the operation of the scheme we will see very clearly, the bugbears and the imperfections in it. Then it will be up to the Labor government of the day to make sure that these imperfections are ironed out, that the gaps are filled, and that additional money is made available to the States so that they can do something effective for the folk who come within the categories encompassed by the scheme. I know that the present proposal goes a little further towards solving a great problem in this country. Naturally, we are grateful for it, but in conclusion I repeat that the paucity of the money which is being provided especially to Tasmania, could defeat the very success of the scheme.
– I think that the only thing that can be said in favour of the Bill which is before us is that a little is better than nothing. In reality, the proposal is an election gimmick on the part of the Government. If the Government were sincere and honest in its approach to this problem it would not legislate for the provision of $25m for this scheme over 5 years. It would make an immediate grant of $25m for the first year of the scheme, and then it would start thinking about how much will be required in the immediate years following that in order to do something to clean up this great social problem which exists in the community today. I do not think anyone can deny the fact that there is a serious social problem. It is so serious that some years ago the New South Wales Government decided, as a matter of policy, that any person 80 years of age or over, who applied for a Housing Commission pensioner unit, would immediately be granted one. What a shocking state of affairs it is when the housing problem facing aged people has reached such a level that the Government had to say: ‘We realise that some of these people will never obtain a home and in an attempt to overcome their problem we will introduce the policy decision that everyone of 80 years of age or over, who applies for a Housing Commission pensioner unit, will be accommodated immediately a unit becomes vacant.’ That policy still remains. It is some small indication of the seriousness of this social problem.
Honourable members are aware that scarcely a week goes by that someone does not come to their office to inquire as to how they can get some form of accommodation, particularly pensioner accommodation. I am talking specifically about aged pensioners, not about wage earners. So often these people find themselves in the position where they live in the older suburbs which today are becoming more highly industrialised. This comment applies particularly to honourable members who represent industrial electorates, in which the older suburbs, which originally were the residential suburbs in the cities, are now becoming industrialised suburbs, as a result of town planning. I have in mind, in particular, three subdivisions in my electorate - the Newcastle sub-division, the Wickham sub-division and the Carrington sub-division. Ten years ago there were 6,000 electors in the Wickham sub-division. Today there are slightly more than 4,000 electors. This position has been brought about because of the fact that homes are being demolished, leaving people in the situation of having to live alongside of industry or packing up and getting out.
Many of the industries which have been established are obnoxious types of industries which create dust and noise problems. I have in mind the mineral sand industry, which has caused a considerable amount of inconvenience and nuisance to people who have to live near it. The same can be said about a large transport industry. Admittedly, it was a small industry years ago, but it has grown into a huge one. It is owned by an overseas combine, which is moving into the transport industry. So we find that people are being forced out of their homes because of the intrusion of industry into what was previously a completely residential district. Some honourable members could probably say that these people do not have to get out of their homes, that nobody tells them that they have to get out, but people, who are aged and are tired of living alongside a dust bowl or a huge transport industry which has trucks coming and going at ail hours of the night, find that they cannot tolerate these things and they have to get out. In many cases they have to go and find rooms or accommodation which costs as much as $11 a week. In some cases they cannot afford to pay this amount of money. When there are two of them, at least they may have a chance to pay it, but when one partner dies, it leaves the other partner in a completely intolerable position in this regard.
The same can be said about houses which are becoming old. When people are young they buy land and build their own homes. But by the time they reach 60 or 70 years of age, the houses are approximately 50 years old and these people are not in a position to pay for the cost of repairs and they are not capable of repairing the houses themselves. Therefore, if they want to repair the houses they have to get tradesmen to do the work. But they find that they have not the money to do this. This frequently forces people to sell out and try to go somewhere else to live. People who sell their homes are granted a State Housing Commission home only in exceptional circumstances. I hope the Minister will keep this in mind when he is looking again at the scheme so that these people will not be debarred from the grant of a home.
I know that officers of the Housing Commission have said that a woman living in a three-bedroom house is suitably housed. No-one can deny that she is suitably housed; she has a house with three bedrooms. She is really over-housed. For years these people were excluded from the aged persons list kept by the Housing Commission. I hope this sort of housing will not now be held against them. I can cite other cases. People who are renting homes can be in a similar position when the family grows up, the spouse dies and they are left on their own. I hope the Minister will ensure that these people are adequately protected. Some people have rented the homes in which they live for the whole of their married lives. I had a gentleman in to see me only two week-ends ago. He had lived in a house for 22 years, religiously paid his rent and still pays it. Then the landlord came along and said: ‘I cannot afford to repair this place. You will have to get out.’ The roof is leaking, it needs painting and it is completely dilapidated, but the owner says that he cannot afford to repair it. He says that he wants to sell it and the tenant will have to pack up and get out. Invariably these old people cannot stand the pressure that is put on them.
A lady has lived in a house only seven or eight doors away from my place for as long as I can remember. She has lived there since I was a lad in Maryville. I have said that, under thelaw as it is, she cannot be put out of her house, but the other day my wife said to me: ‘Mrs So-and-So has packed up and gone’. I said: ‘Why did she go?’ My wife said: ‘She could not stand the owner of the place coming there every week and asking her when she was getting out.’ The aged people cannot stand the pressure applied to them by the owners. But I realise that there are two sides and I do not completely condemn the owners for the tactics they use. After all, they are entitled to some return on their money. They may want to sell the house so that they can buy something for themselves. We find that the owner often is a pensioner or is in the same age group as the tenant. But I think that the community as a whole has a responsibility to provide accommodation for the aged people.
As I said earlier, the only good thing that can be said about the Bill is that a little is better than nothing. I firmly believe that this is an election gimmick. To substantiate this point I will, if I may, use the allocation as an example. In the next 5 years New South Wales will receive sufficient money to build approximately 1,965 homes or 390 a year. I want to show what this represents. In Newcastle at present the New South Wales Housing Commission has 310 applications for single accommodation and the priority date is January 1966. In other words, a person who applied for accommodation in January 1966 - that is, 3 years and 8 months ago - would now be coming up for a unit. A single aged person in Newcastle must wait for 3½ to 4 years before he will be given a pensioner unit. Applications from fifty-seven married couples are on the list and their priority date is December 1966.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– With your permission, Mr Chairman, I will take my second period. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had indicated that the only good thing that could be said about the Bill is that a little is better than nothing. Generally speaking this is an election gimmick. Only $25m will be spent over 5 years. The information presented to us discloses that the amount to be allocated to New South Wales will build only 390 units in a year. At this very moment in Newcastle, the population of which is only a fraction of the State’s population, there are 367 applicants who will have to wait 3 years and 8 months for accommodation. Of that number 310 are single pensioner applicants and 57 married pensioner applicants. These aged people are receiving a raw deal when you compare their position with that of applicants for two-bedroom housing commission homes. Their priority dates from December 1967. They have to wait for about 1 year and 10 months. Priority for a three-bedroom housing commission home dates from February 1968 and for a fourbedroom home from March 1968. Why should old people suffer this discrimination? Why should they have to wait 3 years and 8 months for a home when an applicant for a two-bedroom housing commission home waits only about 22 months? This is unfair discrimination.
I have already referred to the plight of aged people living in suburbs which are being taken over by industries. I referred to the situation in Wickham in my electorate, where the population has declined from 6,500 to slightly more than 4,000. Homes in the area have been taken over by industry. The residents of the area are slowly but surely being forced out because they cannot stand the noise and dirt that goes with industry of today. I had hoped that when the Government talked about doing something for aged people it meant something constructive and substantial. This $25m should be spent in one year. After all, the Government can spend $300m on the F111 aircraft, which has already cost lives and which is causing the Government great concern and embarassment. The Government can find $ 1,000m a year for defence. But to provide accommodation for pensioners the best the Government can do is find a paltry $5m a year. I regret sincerely that the Government cannot see its way clear to do more. The entire annual allocation for New South Wales could be spent in Newcastle, and the rest of the State could go to pot. That is the situation.
When these homes are built I hope that some thought will be given to their location. I have already referred to the plight of old people who are forced out of the centre of the city because of industrial development. In my electorate a great deal of the accommodation being provided for the aged is located 10, 15 or 20 miles out of town in areas where the old people are strangers. They do not make friends quickly. It is a different matter for young people; they meet other people when they take their children to school or when they attend meetings of parents’ and citizens’ associations. Old people have difficulty attending meetings at night. If they live in new suburbs well away from the city they often have to walk a considerable distance to catch a bus to town to do their shopping or to go to a theatre. Accommodation is often as far as 25 miles from town, which means that the old people have to catch a train to get to town. It is unreasonable to expect people of 60 or 65 years of age to take up life in a new suburb, make friends there and get to know the surroundings. If the Minister for Housing does not already have power to determine where these dwellings will be built the legislation should be amended to give that power.
Vacant land is still available in the inner suburbs. Under a programme of slum clearance land could be reclaimed and set aside to provide accommodation for oid people in surroundings in which they have lived for most of their lives. These people hate going out of town. They like to stay where they have lived for most of their lives. There is no need to buy acres and acres of land to carry out such development. A reasonable project could be developed in a garden setting on as little as 1 acre of land. In several parts of Australia and in countries overseas I have seen homes for aged persons established in a garden setting. One project that comes to mind is in Mackay where some years ago, with the assistance of the Queensland Labor Government, the Labor controlled council was able to build this 1 type of development in a garden setting. All of the houses were set in one block, without fences. You could not distinguish one place from the other. The council provides a gardener to keep the place immaculate. It is in an excellent setting. I urge honourable members to have a look at it if they are in Mackay.
I know that similar schemes are being developed in other States. It is in a setting of this kind that I would like to see these homes built so that our old people may live out their lives in surroundings to which they have been accustomed. It is not desirable to have 300 or 400 pensioners living in one locality. It is better if chey mingle with young people. It is better if they live in a residential development alongside people with families. Simply because these people want to live in a housing commission home they should not be forced to live in new suburbs a long way from town, where they will be required to pay $3 or $4 a week in fares to and from work. The people who live in my electorate do not have to pay a great deal to get to work but those who live in housing commission developments in the electorates of Shortland and Hunter and who work in Newcastle are forced to pay up to $4 a week in fares, whether they travel by public transport or by car. I ask the Minister to bear these facts in mind.
Do not push these people out into the new suburbs. People who have spent all their lives in the inner suburbs of Sydney are being pushed out to Liverpool and similar places. I ask the Minister to take these things into consideration because he has the authority to determine where the money can be spent. Most important of all, for heaven’s sake increase this paltry allowance of $5m a year for the whole of Australia.
Amendment negatived. -
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4. (I.) Subject to this section, the Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, by instrument in writing, approve a building scheme in connexion with the provision of self-contained dwellings for eligible pensioners. (2.) The Minister may, in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, approve a building scheme formulated before the commencement of this Act (including a scheme formulated before the commencement of the peroid in relation to which this Act applies) but he shall not approve a building scheme if the erection, alteration or extension of any building in pursuance of the scheme was begun before the commencement of that period. (3.) In this section, “self-contained dwelling” does not include a dwelling that is designed for occupation by more than one person at a time.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)
Time and time again I have complained about the way people are treated in these homes. They are required to pay targe sums of money to get into the homes in the first place. When they die the money paid by them remains the property of the organisation. The next person who comes in has to pay again. As though that is not bad enough, the organisation then periodically increases the weekly rate which the aged people are required to pay for the maintenance of their homes and for rates and taxes. When these people were first admitted they were admitted as owners. They are not really tenants because they have paid a lump sum of money to get into the place. With the money that these people have paid plus the $2 for $1 subsidy which their money attracts from the Commonwealth Government the total cost of the cottage is actually paid for by the elderly citizen who goes into the cottage and by the Commonwealth Government. The body which runs the scheme does not pay any money at all from its own funds. It seems to me to be quite improper that that organisation should be allowed to charge exorbitant weekly payments for maintenance and for rates and taxes. I have a nasty feeling that a lot of the charges levied upon these people who, I repeat, have paid large lump sums in cash to get into the places, have been squandered and swallowed up in unnecessarily high administrative costs in providing handsome salaries for well paid people who have got themselves into administrative positions to run the scheme.
Only on 13th September this year there was a report in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ about complaints by people who are occupying homes built by another body called Aged Cottage Homes Inc. This is a body that is very similar to Elderly Citizens Homes Inc. in my electorate. The same thing is happening to people in those homes as is happening to the people living in my electorate. The Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ reported that a committee has been formed and has recently waited on the Chief Secretary, Mr De Garis, in Adelaide, complaining about increases in weekly rentals. I would like to mention here that when these people signed their original agreements with this body it was agreed - or at least they thought it was agreed - they would pay only $1 a week. That has already been increased to $1.90, and the body now has the hide to threaten that unless they pay the increase which it is now demanding they will be evicted from their homes. Twelve of the 550 people who are represented by this committee which has visited the Chief Secretary have now been told that unless they sign new agreements to authorise deductions from their pensions of the higher amount of weekly rent specified they will be thrown out of their homes altogether.
The board governing Aged Cottage Homes Inc., according to the Chairman, Sir Keith Wilson, has now decided to ask for 20% of any future pension increases to meet the maintenance costs. This is being sought from people who have paid out lump sums to get into the bornes. They are not tenants in any sense of the word. This is the thing I want to impress upon the Committee. They are not tenants. These are people who have paid money to go into homes and now they are little better off than if they were tenants. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table showing the amount of charges levied by the various State housing authorities for pensioner dwellings in the various States:
I secured this table from officers of the Commonwealth Department which is handling this scheme. It will be seen that in South Australia single pensioners can secure dwellings from the State Housing Trust for $2.40 a week. They get $2 a week more than do other pensioners as it is, so that compared with the pensioner who is not getting the supplementary allowance these pensioners are, in point of fact, paying only 40c a week for rent. The other point to remember is that these are pensioners who are given the right to go into these Housing Trust homes without having to pay down a lump sum of $2,000 to $3,000, as is the case with people in my electorate living in homes administered by Elderly Citizens Homes Inc. Surely there is no justification for rentals up to $1.90 to be levied upon people who have had to pay $2,000 and more to gain access to a home when the South Australian Housing Trust can provide single pensioner accommodation for $2.40 a week and can provide homes for married pensioners at $4 a week - again to people who have to pay no lump sum down payment at all.
But in my electorate people living in homes administered by Elderly Citizens Homes Inc. are paying very much more than the $1.90 1 referred to for people living in homes run by Aged Cottage Homes lnc. Their charges are now getting very close to, if they have not exceeded, $3 a week, and it is not good enough for this Government to wash its hands of the whole business and say: ‘Our only interest is to give a $2 for $1 subsidy, and once this is done we could not care less what the organisation to whom we pay the money does with it. We do not care what it does to the people who become occupants of these homes. We do not care how much they charge them as a down payment in a lump sum to get into the homes, and we do not care how much a week they are made to pay thereafter.’ The Government’s attitude is not good enough. Something ought to be done about this matter, and for that reason I move:
After sub-clause (2.) insert the following subclause: “ (2a.) The Minister shall maintain an interest in and supervision of the administration of any approved scheme.”.
Under my amendment, the Minister, where he finds that excessive charges are made for key money or where excessive rentals are charged, will have the right to intervene and demand fair and just treatment for these elderly citizens. Sir, my time has expired but I hope to have a second period of 10 minutes in order to deal with another aspect of this clause.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, on behalf of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing in this chamber I want to make some comment to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The honourable member offered some criticism concerning the allocation of the moneys and the purpose for which they were being spent for housing in South Australia. I remind him that clause 8 of this Bill requires the State Auditor-General to certify to the correctness of the expenditure by the State of the Commonwealth grants. This will ensure full and proper accountability of the use of the Commonwealth funds. I also mention to the honourable member that the amendment proposed by him to clause 4 is not acceptable to the Government. The Bill already envisages the sort of supervision and control required under the proposed amendment. This is clear from clauses 7, 8 and 10 of the Bill.
– In reply to what was said by the Minister for Air, I had noticed clause 7 to which he referred. I may be wrong but it seems to me that clause 8 refers to a particular year. It does not refer to a continuing administration or continuing jurisdiction over the scheme. Clause 8 states:
In addition to the conditions specified in the last two preceding sections, the grant of financial assistance to a State under this Act in a financial year is subject to the condition that the State will furnish to the Minister as soon as practicable after the end of the financial year -
a statement setting out. . . .
It then goes on to state various things as mentioned by the Minister. The Minister will see-
– That is for every year.
-It means every year in which money is paid.
– It is in relation to a particular year but it is continuing.
-It is very hard sometimes to follow the drafting. Parliamentary language in statute form is so much different from the language used by the man on the street I do not say categorically that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is wrong or that I am right. At first blush it appears to me that what the Bill calls for is the right to demand a statement of accounts in respect of money paid that year. When the money is paid over for the year 1969-70 the Minister will have the right to demand a statement of account in respect of that year. But 5 years later he could not continue to say: ‘Look, I still want you to give me a statement of account for the money we paid you 5 years ago’. That is my understanding of the clause. The Minister for Air, who, I understand, has had legal training and is rather erudite on matters of syntax, would be able to explain clearly to us whether I am right or whether the Postmaster-General is right, he also being a gentleman of some learning.
– In reply to the honourable member for Hindmarsh I wish to state that he is not right. He maintains that this provision applies for a particular year for which the Minister shall have an interest and shall supervise the administration of any approved scheme, lt applies to all expenditure during each of the 5 financial years to which the Bill applies.
– That still does not answer my query. I know that it applies to that period of 5 years.
– Order! In the strict sense the honourable member for Hindmarsh has used the two occasions on which he is permitted to speak during the Committee stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Grants for building schemes in connection with dwellings for pensioners).
– 1 do not want to move an amendment to clause 5 but I want to draw attention to the inadequacy of the amounts provided in it. This clause sets out for the Parliament how much money the Government is prepared to set aside to meet the needs of single age pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a statement setting out the number of age pensioners in Australia who are in receipt of supplementary assistance, the number of invalid pensioners in Australia who are in receipt of supplementary assistance and the number of widows in Australia who are receiving supplementary assistance.
Also, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a statement setting out the estimated capital cost of single units to be constructed for use as aged persons dwellings to be constructed in 1969-70. The estimated capital cost includes the land. The statement refers to the cottages proposed to be built in the six States. I do this in order that the Committee may assess the adequacy or otherwise of the amount provided in the Bill.
– Before the honourable member sits down I would like him to state the source of these figures in order to establish their authenticity.
– I do not intend to sit down for a while yet. I am obliged to the Minister for Air for the help he is giving me because this makes my case stronger. The source of the figures relating to the number of aged, invalid and widow pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance is the Legislative Reseach Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, based on figures supplied by the Department of Social Services. The table relating to the estimated cost of the units was supplied to me by the Minister representing the Minister for Housing just before the luncheon adjournment. The figures must be accepted as being correct.
As I have incorporated the tables it is not necessary to read them but I would like to refer to the totals. The total number of age pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance is 102,642. The total number of invalid pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance is 46,520. The total number of widows in classes A, B and C in receipt of supplementary assistance is 20,590. This makes a grand total of about 168,000 people who are without homes in Australia today. They are not only without homes but are without income or property of any kind because in order to qualify for supplementary assistance a pensioner must be almost destitute. Such people are not allowed to have any more than a small amount of money and are not allowed a great amount of income. They are people who are included in the pockets of poverty that still exist, unfortunately, in this country. Therefore we should not consider this a matter to be dealt with casually or at an easy pace. This is something that ought to be regarded as a matter of utmost urgency. Today those 168,000 people have to pay rent and they are in dire circumstances. They must be catered for sooner or later.
– May I ask you this: Where are you going to get the people to build these extra houses?
– I can tell the Minister where to get the people and where to gel the material if I have sufficient time to do so. The Minister is trying to slop me from dealing with this clause by bringing in red herrings. I have only 5 minutes left in which to speak. There are about 168,000 people to be catered for in this legislation. It will be seen from the table 1 have incorporated in Hansard that the average cost of building the cottages proposed under this Bill is $4,645. If that cost is multiplied by 160,000, which is the approximate number of people who need these cottages, a total of $743,200,000 is arrived at. That would be the cost of housing only the single pensioners who are in receipt of supplementary pensions. The married couple pensioners who pay rent but are not in receipt of supplementary pensions are not taken into account in that figure. At the present rate of 925 cottages a year, which is all that can be built with the money the Government is providing, it will take 173 years to pick up the present backlog in the waiting list of single pensioners who are in receipt of supplementary pensions. I am referring only to single pensioners. Many of the people who are now in need of a home will not be alive when the 173 years is up!
– I do not think that the honourable member will be around, either.
– Nor the Minister. But surely we should do something about the matter while we are alive. I appreciate that $743m is a lot of money. It is a lot more than can be paid out over 1, 2 or 5 years. But nobody can argue that we should be satisfied with S5m a year when $743m is the total amount needed to do the job properly.
– Include it in the Labor Party’s policy for the next election.
– The Australian Labor Party does not include in its policy matters which are not within the financial capacity, of the country. But what it does propose is-
– May I interrupt the honourable member for a moment? What the honourable member is saying is that money and money alone will solve these problems.
– Money alone will not solve the problems. The Government will have to do more than it is doing to attract manpower to the building industry and mechanisation to the industries which produce the basic building materials. Since the Minister insists upon me answering his interjection, I point out that one thing the Government could do is allow the people who make bricks, cement, roofing tiles and the host of things that go towards the building of a home to write off in their income tax returns the cost of the machinery in 1 year. The Government allows the farmers who construct silos to store the wheat it has not been able to sell to do this. In addition, if one examines the figures one will find that the building industry is losing operatives. There are fewer building operatives in the industry now than there were 2 years ago. There should be more of them.
– Is that a statement of fact?
-It is a statement of fact. There are 152,000 building operatives in Australia today compared with 157,000 2 years ago. Therefore, the number of operatives is decreasing at a time when the demand for operatives is increasing. People are leaving the building industry because there are far better attractions in other industries.
– We have mechanised the industry and there is not the same need.
– That is not so. The number of houses being constructed in Australia is barely keeping up with the number of new marriages and migrants who require them. There are something tike 110,000 marriages a year. About 138,000 migrants are becoming permanent settlers each year. I think 30,000 would be a conservative estimate of the number of migrants who would need houses. When one takes into account the figures I have quoted one will see that the Government not only is not keeping up with the current demand but also is allowing the backlog to increase.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I would like to point out that the interjections on my right and the replies to them by the honourable member were completely irrelevant to the subject matter before the Committee. I would suggest that, as interjections are out of order, they should cease and that honourable members should speak on the subject matter before the Committee.
– I wish to reply to some of the quite wild and woolly statements made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). Most States believe that the grant of $25m will largely overcome the problem of the housing of single pensioners by the end of the 5-year period. The States will be spending a similar amount of their own funds during the 5-year period. In addition, grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act will continue to assist in providing accommodation for needy pensioners.
– I cannot permit a foolish statement like that to go unanswered, Mr Chairman. I was prepared to end my contribution to the debate on my last note, but I feel I should say something about the statement made by the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) that the States agree that everything will be all right at the end of 5 years and that everyone in need of a home will have one.
– I said most States.
– No State will be able to meet the needs of the aged people in 5 years’ time as a result of the miserable, paltry amount that the Government is providing under this legislation. It is ridiculous that the Minister should stand up and make the pronouncement, as though it is holy writ, that at the end of 5 years everyone wanting a home will be happy as everyone will have one, when one remembers that 160,000 single pensioners are still paying rent. Therefore, I must contradict his statement. The Minister may be able to fool honourable members on the other side of the chamber but he cannot fool honourable members on this side of the chamber or the people we represent.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Erwin) - by leave - read a third time.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1969-70 of a special grant to Tasmania of $21,900,000. The payment of this amount has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirty-sixth report, which has already been tabled. In accordance with usual practice, the Bill also seeks authority for payment of advances to Tasmania in the early months of 1970-71 pending the receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and the enactment of new legislation. The amount of $21,900,000 recommended for payment in 1969-70 is made up of a negative adjustment of $100,000 to the grant for 1967-68 and an advance payment of $22m for 1969-70. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table which compares these amounts with those paid in 1967-68 and 1968-69.
The relatively small negative adjustment in respect of 1967-68 indicates that the advance payment of $19m made in that year proved to be close to the Commission’s final assessment of the amount required for the year. The advance payment for 1969-70, which is based on a tentative estimate of the State’s needs for the year, will besubject to adjustment in 1971-72. The Commission’s recommendations continue to be based on the principle of ‘financial need’ under which special grants are designed to enable a claimant State to provide government services of a standard similar to those of the standard States, provided it makes a comparable effort in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. This involves a detailed comparison of the standard and claimant States’ budgetary revenues and expenditure. From 1959-60 the standard States have been New South Wales and Victoria. However, subject to any developments arising from the forthcoming review of the financial assistance grants arrangements, the Commission intends, as from 1970-71, to base its recommendations on a standard derived from the experience of all non-claimant States.
The recommendations of the Grants Commission have been adopted by Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should again be accepted on this occasion. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1406), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in regard to this legislation. Before debate is resumed on the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1969, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering it and the Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1969, as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Mr SPEAKER (Mon. W. J. Aston)There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Bill now before the House is the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill which provides for loan moneys to be made available to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the purchase of aircraft. The Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill, which is almost identical, will assist Trans-Australia Airlines to finance the purchase of aircraft. As a result of this legislation each airline will be able to purchase one Boeing 727 and six Douglas DC9 aircraft at a cost to each of $36m. It is expected that delivery of the aircraft will be taken between March 1970 and March 1972. When delivery has been made both airlines will have six Boeing 727s and twelve Douglas DC9 aircraft.
One of the things about which I am concerned is corrosion and I think that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) has not made a clear statement as to the real position. We did not have an opportunity to debate this matter when discussing the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation because the annual report of that Department for the year 1968-69 was not available to honourable members. However, the report has since been made available and in that report at page 32 under the heading ‘Boeing 727 Corrosion’ the following is set out:
Stress corrosion cracking has been -found in the forged fuselage frames of the B727 aircraft. This cracking does not affect the immediate airworthiness of the aircraft, but if not delected early and repaired it could lead to more serious troubles. Corrosion has also been found between the fuselage skin laps in several aircraft. Both these problems have brought about the introduction of additional inspections, using X-ray and ultrasonic techniques and the more intensive application of corrosive passivation and control measures.
I am concerned about the decision to authorise the purchase of two more of these aircraft, one for each airline. The Minister did not mention in his second reading speech that statement contained in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation. No explanation has been given by the Minister of the implications of the statement. A final decision on the purchase of the Fill aircraft has been delayed for some considerable time because of fatigue failure in that aircraft. As a result of corrosion fatigue sets in in the wing section of an aircraft. We are still awaiting a report on the crash of a Viscount 700 at Port Hedland last New Year’s eve. The cause of that crash is tied up with fatigue in aircraft.
Anyone who knows anything about metal knows very well that weird and wonderful things happen when metal suffers from fatigue. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) was a comrade of mine in the Boilermakers Union and he, like myself, has had quite a lot to do with metal. We both know that some strange things can happen to it. For example, some years ago an incident occurred with an ore bridge which to all intents and purposes had nothing wrong with it. Yet all of a sudden the huge structural legs snapped, causing the death of one man and a portion of the bridge to finish up in the harbour. That is how quickly these things happen.
Pilots who are operating the Boeing 727 aircraft compare it with other aircraft used in Australia by saying that it is like driving a Rolls Royce instead of a Holden. I have no complaints about the airworthiness of the aircraft or its aerodynamics. I am asking for an explanation by the Minister of his Department’s attitude. Is it satisfied that some fault is not developing in this aircraft? We must bear in mind that it is not an old aircraft. The Viscount is an old aircraft which has been in operation from the early and mid-1950s. The Viscount which crashed at Port Hedland had been operating for more than two-thirds of its estimated life expectancy. The same does not apply to the aircraft in which corrosion has been discovered. I should like the Minister to assure honourable members that his Department is firmly convinced that the aircraft is structurally sound even though corrosion has appeared. We know that fatigue results from excessive strain on particular parts of an aircraft. It can be caused through corrosion breaking down the strength of a material. 1 hope that the Minister will give some clear and concise statement about the suitability of the Boeing 727, particularly as people who should know have assured me that it is a very good aircraft.
These two Bills enable the Government to guarantee, or underwrite, the loans of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and TransAustralia Airlines. It is in conformity with the Government’s two-airline policy which the Australian Labor Party has clearly stated frequently that it supports. We have no intention of upsetting the arrangement and for record purposes 1 quote what the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) said in his policy when he was Leader of the Australian Labor Party at the last election. He said:
A Labor government will maintain the twoairline policy and will administer the policy fairly.
That is what we want: We want the policy administered fairly. In this case the aircraft are being purchased at the same price. Money will be borrowed on comparable terms and the loans will bc guaranteed by the Government. Both airlines’ financial accounts and records will be subject to inspection by an officer authorised by the Minister for Civil Aviation. Both companies pay taxation and both are expected to operate at a profit. Passenger traffic is equitably shared as is government freight. This is what the two-airline system is alleged to achieve but we say that that is where it ends. TAA’s accounts are public property. Details of its accounts are presented to the Parliament each year by the Minister when he tables its annual report. The details are available and the accounts are inspected by Commonwealth auditors. A report on the accounts is contained in the Auditor-General’s report. Everything that TAA does is open to complete scrutiny by the Minister who, in turn, reports to the Parliament, as does the AuditorGeneral. At different times the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has investigated the financial affairs of TAA. Representatives of the Parliament are able to scrutinise everything that TAA does. We believe that this should be the position.
However, the financial details of the operations of Ansett Transport Industries are available only to the Minister. 1 have seen some of its financial reports, although 1 have not been on Ansett’s mailing list in recent years. The financial reports used to be sent to me at one time but now I have to rely completely on Press reports. About 12 months ago the Minister told me that all of the information relative to the financial affairs of Ansett Transport Industries was available in its financial reports. He gave me a report to peruse and I handed it to the Labor Party’s financial expert, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), but like myself he was unable to come up with any clear and positive result about the operations of the airlines part of Ansett Transport Industries, lt is absolutely impossible to come up with any conclusion. That organisation receives favourable treatment from the Government. It is interesting to refer to a statement made by Mr R. M. Ansett, as he then was, to his shareholders in a publication relating to the organisation’s operations for the financial year 1961-62. Under the heading ‘Civil Aviation Legislation and Long Term Industry Stability’ the following appeared:
Last year’s Director’s report referred to the 1961 Civil Aviation Agreement which extended the existing two-airline system until 1977. The year has shown how little understood by the public is the significance of the legislation to the civil aviation industry and to this company in particular. It gives the company an Australia wide aviation franchise of about 50% of the industry revenue, which totals approximately £36m per annum.
This franchise is for another 15 years, and its value cannot be calculated. Nowhere else in the world is there such an arrangement which ensures civil aviation economic stability for such a period. Operating within this situation, and with efficient management controlling costs, reasonable profits are assured for this same period.
That is the situation with this airline. The head of the company, Sir Reginald Ansett, said that it had had most favourable treatment from the Government. This, to me, is just not good enough. The Labor Party supports the retention of the two-airline system but we want it operated fairly and squarely in the interests of both airlines, and not of one airline. This company, over the years, has acquired an interest in a considerable number of television stations. For example, it holds television shares in-
-Order! I think that the honourable member is straying a little from the contents of the Bill. I would remind the honourable member that the Bill before the House relates to airline equipment, lt does not open up the whole subject of airline operations nor of the ramifications of Ansett Transport Industries.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your assistance on this matter. May I respectfully draw your attention to the Minister’s second reading speech in which he said:
In assisting Ansett Transport Industries Ltd in this way to obtain suitable finance for the next phase of the company’s equipment programme, the Government aims to ensure the continued operation of its successful two-airline policy.
Like the Minister, we on this side of the House wish to retain the two-airline system but we wish to see it operated equitably. If both airlines are to receive equal treatment and if the Government is going to guarantee loans then surely an honourable member is entitled to make some reference to the twoairline system.
-I think that the honourable member must have misinterpreted what I said. I agree that what the honourable member has said is correct and proper, but I do not believe that the Bill opens up discussion of all the other ramifications. The Bill’ relates to airline equipment. It does not deal with the ramifications of television or other aspects.
– The object of the two-airline system is to make sure that the travelling air public of Australia is given a system that is economic and efficient without, at the same time, their being exploited. I am very much concerned. I am afraid that there may be some exploitation. I have to bring the figures to the attention of the Minister who says he is interested.
– I have no objection to that if it is a passing reference.
– In that case I will try to wind up my reference to the financial affairs of the company as rapidly as possible. As I mentioned, this company has substantial holdings in four television stations throughout Australia. If one examines Press reports it becomes very clear that this company has been losing money on its television investments. The road freighting and road passenger services of Ansett Transport Industries represent only a very small proportion of its operations. So, we can come to only one conclusion, that Ansett Transport Industries, because of the favourable treatment meted out to them under the two-airline system, is making substantial profits, far in excess of what the Government should be condoning. There is only one way to prove whether this company is making exorbitant profits under its airline operation and that is to isolate the accounts of its airline operations by setting up a separate company. This should be one of the conditions of the twoairline system. The Minister has authority to authorise persons to inspect the accounts of the company, but they should inspect all of its accounts. They should inspect not only the accounts of the company’s airline operations but also the accounts of the road freighting section, the road passenger services and the television operations. I believe that under a two-airline system there should be very clear and definite terms requiring this company to set up a separate company altogether for its airline operations.
I do not want to know what is happening in the company’s television operations. I do not want to know what is happening with its other investments. That is the company’s business and is the responsibility of the directors and the shareholders. But when a company is receiving preferential treatment from the Government then the people of this country are entitled to know how their money is being spent. This is the point that 1 must emphasise. It is our responsibility as representatives of the people to ensure that Government money is being spent in the interests of the people. At this stage only one man in the Parliament knows how this money is being spent, and that is the Minister for Civil Aviation. I hope that in the not too distant future he will see fit to require this company by legislation to set up a separate company with special responsibility for air transport. This company could then be required to present to the Parliament a financial statement at the same time that TAA presents its financial statement so that at least we could know whether there is fair competition in Australia, or whether TAA is operating its affairs in an efficient manner. For example, if Ansett Transport Industries showed that from its airline operations it made $3m profit while TAA could make only $lm, honourable members would be entitled to know why that came about. Under the present arrangement we can look only at a financial statement published in the financial columns of the newspapers, which shows that ATI last year made a profit of so many millions of dollars, but does not show from what activity that profit came. So, I emphasise that this is the sort of thing we are entitled to know. There is only one way in which this information can be made known and that is by the way I have just outlined. This is the way to operate a two-airline system.
I would like to know why under the two-airline system TAA is debarred from operating intra-State in all States with the exception of Queensland. There is no TAA intra-State activity in New South Wales.
– It operates intra-State in Tasmania.
– Yes, that is right, but Tasmania is so small that in fact TAA is getting out of intra-State operations in that State, as the Minister well knows. Ansett has a complete and utter monopoly in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. In New South Wales Ansett has to share its operations with East-West Airlines Ltd. So, in all, TAA is effectively excluded from intra-State activities. If we are to have a genuine two-airline system then TAA and Ansett should be able to operate both intra-State and inter-State services. No one can say at the moment that a number of private airlines are operating in Australia. Besides Ansett, EastWest Airlines is the only operator of any size today. Ansett has successfully taken over all of the other operators. It does not matter what name these airlines operate under; they are still owned by Ansett. This is another matter that the Minister for Civil Aviation can look at.
Another matter that I would like to raise concerns freight. At present the Government gives 50% of its freight to Ansett. The two airlines share the freight. If we are to have rationalisation of passenger traffic we should also have rationalisation of freight traffic. Surely this is fair and reasonable. We surely cannot pick out one section of air traffic. We have to deal with the whole operation. 1 think the Minister should also bring down legislation to provide for the rationalisation of freight as well as passengers. I know that there was a disagreement between the two airlines on concession rates. This disagreement went on for a number of years. TAA wanted to introduce some form of offpeak concessions to encourage people to travel at times other than at peak periods. Ansett opposed this move. Now I see in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation that Ansett has finally worn them down. TAA is no longer pursuing its proposal.
– I introduced this.
– The Minister said that he introduced it. Apparently the Minister is not big enough to roll Ansett. We are really going bad.
Another feature of this two-airline system that should be reviewed is the framing of timetables. I have in front of me a list of times on which aircraft leave and arrive at Sydney and Melbourne. The services commence at 7.15 a.m., at which time both TAA and Ansett aircraft leave. Then we have aircraft from both airlines leaving at 8 a.m. and again at 9 a.m.. Then we get a bit of variety with one leaving at 10.45 a.m. and another at 11 a.m.. But from then on we find that aircraft of both airlines leave at mid-day, 1.10 p.m., 2, 2.45, 3, 4.15, 5.35, 6, 6.30 and 8 p.m. I wonder whether honourable members and the
Minister would concede that this is a most uneconomic way to carry passengers? Why should everyone have to travel, whether by TAA or Ansett, at these times, particularly when one has regard to the complaints that are made in this place from time to time about passengers being left at airports? If ever there was a prize shemozzle it was the one that occurred last Friday at Canberra Airport when honourable members were leaving to catch planes to other capitals. An aircraft was supposed to leave a little after 5.30 p.m.. I understand I was one of the lucky fellows and I got out on time.
– I did not.
– The Minister is certainly going bad. They lose his luggage and then they leave him behind. It is about time there was a clean up in the airline business. This shows how arrogant they are, when they are prepared to mete out this treatment to the poor old Minister.
-I suggest that the honourable member delete the word ‘old’.
– Very well, I withdraw the word ‘old’ and apologise. There is another question I would like to ask: Are these aircraft always flying with a reasonable passenger load? Is it just a question of: ‘Because the other bloke goes at 2 o’clock I will have to leave at 2 o’clock?’ I honestly believe that it is time there was some sort of inquiry by the Department of Civil Aviation. I know it has limited powers in this field, but I believe it should inquire into the operation of the twoairline system. It should not simply be a matter of leaving it to the airlines. After all, it does not matter much to them how many people they carry because at the end of the year they can simply go to the Minister and say: *You have increased your navigation charges. The cost of fuel has gone up. The cost of aircraft has gone up. The cost of this and that has gone up. Here are our books. We should be making more profit’, and the Minister will grant them an increase in fares and other charges. This is what has happened over the years. At one time we had by far the cheapest air fares in the world. But believe you me, we are no longer holding that position. This is something that should and must be investigated.
There is one other matter that really annoys me. I refer to flights between Perth and Melbourne. Aircraft of both airlines leave Perth at a quarter to one in the morning and arrive in Melbourne at 6 a.m. Why cannot one aircraft leave at 1 p.m. and go to Melbourne? Why is it that both airlines have to operate services to Melbourne? Why cannot one operate to Sydney and the other one to Melbourne? Does not this make common sense to honourable members? Why should a passenger who wishes to go to Sydney have to travel to Melbourne, arrive there at 6 a.m., and board an aircraft out of Melbourne at 7.15 a.m.? Certainly he has a breakfast on the company, but who wants that when he is interested in getting home as quickly as possible? To me the operation of the timetable for travel between Perth and Melbourne is the most unfair system of which I am aware.
For example, why cannot an aircraft from one airline depart at a quarter to one and operate to Melbourne and an aircraft from the other airline depart at the same time and operate to Sydney? The airlines could operate in this way for 6 months of the year and then alternate, or they could alternate each month. I do not care which way they operate. At least, this is one of the questions that should be considered under the rationalisation scheme. Several people from the west have suggested a solution to this problem which to me appears to be a sensible and logical one. Why cannot an aircraft from one airline depart at a quarter to one and an aircraft from the other airline depart at, say 6 a.m.? An aircraft from one airline could depart at 1 p.m., and an aircraft from the other airline could depart at 6 p.m. In this way there would be four flights a day spread over 24 hours. At the moment there are four flights a day, but two of them depart at one time. These are matters under the present system which should be closely considered.
The other point with which I want to deal under this legislation concerns the question of huge expenditure on the purchase of aircraft overseas. As I said earlier, the cost of the aircraft, for which provision is made in the Bill, will be S3 6m to each airline, making a total of $72m. This money will be spent overseas on the purchase of aircraft. We have seen no indication which would encourage this Parliament or the people to believe that at any time the Government will require manufacturers of these aircraft to provide some employment opportunities for Australians or to give some stability to the Australian aircraft industry. It is for this reason that at the conclusion of my speech I will move, on behalf of the Opposition, an amendment which is designed to require the Government to do something about this matter. In Australia we have three very good aircraft factories which employ approximately 7,000 men and women. During the war years these factories were able to establish their capacity to build aircraft, by constructing 700 Beauforts and 364 Beaufighters, in addition to Boomerangs, Wirraways and Mustangs. Since then the factories have built Lincoln bombers, Canberra bombers, 100 Mirage fighters and 10 Mirage trainers for the Royal Australian Air Force. At the present time they are building Macchi trainers for the RAAF. They have also built Sabre jets.
Any honourable member who cares to visit the Government Aircraft Factory or the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne will learn from the people who work in these factories that if Sabre jets had not been built in Australian aircraft factories, then very long ago the RAAF would not have been able to continue to fly these aircraft which, at the present time, form an important part of the RAAF’s training scheme for pilots of jet aircraft. These Sabre aircraft would have become unserviceable and they would have gone out of existence many years ago because the original designer and manufacturer of the aircraft ceased producing both the aircraft and parts for it. This is not my own statement. This information was given to me by the management of these factories in Melbourne some time ago when members of the Labor Party’s transport committee visited them.
It is important for the defence of Australia that we have our own aircraft industry so that, as in the case of the Sabre jets which I have just mentioned, when other countries have stopped using certain aircraft, because of the size of their air forces, we will be able to continue to use them because parts can be provided for them. Let us look at the Mirage jet and the situation in which the Israelis found themselves because the French disagreed with the Middle East war. I do not know which side the French are supporting but they will no longer supply the Israelis with new Mirage jets nor with replacement parts. The result is that the Israelis have had to buy a new type of aircraft from the United States of America? What would be the position if Mirage aircraft were used in Vietnam? What would be the French attitude towards the supply of some of the important parts for this aircraft? I understand that the French still supply some parts for it. We might not be able to obtain parts. Therefore, it is important that we have our- own aircraft industry, not only from the employment point of view, but also from the defence aspect.
Not only are the Australian aircraft factories presently building the Macchi trainer aircraft and completing the Mirage programme, but they are also responsible for the construction of anti-tank guided missiles, the Jindivik pilotless jet target aircraft and the Ikara naval missile. These are all sophisticated missiles which are being built by Australian factories. Unfortunately, these factories have not sufficient orders to keep them working full time on the construction of aircraft. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, in order to keep its plant operative so that at a later date it can be used for the manufacture of aircraft, fs using its plant and labour to build buses and to do other non-aircraft engineering work. For example, the factory is building the motor itself for Brabham. The same can be said for de Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd in Sydney, which has built up quite a substantial trade in aluminium and fibreglass pleasure craft. In this way these factories have been able to retrain their labour force and at the same time keep their machinery usefully employed, instead of allowing it to lie idle.
Turning once again to the aircraft industry, we must compare the number of people in Australia with the demand for aircraft. The Minister for Civil Aviation refers continually to the excellent record of Australian airline operators, but he does not mention what we should be doing for the aircraft industry.I have a table whichI have obtained from the Parliamentary Library, andwith the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate it in Hansard.
The table discloses that in the period 1964-65 to 1968-69, we imported into Australia $535,857,000 worth of completely assembled aircraft or aircraft parts. For how long can a country the size of Australia continue to import, on the average, $107m worth of aircraft each year? I have some astronomical figures relating to the value of new aircraft which airline companies will be importing into Australia in the next 5 years. These figures have come to me from reliable sources - in some cases from the companies concerned, and in other cases from the research section of the Library. They show that Qantas Airways Ltd will import new aircraft worth $200m, which I consider to be a conservative estimate. Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries will import aircraft to a total value of $7 8m which, once again, I consider to be a very conservative estimate. It takes into account only the aircraft for which provision is made in the Bill we are discussing. It does not take into consideration the possibility of these two airlines purchasing some of the many jumbo jets that will very shortly be coming onto the market - the Lockheed 1011 or the Douglas or the British jumbos. In the next 5 years, Airlines of New South Wales will import aircraft worth $6m. MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Ltd, which is owned by Ansett Transport Industries, will purchase aircraft worth $4m. Connellan Airways Pty Ltd, which is also owned by Ansett Transport Industries, will purchase aircraft worth $2m. Other airline companies will purchase aircraft worth $5m, and the airlines operating commuter services will purchase aircraft worth $3m. It makes a total of $298m, which I consider is a most conservative estimate of what Australian airline operators will spend on importing new aircraft in the next 5 years. Then we have to consider the figures relating to light aircraft. I will give all these figures at the one time so as to keep the picture clear.
Since 1957 the Australian Government has guaranteed loans of over $300m for the purchase of aircraft overseas. These aircraft are for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd. None of this money has been made available to our local industries. On numerous occasions I have made the statement, and I will keep on making it, that overseas manufacturers are willing to subcontract their work. The information that I have shows that only 30% of the Boeing 747 will be built by Boeing in its own factory. The other 70% of the Jumbo jet will be built by sub-contractors. We will be buying this aircraft. Qantas has already ordered four of them. But not one dollar will be spent in Australia on its manufacture. The whole of the money for the purchase of these four aircraft will go to the United States - 30% to Boeing and the other 70% to the sub-contractors, of whom one should have been in Australia. A condition of the purchase should have been that Boeing would give some contracts to the Australian industry.
The Fokker company has said that it sold forty-six F27 Friendship aircraft to Australia. A most reliable and influential source in the Department of Civil Aviation -I do not want to mention the gentleman s name - told me that forty-six aircraft were sufficient for a full run on the production line in Australia. In other words, the fortysix Friendship aircraft operating in Australia should have been built in Australia. Recently I had a trial flight in the Fellowship, the F28. The company’s representative told me that it hopes to sell almost as many Fellowships in Australia as Friendships. Why are we not negotiating with the company for some sub-contracts to be let in Australia? Why cannot the wing sections, the tail assembly or some other part of the aircraft be built in Australia? We know a large part of the work is sub-contracted to firms in the United Kingdom, the United States and parts of Europe. Sub-contracts are let in countries that buy the aircraft. Why does the Government not apply some pressure on the company to have it let subcontracts here?
There is very little difference between the performance and economics of the DC9, which is operating in Australia, and the BACIII, the British aircraft. Why could not one be played off against the other? The Italians played off Boeing against Douglas some years ago and as a result of negotiations a sub-contract was given to that country for the construction of the whole of the wing section for the Douglas aircraft. If the Italians can do that, why can we not do it? In any case why can we not design our own aircraft? Sweden has a population only two-thirds that of Australia yet it designs and builds its own aircraft. If that is good enough for the Swedes, why is it not good enough for Australians? Switzerland has its own aircraft industry. The Netherlands has only the same number of people as Australia has. We both have a population of 12 million people. Yet Fokker is one of the best known aircraft firms in the world. Sales of its Fellowship will not be far behind those of its Friendship. If it can design and build an aircraft and sell it to the world, why can we not do the same?
The Canadians also have been able to develop an aircraft industry. Admittedly it is owned by the De Havilland organisation, but it is still Canadian and it is still providing employment and earning export income for the Canadians. The Canadian industry started with the single-engined
Beaver and sold 85% of its production on the export market. It then had the Otter and sold 70% of them on the export market. It sold 96% of the twin-engined O’tter on the export market. We already have eleven of them in Australia. The Canadian industry also built the Caribou and we have Caribou aircraft in the Royal Australian Air Force. The Canadians exported 96% of the Caribou aircraft they built. Why can we not move into this field? I suppose we will buy the Buffalo, which is the replacement for the Caribou. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that the Government was inquiring into the new special fire fighting aircraft that the Canadians have developed. It bombs forest fires with water, and we should be looking seriously at using such an aircraft here.
If Canada can do all this, we should be able to do it. Canada has a population that is only 50% or 60% larger than Australia’s. Admittedly the Canadian industry is closer to the United States market than an industry in Australia would be. But aircraft can be flown, just as ships can be sailed, and we could fly aircraft built here to the point of delivery. These are matters that the Government should he thinking about and doing. In May of this year, a statement was issued that 100 wing sets and nacelles for the four-engined GAC100 STOL transport aircraft for the General Aviation Corporation of California would be built in Australia at a cost of about S10m. But up to the present none of these aircraft have been ordered, none of the wings have been ordered and no work has started. The men who work in the aircraft factories know nothing about this proposal. But we still find at places like De Havilland that men are being laid off because of insufficient work.
Qantas is sending work overseas. I have a list here of seven aircraft belonging to Qantas. Six of them have been sent overseas for periodic inspections. I objected some time ago when one of the aircraft was sent to Hamburg to have wing modifications made. I raised this matter in a question more than 12 months ago. We have to face the facts of life and I must say that the Minister gave a reply that was logical. But at the same time logic is no good to hungry people; they cannot eat it. Logic is no good to people who are being laid off. I have here a list of the men who, by this time, will have been dismissed by De Havilland in Sydney because of lack of work. There are plenty of skilled men in Australia today capable of doing this work and the work should be provided for them.
The Government speaks about its foreign policy. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) have spoken in this place about the Russians. It does not matter to them that the Russians may be conducting naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. They may not be concerned, but I assure them that 1 personally am concerned and I do not like the look of the Russians creeping down here year by year.
-Order! The honourable member is now getting away from the purpose of the Bill.
– We have a defence industry in Australia and the manufacture of aircraft is part of the defence industry. If foreign powers intend to do the things that I have referred to, it is time that we had a fully integrated aircraft industry. We had a factory in Melbourne and one in Sydney and they worked together successfully during the war years in the manufacture of aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Australian aircraft industry should be retaining its skills, expanding its skills and its machinery and introducing new machinery. It should have a guaranteed programme of aircraft construction spread over a period of years instead of the stop-go programme we have had. We had the manufacture of the Sabre aircraft and then nothing. Then we had the manufacture of the Mirage and now the Macchi trainers. The employees in the industry are worried about what will happen to them. I was disappointed when I went through the Government Aircraft Factories to see so much machinery lying idle and so much space not occupied. Although we have the capacity here, we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars overseas on the purchase of aircraft. We are paying this money to companies that would be prepared to negotiate with us for some of their work to be done in this country, provided we agreed to buy their aircraft.
We have plenty of light aircraft in Australia. At 30th June 1967 there were 296 light aircraft on the register of the Department of Civil Aviation. At 30th June 1968 there were 313 aircraft on the register. Here alone is an industry that should be developed. The Government should at this stage be giving a lead. It should go to the manufacturers of light aircraft and say: ‘We want you to design one, two, three or four types of aircraft that would be suitable for the Australian industry’. This would enable the manufacturers to retain their skilled employees and utilise their machinery. At the same time, if need be, the Government should stand over the companies from which we buy our front line, large passenger aircraft and insist that they have part of their work done in Australia.
I notice that my time is almost exhausted. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, I move the following amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with r view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, this House is of the opinion that the Government should negotiate with the manufacturers of the Boeing 727 and the Douglas DC9 for the manufacture in Australia of component parts for these or other aircraft manufactured by these companies in order to promote stability in the Australian aircraft industry’.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I will not speak at length because I covered the subject ful’ly in my second reading speeches. However, I want to clarify some of the points raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He referred to some minor corrosion problems with the Boeing 727s that are in operation in Australia and other parts of the world. This matter has been mentioned in my annual report, submitted to the Parliament only a few days ago. Apparently the honourable member for Newcastle was not in the House a couple of days ago when the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) asked me a question on this subject. In my answer I indicated clearly that this was not a major problem. I pointed out that there was not an aircraft flying - light aircraft, medium aircraft or heavy aircraft - as the honourable member knows, that does not at some stage in its life have some corrosion or fatigue problem. This is a normal situation in the manufacture and operation of aircraft, just as it is with anything constructed of metal, be it a motor car, a ship or anything else.
In the case of aircraft, controls have to be more rigid than in the case of transport by other means. The air safety standards applied in Australia are the most rigid of any in the world. This is why we were the first to detect this minor corrosion problem in the Boeing 727. The problem arose here principally because the aircraft that we operate fly within a short distance of the coast and are subjected to moist air conditions not experienced to the same degree on the transcontinental1 routes in the United States and some other countries. But even in the United States this problem has arisen. This problem was brought to the attention of the Boeing organisation which at about the same time had located the problem from other sources. New models of the aircraft that have been produced since this problem was detected have been modified. With the techniques that are standard in Australia this is a problem that could be detected quickly and dealt with quickly. So I again assure the House and the people generally that this is a problem to which we have drawn attention in our annual report as well as in the ‘Safety Digest’. This fault was located here and has been corrected here. It is no longer a problem from the point of view of air safety. We will maintain our air safety standards but aircraft now being delivered have been modified so that this corrosion problem will not arise in the future.
The honourable member referred to the two airline system. He referred also to intrastate services conducted by various airlines. He did not point out that the two airline system operates under an agreement between the two major operators and the Government and covers major trunk routes, which are clearly defined in the agreement. These are principally between the capital cities and up the coast of Queensland. These are the only routes covered by the two airline policy. All other intrastate routes and any other interstate routes are not covered by the two airline policy. This point should be made clear because it has some significance in relation to matters which were raised.
The publication of accounts was referred to. The honourable member raised this matter in debate last year. Next week I hope to table in the House the annual reports of Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. At about the same time Ansett Transport Industries Ltd will publish its annual report, which will include a dissection of accounts. This is required under the law of the State in which the company’s headquarters are located. The publication of a dissection of accounts for Qantas and TAA is governed by Commonwealth law. The information provided in the annual report of the Ansett group may not be all that the honourable member desires, but it will at least comply with State law. In my second reading speech on the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill I said:
The Company will also be required to make available its financial accounts and records to an officer authorised by the Minister for Civil Aviation while any part of the loans remains unpaid.
This will ensure that for the period of the guarantee the company’s accounts and records will be available to my Department. So we are fully in possession of all the facts relating to the Ansett group.
The honourable member claimed that Ansett Airlines of Australia was obtaining some advantage over TAA and that the people of this country were providing some of the finance with which the company was purchasing’ new aircraft. I do not know whether the honourable member made a slip of the tongue, but I stress that Ansett Transport Industries is not getting any government money. The honourable member may have been referring to indirect benefits, such as airport facilities and navinational aids, which the Government provides for all operators. In no way is finance provided, directly or indirectly, to ATI. The only way in which the Government assists from a financial point of view is with guarantees such as the one embodied in the legislation now before us. The honourable member referred to TAA’s intrastate operations and, quite rightly, said that it was operating in Queensland and Tasmania as well as partly on an interstate basis into New South Wales. These operations have no relation to the two airline policy. This governs only the major trunk routes. TAA has before my Department an application to operate between Perth and Darwin. We have indicated to TAA that this matter will be considered before a decision is made about the agreement with MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd, which expires before the end of 1971. The honourable member claimed also that Government freight business was shared by Ansett Airlines and TAA on a 50-50 basis. I think for all practical purposes this would be about the position. Exact figures may be difficult to obtain but the two major airlines would have approximately equal shares of the Government freight business. In the case of passengers, far more Government passengers travel by TAA on the major routes than by Ansett. In fact, under the two airline policy TAA carries far more passengers generally throughout Australia than does Ansett Airlines. So it cannot be said that there is equity in the carrying of passengers. In fact, TAA has a definite advantage.
Reference was made to parallel timetables. This matter, of course, has been investigated in the past. The example quoted of parallelism between Sydney and Melbourne is not a good example because services are provided almost every hour of the day between these two cities and it would be extremely difficult to . dissect the services when they operate with such great frequency. So I will not concede that there is a problem with parallel timetables between Sydney and Melbourne, but I will concede that there is still a problem in this field in other areas, in parts of Queensland and on the runs to Adelaide and Perth. To some degree the problem has been corrected. It is in the stage of being corrected on services to Tasmania. We are still in constant touch with the airlines on this matter. We know that the great problems of the basis of the fleet, the availability of aircraft and the utilisation of aircraft so that they will fit in with the timetable pattern in all the States in Australia are causing difficulty and have to be sorted out. Nevertheless, we are still endeavouring, in consultation with the airlines, to overcome these problems.
The honourable member for Newcastle has moved an amendment to this Loan Guarantee Bill. Although I agree with the context of it to some extent I cannot accept it because it gets away from the context of the Bill itself. This Bill is designed to provide the guarantee so that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd can obtain the loans, overseas to a degree, and in Australia to finance the purchase of these additional aircraft, and the other associated Bill provides the authority for the Department of the Treasury to raise the funds overseas for TAA. So there is no direct association between the amendment which has been moved and the purpose of the Bill. Therefore, on those grounds, we cannot accept the amendment, but we note that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill even though it has suggested that amendment.
At the same time, the question of offset orders is one which does not come directly under my jurisdiction. It is strictly one for the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) and it also concerns to some extent the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). I know that both these Ministers are involved in negotiations which we expect will bring some fruitful results, but at the same time we believe that more can be done in the field of offset orders perhaps by some subcontracting, and every effort is being made to obtain some results from the orders which we are placing. But the matter is not quite as simple as has been put to us because we have to operate the airline system in Australia on an economic and viable basis and we depend, first of alL upon equipment of a type that is common. We cannot operate a major airline as we did in the past - we found many problems then - with a wide variety of different types of aircraft. At the same time, we cannot compel Qantas, for example, under the circumstances to purchase an aircraft which is not as economic as those operated by its competitors.
– The Italian Government did.
– As a matter of fact, I might explain that the Italians have had difficulty ever since in relation to that arrangement. We ourselves had a very close look at that aircraft at that time, and we very wisely came down on the decision to purchase the aircraft that Qantas is operating at the present time. As a result Qantas is in a very sound financial position, despite some industrial difficulties a year or so ago.
At the present time Qantas is earning with these aircraft, for which they have spent certainly a great amount of money, extremely large amounts of overseas interest. At the present time $150,000 a year is being brought into the country by earnings from these aircraft. The aircraft I referred to are not the subject of these Bills but their purchase was authorised in the past for Qantas under the programme mentioned by the honourable member for Newcastle.
The same viability problems apply to the domestic operators. They have to operate on an economic basis and they themselves have to justify the type of aircraft which they wish to purchase. Mr Speaker, whilst agreeing to some degree with some of the spirit behind the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle, I am afraid that in view of the fact that it is not directly related to the Bill it cannot be accepted.
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 Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 September (vide page 1408), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1412), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Bill we are now discussing. In that event I will not delay the House for very long. The general purpose of the Bill is to provide moneys for the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund from royalties received from Aboriginal reserves, the use of lands on reserves and minerals and timber that might be taken from those reserves. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech outlined the changes proposed by the Bill. The Opposition welcomes these changes and says that some of these things should have been done a long time ago. The present Government has been in charge of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory for the 20 years it has been in government. It is only in recent years that the Commonwealth Government has faced up to its responsibilities to try to give the Aboriginals a chance of becoming economically stable and socially stable. The only point in the Bill that I want to mention to the Minister is about the royalties paid to the Aboriginals for mining rights on reserves. In the second reading speech the Minister said:
With regard to mining, the standard royalty payable is 2½% of the gross value of the minerals taken, less certain statutory deductions, and this is twice the royalty paid where mining is carried on outside an Aboriginal reserve.
Only a few weeks ago in this House we discussed the Bougainville copper project. The royalty being paid to the people of Bougainville Island for the mining operations there is at the rate of 5%. I do not think it is sensible or that it is good politics to pay a royalty of only 2½% to the Aboriginal people and 5% to the New Guineans. At this stage perhaps the Aboriginals are not quite aware of the amount of royalty that they can receive. Originally it was not the intention in regard to Bougainville to pay royalty at the rate of 5%. The House of Assembly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea upgraded the royalty to that figure and this rate was accepted by the Government and by Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd. I think that the rate set for Bougainville also should be the rate paid to Aboriginals for royalties for mining operations on their land.
There is a further matter that I would like the Minister to answer. What rate of royalty is being paid for the timber or for the other products of industries which might be established on Aboriginal reserves? Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. Those are the two points that I want the Minister to deal with. I would like him to pay particular attention to my point that a royalty of only 24% is being paid to Aboriginal people whereas a 5% royalty is to be paid to the people of Bougainville Island.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill. I was glad to hear that the Opposition also supports it. The Opposition has raised a point about the royalty of 2*%. The Act provided originally for the establishment and operation of the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund was established in 1952. It was intended then to compensate Aboriginals for the loss of their land and for disturbance of their way of life. I notice that the money that will flow into this trust account is completely separate from the $10m already voted for them in the Aboriginal Advancement Trust and the money that goes to assist Aboriginal enterprises. I point out that the Government is not unaware of the need to have finance flowing to Aboriginal enterprises. This Bill is just another step towards assisting them in that regard.
While on this point I want to mention that this Bill does not take into account the plan which the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) gave to me to read out to the people, for their consideration, only on 2nd September at a council meeting held on Goulburn Island. That plan is over and above the system of royalties which will flow to them under the advances made to this trust account. The main objective of the plan to which I refer is to help the Aboriginals in Arnhem Land to become self-supporting so that they may be able to look after their families through their own efforts and not be dependent on Government handouts. This step has been evolved during the last few years and it represents a very good move towards the stage where Aboriginals will run their own affairs and be able to carry on in the world of today.
Payment of royalties represents a tremendous advantage to Aboriginals. I think that up to early this year the Aboriginals of Groote Eylandt had received $500,000 from royalties. That money was paid by the mining company on Groote Eylandt for rights associated with the mining of manganese. I see from the Minister’s statement that by 1975 Groote Eylandt Aboriginals will be receiving $400,000 annually. In the case of Gove, this fund is expected to receive $600,000 in 1971. By 1975 it should be receiving $875,000 annually. This money will come from the companies operating in those two areas alone - that is, Groote Eylandt and the area around Gove which was occupied, by the Yirrkala people. The income will top $lm and the overall payment by that date will be approximately $5m.
Roy Dadanya, one of the leaders of the Yirrkala people, told me earlier this month that his people wanted this money so that they could do what they wanted to do with it. I remind honourable members that $875,000 is a lot of money. I know that the head of the Aboriginals at Angurugu on Groote Eylandt has decided to build a $70,000 recreation centre at Umbakumba from the money that they have received from royalties paid by the mining company operating on Groote Eylandt. I think it would be advisable for those people to have some assistance in administering and using such amounts of money. I do not disagree at all with the idea of spending $70,000 at Umbakumba. A recreation centre would be useful and of benefit to them. However, I think that there should be some control over what they do with such large sums of money.
I met representatives of about ten Aboriginal councils at the meeting a few weeks ago. They asked me whether the Government would supply the councils with operating expenses. A village council is composed of between 5 and 12 men. They send representatives, as they did on this occasion, to a mighty conference at which 12 councils are represented. It is quite probable that they had to get a subsidy from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs or the Department of the Interior through the Northern Territory Administration. I agreed to refer this matter to the appropriate Minister. The councils will be able to finance trips to and from various meeting places, such as Darwin, out of the money which will be received from these royalties. The money may be used to finance a trip to Canberra in order to make representations. I believe that the request for such finance should be met from these royalties.
The Bill provides that leases for pastoral and agricultural purposes on reserves will be granted only to Aboriginals. As the reserves have been established for the use and benefit of Aboriginals it is considered to be only reasonable that net revenue from the leasing of land should be paid into the Trust Fund. Previously this money went into Consolidated Revenue and was then transferred to the Trust Fund. As a result of this legislation the revenue will be paid straight into the Trust Fund. I agree with this idea, lt is also proposed to take action administratively to establish a committee to advise the Minister on the allocation of moneys from the Fund. This is understandable. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) will receive advice from practical men in and around the Northern Territory. These men have been working with the Aboriginals for many years now and would be aware of the situation. There are many such men in the Northern Territory at present.
Recently 1 said in this chamber that the efforts and knowledge of these men are inclined to be forgotten. They are prepared to stay in the Northern Territory and work for the Aboriginals. Very often the remuneration they receive is poor. The proposed committee will have an Aboriginal majority. As a result of this legislation the Aboriginals will be able to advise the Minister as they are in a majority on the proposed committee. 1 think that is a very good feature of the legislation. On numerous occasions 1 have seen the manner in which the Aboriginals at Goulburn Island and Yirrkala handle situations which arise. A lot of them are hard-headed business men. As long as they have time to think a matter over they can make a good decision. The Minister said in his second reading speech that there could be occasions when it would be appropriate for assistance to be granted from both the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises and the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund. When there are enterprises which call for more money than is available in one fund the balance will be made available from the other one. I commend the Government for the action it has taken.
It is quite obvious that the Government is making every effort to advance the Aboriginals socially and economically. This has been particularly obvious during the past, few days. The other day the Minister referred to a plan which he said would be the blueprint for other areas in Australia. The Government is, at the moment, studying various Aboriginal enterprises. According to the remarks of the Minister, it is examining with a lot of vigour more expensive enterprises. These include transport, forestry, logging, cattle stations and so on. Several enterprises are concurrently under way. One is the proposed Standley Chasm kiosk. The Minister for the Interior and I visited the proposed kiosk site last Sunday. If I get home on time I will visit the Yuendumu copper project tomorrow. The local Aboriginals intend to put m a trail ride at Standley Chasm. Some hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are to be dammed and a log cabin is to be built alongside for the tourists and stockmen who ride through the very attractive and striking Macdonnell Ranges. That is an example of one Aboriginal enterprise. In referring to it I should mention Gus Williams of Palm Valley. He runs a 4-wheel drive bus from Hermannsburg down to Palm Valley. Gus Williams is a most enterprising fellow. He takes over from Pioneer Coaches Pty Ltd and all the others. He makes many trips a week 10 or 12 miles down the Finke River to Palm Valley. Another man seeking assistance is Jacob Roberts who has a safari venture. Douglas Daniels at Roper is another man who is interested in running cattle. These are the type of people the Trust Fund will be financing.
The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) adopted the usual practice of the Opposition of looking backwards. It should look forwards. Admittedly the honourable member agrees with the provisions of the Bill, but he said that these provisions should have been introduced years ago. It does not help a situation to look backwards. We do not look backwards in the Northern Territory. As I said earlier, there are many dedicated men in the Northern Territory who have been up there for many years. A lothas been done for the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory. I would suggest that the critics of the Government should go to the Northern Territory and stay there for a while and see what is being done. Most people who stand up in this chamber and talk about the Northern Territory know nothing about it. In conclusion, I say that the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund will be a real step towards advancing the social and economic position of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory and, for that matter, all over Australia. I support the legislation.
– in reply - I thank the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) for standing in for me whilst I was absent from . the House for a few moments. I would like to thank the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) for their contributions to the debate. The honourable member for Lang asked why the royalty rate in Bougainville is 5% but in the Northern Territory it is only 2½%. I think the honourable member is probably getting confused with the total royalty rate paid in regard to the land situation at Bougainville. The second point I should make is that the taxation and customs laws are completely different in Papua and New Guinea to those in the Northern Territory. The situation therefore in total is different from that in Australia. I ought to remind the honourable member for Lang that in fact the royalty of 2½% being paid into this Fund is double the normal rate. I hope that explanation is of assistance to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Statement taken as a whole.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the Committee agrees with the Statement for the year 1968-69 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1966.
This is only a formal matter in winding up the 1968-69 Budget proposals. When a Budget is brought down two items are always included, one relating to capital works and the other to ordinary works and services which are not anticipated or which may arise during the course of the year. This, of course, follows the usual parliamentary practice. When payment ultimately is made under a particular head it has to be sanctioned by the Parliament. The statement now before us really represents the washing up of those arrangements. The Opposition offers no objection at this stage to the adoption of the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
House adjourned at 4.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Under what legislation, other than that mentioned in my question No. 1193 (Hansard, 26th March 1969, page 954), do appeals lie to the Governor-General.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
I have been informed by my Ministerial colleagues that the following legislation contains provision for appeal to the Governor-General:
Air Force Act 1923-1965
Defence Act 1903-1966
Section 17 of the Venereal Diseases Ordinance 1926-1966 of the Australian Capital Territory.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1966, Naval Financial Regulation 132a.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the- honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The then Premier of Queensland, Mr Nicklin wrote to my predecessor, the late Mr Holt, on 7th September 1967 asking that arrangements be made for a reappraisal of the scheme by Commonwealth authorities. The letter was acknowledged by my predecessor on 12th September 1967. At that time Commonwealth and State officials were already engaged on investigations in the Bowen/ Broken River area and the Premier indicated in his letter that Queensland did not have resources which it could divert to re-examine the Burdekin River project in the foreseeable future. I advised the then Premier the late Mr Pizzey, on 23rd May 1968, of the Commonwealth’s agreement in principle to undertake a reappraisal of the scheme, without any commitment to possible future Commonwealth financial participation and provided that the State was prepared to leave the timing, nature and extent of the Commonwealth’s participation in the reappraisal to be worked out by appropriate Commonwealth and State officials when investigations on the Bowen/Broken River area - were nearing completion.
The Queensland Premier notified me of his acceptance of these arrangements on 21st June 1968.
The investigations in the Bowen/Broken River area are now nearing completion and I am informed that consideration is now being given by Commonwealth officials, in consultation with State officials, to the timing, nature and extent of participation by the Commonwealth in the reappraisal of the project.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (l)(a) A graduate who has completed a 3- year degree and who has not passed the registration examination of the Library Association of Australia would not be employed on specialist library duties in the Commonwealth Service. Such a graduate could, however, be employed on work peripheral to library duties as a Clerk, Class 1 and would receive a total remuneration of $3,450 per annum, including the allowance prescribed for 3-year graduates.
A graduate could also be selected as LibrarianinTraining and would receive, assuming he had completed a 3-year degree, a total remuneration, including allowance, of $3,450 while completing a year of full-time study for either a Diploma in Librarianship at the University of New South Wales or an Associateship Diploma in Librarianship at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. On completion of this training the graduate would be advanced as a Librarian, Class 1 and paid at the rate of $3,714 per annum.
A 3-year graduate appointed to the Department of Trade and Industry or for that matter any other Department, as a Clerk, Class 1 would receive $3,450 per annum, including the allowance referred to in (1) (a) above.
A 3-year graduate employed from the age of 21 as a Clerk, Class 1 would, if he were not promoted, receive $3,450 per annum during his first 3 years of service. If he then completed the registration examination of the Library Association of Australia and gained a promotion as Librarian, Class 1 he would receive $3,714 in his fourth year of service and $3,940 in his fifth year.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s question are as follows:
Sir John Latham ; ?3,250 per annum
Sir Hayden Starke ; ?3,000 per annum
Sir George Kich ; ?2,250 per annum.
The pensions presently payableto retired Justices are shown in the Schedule to the Judges’ Pension
Act 1968. There is no record of any lump sum settlements.
er asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no recorded occasions when the airport was closed because of cross winds. It is not usual for an aerodrome to be closed for this reason. Air traffic control provides information to aircraft on wind conditions. It is the responsibility of the pilot in command to decide whether or not he can carry out a safe landing or take-off having regard to the cross wind component and the type of aircraft he is flying.
With one runway only at Mulligan’s Flat and based on the available wind information there would be less than ten hours per year when jet aircraft such as the DC9 and Fokker F28 would not be able to operate due to excessive cross winds.
Port Facilities: Provision of Incinerators (Question No. 1844)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 4th June 1969, Queensland authorities submitted proposals for the installation of incinerators plus ancillary works and structures at Gladstone, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Thursday Island at an estimated cost of $307,789. The Commonwealth on 17th July 1969, agreed to reimbursement of this sum.
The Commonwealth on 12th June 1969, further advised the Queensland Government that it was considered that Queensland proposals for incinerators at Bundaberg and Port Alma would entail excessively high costs of establishment, operation, maintenance and replacement and that the proposals should be revised with a view to the construction of incinerators more suited to the quarantine requirements of the ports.
I am informed that Queensland is preparing revised proposals for submission to the Commonwealth at an early date.
In implementing quarantine legislation all necessary steps are being taken to prevent the introduction into Australia of exotic diseases of animals and plants.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What regulations and determinations concerning the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have been made since his predecessor’s answer to me on 30 November 1965 (Hansard, page 3396).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following Regulations, prescribing biological products for production, sale and research by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission, have been promulgated since November 1965:
Determinations relating to research on other than prescribed products have been made in respect of each of the financial years since 1965-66 as follows: 1966-67 - Determinations made on 4 May 1966:
The Commission’s expenditure in respect of the above Determinations in 1966-67 was $316,347. 1967- 68- Determination made on 18 September 1967:
Investigation and establishment of improved immunological techniques for the study of normal and abnormal antibody responses.
A further Determination, amending the allocation of funds to the respective projects was made on 18th September 1968.
The Commission’s expenditure under these Determinations in 1967-68 was $365,825. 1968-69 - Determination made on 28th June 1968:
A further Determination amending the allocation of funds to the respective projects was made on 15th May 1969.
The Commission’s expenditure under these Determinations in 1968-69 was $329,155. 1969-70 - Determination made on 8th August 1969:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of aliens registered as at 30th June each year from 1965 to 1968 and the number who notified their whereabouts as required in each of those years was:
At 30th June 1969, 427,734 aliens were registered. The number of notifications lodged this year will not be known until after the end of September.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690919_reps_26_hor65/>.