28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in itsnatural state.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Mr Anthony, Mr Coates, Mr Kerin, Mr Lamb, Mr Mathews and Mr Oldmeadow.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth.
That Lake Pedder, situated in the Lake Pedder National Park in South-West Tasmania, is threatened with inundation as part of the Gordon River hydroelectric power scheme.
That an alternative scheme exists, which, if implemented would avoid inundation of this lake.
That Lake Pedder and the surrounding wilderness area is of such beauty and scientific interest as to be of a value beyond monetary consideration.
And that some unique species of flora and fauna will be in danger of extinction if this area is inundated.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate steps to act on behalf of all Australian people to preserve Lake Pedder in its natural state. All present and particularly future Australians will benefit by being able to escape from their usual environment to rebuild their physical and mental strength in this unspoilt wilderness area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned aviatorsof the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Lake Pedder, situated within the South West National Park in the state of Tasmania is threatened with inundation as part of the Middle Gordon Hydro Electric Power Scheme.
That upon the eastern shore of Lake Pedder there is a beach which during the summer months, forms a suitable and safe airfield for the operation of light aircraft.
That the beach of Lake Pedder forms the only airfield for the operation of aircraft for normal and emergency purposes within the vast South West National Park.
That Lake Pedder, which presents as an area of spectacular beauty and immense biological interest has attracted large numbers of visitors, many of whom have been dependent upon light aircraft for transport purposes.
That alternatives exist whereby with further works, modifications can be effected to the proposed scheme which will allow preservation of Lake Pedder.
That to facilitate these added works, Commonwealth funds in the form of a special purpose grant will be required.
That we, the undersigned, request that the House of Representatives will consider the impending loss which faces the South West National Park and that the House of Representatives will take action to expedite financial assistance so as to allow preservation of Lake Pedder as a heritage for present and future Australians.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should: not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Collard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hunt and Mr Jacobi.
– As the Minister for Social Security persistently has denied that the Australian Labor Party health scheme, particularly the medical benefits aspect of it, has any connection with the Canadian scheme I ask him: Are senior members of his Department now in Canada or on their way there? If they are, when were the arrangements made for the officers of his Department to visit Canada? Finally, are his officers accompanied by a representative of the IBM company and, if so, who is paying the latter’s expenses?
– I am not aware that a representative of IBM is accompanying the representatives of my Department in Canada. I will find out what the arrangement is. It certainly is not an official one and is one that I have not approved in any way because it has not been brought to my attention. The representatives are in Canada largely to assess com puter processing techniques which have been developed there. It is true that 1 have said that our scheme is not the Canadian scheme. It is not the British scheme nor it is any other country’s scheme. It is a scheme developed especially for the needs of Australia. To the extent that we can learn from the experience of other countries on how most effectively to introduce our scheme we will take advantage of that sort of experience.
– Can the Prime Minister, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, inform the House what assistance Australia is able to give to the 6 African nations where 6 million people are facing death by famine or thirst?
– The Department of Foreign Affairs is ascertaining what assistance Australia can give to these 6 countries. Australia has no representatives in any of them. Therefore we have to make our inquiries through specialised agencies of the United Nations, such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation. We have learned that the need is for grain seeds, cattle feed and drilling equipment for wells. We do not have any spare grain seeds or cattle feed, and we are some distance away as regards the supply of drilling equipment. However, it is possible that we will be able to make contributions in cash through international organisations, which will enable some of this equipment and some of these seeds and feed to be procured.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. The average wholesale price of bulk beer is approximately 50c a gallon. The excise rate is$1. 1375 a gallon-
-Order! Would the honourable member raise his voice a little - not in anger, just in volume?
– The average wholesale price of bulk beer is approximately 50c a gallon. The excise rate is $1.1375 a gallon, which is more than twice such price. Is beer, which is the wage earners’ drink, the only product which attracts a tax of twice the wholesale price of the product?
– I am afraid that I still have not heard the question clearly. But it sounded as though it was in the realm of my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise.
I suggest that the honourable member put the question on the notice paper, and I will give him a considered reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, concerns telephone rental charges. Having in mind the present concession on telephone rentals allowed to pensioner subscribers which, in the Newcastle region, means that the rentals still amount to about 75c a week, I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Has consideration been given to the total abolition of telephone rentals and the substitution, in lieu of the present system, of a higher charge per call only? Could such a charge be based on a reducing scale according to the number of calls made? If he has not given consideration to such a scheme, will he arrange for a study of it to be made?
– A number of submissions have been made that people, particularly those in receipt of pensions, should be exempt from paying rentals because they are deemed to be a financial burden. With that everybody would agree. To some extent concessions have been granted, but the pressure continues. The royal commission will be looking into all aspects of tariffs. One of the things which it certainly will look at very closely is the question of rentals as against perhaps a usage charge. The honourable member also asked whether there would be a free call area. This has been tried overseas; but it is a very limited area and, in fact, other charges make that system even more expensive than the Australian system.
The matter contained in the honourable member’s question has a lot of merit in it. It is rather attractive to think that the costs would be on the basis of usage rather than a hiring on a rental basis. It is of some significance to say that the average cost of installing a telephone in Australia is $1,200. As the previous Government’s policy that interest must be paid is still obtaining, it is also significant that the interest bill paid by the Post Office is $151m. Because of these financial aspects, no matter which way one looks at the financial structure, if one were to remove the rental system completely one would have to increase substantially all call charges. The matter will be the subject of a report by the royal commission. Until such time as that is done, the Government will take no action.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I refer to those crew members of HMAS ‘Sydney’ who are desirous of not participating in the exercise as announced by him yesterday. Is he prepared to give the House an assurance that there will be no recriminations against those who wish to opt out of the exercise? Does he agree that if options are given it is a breach of the fundamental obligations of servicemen entered into on recruitment? Finally, is not the Government itself therefore responsible for inciting men to break these service obligations, thereby destroying the effectiveness of the armed forces?
– I did see the report which appeared in the Press suggesting that 12 .personnel had elected to opt out of the exercise which, as I stressed yesterday, is in fact a naval exercise. If they opt out, and I have had no official confirmation of this, it would be under the normal circumstances and the regulations which now apply. In any exercise involving naval personnel, or indeed, personnel anywhere in the Services, they would have the opportunity, for various reasons, to make application through the normal channels not to participate in that exercise. If it is substantiated .that the 12 personnel referred to have sought to opt out of the exercise then they would be doing so through the normal channels. I have indicated to this House that in the circumstances there are probably reasons why some of the personnel - perhaps for political reasons or conscience^ - may seek to opt out of the exercise. If they do that, I can give the honourable member an assurance that it will be done through the normal channels. Their applications would be considered in .the normal way. I also give the honourable member an assurance that there would be no recriminations if their requests had been examined and accepted by the naval authorities.
– Can the Minister for the Northern Territory inform the House of the present state of penal reform in the Northern Territory? What steps have been taken to overcome the crowding that exists in Fannie Bay Gaol? Is there any intention to build a new gaol in the Northern Territory to replace the Fannie Bay Gaol?
– There has been concern in the Northern Territory for some time about its penal establishments. There is certainly overcrowding at Fannie Bay Gaol where the facilities are quite bad. The Northern Territory Legislative Council, in about November of 1972, passed a resolution for the setting up of a committee of inquiry of that Council to investigate the whole subject. That committee has taken some steps and made some progress and is intending to visit, I think, each of the nation’s capitals seeking expert advice in its task. A prison farm has .been set up at Gun Point, about 45 miles from Darwin, where the prisoners perform forestry work and open type work of that style. When I was in .the Northern Territory the time before last I made arrangements for one of Australia’s leading authorities on criminology, Mr Gordon Hawkins, of the University of ‘Sydney, to prepare a report. He will be well known to honourable members because he is a coauthor of that well known book The Honest Politician’s Guide to Crime Control’. He and a Mr Misenza, who is also on the staff of the University of Sydney and was an Assistant Attorney-General of Oregon in the United States, have recently been engaged in preparing a report on the subject in the Northern Territory. I hope that in the not too distant future we will have a system appropriate to the conditions of that Territory that will be a model for the resit of Australia.
– Did the Minister for the Capital Territory maintain the spirit of the State Ministers gentlemen’s agreement of the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in reference to the production of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory? Can the Minister inform the House of the date of purchase or lease of the Home Pride factory at Fyshwick by Marrickville Holdings Ltd? Was it after the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council? Is it true that the machinery for the manufacture of table margarine was installed only some weeks prior to the announcement that the Minister had given a unilateral licence to Marrickville Holdings Ltd? Why was Marrickville Holdings given this monopoly licence? Will the Minister explain to the Parliament what right he had to make the announcement prior to the May meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council? Did the Minister for Primary Industry cover up for him at that meeting?
-Order! The words ‘cover up for him’ are I think unparliamentary and uncalled for.
– There was no breach of any gentlemen’s understanding reached at the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. On the occasion of that meeting, I, together with other Ministers, particularly the Minister from South Australia, argued strongly for a relaxation of the quota system which operates in its present form against the production of a very valuable food which is in demand by Australians who want to buy it and who want to exercise their freedom of choice. We ran into opposition from Ministers from States such as New South Wales who were determined to retain the quota in the interests of their political sectional power base, the Country Party power base. The Agricultural Council decided in February that the Australian Capital Territory could have a quota of 300 tons. I said: Thank you very much; I accept it and I want it noted that I accept it.’ That is on the record. Before that some inquiries had been made by various manufacturers of margarine about what could be done in the Australian Capital Territory. There are no laws here dealing with the subject. There were none then and there are none now. No laws have been made and no changes have been made.
With that assurance from the Agricultural Council, Marrickville Holdings, which was the first to express an interest in the subject, came in and took an option on premises in Fyshwick which were suitable from the point of view of the health requirements of the Australian Capital Territory and the purpose clauses in the leasing system of the Australian Capital Territory. I saw no reason to stop that action and that is the position as it is now. The company has my approval, if I may put it that way, to manufacture 300 tons. There is no law at the moment - although I imagine I could make one at short notice - to prevent the company from exceeding that amount, but I am sure that it will honour the understanding we have. However, there is no law at the moment to stop anyone coming here and making margarine.
– My question, addressed to the Acting Attorney-General, arises from a question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie of the Minister for Social Security. It concerns the plight of persons who sometimes are required to pay large sums of money as premiums in order to gain occupancy of home unit type accommodation. In situations of this sort where there is an inequality of bargaining power, is it the Government’s intention to take any action which might redress the imbalance that so often causes hardship?
– Yes, I recall the question asked of the Minister for Social Security yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie about hardship that can occur to people who are in an unequal bargaining position when .they come to negotiate with the managements of certain homes that provide facilities for old people. The problem is part of a wider problem in which standard forms of contract are imposed on people. This happens in a whole area of concern. It happens in the insurance business where a standard form of contract ds used and there is no bargaining position. No one can argue and say: ‘I do not like that condition in the contract; take it out or vary it’. Anyone with experience of insurance contracts knows that they are full of terms, conditions and clauses which operate against the consumer. The standard form of contract for the sale of land in many of the States favours the vendor against the purchaser. The standard form of leasing agreement entered into by some of the large lessor corporations operates against the small business man, who has no freedom of choice to say: ‘I will not take it’. It is there in the small print. The same situation applies in the matter that was touched on by the honourable member for Macquarie and the Minister for Social Security at question time yesterday. It seems that there is great need for legislation that would impose certain minimum fair terms in such contracts that would redress that imbalance. There is nothing novel in this because the law has long recognised it in certain types of transactions such as money lending transactions, in relation to which the courts can make redress and give relief where the terms are harsh and oppressive or unfair. In such a case a court of equity would give relief. It seems that in this day and age there is a great case to extend that principle into other areas and bring about redress of the imbalance not only on a contractual basis but also on a statutory basis. The matter has been the subject of discussions with the Attorney-General and is being investigated and studied.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to a broadcast on 9 May of an interview recorded with Prince Sihanouk in which Prince Sihanouk said:
We hope that Australia may withdraw her Embassy from Phnom Penh and become neutral visibly.
I ask the Prime Minister whether official or unofficial discussions have taken place with Phnom Penh and consequently our recognito the withdrawal of our Embassy from Phnom Penh and consequently the recognition of the present Cambodian Government. Is it intended that our Embassy be withdrawn as explicitly suggested by Prince Sihanouk?
– The answer to both questions is no. The Government is anxious that peace be restored in Cambodia and that a political solution is developed by the Khmer people .themselves. In the meantime the Government sees value in maintaining an Embassy in Phnom Penh provided that the security situation allows it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the answer given to the honourable member for Macquarie yesterday on key money demanded of people seeking accommodation in aged persons home units. I ask: Does the Commonwealth meet two-thirds of the cost of these units? What steps does it propose to take to end this most uncharitable practice by charitable bodies and how extensive is this practice to his knowledge?
– It is true that the Commonwealth meets two-thirds of the cost of these units and last year the Commonwealth contributed, from memory, about $24m. I am not happy with the practice of ‘key money’, as I indicated yesterday. I have had discussions this morning with the Minister for Housing. It is my own feeling that there are more satisfactory ways of developing a program of accommodation for the aged. I think that some unhappy imbalances have arisen in the present pattern of developing accommodation for the aged. It is my intention to send a proposal to the National Commission on Social Welfare and to ask it for a complete review of the basis on which the programs so far operated have been established and asking it to consider whether there are in fact better ways of providing such a program of accommodation for the aged. Of course, I will be putting forward some tentative suggestions.
The other question, the final question, that the honourable member asks is the more significant one. Since I answered the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie I have checked with departmental officers as to the amount of money which is being spent by the charitable organisations as their share of the cost of developing aged persons home units and which is raised from donations - and we must put ‘donations’ in inverted commas. The honourable member for Hunter calls it key money and I think that is more appropriate. The proportion of funds provided by charitable bodies which come from donations has gone from 35 per cent to 62 per cent in 18 months. I think that is a very unwholesome trend. Add to these facts the additional fact that in certain situations because of a succession of residents in a particular accommodation unit, it is conceivable that donations’ can be requested on two or three or more occasions for the same unit. The last Government set about certain arrangements 3 to 3i years ago which it hoped would result in 50 per cent of the people accommodated in this sort of accommodation being people who did not make a donation. But there are loopholes or escape hatches in the arrangements - they are not intentionally there but by the nature of things this is the way it has developed - and the objective of the last Government is not only not being achieved but in fact is receding. I repeat, as I said yesterday, that I regard the practice as unsavoury. I do not regard it as particularly charitable and I believe that there has to be new thinking and new orientation in the way in which we provide accommodation facilities for the aged in the community. We must in providing them realise that the people who go into these homes should continue to be independent and to exercise independent rights as individuals in our society.
– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister observed the difficulties of fruit growers in electorates such as his and mine due to a shortage of suitable labour to aid in a particularly difficult harvest period earlier in the year? Is the Minister aware that because many migrants have like interests in Europe they represent a high proportion of such labour? Does his reported change of policy allow for a greater number of migrants from the areas I have mentioned? If not, can he offer any hope in a tighter labour situation for additional help to the fruit growers in his electorate and mine whose financial security is under some degree of threat?
– In the last few months a wide range of suggestions has been put forward from various quarters in regard to guest workers. There have been suggestions that we might have guest workers from the South Seas for harvest purposes; guest workers from Norway to become fishermen temporarily; guest workers from China to build roads in Victoria; and guest workers from Europe to fill some of the gaps in the building trade. About the only institution that has not asked for guest workers so far is the Parliament, but never mind, it might happen. The concept of guest workers is not one that I would accept nor would the Government. If we were to engage in the practice of employing guest workers as it operates in, for example, some European countries we would be abandoning our traditional attitude to migration; that is thai we bring people to this country, welcome them and want them eventually to join the nation, to join the national family and be a part of us. Certainly it would be a very unfortunate development if we were to have an alien bod) that would be continually alien in the national framework and within the national family. ] think it would be generally rejected as a concept by the majority of Australians, because after all, we are a developing and a growing community.
We are virtually a new nation now because shortly half of the population will be under 25 years and one Australian in every three ii the product of post-war migration, either by coming to this country or by being a child oi grandchild of migrant parents. So we have : new nation now. The great thrust is to try t( build it in unity and I do not think a guest worker concept would help that at all. The honourable member has raised a very pertinent question in relation to the harvest which will come in the months ahead and next year. Of course there are difficulties there. I appreciate the difficulty which the honourable member has pinpointed in his question. Already I have had discussions with my friend and colleague, the Minister for Labour, who is well aware that $2m or $3m worth of crops could be at risk next year if we do not have adequate harvesting arrangements. I hope that, as a result of our continuing discussions and deliberations, some arrangements will be made to overcome the difficulties. However, we reject the concept of guest workers. I assure the honourable member that we will be examining, with all sympathy and with the idea and objective of doing something worthwhile, the problem he has raised.
-Has the Treasurer noted that the wholly foreign owned company, Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd, is seeking from the Australian capital market $20m to $25m at interest rates of from 8 per cent to 9 per cent? Is it a fact that this capital will be used for investment in commercial property development in Australia with the effect not only of increasing property prices and interest rates but also of ensuring that more of this country is owned abroad? Is there anything that the Treasuer can do to prevent this scandalous situation whereby Australian savings are used for this purpose?
– My attention has been drawn to the Press reports referred to by the honourable member for Adelaide. According to those reports, Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd is seeking up to $25m from the Australian public through a debenture issue, the proceeds of which are to be used to fund the group’s existing property development program in Australia. It is said also that Abbey Capital Property Finance Ltd was incorporated earlier this year to act as a borrowing corporation for the Abbey Capital group, whose major shareholders are Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, and Capital and Counties Property Co. Ltd of the United Kindom. I issued a Press statement on 20 March. As part of the whole question of foreign ownership and control, the purchase of real estate in Australia by overseas interests is under study by the Government at present. The subject is a complex one and the study will take a little time to complete. The Reserve Bank of Australia is not normally granting exchange control approvals that might be needed in connection with proposed foreign investment in real estate, but it would appear from reports that exchange control approval would not be involved in this company’s present activities. In addition, there are no restrictions on borrowings in Australia by overseas controlled companies. However, if the Abbey company envisages applying the proceeds of the debenture issue to further significant property development, I would point out that I said in my statement of 20 March that it is the wish of the Government that overseas interests should not enter into significant commitments for real estate purchases for the time being. I confirm that now.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Although it deals also with overseas trade, perhaps he could answer it. Has he seen reports that the United States of America has accumulated a stockpile of minerals which would supply the world’s minerals and energy requirements for 3 years? Has he also seen the reports that this stockpile is now to be released and, presumably thrown on the free market? Could the Minister tell us what effect this is likely to have on Australia and other countries which are significant mineral exporters?
– This will have a most undesirable impact on certain sections of the world metals market. We are doing our best to minimise the impact. With regard to energy sources, I gravely doubt whether there will be any release by the United States. As a matter of fact, at present the United States has a debit of about $US10 billion a year in imports of energy and it is anticipated that by the year 1980 that figure will have escalated to between $US30 billion and$US35 billion. That being so, I do not think the honourable gentleman need have the slightest concern about such imports. But the release of the stockpile of certain strategic materials will undoubtedly have a most unfavourable impact and we have already been taking what steps we can to minimise the situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence and it follows a question asked by the honourable member for Wimmera - it is a follow on. Will the Minister see that, if more naval personnel than the number required want to serve on the naval ship to visit the French nuclear testing area in the interests of all mankind, priority is given to the present crew now serving on the ship to be used?
– Perhaps the House might pardon me if I supplement my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Wimmera and also reply to the question put to me by my colleague, the honourable member for Hunter. There is no doubt that there will be sufficient crew members to man the Supply’ or the ‘Sydney’, whichever ship is used for this purpose. I do not believe that there would be any question of requiring any additional crew members, but in view of the fact that there has appeared a statement in the Press this morning which indicated that 12 crew members had sought to opt out under the conditions which I have laid down, I think I should indicate to the honourable member for Wimmera that I have had inquiries made since the report appeared and it is true that there have been 11 applicants for review under these conditions. Three have been approved and the remainder are under consideration. It ought to be, and I am sure it is, understood by honourable members that in these circumstances applications will be made, as they have been made on other occasions by servicemen to opt out of an exercise, and these crew members are exercising their normal rights. But there is no question that there will be sufficient crew members. I have sufficient faith in those who serve in the Royal Australian Navy to know that in these circumstances and because the question that is involved is one of very great significance to this country, there will be adequate numbers of naval men to man either the ‘Sydney’ or the ‘Supply’, whichever ship is used on this exercise.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I remind the honourable gentleman that last night he said that the Government had decided to proceed with the establishment of diplomatic relations with Poland and the German Democratic Republic or, in other words, East Germany. What instructions has the Prime Minister given for Australian action to end all foreign military presence in Poland and the German Democratic Republic in accordance with his Party’s policy?
– Diplomatic representations have been established in the 2 countries. No specific action has been taken along the lines that the honourable gentleman mentioned. It is of course an objective which we ought to have in mind in international relations.
– Can the Minister for Housing inform the House what action he is able to take to assist in overcoming the serious industrial situation existing in the building industry in New South Wales?
– I am sure that all honourable members were concerned to read of the stoppages which have taken place and which are said to be holding up works of a capital value of approximately $350m. These works include Commonwealth projects. The situation is already very serious and there are prospects that the disputes could extend into the housing area and thus have very deleterious effects on the urgent need for house: in New South Wales. For that matter there is the possibility that the disputes could extend past New South Wales. It is very distressing to see that great differences have developed between the Master Builders’ Association oi New South Wales and some of the building unions in New South Wales. There seems te be developing an incapacity to communicate effectively and resolve differences. There have been a number of differences but they are polarising now into one particular issue, the issue of permanency for the building industry My point of view is that permanency is : principle worth pursuing. 1 uphold it. ‘. believe it is undignified to subject employee in any industry to the insecurity and uncertainty of not knowing from where their next job and income will come.
It seems to rae that .there ought to be gov emmental action, State or federal or possibly both, for the purpose of examining this situation which could cause the crisis in the build ing industry to deteriorate. I might mention that permanency is not without precedent. The principle operates in the building industries of a number of countries, including the United States of America. I am told on good authority that the incidence of permanency in the building industry in New South Wales is as low as 5 per cent. There seems to me to be a prima facie case for a very good and careful examination of this matter. I have read in the Press that the building unions intend to make a proper approach to Ministers of the Australian Government about the possibility of having this matter examined. The Federal Ministers who will be involved are responsible for a very wide area of administration. I believe that the Minister for Labour, the Minister for Works, the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for the Northern Territory, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and I would be concerned. Such an examination would cover a very wide area, but I believe that a request of this nature could be made. ‘If the unions make a sensible approach to this Government, the Ministers whom I have nominated will work sensibly together to cause this matter to be properly evaluated. I hope that our efforts will have a conciliatory effect and bring about a return to work and effective production in the building industry.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. In reply to a question in this House on 28 February last the Prime Minister stated that he and the Premier of New South Wales had agreed to a feasibility study for a regional growth centre in the Orange-Bathurst area with a view to joint CommonwealthState financial participation in the development of the centre. After a speech at Bathurst in March the Prime Minister was reported as saying that this report would be given to him and to the State Premier by the end of the month - that was March. Has .the report been tendered to the Government and to Sir Robert Askin and, if so, will it be made public? Also, when will a Commonwealth decision be made on assistance for the project already commenced by the New South Wales Government? Can an announcement be expected before the end of this session?
– A study has been made of the Bathurst-Orange area by the Cities Commission and the results are now being considered by the Government. Last Wednesday discussions were held in Canberra between Mr Fuller, the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation and myself. Mr Fuller, for the New South Wales Government, invited the Australian Government to appoint a representative to its consultative committee. I accepted the invitation on behalf of the Australian Government. The question of the extent to which the Australian Government will support the Bathurst-Orange proposal will be discussed and determined during consideration of the Government’s overall budgetary policy for the coming Budget. I am sure there will be a Commonwealth contribution for the BathurstOrange proposal for the financial year 1973- 74.
– Has the Minister for Minerals and Energy noted the intervention of the Victorian Minister for Fuel and Power in the Senate debate on the Pipeline Authority Bill?
– I certainly have noted the intervention of Mr Balfour, the Victorian Minister for Fuel and Power, in the debate. Quite a remarkable concatenation of conservative intervention has occurred this week in connection with this Bill. I have received a 3- page dissertation from Mr Balfour giving full details of his apprehension as to what would happen in the sovereign State of Victoria. I can assure him that both the ecology and the environment will be fully observed, if and when we get to that point. We have been good citizens in New South Wales; we have no reason not to be good citizens elsewhere. There is an old saying that the bottom of Diogenes’ tub would not bear inspection and I would suggest to the gentleman that he might well examine his own economic conscience and, in particular, the legacy of the former Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, who left a quite remarkable legacy. At present the gas producing interests in Victoria are literally breaking their necks to try to supply us with gas at a figure substantially below that which is operating in Victoria. We will be very happy to deal with them in due course. In the meantime the Victorian Minister might well consider whether he can make a better deal on behalf of consumers in his State.
– Pursuant to section 134 of the Superannuation Act I present the fiftieth annual report of the Superannuation Board for the year ended 30 June 1972.
– I move:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair, on Tuesday next.
If I may comment briefly on this motion, honourable members may recollect that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) raised with me the question of extending the normal sitting time of 10 a.m. next Tuesday. At that stage I said that in view of business this could not be done. We have since discussed the matter further and, in order to assist Opposition and, no doubt, the Government in the workings of their internal affairs regarding the heavy legislative program, it has been decided to meet on Tuesday next at that time. Honourable members will appreciate that there is a great amount of legislation to be dealt with by the time at which we desire to rise next week. They also will notice that there is a lot of legislation on the notice paper for today. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicated that, whilst not restricting the rights of honourable members to participate in these debates, we both would look forward to a reasonable measure of co-operation in order to make up for the time lost. I therefore appeal to honourable members to co-operate in every possible way to ensure that we complete today’s legislative program and ifinish next week’s legislative program by the time at which we desire to rise next week. The hour lost is considerable, but I was able to reach an agreement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I ask for the co-operation of honourable members.
– I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) for accommodating the Opposition in relation to starting an hour later next Tuesday. In view of the complexity of the legislation that is before the Parliament, I believe that it is to the advantage of the Government in that it will assist in the passage of the legislation. The Opposition concurs in the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Modernisation of HMA Naval Dockyard (Stage 1) Williamstown, Victoria.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– As Chairman of the Committee I think, in all fairness, I should draw the attention of honourable members and the Ministers concerned to the position in which many members of the Committee were placed on this project. I draw attention to paragraphs 60, 61 and 62 of the report, which refer to ministerial approval being given for the Department of Works to do certain documentation on Stage 1 before the members had had a chance to look at the proposition. This made it awkward for them to have any alterations made, if they were necessary. However, they fell in with the client department in approving the work. The other problem was that on this occasion Stage 1 pre-empted Stage 2. Although we were asked to consider only Stage 1, the members thought that Stage 2 should have been considered at the same time as, according to the evidence before the Committee, acceptance of Stage 1 by the Committee would make it very difficult for the Committee to consider Stage 2 in any other way than with approval. I draw that to the attention of honourable members and the Ministers concerned.
Consideration resumed from 24 May (vide page 2624).
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 postponed.
Clauses 5 to 16 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I move the following amendment:
Omit the clause, substitute the following clause:
The Minister for Urban and Regional Development may, after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned, approve an organization or body that represents, or acts on behalf of, the local governing bodies established in a region as an approved regional organization for the purposes of this Act or revoke or alter such an approval.’.
I have moved the amendment because during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on Wednesday afternoon last he put to me that it should be possible for the Parliament to review the approval which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development could give for a single local governing body to be regarded as a regional organisation. Clause 17 of the Bill as introduced makes it possible for the Minister to do that. Perhaps I might quote exactly what the Leader of the Opposition said on this matter. He said:
I do not want, and I am sure the Prime Minister in no circumstances would want, some future government to use this Bill as an instrument for patronage to individual municipal councils. It does have in it that capacity. For instance, an approved regional authority, while it is a body which represents or acts for a group, can under the terms of clause 17 of the Bill be a single municipal authority. It would therefore be possible to pick out municipality XYZ and the Minister, whoever he may be at the time, could by instrument in writing, make it an approved regional organisation and then give it patronage for political purposes. I put it to the Prime Minister that the correct way in which this should be done is in such a way that it has the supervision of Parliament. With the supervision of Parliament the correct way is to do it by way of regulation and there would be a capacity for debate and it could be argued that it is being done for patronage if that is what some future government - and I am sure it is clear to the Prime Minister-
I accept that.
The Leader of the Opposition continued:
I appreciate that. It will be moved by somebody on this side of the House that the wordsby regu lation be substituted for the wordsby instrument in writing.
I then said:
The consequence being that if either House objected to the regulation it could be disallowed.
The Leader of the Opposition then said:
That is right. I thank the Prime Minister for that interjection.
Pursuant to my response to the Leader of the Opposition I seek to substitute the clause 17 I have just moved for the clause 17 as it appears in the Bill. It will be noticed that the clause I have now moved omits reference to single or, to use the term of the Leader of the Opposition, ‘individual local governing bodies’. I do not demur to those bodies being included in regulations so that either House of the Parliament could disallow them. In that case the proper place to enact a provision regarding regulations is in the clause of the Bill which deals with regulations, namely, clause 27. Accordingly, I forecast that if the Committee approves the amendment I have now moved, I shall move that we go to clause 27, a new clause which will cover the situation of single or individual local governing bodies which the Minister would like to have regarded as regional organisations for the purposes of a hearing by the Grants Commission or recommendations by it.
– The Opposition opposes this amendment. It goes some distance towards meeting the objection which the Opposition has to approvals being given under clause 17. We think it would be better that they should be given by regulation so that the Parliament may have an opportunity of scrutinising them and even, in the odd case where it was found to be necessary, disallowing the regulation. The old clause 17, which is affected by this amendment now moved by the Government, provided that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development could give approvals under 2 sub-clauses. The first sub-clause dealt with the approved regional organisations - these were the regions - and the second sub-clause said that the Ministermay, by instrument in writing, approve a local governing body that is the only local governing body established in a region’ or ‘in special circumstances, approve any other local governing body as a body that shall be deemed to be an approved regional organisation for the purposes of this Act. What the Government proposes now would remove to the area of approval by regulation the latter section, the individual council in the special circumstance. It would leave in clause 17 the approval of regions and bodies representing regions as approved regional organisations. It is true, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out, that yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) referred to the question of patronage as being a possibility. At page 2520 of Hansard the Leader of the Opposition referred to it in relation to individual municipal councils. The Leader of the Opposition said:
For instance, an approved regional authority, while it is a body which represents or acts for a group, can . . . be a single municipal authority. 1 do not question that that was what the Leader of the Opposition was referring to but the whole intent and thrust of what he was saying was that there should be removed from the Bill all possibility of political patronage in the exercise of powers relating to councils. One of the difficulties about leaving in provision for the approval of bodies representing regions, as is now proposed in this amendment, is that there may be instances where there is not one but perhaps 2 or 3 councils. It is very difficult to say that the same objection does not apply, whether or not the Leader of the Opposition has specifically mentioned that. Therefore we would prefer that the power to approve bodies representing regions as regional associations also should be the subject of regulation. The Opposition will oppose this amendment. If it is passed and the Government’s new clause 17 is inserted, our alternative proposal will not come before the Committee for consideration. If the Government’s amendment is defeated we will move for the deletion of clause 17 with a view to moving at a later stage for a new clause 27 which will include all these areas and make them subject to regulation.
I think I should conclude my remarks explaining our opposition to the current amendment by saying that the stand taken by the Opposition requesting that these approvals be effected by regulation and not simply by means of ministerial approval is not intended in any way to cast any reflection upon the probity of the present Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). I would like to make that clear. We would not wish it to be thought that we were suggesting that the present Minister would be likely to exercise the power of approval of regional associations, which will remain if this amendment to clause 17 is carried, for political reasons or in response to particular pressures. In fact we do not envy him the task with which he will be confronted and the pressures which will be upon him in exercising the powers if this amendment is passed. However, to us it seems wrong in principle to legislate in such a way that a result is possible under which a Minister is to be placed in this position and to place it beyond the power of Parliament to scrutinise the exercise of this particular power.
– I support the amendment which was moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to deal with 2 matters. It deals with the Opposition’s accusation that this Government would deal in patronage of an individual municipality and it relates also to the bypassing of the States. The amendment moved by the Prime Minister states:
The Minister for Urban and Regional Development may, after consultation with, the appropriate Minister of the State concerned, approve . . .
The amendment deals firstly with consultations with the respective State governments, particularly the Ministers concerned, so it is apparent that we do not want to bypass the States. In fact the spirit of our role in urban and regional development is to seek cooperation at all levels of government. That has been the spirit if this Government’s policy. I want to quote what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said as reported at pages 2520 and 2521 of Hansard. He said:
I do not want, and I am sure the Prime Minister in no circumstances would want, some future government to use this Bill as an instrument for patronage to individual municipal councils. It does have in it that capacity. For instance, an approved regional authority, while it is a body which represents or acts for a group, can under the terms of clause 17 of the Bill, be a single municipal authority. It would therefore be possible to pick out municipality XYZ and the Minister, whoever he may be at the time, could by instrument in writing, make it an approved regional organisation and then give it patronage for political purposes. I put it to the Prime Minister that the correct way in which this should be done is in such a way that it has the supervision of Parliament. With the supervision of Parliament the correct way is to do it by way of regulation and there would be a capacity for debate and it would be argued that it is being done for patronage if that is what some future government - and I am sure it is clear to the Prime Minister -
– I accept that
The Leader of the Opposition then went on to say:
I appreciate that It will be moved by somebody on this side of the House that the words ‘by, regulation’ be substituted for the words ‘by instrument in writing’.
The Prime Minister interjected again and said:
The consequence being that if either House objected to the regulation it could be disallowed.
The Leader of the Opposition then said:
That is right I thank the Prime Minister for that interjection. I come now to applications for assistance.
The Leader of the Opposition then went on to deal with another matter. Honourable members can see that the spirit of the amendment moved by the Prime Minister fully concurs with the suggestion and request made by the Leader of the Opposition in the second reading debate. Now the Opposition wants to go further. It wants to have regulations covering the zoning of regions of all councils whether it be an individual or a number of councils creating a region. Quite frankly, as the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) said, the creation of new regions will be a very difficult task. This is a new organisation. There will be consultation between the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the appropriate State ministries responsible, probably the Department of Local Government, with a view to creating regions. I have no doubt that from time to time municipalities will be lobbying their respective House of Representatives members and their senators. If they do not like one zone they will try to get into another zone. Consequently, if the Government accepted the Opposition’s proposition, we could get into a chaotic situation in trying to disallow regulations. Therefore, adopting a commonsense approach, there is going to be a real spirit of co-operative federalism. Local government, the State governments and the Australian Government will work together in co-operation to try to deal with local government affairs, which really are in very grave difficulties because of local government indebtedness. To a great extent the former Government is responsible for getting them into such difficulties. I ask the Committee to support the amendment moved by the Prime Minister.
– I listened very attentively to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and particularly to the first part of his remarks when he talked about his desire for real co-operation with the States. I ask him whether, if he really means this, perhaps in his new clause he would substitute for the words ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’ the words with the approval of the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’. Will he be prepared to do that? I ask the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
– That shows the bad faith of the Government throughout in this matter. It will not come out and do things honestly and fairly. I was in the House when the dialogue occurred to which the Prime Minister and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development have drawn attention. I listened to it very carefully because I think I was the original person to suggest that the words ‘by regulation’ should be substituted. I was listening very intently. It is true that the Hansard as it is before us gives a correct account of what was said. It cannot, of course, cover all the interjections and it cannot, of course, cover the tone of what was said. I return to the Hansard. It records that immediately after the Prime Minister had said:’I accept that’ the Leader of the Opposition said:
I appreciate that. It will be moved by somebody on this side of the House that the words ‘by regulation’ be substituted for the words ‘by instrument in writing’.
It was quite clear what was meant - absolutely clear. It is just the typical double dealing of the Prime Minister that has brought-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Mackellar that he might withdraw the remarks that he has made in relation to the Prime Minister.
– I withdraw them.I let the Committee judge the matter. It is typical of the frankness of the Prime Minister that this kind of thing is brought in. It was quite clear in the House what the Prime Minister committed himself to. It was absolutely clear. The Prime Minister said:
I accept that.
The Leader of the Opposition said:
It will be moved by somebody on this side of the House that the words ‘by regulation’ be substituted for the words ‘by instrument in writing’.
It is a simple amendment to the Bill. The Government is twisting and turning with this complicated, stupid amendment which is meant to get it out of the position where it really has to be honest, where it really has to do either what the States want or what the Parliament wants. Why should the Parliament be bypassed? We have heard all this talk from the Minister that members and senators may be lobbied by their constituent councils. What else is a member or a senator for? Are we not here so that we can represent our electorates? Are we not here so that we can represent our States? Is it so terrible that my local council, the Shire of Warringah, should lobby me? Is it so terrible that the member for any other electorate should be lobbied by his local councils? Is this suggested as something that is really shocking? This is in point of fact what should happen. We are here as representatives. If there is any organisation in a member’s electorate which has a right to lobby him it is an organisation which has the status of a council. We are all lobbied by all the local progress associations, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides. All this is good and proper. If there is one body more than another which has the right to approach its member in Parliament on a matter which concerns it, it is a local council. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development says that this is such a terrible thing and must not be allowed to occur.
The Government, if it were acting in good faith, would either say: ‘We will allow these groupings to be made in consultation with the State Minister and with his concurrence and approval’ or else it would say: ‘We will have them supervised by the Federal Parliament’. But, no, it will accept neither of these supervisions. It will not accept that of the State Minister. Sometimes he is a member of the Government’s own Party and sometimes he is not. The Government will not accept his supervision, although he is the man nearest to the local government scene in his State and knows it best. The Government will not accept his supervision nor will it accept the supervision of the Parliament. Each one of us as a member in the Parliament is here representing the constituent bodies in our areas insofar as they are affected by any Federal legislation. The fact that the Government will accept supervision from neither of these bodies, neither the State nor the Parliament, shows that the
Government is up to some kind of hankypanky. I wonder what it is.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is that the clause proposed to be omitted stand part of the Bill.
Question resolved in the negative.
That the clause proposed to be inserted be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 18. 18. (1) An approved regional organization may apply in accordance with this section for the grant, under section 96 of the Constitution, of financial assistance to a State for the purposes of the organization or of all or any of the local governing bodies that the organization is representing or on behalf of which the organization is acting.
– I move the following amendment:
In sub-clause (3), after the word ‘discretion’, insert the words, ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
Clause 18 (1) provides:
An approved regional organisation may apply in accordance with this section for the grant … of financial assistance to a State for the purposes of the organisation or of all or any of the local governing bodies that the organisation is representing or on behalf of which the organisation is acting.
Clause 18 (2) provides:
An application under sub-section (1) shall be lodged with the Minister and a copy of the application shall be lodged with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned.
Clause 18, in its present form - that is, without the amendment - then goes on to provide that the Minister may, in his discretion, refer to the Commission - that is, the Grants Commission - for inquiry and report an application lodged with him and various other matters. The amendment which I have moved seeks to insert in sub-clause (3) words which will make that sub-clause read:
The Minister may, in his discretion, after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned, refer to the Commission for inquiry and report -
an application lodged . . . and other matters. I understand that this amendment will not be opposed by the Government. At page 2520 of Hansard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is reported as saying:
The Prime Minister in introducing this Bill used these words:
The grouping of authorities into regions and the approval of regional organisations will be carried out in full consultation with the States.
There is no reference in the Bill to consultation with the States. Quite clearly there must be consultation. This morning during question time I drew the attention of the Prime Minister to this deficiency in the Bill and he indicated that if I could provide a proposed amendment he would consider it.
The Hansard report then reads as follows:
– Would the Leader of the Opposition like me to intervene at this stage?
– by leave - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) asked me in question time about this matter, and since then he has let me have a copy of the amendments which he will move in Committee. Three of them suggest the insertion of the words ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’ in the relevant clauses of the Bill. We will accept those words which he proposes to insert in those clauses. At this stage might I say that I would still like to consider the fourth amendment . . .
This amendment is one of the ‘three’ to which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) referred. The fourth amendment is one which will come later. I will not go on with it now. The Government now is not proposing to accept what was then the fourth amendment but will accept this amendment which I have moved.
– You are now moving No. 4 on your list.
-I am moving No. 4 alone. This amendment goes some way to requiring, by inserting it in the legislation, that there will be consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State in which the local government region is situated, as was stated by the Prime Minister in his second reading speech. The objection which the Opposition had to this Bill was the way in which the States were bypassed by permitting these regions which were approved to apply direct and not through the States for a section 96 grant to the States. Then the grant is made by the Commonwealth Government and it goes, using the State government as it were as post office, to the region concerned. This I think is fairly described as bypassing the States. I spoke on this matter at the second reading stage of the Bill and I will not expatiate on what I said then. But I just want to make it clear that so far as the Opposition is concerned the insertion of these words will go some distance at least to requiring the legislation to bring into consultation the States which have the prime responsibility in respect of local government. It will not entirely cure the situation which the Grants Commission Bill will create in regard to bypassing the States concerned but it is at least an improvement on the position from our point of view. I understand that this amendment will not be opposed by the Government.
Amendment agreed to.
– 1 move:
In sub-clause (4) (b) after the word ‘Minister’, insert the words, ‘and to the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
This amendment relates to sub-clause (4) of clause 18 which provides that where the Minister refers an application to the Grants Commission then, firstly, the Commission:
That part is all right, but the Bill then goes on to provide in sub-clause (4)(b):
Subject to paragraph (a), the Commission shall inquire into the application or matter in such manner as it sees fit and report to the Minister on the application or matter.
As the clause stands, this would require the Grants Commission to report to the Minister who is the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) on the application or matter and this report would not go to the appropriate State Minister in the State concerned.
The Opposition takes the view that, again in the spirit of this recognition of the primary responsibility under the constitution of the States for local government matters, it is proper that, having been consulted in the matter of approving regions and referring applications to the Commission, they should at least be told what has happened. If these words are not inserted, the report will be made bythe Commission and the appropriate State Minister will not be told what has happened, unless and until of course the Federal Minister of State decides either by way of tabling the report and mentioning it in the House or by making some public statement at a Press conference or otherwise, to indicate what the result of the decision has been. The Opposition believes that it is proper and will present no difficulty for the Federal Government that, having been involved in the consultations in the matter, when the result comes and the report is made, at least the appropriate State Minister should be supplied with a copy of the decision.
– The Government will vote against this amendment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) 2 afternoons ago proposed 4 amendments. I accepted straightaway three of those amendments and two have gone through. I said that I would like to look further at this amendment. I expressed the view - it appears on page 2520 of Hansard - that we had doubts whether it was appropriate for a federal authority to be reporting to a State government. On further consideration we believe that it is not appropriate to make such a provision. There has been no such provision in Acts of this Parliament hitherto.
– It is unusual.
– I have not been able to find or my advisers have not been able to suggest any precedent for it. The Bill of course does provide for State governments to be consulted on the designation of regional organisations and for the State governments to give evidence to the Commission on applications by such regional organisations. It does provide for reports which the Grants Commission makes to be tabled by the Australian Minister in the Australian Parliament and it requires them to be reported if the Parliament is being asked to make any appropriations pursuant to those reports. Thus, at every relevant stage, the State governments are involved.
I gather that not only in party meetings there have been some rather extravagant comments made about the Grants Commission. The fact is that the Grants Commission has operated for nearly 40 years. Four of the State governments are quite familiar with the proceedings of the Grants Commission. Most of them have given evidence before it for decades and the Federal Parliament, I believe, has never rejected a recommendation by the Grants Commission. So the States are familiar with the procedure. It has worked to the satisfaction of both sides of the Federal Parliament in both Houses and I believe that it is quite unnecessary to conjure up fears as to how it will now operate when its charter has been extended to cover the two-thirds of the Australian people who live in New South Wales and Victoria. We do not believe there is any disadvantage in any respect in having reports being made to the Australian Minister and in rejecting the move that in this particular instance a federal body should also make reports to a State Minister. Therefore, we will vote against this amendment. As I said, it is one of 4 amendments suggested by the Leader of the Opposition 2 days ago; the Government is accepting 3 of them, as I said at the time we would.
- Mr Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
– The question now is that the amendment be agreed to. All those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary, no. I think the noes have it. Is a division required? The Committee will divide. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung).
– No division is required.
– The noes have it.
– Mr Chairman, I move:
At the end of sub-clause (4)(b)-
– Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order. The motion that the question be now put has been carried.
– The motion was on the amendment; it was not on the clause.
– I acknowledge the honourable member’s point.
– I move:
At the end of sub-clause (4)(b) -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– This is double dealing, Mr Chairman. This is terrible; it is outrageous.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat and he will, as will other honourable members, comply with the Standing Orders of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to deal with clauses 19 to 26 together? The question is-
– Shyster lawyer.
– Shyster lawyer.
– Order! If the honourable member for Mackellar persists I will have to deal with him. He is deliberately provoking the Chair.
Clauses 19 to 26 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act and, in particular, for -
– I move:
Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: 27. (1) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act and, in particular, for -
prescribing the form in which applications for financial assistance shall be made.
It will be noticed that this is the clause dealing with regulations. As I agreed during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) 2 afternoons ago, the Government accepts that the designation of single or individual local governing bodies should be by regulation. Accordingly the Government seeks to substitute this new clause 27, which relates to regulations about single or individual local governing bodies, for the original clause - the usual regulations clause - which was in this Bill.
– Clause 27, if one accepts the amendments which the Committee has carried to clause 17, at least gives effect to the balance of what we had been seeking and what was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). That is to say, in respect of particular local governing bodies and in respect of local governing bodies where there were special reasons for approving them as regional organisations, it requires the matter to be done by regulation and not otherwise. Therefore our amendment, which has been circulated and which I was proposing to move if this amendment was defeated, would not fit with the Bill as it presently stands as amended by this Committee. So in opening my remarks I would say that I will be opposing on behalf of the Opposition the new clause 27 moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), but if it is defeated I will be moving our clause 27 in a slightly amended form. The first part of our proposed clause would read: 27 (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 17, the Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with the Act. . . . ‘
This would cover the whole of the organisations and give effect to the point I was making earlier. I will not go over that ground again beyond saying this, because of certain remarks that were made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren): The difficulty that was highlighted by the Leader of the Opposition when he made his remarks about the approval by instrument in writing of regional organisations involves a matter of principle. It is true that he particularly stressed the individual councils and the individual bodies. The Prime Minister referred to that. But quite clearly the principle he was stating involves the difficulty of having this entirely outside the scrutiny of the Parliament. This applies equally to the case where there is not only one council but also when the region has 2 councils. It is, in effect, a matter of ridiculousness in practical politics to say that if a region has 2 councils or even 3 councils the principle is different. Therefore, the whole spirit and substance of what the Leader of the Opposition was saying would require that this Parliament should have an opportunity for scrutiny, simply by requiring that it be laid down by regulation which regions are approved.
Therefore the Opposition will be opposing the amendment put forward by the Government. If it is carried we will go on to alter the Bill in respect of some consequential definitions. But if it is not carried the Opposition will be moving and pressing a form of regulation making which will embrace the approval of all regional organisations.
– The Australian Country Party supports the opposition expressed by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) to the proposed clause in its present form. I think that the view he expressed certainly must be considered. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who is in charge of the Bill, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) will seriously consider the consequences of the clause now before the Committee. I believe that what they have failed to put to this Parliament thus far is any intimation of the system or manner in which determinations of a region will be made. In its present form the terminology does not reflect a relationship to existing statutory or nonstatutory bodies in the States. It is therefore patently clear that there will be created regions embodying groups of councils or existing authorities. Is is for this reason that the Australian Country Party is very concerned that there should be a circumstance in which, through regulations prescribed, this matter will come back to Parliament for some kind of sanction and scrutiny. If we do not have that provision we will have put on the statute book a circumstance in which the Minister will implement, after assent is given to the Bill, a situation by which regions or groups will be created for the purpose of obtaining benefits to be provided under this legislation. I believe that it is contrary to all the best principles of government for this to be done without reference to this Parliament.
One can foresee immediately tremendous problems of parochialism in local government areas. One can see immediately the disabilities that could arise and the political implications of those disabilities. I just want to say to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development that I think they fail to recognise the problem that they will have on their plate in this matter. I do not think it is a question of the Opposition saying that this is a back-door method. I do not want to use extreme words at all. 1 just want to talk about the practicalities of how a matter of this kind should in fact be administered. I am certain that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has not had the kind of experience that many of us have had in local government and in areas where there is the disability of parochialism and the disability of a means of effective assessment of the facts in relation to what is required in a region or within a group of councils.
The remarks of the honourable member for Parramatta about what is a sound practice have application here. But there are also very practical reasons for serious consideration being given to the propositions put forward in the Government’s amendment and in the amendment foreshadowed by the honourable member for Parramatta. I hope that this is the way in which this matter will be approached.
– 1 appreciate what the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) has just said, but it is for precisely some of the reasons he outlined that this degree of flexibility is needed in the Bill. In Australia there are more than 900 local government bodies. There will be difficulty in allotting finance. There will be difficulty in working out exactly what is a region and what is a regional project. For these reasons we need flexibility. We are starting to move into a very different field in financing projects. I believe there is sufficient accountability through the finance which is allotted annually by this Parliament to ensure that there will be sufficient control. If we so hedge about with regulations the whole question of giving finance to local government bodies and regions, we will never be able to achieve what we want to achieve.
I draw to the attention of the Committee statements made in the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). They referred to a topping up process. I believe it is necessary for a great degree of flexibility to be given to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in order to enable allowance to be made for the main points and main desires of this legislation. It is important that we recognise, as does this Bill, that there are 3 tiers of government in Australia and that it is not sufficient to have the States controlling local government completely and absolutely any more than it is desirable for this Parliament to have complete control over the States. I believe, principally for reasons of flexibility, we should accept the proposal originally put by the Prime Minister and not carry the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Parramatta. The flexibility that will be gained and the advantages which local government bodies will get are the important considerations.
On the whole question of what is a region under the regulations it seems to me that one could have a situation where there is a project of regional significance which falls principally within the boundaries of a particular municipality and, therefore, one needs some statutory body to carry out these works. I believe we need to pay account to this aspect otherwise the whole system will break down. At present there are few regional bodies with sufficient statutory power so this degree of flexibility is needed.
– It is unfortunate that I must say that I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has gone back on a clear undertaking given across the table of this House during the second reading stage of this Bill. It is a great shame that the Prime Minister should find himself in that position. It is not usual for a Prime Minister to be sitting in the chamber taking the Committee stages of a Bill.
– I introduced it.
– That is certainly true. It is more unusual for a Prime Minister to find himself not only taking the Bill but also proceeding with a set of amendments which he must well know - this is clear on the face of it - will completely undo an arrangement which he made publicly across the table. It is not a way in which the public would wish a Prime Minister to behave. It certainly is not the way in which the Opposition would expect a Prime Minister to behave. This situation arose out of the inclusion in clause 17 of the words: The Minister for Urban and Regional Development may, by instrument in writing’. We were discussing the principle of approving by an instrument in writing.
The Prime Minister would know that in the Senate, when we were in office and the Labor Party was in Opposition, they continually insisted that the way in which these matters should be handled is by regulation not by instrument in writing because by regulation it is under the control of the Parliament. By instrument in writing it is under the control of nobody. We were discussing that principle and it was in relation to that that the Prime Minister clearly said: ‘I accept that’. I said: ‘I appreciate that. It will be moved by somebody on this side of the House that the words “by regulation” be substituted for the words “by instrument in writing”.’ They were the words I used. Mr Whitlam then said: ‘The consequence being that if either House objected to the regulation it could be disallowed’. In pursuance of that conversation I had drawn up some amendments which were circulated and shown to the Government. My second amendment was to clause 17 to omit the words ‘instrument in writing’ and substitute the word ‘regulation’. I am unable to know whether the Prime Minister ever saw that amendment, but it is consistent with what was said. There can be no doubt about that.
When these amendments were put to the Government we were told from the Government side that it did not like the idea of putting ‘regulation’ in the wording of clause 17 because by putting it there it would mean that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development would make a regulation about that matter whereas the Minister responsible for the administration of the Bill, the Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee, would be making all the other regulations. There were consultations on the Government side. The Parliamentary Draftsman looked at the matter and he - I am informed that it was the Parliamentary Draftsman and from examining it I am sure it must have been - suggested that the proper method was to eliminate the whole of clause 17 and to include in clause 27 the regulation making power which would pick up what was contained in clause 17. My colleague and friend, the honourable and learned member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen), accepted that suggestion, saw me and asked whether I would accept it. I said yes. That, so far as we knew, was to be the end of it.
Last night the Prime Minister came to me with a new form of words in which the breach of the public undertaking was contained. He wanted to leave in clause 17 although certainly it was proposed to change the wording concerned with approved by instrument in writing. It left the clause providing that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development can approve- just simply ‘approve’. There would be no control by the Parliament as the Prime Minister said in his interjection and to which he agreed.
What is clear is that the Prime Minister has breached his agreement. I believe he has breached his agreement because of the pressure put upon him by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). Everybody in this place knows that there was a struggle between Senator Willesee and Mr Uren. The way it has come out is that the Prime Minister is breaching a clear arrangement because he does not have either the will or the courage to stand up and say: ‘I gave this undertaking. This is the way it is going to be’. If the Prime Minister persists with the breaking of his agreement he will not only be breaching all the concern for the parliamentary institution that he has shown over the years but also he will be demonstrating that he does not have the strength to stand up to his own Minister.
– I come back into this debate only because of the attack that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has made on me. It is the right honourable gentleman who is under pressure in his Party on this matter, as anybody reading the newspapers would realise. I introduced this Bill and I did the right honourable gentleman the courtesy of being present in the House when he opened the second reading debate. In the meantime he had put to me that morning a question concerning amendments. I said that I would consider them. He let me have them. Then, during his speech he encouraged and permitted me to intervene. I then said which amendments the Government would accept - in effect, three of the four he suggested. The right honourable gentleman says that I have broken an undertaking. What happened was this: He mentioned the possibility of patronage to individual municipal councils. He went on to say that it might ‘be possible to pick out municipality XYZ . . make it an approved regional organisation and then give it patronage for political purposes’. I accepted the proposition he made. I thought the possibility was remote, but I accepted it. Accordingly, the amendment which I have moved carries out the undertaking that I gave during his speech.
For some years I have spoken on this subject of making Commonwealth assistance available to local government through the Grants Commission. I have sponsored it as part of my Party’s policy. I have spoken about it to Local Government Association meetings. I have spoken about it at, I suppose, some scores of civic receptions in every Australian State. There is no question that the basis of implementing this assistance is a regional basis. There are 900 local governing bodies in Australia. It would be completely unrealistic to suggest that the Grants Commission could deal with individual applications. The applications would be made on a regional basis. That is what I have said for years. It is what I said in my policy speech. It is, I believe, what the Governor-General said when opening Parliament. It is what I said in my second reading speech.
This in an Executive matter. It is not a parliamentary matter. One has only to look at the conduct of the Senate in recent weeks to see how fruitless it would be for the Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development, after consultation with the State Minister, to approve a regional organisation, for the Commission to hear the application of that regional organisation or even to make a report to the Special Minister of State about it, and then for the Senate, which does not form the Government, to disallow the regulation under which the regional organisation was approved. That would stultify the whole of the legislation.
I put it to the right honourable gentleman that his arguments are spurious. I understand the pressure under which he operates now. I sympathise with him. It was partly to relieve that pressure that I said forthwith, at question time 2 days ago, that I would consider the amendments he was suggesting. It was for that reason that during his speech in the second reading debate I forthwith accepted three of them and said that I would consider the fourth one. It is true that when, as would be the prudent practice, I consulted with the Parliamentary Counsel about it he pointed out that, if one wished to make regulations, the tidy and effective way to do so would be to make provision for regulations in the usual regulations clause. That has been done. It is the one that I have moved.
– Mr Chairman-
– Mr Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Hansen) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
– The question is:
That the clause proposed to be omitted stand part of the Bill.
Question resolved in the negative.
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr Whitlam’s amendment) be so inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - appropriate Minister’, in relation to a State, means such Minister of the Crown of that State as is prescribed, and includes any Minister of the Crown for the time being acting for and on behalf of that Minister; approved regional organization’ means an organization or body that is approved under section 17 as an approved regional organization for the purpose of this Act;
Chairman’ means the Chairman of the Commission;
Commission’ means the Grants Commission established by this Act; local governing body’ means a local governing body established by or under a law of a State; member’ means the Chairman or another member of the Commission.
MrN.E BOWEN (Parramatta) (12.23)- I move:
Omit from the definition of ‘appropiate Minister’ the words ‘as is prescribed’, substitute the words ‘as is determined by the Premier of that State by instrument in writing’.
The effect of this amendment is that whereas the appropriate State Minister at present is described as a Minister prescribed by the Commonwealth Government, it was thought that this is a matter which should be determined by the Premier of the particular State concerned. I understand that the amendment which is proposed is accepted by the Government. However, I will say that in view of the moving of the gag on the last amendment at a time when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) wished to make a few remarks, I will be cutting my remarks short. I shall say very little further on this amendment and not delay the Committee in order that the debate will not be closed before the Leader of the Opposition has an opportunity of addressing the Committee.
– I was gagged on the last amendment because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) apparently did not want to have me answer the continual misrepresentation that he makes. The 4 amendments which I put to him arising out of my question in the morning had no relationship in any shape or form to this issue of clause 17 dealing with ‘instrument in writing or regulation’. It had relation to 3 of the amendments related to consultation with the States. It was the issue of consultation with the States. That had to be rendered in 4 separate amendments. They are:
Clause 17, page 6, after the word ‘may’ insert the words ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
Clause 17, page 6, line 24, after the word ‘may’ insert the words ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
Clause 18, page 6, line 40, after the word ‘may’ insert the words ‘after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
Those 3 amendments dealt with that question. The fourth amendment was:
Clause 18, page 7, line 10, after the word ‘Minister’ insert the words ‘and to the appropriate Minister of the State concerned’.
That is to whom the report goes. That was the substance of a separate amendment. There was absolutely no consultation between the Prime Minister and me or communication on the issue untilI spoke in the House on this simple principle of whether the Minster is to act by instrument in writing or by regulation. I will read the words and I will read the whole part that is relevant. I said:
I thank the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for making that indication-
– On a point of order, the honourable member should start at ‘I do not want’ - the beginning of the last paragraph on page 2520 of Hansard.
– Order! The Minister can enter the debate after the Leader of the Opposition has completed his remarks.
– I said-
– If one wants to take a point, it is not relevant to the clause.
– If the Prime Minister wishes to take a point of order I will rule on it.
– Take the point if you wish. You need to try to escape from your-
– Mr Chairman, 1 do take the point of order. The right honourable gentleman is putting an argument which has no possible relevance to this particular clause.
– Order! In view of the point of order I must rule that the right honourable gentleman should discuss the clause before the Committee.
– Well, Mr Chairman-
– Order! When the Committee takes a decision that the question will be put there is no provision for that question to be debated further under another clause. That is all there is to it.
-I accept your ruling, Mr Chairman. You could give no other ruling, the Prime Minister having taken the point of order in order to escape the net he has woven for himself.
– Two afternoons ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), in the course of his second reading speech on this Bill -
– I take a point of order. This is not relevant to the clause. We are debating clause 4.
– Order! I must rule in the same way on this point of order as on the previous point of order.
– Very well, Sir. I support the amendment. Two afternoons ago in the course of his second reading speech on this Bill which I introduced, the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the first definition in clause 4 defining ‘Appropriate Minister’ as follows:
Appropriate Minister’, in relation to a State, means such Minister of the Crown of that State as is prescribed . . .
He then continued:
I would not want to think that the Federal Government would go to the point of prescribing the State Minister. This surely must be a matter for the States to decide,I am sure that the Prime Minister would agree with that.
Hansard records that I said:
I certainly accept that. I am not sure what wording should be used. I imagine it would be some such wording as ‘The Premier notifies the Prime Minister’.
Then the Leader of the Opposition said:
Something of that order.
This is the fourth matter which the right honourable gentleman has suggested for amendment. It is the third which we have accepted.
Amendment agreed to.
The present definition reads: ‘Approved regional organisation means an organisation or body that is approved under section 17 as an approved regional organisation for the purpose of this Act’. My amendment in effect would make that definition read: ‘approved regional organisation means an organisation or body that is approved under the regulations or an approval under section 17 that is in force.’ The amendment is consequential on amendments which the Committee has approved already.
– This particular amendment would be different if the Committee had taken a different course earlier. In the light of what the Committee has decided so far in relation to other clauses of the Bill, this amendment is consequential only to the definition section. For that reason the Opposition will not be requiring a division.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Whitlam) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 May (vide page 2664), on motion by Mr Les Johnson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill has been well covered by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) in his second reading speech and by other honourable members who have spoken in the debate. To the 93,000 families now on the waiting list of the various State housing commissions, or whatever they are called in the respective States, this probably is the most important Bill that will come before this Parliament. It also represents for this Government one of the major items of expenditure. When one considers the money spent over the years by the Commonwealth Government and also the aspirations of the present Government to provide people with housing, it is not inconceivable that$ 1,000m may be required over the next 5 years to provide housing for people in urgent need of it. This money will be lent at a much lower rate of interest than was the policy of the previous Government in an endeavour to come as close as possible to providing people with housing and meet the aim of the United Nations which is that people should pay only 20 per cent of their income for shelter.
The Government is concerned about infusing this very large amount of money into the economy. While it will make the economy buoyant, undoubtedly it will also have some inflationary trends. There is a great need for private enterprise to have some consideration in this regard, not only because of the inflationary trend but also because there are such enormous demands on building materials and the services of building workers generally. In 1967 about$1 44m was spent on building commercial premises throughout the cities of Australia. Last year the figure rose to $ 1,043m and goodness knows how much will be spent this year. The insurance companies and other people who are trying to diversify the enormous reserves that they have accumulated have misread the situation, particularly in the city of Sydney with which I am familiar. There the cost of rental accommodation for office premises and commercial premises is falling sharply, so much so that it is freely predicted - I think correctly predicted - that we will have an abundance of such accommodation in the centre of Sydney. There is a great need for the building industry to understand that this is the position and to divert its resources into the sector of the industry that so urgently needs assistance. That, of course, is the housing sector. That is a responsibility that the industry owes to the 70,000 young people who will be married each year in this great country.
I wish to make only a few remarks but 1 want to refer to the dedication of the Minister for Housing and to that of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in attacking this great problem facing the Australian Government, the problem of providing housing, particularly for the low income group of people in our community. Since this Government took office last December and these honourable gentlemen being elected to the Ministry they have tackled this problem with a great deal of zeal and enterprise. I believe that they have brought radical policies to government, policies that will overcome the problems that seemed to be quite beyond the ability of the previous Government.
I have said before in this House that as part of this endeavour to provide housing there is a very great need for the building industry to took at new methods of technology. Over 100 years ago people were placing brick upon brick as a method of providing shelter for people in this country. Today we are still using basically the same building practices as were used hundreds of years ago. The industry generally has to look at this problem and try to overcome it. There is a great need for houses to be made in factories out of more modern materials so that they will be more adaptable and more suitable to our modern way of life. There is a very urgent need for the Government to give some incentive to people to look at new methods and to participate in this way.
It seems, however, that the Opposition will never learn. I listened to the speeches made during this debate, particularly that of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) last night, and it seems that the position will be allowed to go on and on if the Opposition has its way. Fortunately it does not have its way. The Opposition seems to regard everything as a matter of political expediency instead of political responsibility. It is an unarguable fact that the policies adopted by the previous Government and the State governments have contributed to the enormous housing problem that faces us today. I refer to the practice of selling a great proportion of the low income houses made available from public money over recent years. This Government realises that probably it would be a popular political move to sell houses to people because that is what the people want. The Australian Labor Party would hope to see eventually that everybody has the right to own his own house. However, at this time it would be completely wrong for the Government to adopt that policy. This Government is attacking the problem in the manner in which it should be attacked.
In New South Wales today the Housing Commission has 22,700 houses available for rental and, on its estimation, it cost SI 27m to provide those houses. If those houses are sold it will cost over $500m to replace them and that would have to come out of public moneys. Therefore the policy adopted by the Minister for Housing is correct, although it has not been freely accepted by the responsible Ministers in the various States - probably in all States. The States have to amend their thinking. The States will have to accept the political responsibility they should accept if we are to overcome this problem to any degree. In any case, it is interesting to note that under the provisions of this Bill 30 per cent of the houses can be sold throughout all States, and in some States the proportion is greater because over the years they have made certain commitments and these have to be rationalised. The Minister has taken them into account.
In addition 30 per cent of the homes will be made available for sale through the Home Builders Account advances. Of course this will be through banks, terminating building societies and whoever else a State Government uses to disburse these funds. I was very interested to hear the honourable member for Indi last night state that if Victoria, the State he represents, did not accept the Minister’s recommendations it could get Commonwealth money only at a higher interest rate and this would cost Victoria a considerable amount of money. Let me tell him that under this Government Victoria will benefit to the amount of about $1.5m because of the reduction that we have given it in the interest rate which it has paid over the years and which has increased over the years since this scheme commenced.
I want to make some brief reference to the policies of housing commissions, particularly in New South Wales. Over a long period the New South Wales Housing Commission provided emergency housing. When I speak of emergency housing I mean true emergency housing that could be made available at an instant’s notice when a crisis arose, whether it be flood, bush fire, some domestic dispute or something else that might cause a family to be immediately evicted and left without proper shelter. Over a number of years this housing was provided but was done away with some years ago when the Government in New South Wales was changed. This has caused a considerable embarrassment. I do not doubt that it has caused embarrassment to members on both sides of this House when people have come to their offices with problems of this nature. Certainly the Minister, as I have said, approached me one Boxing Day when I was shire president of the shire in which I live to provide emergency housing for people who had their house de-roofed in a gale and had absolutely nowhere to go. The New South Wales Housing Commission says that it can provide emergency housing but it takes a considerable period for it to become available. I think that there is a great need for the Commission, in view of the revised policies of the Government and the fact that the State is so much better off under the deal that it is getting from this Government than it was under the deal it got in previous years, once again to establish some real emergency housing in which people who find themselves in the position I have mentioned might be accommodated.
One other important aspect of this Bill which has never been provided for in any other Bills of this nature and which makes a significant advance, is that the States through their housing authorities may provide to local government areas bridging finance so that community facilities can be provided. This is a significant advance because in the past when we have built public housing that is what we have done: We have built public housing with no consideration whatsoever for the community in which the people had to live, the environment in which they had to live. This Bill allows the housing authorities - and I hope that each of the States will exercise its prerogative in this regard - to provide to the local government area responsible the bridging finance so that it can immediately provide the community amenities that are so urgently needed if we are to have communities rather than groups of housing for people to live in.
I commend this Bill to the House. It is progressive legislation that will over a period of years overcome the enormous problem that wc have in the Australian community. I realise that people would like houses that they can own. We all appreciate this, but at this point of time that is the wrong attitude to adopt. We must provide a large pool of low rental housing that will be available to those people who are on the lower incomes.
– These Bills are being brought into the House at a time when the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States is still in draft form and has not yet been agreed to by the States. Is this not another example of an attempt by the present Government to ride roughshod over the States through the power of the purse? The new agreement would allow the Commonwealth Government to stipulate that a much greater proportion of housing finance should go towards the building of Government homes for rental. The agreement would replace the present system of virtually unconditional grants with a scheme whereby Commonwealth financial aid would be given subject to a number of clearly defined conditions. Mr Dickie, the Minister for Housing in Victoria, has asked what power the Commonwealth has to direct Victoria how to spend money raised from Victorian taxpayers for the betterment of Victoria. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ in its editorial of 22 February reaffirmed this point of view when it stated:
Canberra has not ‘created’ housing funds. Through its taxing power, it has raised this money from Victoria and other States, and is merely returning capital to be applied through the elected State Government apparatus. Why the money should have to suffer a distant policy change in the process in a mystery.
The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has also proposed that the sale of new homes built by the State Housing Authority after 30 June next should be severely restricted, if not entirely prohibited, with sales to continue from its existing stock. He has also said that to relate assistance more closely to needs the annual determination of the amount to be allocated to the Housing Commission for welfare housing could no longer be left entirely to the individual States. The Minister for Housing in Victoria, Mr Dickie, has gone on record as saying:
It has been quite obvious to me that from the outset Mr Johnson has been completely unaware of what the housing situation is in Victoria. I am certain that there are difficulties in New South Wales and most certainly in the electorate that he represents, and he has formulated a policy for the whole of Australia which could make some contribution to correcting the housing problems in his own electorate.
The more that you look at these proposals the more you will realise that we can only be worse off. I believe that we can be justifiably proud of our housing operations here in Victoria. The Commonwealth has made great play in its Press releases and in its official documents that they intend to provide houses for needy people. Mr Johnson seemed to be unaware that under the charter given to us in the Housing Act the Housing Commission only has one responsibility, and that is to spend money to provide homes for people of limited means who are living in substandard housing. Now people of limited means are needy people and, of course, we have the added protection of the means test to ensure that we are building these houses for needy people only. The means test has always been applied whether a person is interested in only becoming a tenant or is interested in actually purchasing his home.
Since coming into office in mid- 1955 the Liberal Government in Victoria has always sponsored home ownership. It is a basic plank in our Liberal Party platform, and one that we believe in intensely. Since 1955, 33,832 housing units have been sold to people who meet the requirements of the means test. None of them have been directed by the Victorian Housing Commission to buy their houses. They have bought them because they wanted to buy them; they have bought them because they have wanted to become home owners and, whether you rent a house or sell it, exactly the same person is going to occupy that house, possibly for the period of his lifetime. Sponsoring home ownership does many things that are good for Victorian Housing Commission applicants, and also for Victorian Housing Commission estates. Needy people are now able to buy a Housing Commission home by simply indicating to the Commission that they wish to purchase their home, and no deposit is required. They will simply be paying for their home; the home will be theirs by simply keeping up their rental payments.
Buying a house is compulsory saving, and if there is one thing in this community that a family should have it is security in some form. Should the death of the breadwinner unfortunately happen, a death benefit insurance scheme provides security for the family of an eligible participant by providing payments for all outstanding loan money and this, of course, is a marvellous thing, because even a week after a tenant has decided to buy his home and the necessary documents have been finalised, should the breadwinner die then the wife and family become the owner of the home entirely unencumbered. What magnificant security this is for people of low income! And remember that none of these people can purchase these homes if they earn, exclusive of overtime, more than $80 a week on the day that they take the house over.
Many people seek to buy their homes, but are advised against this policy by the Victorian Housing Commission because it believes that many of them, because of circumstances, would find difficulty in servicing a purchase contract and it lets them enter into a contract only after they have discussed the possibilities with the Commission thoroughly. It is interesting to know that of the 33,832 homes sold only a small percentage of the purchasers have found it necessary to revert to a tenancy basis. Mr Dickie has stated:
Now we have been told by the Commonwealth Government that as from 1 July 1973 we must not sell any more houses excepting from old stock. What a fantastic direction to be received from a Government that has no constitutional powers to direct us to do a thing but only has the power of the purse strings by which to try and call our bluff. We will not accept this directive. We believe our home ownership policy is an excellent one and that people who have availed themselves of it are very happy people in our community. Why should we stop doing these things?
Another advantage concerning home ownership is that in a State where we have a balance of roughly SO/SO as far as home ownership and tenancy are concerned it does lend to lift a housing estate. A person who owns his house usually keeps his house in good condition and this rubs off automatically to neighbours who are renting. Our Housing Commission estates both in the metropolitan area and in the country have benefited by this policy of 50/50 roughly of home ownership and tenancy because it has elevated the image of Housing Commission Estates right throughout the community. ‘
The Victorian Government will not take a directive that houses built after 1 July 1973 by the Housing Commission cannot be sold. It will not sign any agreement that signs away its right to do this type of thing simply because a socialist government does not believe in home ownership. Mr John Dedman, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the Chifley Government, spelt this socialist philosophy out loud and clear in 1947 when he was asked on the hustings whether his Government would make money available for people of low income to buy homes. Mr Dedman said that they would not, because home ownership only created a community of little capitalists. Why should the present Government push such a philosophy on a Liberal government which has seen a policy bloom into such remarkable success in Victoria where 33,832 home owners, all needy people, are at last assured of some security as far as their wives and family are concerned?
Mr Dickie has been criticised for making the statement that under the new Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement in Victoria rent will rise, and I want to explain to the House exactly why he knows that rentals will rise. The Minister was completely unaware of the fact that average rentals apply in Victoria. It is not done in any other State of Australia. Victoria is the only State that averages rentals, and the Minister and the Commonwealth Government were completely unaware of this. Other States charge what is called an ‘economic rental’, that is, a rental which should be imposed to service the cost of a house in the particular year that it was built. In Victoria houses built many years ago could have been rented at a figure as low as $5 a week, but houses which are built today would have an economic rent of approximately $18 to $20. Because of Victoria’s averaging system, nobody pays more than $12.30 for a 3- bedroom unit, and with rebate rentals applicable rent can be as low as 80c a week.
The Bolte Government decided years ago on the averaging system for rental and there was a great deal of discontent attached to it because those people who at the time were in houses for which they were paying low rentals had to be brought up to a higher rent which was the average rental, but that Government felt it was very unfair to tenants in later years who, because of rising costs, would have to pay higher economic rentals, that there should be varying rentals throughout the metropolitan and country areas depending on which year the house was built. The Victorian Government took, the bit in its teeth many years ago and decided on the average rental policy, and it has been instrumental in keeping rentals down to a very low figure - lower than any figure which is imposed anywhere in Australia, but unfortunately it would appear that the Minister was not aware of this fact.
The Minister has said that economic rentals must be charged. An economic rental in Victoria is somewhere between $18 and $20, and with the 15,000 units that could be built over the next 5 years it would be higher still. There will be provisions even under the Commonwealth policy to give concessions on economic rentals, but in most cases it would not amount to any more than $3 at the most. Therefore, if an economic rental is charged in Victoria, less any concessions that are given by low interest rates or any other form of subsidy, the best rentals that a tenant could possibly hope for in Victoria would be around about the $15 to $16 mark, or at least $3.50 above the $12.30 which is at present the maximum which anyone would pay.
Economic rent is charged in New South Wales and in the other States. It is interesting to read in a Press statement issued only about a month ago that Mr Bourke, Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission, said that under the economic rental formula the rentals on the houses that the Commission would build with the special $3im grant made available to it to house needy people would be $20 to $25 a week. These are the economic rents that the Minister talks about that will be imposed, or have to be imposed, under the Commonwealth/ State Housing Agreement. What a ridiculous situation it is when the Minister was unaware that the rentals in Victoria, having been averaged, are lower than any rentals that could ever be hoped to be achieved under any new Commonwealth policy.
There is another very important aspect which will be instrumental in rentals rising in Victoria. Under the rental averaging policy it means that if we had 3 houses - one built in 1950 which had an economic rent of $5; one built in 1960 which had an economic rent of $10; and one built in 1970 which had an economic rent of $15 - by applying the averaging formula all 3 tenants of the 1950, 1960 and 1970 houses would be paying $10, and it is the low $5 figure of 1950 that tends to bring this average rental figure down to $12.30.
I believed that the constitutional convention to be held this year was to look at the powers of the States and Commonwealth and make recommendations where it felt changes were necessary. But this socialist government in Canberra has seen fit to move quickly ahead of the constitutional convention and by using the power of the purse strings proposes an agreement which will mean a complete takeover in the housing field.
– It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) chose deliberately to misrepresent a former honourable member for Corio, the honourable John Dedman, who is not able to defend himself in this House. J think it is accepted that the distortion which has been made in the accusation against the honourable John Dedman has been so often repeated that honourable members opposite who have to lean on it to justify their statements believe that what they are saying is true. The statement attributed to the honourable John Dedman on the hustings in 1947 by the honourable member for Ballaarat was in fact made in reply to another member in this House in October 1945. I would suggest to the honourable member for Ballaarat that before he misrepresents a former member whose record in this Parliament is greater than that of any member on the Opposition benches at present he should check his facts and make correct statements to this House.
– Did he say it?
– Read the statement he made and the context in which he said it. It is the easiest thing in the world to distort statements. The honourable member for Ballaarat stated that the honourable John Dedman made the statement 2 years after it was in fact made and he also said that it was made on an election platform. It was made in this Parliament and it is in the Hansard record for anybody who takes the trouble to check his facts before he makes irrelevant and untrue statements about a former member of this House.
The honourable member for Ballaarat made a number of assertions about the authoritarian manner in which the housing agreement has been drawn up. I think he was a member of this House a couple of years ago when Mr Kevin Cairns, then Minister for Housing, introduced into this House a Bill relating to a new housing agreement which had not even been shown to the States and about which the Victorian Government made exactly the same noises that it is making now. The Victorian Government’s housing policy reflects the Victorian Government’s belief that if a person cannot buy a house he should live in the street. That is exactly what the Victorian Government is saying and has been saying all the time. That Government is selling off houses as quickly as it can without consideration for the needs of the community at all.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
This is a procedural motion, and I hope that it will be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills presented by Mr Barnard, and together read a first time.
– I move:
These Bills represent the culmination of steps I initiated in this House some 3 years ago to have developed a retirement benefits scheme for members of the defence force that is both capable of understanding and alive to the special features inherent in a military career.
The Bills give effect to the Government’s decision announced last year to implement the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. Honourable members will recall that the report of the Committee was tabled in the Parliament on 18 May 1972.
To put the Bills in perspective it is necessary that I recount briefly the history of the present DFRB scheme and the events leading up to the Government’s decision to have it replaced.
The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act came into force in 1948 following the Government’s consideration of a report of a committee chaired by the then Minister for Defence and Post-war Reconstruction, the Honourable J. J. Dedman, M.P. The scheme created by that legislation was designed to meet the special conditions of service in the armed forces and, in very broad terms, was based on the ‘benefit purchase’ arrangements adopted many years earlier in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme for Public Servants.
In 1957, the Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison to examine and report on a new Services’ pay code and retirement benefits for members of the forces. The scheme itself was subjected to a rigorous examination, one of the major results of which was the introduction of a new arrangement popularly known as the post-1959 scheme.
So 2 schemes, in effect, have been operating in parallel, with identical benefits but quite different contribution arrangements depending on whether a member was a pre- 1959 or post-1959 contributor.
Despite many structural changes since then, the scheme has retained both methods of purchasing retirement benefits and, as well, many of the basic defects and anomalies that have harassed servicemen generally for so long.
In fact, the measures adopted in attempts to alleviate the severe problems faced by pre- 1959 entrants in maintaining high levels of contributions have resulted in a multiplicity of contributions and benefits arrangements that are so complex as to be almost incomprehensible to the great majority of members. It is therefore quite understandable that an intensity of feeling against the scheme should exist.
I well recall referring at some length to this very matter and to other unsatisfactory features of the scheme during the debate on a Bill to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act in 1970 and, if any member of this House is interested in what I had to say on that occasion, I invite his attention to Hansard of 9 June 1970. lt was against this background that during that debate 1 moved for the appointment of a joint committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives to investigate and report on the DFRB scheme. The Government of the day agreed with my proposal and the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation, under the chairmanship of Mr J. D. Jess, C.D.E.. M.P., came into being on 2 September 1970. Its report recommended the introduction of a new scheme which, with some necessary modifications, is the scheme covered by the first Bill introduced. It is of more than passing interest that on 22 December 1972, shortly after this Government assumed office, I announced publicly our intention to implement a new non-funded retirement benefits scheme for members of the defence forces, based on the recommendations of that Committee. My announcement followed meetings I had with senior Service officers and members of the interested departments only a matter of days after the Government took office.
The new scheme is a simple one. It will apply to all serving members of the defence forces as at J October 1972 and to all members retiring after that date. Contributions will be at the rate of 5.5 per cent of the member’s annual rate of pay and retirement pay will be expressed as a percentage of final pay according to the number of years served. For example, 40 years contributory service will produce the maximum retirement pay equal to 76.5 per cent of the member’s pay on retirement. Twenty years service will qualify for 35 per cent of final pay. Generally speaking, a minimum of 20 years effective service is needed to qualify for retirement pay, except in the case of retirement on or after the prescribed retiring age for rank held when 15 years will provide an entitlement to retirement pay equal to 30 per cent of final pay.
Some of the other features of the new scheme are: Commutation of retirement pay will be a right for members who retired after 1 October 1972, subject only to applications for commutation being made within one year of retirement or such longer period as may be necessary in special circumstances; management of the scheme is to be vested in a statutory authority on which all the Services will be represented; reversionary benefits will be extended to de facto widows and the member’s illegitimate children, in certain circumstances, and dependent widowers of female members; the rates of pension payable in respect of children and orphans will be increased and, provided they are receiving full time education at a school, college or university, will continue in payment until age 25 years; invalidity pay will no longer be subject to suspension solely on account of earnings from civil employment; a contributing or recipient member may, if he is dissatisfied with a decision of the authority in relation to invalidity classification or any other matter of general administration of the Act, have his case referred to an invalidity review tribunal or any administrative appeal tribunal, as appropriate, for hearing and decision. Both of these tribunals will be completely independent, and here let me stress that I regard them as particularly important in the general management of the scheme. They will provide competent and impartial judgment on appeals from aggrieved members. A further line of appeal, on a question of law only, lies to the Commonwealth Industrial Court; previous past service which, under the present scheme, does not count for pension purposes, may be purchased by the payment of additional contributions; and provision has been made in the Bill to ensure that members who, on transfer to the new scheme are not disadvantaged by the transfer.
It will be clear to honourable members that there are some complexities in this legislation. So far as the implementation and operation of the new scheme is concerned, however - and for this purpose I am excluding reference to the parts which deal with members who become candidates at parliamentary elections and with the preservation of rights of eligible members who transfer to certain other employment - these to a very large extent, will be short-lived. Essentially, they are the result of the extremely complex arrangements necessary to convert some 78,000 members to the new scheme without detriment or personal disadvantage and to enable the purchase of periods of previous service. When the conversion program is complete, these arrangements will largely become inoperative and the new scheme will then have the welcome quality of simplicity for transferred as well as new members.
Contributions of members will no longer be funded in the sense that they were under the old scheme. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, with assets totalling some $l74m, will, in effect, be frozen as from the commencing date of the new scheme and my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Crean), will be examining the arrangements necessary for winding it up. Consequently, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board appointed under the existing Act, which exercises a trustee role in relation to the Fund, will continue in existence for the time being for that purpose, although there will be a minor change in its composition arising from the transfer of responsibility for the DFRB scheme from the Treasurer to myself as Minister for Defence.
I turn now to the formidable task of implementation. It will not be easy. Nor can it be done quickly. The conversion of some 78,000 contributors to the new scheme, in many cases by adjusting their past contributions to the level of 5.5 per cent of pay throughout their contributory service, will involve individual calculations being made in respect of pay and service extending over a period of many years. Similar calculations will be necessary for the purchase of past service which may include service during the 1 939-45 war and even earlier service in some cases. The Services and the office of the DFRB Board are already preparing the basic data for the calculations to be made, but it may be some time before all the necessary work is complete.
For members who have retired since 1 October 1972 and received a benefit based on the provisions of the existing legislation, some adjustments will be necessary in regard to both contributions made and the benefits received. I will be arranging for these cases to be given priority treatment. Provision has not been made in the main Bill for the automatic adjustment of retirement and invalidity pay as proposed by the Joint Select Committee. However, I shall be introducing a separate Bil] shortly which will provide increases for all those persons who retired under, and will remain with, the provisions of the existing scheme. These increases will bc along the lines of those proposed for pensioners under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme, the details of which are incorporated in the Superannuation Bill now before the Parliament.
The whole question of suitable methods of adjustment of retirement benefits payable to members of the forces, whether they retired under the old or will retire under the new scheme, is currently being examined. Since the Jess Committee presented its report, there have been developments on pension updating in other Commonwealth pension schemes and I want these developments carefully investigated and assessed in relation to the new DFRB scheme. The Joint Select Committee recommended the repeal of all existing DFRB legislation but I find that this is not possible at this stage. The new scheme is not to apply to pensions granted before 1 October 1972. I have been informed that rather than have an artificial legislative position under which the repealed provisions would be deemed to remain in force, it would be preferable to continue the existing legislation insofar as it relates to pension rights and to amend it in such manner as necessary.
The Bill to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-71 does precisely that. At the same time it provides for the transfer of the existing fund to the Commonwealth and for all pensions payable after 1 October 1972 to be paid by the Commonwealth. It goes further, however, in that it incorporates certain beneficial provisions of the new scheme that relates to children and invalidity pensioners. In other words, pensions payable in respect of children and orphans are to be increased to the levels recommended by the Jess Committee and invalidity pensioners, as well as having access to an invalidity classification review tribunal, will no longer be subject to the suspension provisions insofar as they relate to remuneration from civil employment. These provisions are repealed and, subject to review by the authority, suspended pensions will be restored. This Bill also makes a number of relatively minor consequential machinery amendments to the Act.
Although, as I have already mentioned, it is not practicable to repeal the existing DFRB legislation at this stage, I shall be looking for ways of repealing as much of it as possible in the near future and having it produced in a consolidated form that will make it more easily understood. There are some other departures from the specific recommendations contained in the report of the Jess Committee. Essentially they concern the avoidance of any detrimental impact the new scheme may have on members of the present scheme. In particular there is the incorporation of ‘no detriment’ in relation to the conversion of existing contributors to the new scheme. In the main, however, the scheme developed by this Government is basically the one envisaged by the Committee and in the 2 Bills that I have already covered the Government has fully honoured its undertaking to implement that scheme.
The Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1973, makes provision for those contributors to the superannuation fund who become liable to contribute under the Defence Forces scheme. The existing provisions provide that a superannuation fund contributor who is required to contribute to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund on entering the defence force on continuous full-time service for 12 twelve months or more, has his contributions under the Superannuation Act deferred and they become payable on his ceasing to be a member of the forces. Should he die or become an invalid and unable to be employed by the Commonwealth, the present legislation provides that the benefit that becomes payable is paid under the Superannuation Act and that where the DFRB benefit would have been higher the Superannuation Act benefit is increased to that level. The amendments take account of the changes in the DFRB scheme and ensure that the existing beneficial arrangements will continue.
The Bill to amend the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1969 makes such machinery amendments as are necessary to take account of changes in the DFRB scheme. Finally, let me say that the scheme encompassed by these Bills reflects not only the needs expressed by the Services themselves for the provision of a modern retirement benefits structure that takes account of their particular career patterns, but also it is one that is comprehensible to them. It is a tangible application of the Government’s policy to provide all volunteer forces. Taken together with the series of other measures we have introduced in the area of financial conditions of service generally, there is clearly substantial inducement to become and remain a member of the armed forces. I commend the Bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1971. When I introduced the Bill for a new retirement benefits scheme for members of the defence forces a short time ago, I explained that provision had not been made in that Bill for the adjustment of retirement benefits as proposed by the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation, and that the whole question of adjusting benefits paid under both the old and the new schemes was still being examined. The main reason for this is that there have been recent developments in pension updating arrangements in other Commonwealth pension schemes and I want these developments investigated and assessed in relation to their implications for the defence forces scheme. The investigation is proceeding but it may be some little time before a method can be found which is suitable for application to persons who retired under the old scheme and for those who retire under the new scheme.
As there has not been an adjustment of DFRB pensions since 1 October 1971, the Government has decided that rather than delay the granting of a much needed increase, an early adjustment should be made in the pensions of those who retired under the conditions of the old scheme, that is, before 1 October 1972. The adjustment is to be made in accordance with the measures adopted in relation to Commonwealth Superannuation Fund pensioners, a Bill for which is currently before the Parliament. My colleague the Treasurer (Mr Crean) announced the details in this House on 2 May 1973. In effect, the adjustment to superannuation pensions is to be made to the Commonwealth share of those pensions. Because of the more complex nature of the DFRB benefits structure, however, the Commonwealth share of each pension cannot be calculated without considerable difficulty and, if this were to be done, there would be a further long and unacceptable delay in the actual payment of the pension increases. So the Government has decided, as an interim measure, that 77.5 per cent of a DFRB pension is to be adjusted in precisely the same manner as the Commonwealth share of superannuation pensions. The method was explained in some detail by the Treasurer in his speech on the second reading of the relevant Bill. This will produce an overall effect that is consistent with the superannuation adjustments and compatible with the sharing arrangements provided under the existing legislation.
The pension adjustment will take effect as from the first pension payday in July of this year. I should like to make it quite clear that the method to be used on this occasion for adjusting DFRB pensions may not necessarily apply in the future. As I have already mentioned, this is a matter currently under examination and I shall announce full details of the method to be used as soon as the present inquiries are complete. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
Mr BARNARD (Bass- Minister for
Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) (2.41) - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to make provision for a contributory retirement benefits scheme for Papuan and New Guinean members of the defence force. As far back as 30 December 1971, the then Minister for External Territories announced that his Government had approved details of a retirement benefits scheme for these members but the scheme was not introduced. In fact, deductions have been made from the pay of many members since July 1966 in anticipation of its introduction. I am pleased therefore to introduce this Bill to provide at long last a scheme which has been promised for so many years.
The scheme for servicemen is based on and is compatible with the superannuation scheme for the Papua New Guinea Public Service and police that came into operation on 1 January 1972, which will also be the commencing date for the servicemens’ scheme. It has necessarily been designed, however, to meet Service requirements and incorporate a number of features based on the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. The scheme is to be administered by a statutory board which will have Service representation. Contributions, which are to bc paid into a fund, are to be at the rate of 6 per cent of a member’s pay, the same as required for the Public Service and police scheme and benefits are to be similar. The maximum pension for a member serving to age 60 years after 35 years contributory service is 50 per cent of the average pay received over the final 3 years of service.
To take account of the particular requirements of the Services, however, reduced pensions at retiring ages earlier than 60 years have been provided. The minimum qualifying period of service for pension is 20 years. There is provision also for the payment of invalidity benefits, widow’s and children’s pensions and for commutation to a lump sum of up to one third of a member’s retirement pension. Past contributory service and noncontributory service of members prior to July 1966 is to be recognised for the purpose of calculating the amounts of pension benefit entitlement. That is the essence of the scheme. The provisions are simple and uncluttered. They have been endorsed by the Administrator’s Executive Council. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
The purpose of this Bill is to give statutory form to the Australian Electoral Office and to provide for statutory offices of Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Deputy Chief Australian Electoral Officer and Electoral Officer in each of the 6 States. Honourable members will note that, in accordance with policy of the present Government, the word ‘Commonwealth’ is being replaced by ‘Australian’. These statutory officers will administer the Electoral Act and also carry certain powers under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The Bill provides that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer shall, as required by the Minister, advise the Minister on matters relevant to electoral policy, legislation and procedures. At present the Chief Electoral Officer has statutory powers, but he holds office under the Public Service Act. Statutory offices are normally created where there is a need to exercise substantial powers and functions, often of a quasi-judicial kind, specified in the relevant legislation. This is important where the powers and functions are to be exercised free of immediate political control and without fear or favour. This Bill is the first step towards a restructuring of the Electoral Office in a way which recognises the need to preserve the integrity and impartiality of the officers. This, I believe, will accord with the thinking of all honourable members.
The present Government regards it as important that those who administer the electoral machinery should be publicly seen as having a separateness from the normal relationship that exists between a Minister and his Department for which, of course, the Minister is fully responsible. Technological advances over recent years have brought substantial changes to the Electoral Office.
Within the next few months the electoral rolls for the whole of Australia will have been converted to a computerised process. But this is only the first stage and in the near future the rolls will be maintained by even more advanced methods.
Under an arrangement between the GovernorGeneral and the Governors of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the Australian Electoral Office is responsible for maintaining joint electoral rolls and these rolls are used for both Federal and State elections. One other State has recently indicated its desire to join the joint rolls arrangement and the Government looks forward to a time when a single joint electoral roll will be used for every State, resulting in considerable cost savings and less confusion to the electors.
As one would expect in a country with a growing population, the work of the Electoral Office has increased substantially. The Government wants up to date electoral rolls and maximum efficiency in the conduct of elections. The Government also wants quicker production of election results. The public demands for information about elections and electoral procedures, requiring more extensive research, are increasing. The granting of the franchise to the Aboriginal people means that ways and means need to be found for ensuring that they exercise that franchise fully and effectively. There is also a need for dissemination of more electoral information to migrants. With all these developments it is necessary to examine closely the organisation and workings of the Electoral Office and the arrangements for training of electoral staff to carry out the more complex technical procedures involved in performing its modern role.
The Government, in putting forward these proposals which are in accord with recommendations of the Public Service Board, envisages that further developments may require additional legislative changes. We are determined to ensure that the Electoral Office is developed to perform its full functions efficiently. The Bill includes the normal sort of provisions which apply to statutory officers and, in this respect, is somewhat similar to the Parliamentary Counsel Act. It includes protection of the rights of public servants appointed to the statutory offices. It will be noted that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer will have the powers of a permanent head in relation to his staff, who will continue to be covered by the Public Service Act. Mr Speaker, I am confident that it is desirable to recognise in legislation the impartial position of the electoral officers covered by this Bill. The Bill deserves the support of all honourable members and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
– by leave - I present the following paper:
Australian Arbitration Inspectorate - Department of Labour - First Annual Report, for 1972
The tabling in the Australian Parliament of this report of the Arbitration Inspectorate for the year ending 3 1 December1972 is a historic event. Although the Australian Government first established an Arbitration Inspectorate in 1934, this is the first occasion on which a report of the Inspectorate has been presented to the Parliament. It is, however, the Government’s intention that these reports shall in future be presented on an annual basis. As well as the value of the information contained in reports of labour inspectorates, honourable members will be aware of the role such reports have played in the past elsewhere in the world, and particularly in Britain in the development of advanced social and industrial legislation.
The preparation of this report is a further step towards the Government’s objective of early ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 81 of 1947 - Labour Inspection. I am actively pursuing this matter with my State colleagues and there is general agreement with the objective of achieving ratification before the end of this year. Article 20 of that Convention requires that an annual report be made by the central inspection authority of a member country. As far as possible, this report is in the form required by the Convention insofar as the operations of the Arbitration Inspectorate are applicable.
The report presented indicates the substantial volume of work achieved by an inspectorate which is completely inadequate effectively to ensure the proper observance of awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. At present, the Inspectorate has a total staff including supervisory officers of only 56. These are required to inspect the establishments of some 182,000 respondents to Federal awards throughout Australia. At the present rate of inspections it takes approximately 6 years to cover every respondent to a Federal award although my ultimate aim is to ensure that the inspections take place at least once every year. The Government does not believe that this is a satisfactory situation. It believes that employees working under Federal awards are entitled to expect that the Australian Government’s inspection service will ensure that their employers are observing the conditions of the awards at intervals of much less than 6 years. It is ridiculous to have a 6-year interval between inspections. To ensure this, the Government is proposing a major increase in the size of the Arbitration Inspectorate. With the full authority of the Government, my Department has submitted to the Public Service Board proposals for a trebling of the size of the Inspectorate on a phased recruitment basis over the next 2 years with provision for increased clerical support staff. This substantial increase in the establishment of the Inspectorate should enable an inspection to be carried out of every establishment covered by a Federal award at least once every 2 years, in addition to providing an immediate investigation of every complaint which is received concerning breaches of an award.
While in the past 20 years, the normal source of recruitment for arbitration inspectors has been from within the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service, it is the Government’s intention that for a number of the new positions, suitable persons outside the Commonwealth Public Service with an appropriate industrial background will be eligible for appointment. It is my intention that such persons would be appointed for terms of 3 years as in the period prior to 1952. The appointments will be made by the Head of my Department and positions will be advertised in newspapers in order to enable people who could offer suitable service the opportunity to apply for such positions. In order to make the Inspectorate more efficient my Department will be arranging for the outposting of inspectors to major rural centres throughout Australia. Members of the Country Party will be pleased with the interest the Government is showing in rural areas by having arbitration inspectors appointed to police properly awards in their areas. More effective training programs will be established for inspectors and my Department is also seeking to obtain from the Public Service Board a number of positions of trainee inspectors. This should enable a much speedier and more effective inspection service.
I have already indicated publicly that the Government will be taking a much stronger line towards the enforcement of awards by employers. While, as in the past, the aim of the Inspectorate will be to ensure voluntary compliance with awards by employers, a much more serious view will be taken of employers who deliberately or continuously breach awards. In such cases, the offending employers will be prosecuted. Future annual reports of the Inspectorate will list the names of employers who are found guilty by the Court of breaches of awards, in the same way as the Commissioner of Taxation publishes each year the names of persons who are guilty of breaches of the taxation law.
In the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill at present before the Parliament, the Government is proposing to give power to inspectors to seek an interpretation of an award. In many cases in the past where there was a difference of view between an inspector and an employer over the meaning of a term of an award which could not be resolved, the only solution often was for proceedings for breach of an award to be taken against the employer to test the position. This is like using a steam hammer to crack a peanut. We ought not to be prosecuting employers just because there is no other way of ascertaining the meaning of an award. So, in future, inspectors and the permanent head of the Department will, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is passed, be able to obviate the need for prosecution by resorting to the simple process of making an application for interpretation to the Industrial Court. The amendment, if adopted by the Parliament, will ensure a very much more sensible approach for dealing with this problem.
In conclusion, I stress that the report that has been tabled today must be regarded as very much a pilot exercise. In the next few months we will be revising our statistical information to ensure that the fullest possible set of statistics relating to labour inspection is contained in future reports. It is also our intention to make the report one for the financial year rather than for the calendar year. Therefore, the next report will cover the period from 1 January 1973 to 30 June 1974. I thank the House for giving me leave to make the statement.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the same matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This is another step, undertaken in a sly and underhand way, to intrude into the life and livelihood of each of the small businessmen around Australia. This overwhelming inspection capability is likely to prejudice very seriously their future competitiveness. There is no doubt that in the normal context of a statement of this character all members on this side of the House would support the rationale behind the endeavour to implement the procedures necessary for the ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 81 of 1947 which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has given as the reason for the presentation of this first report of the Arbitration Inspectorate.
But the facade of the report should not be regarded as the only motivation for the whole purport of this further intrusion by this Labor Government into the livelihoods of so many Australians. All of us are aware that by far the biggest percentage of Australian enterprises employ fewer than 50 people each. Regrettably, many of these enterprises are in circumstances where perhaps the standards all of us desire them to maintain are not always maintained. It is necessary that, to the maximum degree, they be brought up to date. But it is also necessary that there be no undue intrusion into the privacy of these businessmen or the basis on which they carry out their operations. Indeed, it is rather ludicrous that only last year the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, moved a series of amendments pertinent to inspection procedures regarding packing houses in particular. Those packing houses were ones in which fruit packing was carried out in conjunction with various types of processing, particularly the. handling of fresh fruit for export, and also ones handling dried fruits and others in the field of primary industry generally. In that area the Labor Party was suggesting that there would be an undue intrusion into the normal lives and livelihoods of growers and people operating those packing houses. Yet here we see a significant increase in the number of persons who will be responsible for the field of arbitration inspection. One can only hope that there will not be an excessive intrusion into what must be seen as the normal business responsibilities of employers.
It is obviously essential that there be a compliance with the reasonable provisions of awards and with those forms of employment restraints which are set down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, by legislation at the State and Federal levels or otherwise. It is of interest to note in the annual report of the Arbitration Inspectorate at page 9 that inspectors recommended proceedings against 25 employers; 13 were approved; 5 were not approved; and one was withdrawn. In effect, proceedings were instituted and concluded in only 6 cases, and in only one of those cases was a penalty lodged. So, one would hope that, with this significant increase in the number of inspectors in this arbitration inspectorate, they will act responsibly, in accordance with the traditions that have always been part and parcel of the Commonwealth civil service, and they will not prosecute without due and proper reason.
It is of some concern to me and to others on this side of the House that the Minister referred in his statement to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and to amendments which are envisaged in that context. Any increase in the onus placed on employers must be matched by an increase in the undertaking of responsibility by employees. The only way in which this country can continue to prosper industrially is by there being an effective partnership between employers and employees. If this Government pursues its vendetta against employers it will be very much to the detriment of all of us. I do not believe that the significant increase in the number of inspectors, which the Minister’s statement presents to us, will necessarily be for the advancement of that partnership to which I have referred.
Unfortunately my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), was unable to be in the House this afternoon to comment on this statement. He has asked that I, on his behalf, express his reservations about the direction in which the Minister is leading us. He agrees, as I do, with the tabling of the report and the ostensible reason for its presentation. One hopes that in this pursuit of the employer the Labor Government will not kill the chook that is providing employment for so many people in the Australian community and will not destroy the vitality which has been a significant part of Australian life. For that reason, whilst the Opposition takes note of the tabling of the report, it has reservations about the increase in the Inspectorate and very sincere and profound reservations about the degree to which it will represent a further obstruction of those Australians who work in the private sector.
– by leave - The document I am about to table will, I hope, start the ball rolling for sport and recreation in Australia. Prepared by Professor John Bloomfield from the University of Western Australia, this paper, all 97 pages of it, lays the foundations for a new era in this long, often sadly neglected field. Let me make it abundantly clear at the outset that the Bloomfield report, as this paper has become known already, was not striving for totality. It is more of a medical textbook than a series of prescriptions for isolated ills. It will take a great amount of detailed elaboration to get the various projects off the ground. Almost non-stop, we are adding to our armoury of knowledge in these fields, drawing on every available source both in Australia and overseas. But we had to start somewhere and, Mr Speaker, I think this is a very fine start.
Permit me to give you a very brief run down of this report which, as from today, forms the basis of our planning, and which will supply most of my Cabinet submissions and Budget requests. Entitled ‘The Role, Scope and Development of Recreation in Australia’, the report lucidly explores the present state of affairs in a range of related areas. It sets out the general principles which we want to adopt for a national recreational program, involving not just a few groups in isolated recreational pursuits but the whole of our community. Organised sport, largely amateur sport, is another vital target area we are aiming at and the Bloomfield report paints a realistic picture of our enormous needs and makes positive recommendations for their fulfilment.
Sport offers the most fundamentally democratic social order one could imagine; it ignores inherited prestige and offers an equal chance for all. It can be the most marvellous leveller in a healthy, democratic community. The Bloomfield report sets out a number of recommendations we will have to adopt if we are to lift sport out of its under-privileged status. This, like our recreational program, will cost money, but not nearly as much as our social security or health programs. I feel it is time Australia joined the ranks of those numerous developed countries which realised some time ago that a two-way relationship can successfully operate between sport and the state. Sport and recreation can repay in the form of regeneration what the state gives in material support.
A German philosopher, Baron Weizsacker, said recently that man’s physical and mental capacities are not opposing but complementary factors. Yet, he said, that in our movementdeprived working life, ever greater demands are made on the mind while the physical capacities are withering away. This is the situation in Australia today and we are not equipped to cope with it. But what will happen in 10 years time or by the year 2000 when the balance between working hours and leisure time will move explicitly towards leisure, when man may have 3, perhaps even 4 days at his disposal to spend on intellectual or recreational pastimes?
Mr Speaker, I believe this is not Utopia but a predictable future; this is not science fiction but a course that can be charted using logic, economic intelligence and, above all, ordinary common sense.
We must begin at once to implement a broad policy which, along many parallel lines, launches a variety of schemes. Our job is to prepare for these certainties, to make firm plans and translate them into positive, visible and tangible action. With the certain increase in leisure time, with the equally certain yearning of man to escape, however temporarily, from a highly industrialised and urbanised routine existence, it is our responsibility to recognise, for the first time in the history of Australia, that recreation and sport should constitute an integral part of our life and, as such, must receive serious attention and much more than token support from our governments.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his policy speech last year, promised such Government recognition and support for the improvement of the quality of life in this country. He undertook that the Government would establish a series of community centres to cater for the young and the old; and that the Government would design large multipurpose centres at schools for use by the students and the local community, to satisfy the need for cultural, sporting, recreational and artistic activities. Mr Speaker, I can now assure you and the House that the Prime Minister’s promise will be kept; that such community centres will be established, equipped, staffed and used. This is among the recommendations of this report and their implementation will ensure the sowing of seeds for healthy growth in the field of community recreation.
The report has 74 recommendations, covering the entire spectrum of this very vast field, ranging from the pastoral pleasures of bushwalking to solid support for Australia’s exploits in the fields of domestic and international sport. Let me finish this statement with a sad but honest admission: Nobody in this House is more aware than I am of the enormity of the task, of the time it will take to accomplish even half of it. It is possible that it was not just tight-fistedness on the put of previous governments but a failure to recognise the complexity of the problem that ensured that I would inherit virgin territory. I am happy and proud that I did. I believe that with the help of my colleagues in the Cabinet and Caucus and this Parliament, with the full support of my own Department, as well as the necessary co-operation I am seeking from the States, municipalities, recreational and sporting organisations and all others concerned with the health, fitness, well being and happiness of our people, we will be able to make a meaningful start in the right direction. Mr Speaker, I table this paper for the benefit of the House and, I pray, for our people.
I present the following paper:
The role, scope and development of recreation in Australia - Ministerial Statement, 25 May 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
– by leave - The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) inquired at question time this morning inter alia whether a representative of IBM was accompanying officers of the Department of Social Security presently in Canada. At that time I had no knowledge of the matter but undertook to check his claim./ Perhaps I could commence by pointing out that the Department of Social Security currently is engaged in an intensive investigation and planning exercise to determine the computer equipment which will be required for its future operations. In particular these investigations are centred on the equipment which will be needed to help in the administration of the new Health Insurance Scheme. As part of these investigations 3 officers of the Department are in Canada. Two of these officers are making a particular study of the type of computer equipment being used in health insurance administration in Canada.
The IBM company has supplied most of the equipment which is being used extensively in health insurance administration in Canada and the officers concerned have been inspecting such installations. I should point out that most of the equipment used by the Department of Social Security is IBM equipment. It is true that a representative of the IBM company has been with these officers in Canada. The IBM representative who has been with them is a computing systems engineer and he joined them on 1 May 1973. I have asked the Acting Director-General of my Department to obtain full details of how this arrangement was made and I will advise the honourable member for Corangamite, who raised this question, as soon as that information comes to hand. I might add that I understand there is some sort of precedent for this sort of practice. For example, in the mid-1960s, a representative of another computer supplier accompanied a representative or representatives of the then Department of Social Services on a visit to the United States of America when the visit was for the purpose of inspecting computer installations.
– by leave - I would like to thank the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for his very prompt attention to this question. 1 shall be very interested to hear the results of the investigations he intends to make. However, I would like to make the point that the Government should ensure that competition is an essential element in the introduction of computers, which are a very complicated and expensive area of equipment.
Debate resumed (vide page 2707).
– When the sitting of the House was suspended for the luncheon adjournment I was drawing attention to some of the comments which have been made about the present negotiations being carried on over a new housing agreement. It seems that the major complaint, apart from a lot of mock hysteria, is that it is proposed in the new agreement that a certain number of houses should be made availble to people who require houses for rent. The Victorian Government, for instance, is complaining bitterly that it will be required to offer for rent 50 per cent of the houses constructed under the terms of the proposed agreement. It is, I think, contrary to the previous policy of the Victorian Government to offer houses for rent. It not only has a policy of home ownership, as I said, but pursues a policy of compulsory home ownership. People are compelled to buy houses if they want accommodation.
In most areas at present it is possible to purchase a home from the Housing Commission after a much shorter waiting period than is required to obtain a house for rental, lt has been often repeated that the Commission sells houses to tenants. Whilst tenants may purchase the houses in which they live, the majority of Housing Commission home sales are made over the counter in exactly the same way as is done by any other major house seller in Australia. The Victorian Housing Commission has not built a house specifically for rental purposes in my electorate in the last 14 years - not a single house. The result is that the number of houses available for rental has dropped from 3,500 to slightly less than 2,100 during a period when the population of the area has doubled. With a large percentage of the rental accommodation available occupied by deserted wives, widows and persons who are moving into the elderly character, the rental accommodation available to the population is extremly small.
One of the purposes of welfare housing or subsidised housing surely must be to provide housing for persons who have great difficulty in purchasing a home. In the Geelong area in recent times it has been possible to purchase a home after waiting for about 6 months, but if somebody wishes to rent a home from the Housing Commission the waiting period is some 2 years, depending upon whether a 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom home is sought. This situation exists not only in that area but also in the metropolitan area of Melbourne where possibly it is even worse. In Melbourne people who suggest that they do not want to buy a home are offered accommodation on the 30th floor of a concrete prison, where their children will see a blade of grass only once a week and where a mother cannot attend her children - they are left to play all day in corridors - and where there are all the other accompanying problems.
One of the results of the negotiations which have taken place on this occasion is that the Commonwealth has refused to fund further high rise development. Therefore the Victorian Government now has acknowledged that it will not build any more. I am sure that it will not do so as it does not have the money to pay for them. Possibly there is no worse feature of housing policy in Australia than the concrete monstrosities which are appearing in the centres of our cities. They not only are poor housing, they have a tremendous effect on the morale of the communities that have to live in them. It has been the policy of the Victorian Government to offer people the choice of a concrete monstrosity or to buy a house, whether they can afford it or not.
Also there are people who cannot buy a house because they are excluded from doing so under the terms on which Housing Commission houses are sold. There is a maximum income limit. I do not quarrel with that idea; if the Government is providing subsidised housing I think it is not unreasonable that a maximum be set. The Victorian Government has a maximum which possibly is too low rather than too high. One cannot quarrel with that. But there is also a minimum income involved. If a man’s income is below a certain level he cannot purchase a Housing Commission home in Victoria. If the person concerned is over a certain age he can purchase a home only if he undertakes to meet half the market value before reaching the age of 65 years. It is not always easy to pay that sum. If the person concerned has an income of under $80 a week and is in his mid-fifties and without capital to meet that requirement, it is not a question of whether he would like to own his own home but a question of whether he can do so. If a person cannot meet the requirements he cannot have his own home. These people are totally excluded from occupancy of a house. No houses are built by the Victorian Government for rental in most areas and these people are offered accommodation in concrete monstrosities.
Time is running short, Mr Speaker, and it is the wish of the House to proceed with this Bill. I could say a lot more about present housing policies. I believe it is quite proper that people whose income and position is such that they cannot afford to buy a house should be given some form of accommodation. I disagree totally with the philosophy expressed repeatedly on the Opposition side of the House that people who cannot afford to buy a house are not entitled to live anywhere.
– Because of the shortage of time I shall not touch upon the matters mentioned by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). Apparently his argument relates to Victoria and Victoria alone. This Bill, as we all know, deals with housing funds for the States. It is before us in the form of an agreement. We are being asked to approve of the agreement when it has not been agreed to by any State in Australia. Indeed, unless certain amendments are made to it, I do not believe that the States will agree to the agreement in this Bill which we are being asked to pass this afternoon. This is a peculiar way of going about this matter.
Money is to be provided by the Commonwealth Government for 2 particular purposes. The period of the proposed agreement is 5 years and the term of the loan is 53 years. Firstly, in the main it is to provide for homes for rent. The total amount of money to be provided is divided into 2 parts. The second part, 30 per cent of the money which is to be provided, is for building societies and so forth. That is a separate thing. But the first 70 pes cent of the money, on which the interest is to be 4 per cent while on the other 30 per cent it is to be 4i per cent, is to be used mainly for the provision of homes for rent.
I know the circumstances very well, so I must cut my speech short. I take exception to the strict conditions that are being imposed on the States by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson). Clause 10 (2.) states that the Minister shall decide - the whole agreement is on this basis - after consultation with the States, questions relating to how many homes they want or what the conditions are to be. Finally the Minister shall decide the amount for each State to use and for which purposes, either rental or home ownership, they are to use it. There is a very strict means test, as we know, on these conditions.
The most objectionable clause is clause 19. It strictly prohibits the sale of houses which are built by commissions throughout Australia to 30 per cent of the houses built, except in Tasmania, which has been permitted to sell, firstly, 50 per cent, then 40 per cent and thereafter 30 per cent, but that is because of a special condition. The same means test applies as to homes for rental. The only difference in this legislation is that no means test is to be imposed upon houses sold to the Director of Defence Service Homes under the scheme that has been just set up. Sales are to be under contract, that is, no title passes. In that respect, of course, I suppose ad valorem duty is saved to some extent until title is taken. The sale price is to be half of the total cost of the house plus half of the market value.
Certain restrictions are imposed. A buyer cannot resell for 5 years, and then he must give the first offer to the authority, or to the Commonwealth. Rentals must be reviewed every year, and apparently no big housing commission estates are to be developed because the Bill provides that the houses to be built under this measure must be intermingled with private homes. Whilst I agree that it is not good to have sameness in everything, this feature could impose an extremely heavy additional cost upon the States. The second part of the program, as I have said, is to provide home ownership through the home builders’ account. The money paid into this account will be lent through a terminating building society or other lending authorities approved by the Federal Minister. An approved lending authority could include unions or it could include - 1 am suspicious of this - Bob Hawke’s announced Australian Council of Trade Unions building scheme; it could come into that category. Again a means test will apply to this money. It is slightly higher than the other one. Not less than 20 per cent nor more than 30 per cent of the money will be paid into the home builders’ account. The interest charged on loans from this account will be 5i per cent.
This legislation is very restrictive, as I have said, in its effect on the State. In all other legislation this Government has brought in in the fields of health, education, new cities, urban development, local government grants, gas and oil distribution, mining exploration and off-shore rights, the central control has been vested in Canberra. When will the people wake up to what is happening in this country? The State governments are going as fast as this Government can get them out of existence, and local and regional areas are to be puppets of a central government. The Senate will go, and if I am any judge at all, we are aiming directly for a republic in this country or, if not, a dictatorship. So I think it is about time the people woke up to what is going on, because this Bill is only some little evidence of the centralised control that is being exerted by this Government.
Let us understand the implications of this Bill. Under the Constitution housing is a matter for the State governments. In all the 23 years that the Liberal and Country parties were in government they made provision for cheap money for housing. They had a marvellous record in relation to housing for those in the low income groups, but never at any time did the previous Government dictate to the States how they spent their money. We have always encouraged home ownership as being the basis upon which this nation would be built, but each State made its own regulations as to the way it wished to conduct that State. Some sold more houses, others sold fewer, lt was for the State governments to make up their minds.
The Australian Labor Party never gives up its policy of socialism and government ownership. I think it would be pertinent to remind the House that after the war, in 1945, Labor was in power. That was the last time it was in power until the last few months. In the period immediately after the war the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction, Mr Dedman, sei up an Australian Housing Commission. This was to ensure complete government ownership of all future homes in Australia. There was to be no private ownership of homes and they were to be allotted by ballot for rental only. Citizens were not only to be directed where to work, as they would have been under a Labor government, but were also to have a number put on their back and told to live in the home allotted by the Government. We are reaching that stage again with the kind of legislation this Government is bringing in.
The Dedman proposal was challenged as to legality and was found to be invalid. It was only then that the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was negotiated. The Agreement came about because the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, could not do what it wanted. But the States on that occasion were forced into an unfortunate position, and today again they are forced into that position because they cannot get money unless they agree to the dictates of this socialist Government. In the post-war period first the South Australian Government and later the Tasmanian Government refused to come into the Commonwealth housing scheme. When challenged on the matter in this House, as was admitted by the honourable member for Corio this afternoon, Mr Dedman said, in stating the policy of the Labor Party was - and the words are famous in this country:
We don’t want to build a nation of little capitalists.
– What was he referring to?
– He was referring to the Australian Housing Commission he proposed to set up - a rental community. The Liberal and Country parties had to live with the scheme for about 10 years until 1955-56, when it expired. Only then were low income people able to own their own homes and in that regard the previous Government did a magnificent job. A leopard never changes its spots. After 23 years of being in the wilderness Labor is in power again and is up to its old tricks to build up a rental community. The Minister has become panicky in relation to this matter. He talks about 93,000 people on the Housing Commission waiting lists and says that there is a major housing crisis. That is sheer nonsense; I have pointed this out before and I will not repeat much of it.
It is a fact, and he cannot deny it, that today we are building in Australia one house for every 1.4 increase in the population. What does that indicate? I admit that there is a social problem in some parts of Australia. One exists in Sydney in the Minister’s own electorate, as has been pointed out. There is a social problem but there is no housing shortage in Australia in terms of the number of houses that are built. However, there is a grave danger - and I warn the Minister - of over-building in this country. Honourable members opposite may laugh. They know nothing about it. Only today I heard the Minister make a statement in this House, backing up the builders’ labourers unions claims for what he called permanent occupations. Does he realise that that would vastly increase the cost of construction in this country and would add to the cost of a home.
– I support permanency but I am opposed to your permanent employment.
Order! I realise that the honourable member for Bennelong may be slightly provocative and I realise also that the Minister has had a very trying time with the long hours of the sitting, but if honourable members could contain themselves I am certain that we would get through the business of the House a lot quicker.
– The position in every State is different. Unfortunately New South Wales is the only State that has retained rent control. This is the basic reason why the difficulties still exist in New South Wales but do not exist in other States. This is something that the Minister ought to have a look at. I know that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is waiting for me to finish my remarks. All the trouble in relation to a shortage of rental homes is a self-inflicted wound because of the controls which have been exercised and the aftermath of the controls that were introduced by the Labor Party. I believe that it is most important that the States should be given freedom of choice in deciding what action to take in relation to their housing problems. Honourable members should not tolerate the dictates of the Minister to the States. I sincerely hope that at least this House will pass the amendment which has been moved in relation to the percentage of homes that will be allowed to be sold to the people and thereby continue to create home ownership in this country.
– Housing is one of the most important facets of government in Australia today. The Federal ant
State governments in co-operation are duty bound to make every effort to provide homes, particularly for low income earners. Building costs are increasing all the time and with the high price of land it is very difficult for all types of home seekers to be able to build and own their own homes. Young married couples starting off in life are meeting heartbreaking experiences in getting a home together. Home ownership surely is the goal of every Australian family and we as legislators must be aware of the problems that are being experienced in this field.
Building societies, both permanent and terminating, have made a great contribution to the provision of homes in Australia. Far too often we hear prominent people knocking building societies and their activities in the home ownership field. They have made a wonderful contribution to home building in this country, not only in the city areas but also in the great country areas. I have noticed that home loans may get tighter and that home buyers could find it harder to get loans from building societies. This was apparent after talking with a number of representatives of major building societies in this country recently. It is a great pity that men in high places in this country denigrate the wonderful work and the activities of our building societies.
State government housing commissions have since their inception made wonderful provision for housing for both ownership and rental. Where industries have been established in city fringe areas and provincial cities and towns there is always a demand on State housing commissions for accommodation to be provided for the key personnel and employees of such undertakings. When we have a look at the situation across the board we find in the main a ready response to the demand made on housing commissions in these circumstances. Banks, too, through their housing loan departments play their part in providing homes for their clients. It was heartening to see a report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ today that a monthly record of $35m in March had been made available through savings bank housing loan approvals in New South Wales. I repeat that this is a monthly record in this field.
We are dealing with the Housing Agreement Bill 1973 and the 2 associated Bills. These Bills are, of course, inter-related. The Housing Agreement Bill seeks to obtain the approval of this Parliament for the Commonwealth to execute agreements with each State. It is interesting to note that the legislation provides that no fewer than 85 per cent of the family homes to be built by State housing authorities with Commonwealth funds will be allocated to families where the average gross weekly income of the main breadwinner does not exceed 85 per cent of the average weekly earnings per employed male unit. Those who will be eligible will be mainly the lower income families who are paying too high a proportion of their incomes in private rents or whose accommodation is of an unsatisfactory nature. However, the Bill provides for only 30 per cent of the funds allocated to the States to be used for home ownership. This has brought a great reaction from tha States, apart from New South Wales.
I agree with the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) that this Government should not dictate to the States as to what the home ownership percentage should be. I know that the State Premiers are against this 30 per cent proposal and that in some States they are talking about 50 per cent. I wholeheartedly agree with them. I think that it is dictatorial action on the part of this centralist Government. The proposal should be varied because in some States it is desirable that the percentage should be increased in view of the great demand for home ownership. There is nothing more that people like to own more than their own homes and they ought to be given that opportunity. In view of this fact it appears that this percentage should be increased to allow the States to provide more homes for the people. We should do all in our power to increase facilities to allow higher home ownership figures to be achieved. I should like to refer to clause 10, sub-section 2 of the Schedule to the Bill. It will take only a few seconds to read it. It reads:
After consultation with the State Ministers on the requirements of the States for welfare housing, during which regard shall be taken, among other relevant matters, of the numbers seeking assistance, the cost of land and of dwelling construction and the capacity of the State to use advances, the Minister shall determine the amount to be advanced to the State in respect to the financial year as Housing Authority advances and as Home Builders’ Account advances in accordance with clause 9.
Surely it would be better to alter this clause to read: ‘A mutual agreement with the States.’ Again the State Premiers have been hit with this clause. It would have been far better if the agreement had been reached after consultation with the States. As the Bill stands the amount to be made available to the States does not come within the Australian Loan Council figure. Surely this makes it difficult for the States to know what their loan programs will be. I feel that this is an interference with State rights. The amount should be determined by the Premiers at the Loan Council meeting. In this way the Premiers and the State governments will know what their total commitments are and they will not have to wait until a Bill of this nature goes through this Parliament. The States have not yet agreed to this legislation. As 1 said earlier, there is dissension and disagreement between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to this Bill. Labor’s policy at the last elections certainly did not give it a mandate to operate in this manner. Its policy was:
A Labor government will request each State authority to estimate the funds it will require to reduce the waiting period for houses to 12 months.
In Labor’s election policy no mention was made of eliminating or placing any restriction at all on home ownership in general, and in particular no restriction on the sale of homes built under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was mentioned. No mandate has been given by the people to this Government to act in this manner. Today every member of the Parliament received a booklet entitled ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’ which sets out what the Government has done. Under the beading ‘Immediate Funds for Housing Agreements Soon’, which I believe is a presumption, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) says that the purpose is to provide housing for letting to needy families and persons, which is already a State housing commission role. He repeats the condition that such housing is not for sale. He goes on to say:
All States have accepted the offer and have agreed to this condition.
This is not true. They have not. They did accept it, under pressure, in respect of the first Housing Assistance Bill, which provided $6.5m, but they certainly have not accepted this condition in respect of these Bills. It is presumptuous of the Minister to think that this Parliament will go back on an agreement that he came to with the State Ministers in Adelaide recently, namely, that there was to be50 per cent home ownership. Now we find that it is to be 30 per cent. No one will disagree with the need for homes in Australia - particularly in New South Wales, the State which I represent as the member for the Paterson electorate. The Federal Government’s loan of $3.5m for housing in New South Wales could put roofs over the heads of 4,500 needy people. But nearly 200,000 more people in the State would still be desperately in need of homes. I am pleased to note that of the homes to be provided in New South Wales there is a possibility of my getting 50 for the fast developing city of Maitland in my electorate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move the following amendment:
In paragraph 19.- (1.) of the Schedule, omit ‘30’, substitute ‘50’.
I do not intend to speak to this amendment as I spoke about it last night. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
– In supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), I too, as a Queenslander, object most strongly to the direction which the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) and the new Labor Government are endeavouring to foist upon the States and the people of Australia in the Housing Agreement Bill which is presently before the Committee. This Bill can be seen in contrast with the history of the Federal Government’s State counterpart when it was in office in Queensland. Since 1945 the Queensland Housing Commission has built 43,466 homes, of which 25,373 or 58.4 per cent have been for purchase, leaving 18,093 or 41 . 6 per cent for rental.
This new Commonwealth Government seems to set itself up here in Canberra believing that it knows all and it knows best. It parades itself as a provider of all, but when it provides it does so in a way which suggests that, if the States do not toe the line and agree to do things the way the Commonwealth wants them done, the Commonwealth will not give the States the money. I would not be so unkind as to suggest that the Labor Government indulges in blackmail in its dealings with the States. That would be unparliamentary;I am fully aware of that. But, unfortunately, I have heard outside some people suggesting-
– Order! 1 suggest that, as the honourable member is speaking in Committee, it would be a good idea if he referred to the Bill.
– I am talking about the way in which we are endeavouring to increase from 30 per cent to 50 per cent the proportion of dwellings which the State governments through their housing commissions, will be able to sell. In speaking to the amendment, I point out that home ownership is higher in this country than in any other country. No doubt the policies of the previous Government in many ways have contributed to this. Unfortunately, because of this Government’s desire to rush legislation through, it is very difficult to be allowed sufficient time in which to set out clearly what is being done. In respect of home ownership I notice that in Canada 65 per cent of people own their own homes, in Denmark the figure is 44 per cent, in England and Wales it is 47 per cent, in Norway it is 53 per cent, in Sweden it is 35 per cent, in the United States of America it is 62 per cent and in Australia it is 70.8 per cent - the highest in the world.
Yet this new Government comes in here imposing restrictions on young people endeavouring to purchase their own homes. In the long term this will have the effect of creating a nation of renters, people who will never own anything. This is very much in accord with the Labor Party’s philosophical approach of keeping people down because it believes that if it keeps them down they will never know better and perhaps they will keep voting Labor. The Minister and honourable members opposite may laugh, but this is a fact. I do not believe that this Federal Government is any more capable-
– Order! The honourable member will be out of order if he comments on matters which were the subject of the second reading debate. He must comment on the Bill.
– I had better be very careful, because even the opportunity to speak is a privilege these days. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that in Queensland today the average Housing Commission home - that is, one built by the Commission - costs in the vicinity of $12,000 to $13,000. In Queensland the State Government lends the purchaser up to $12,000. Therefore, a prospective renter or home buyer has the opportunity to take advantage of the Queensland Governments scheme either by taking a home on a rental basis and putting money aside towards a deposit or by raising money and buying the home from the word ‘go*.
I think the Government might agree to the amendment which the honourable member for Herbert has moved. I ask the Minister whether he intends to agree to it. He is shaking his head. Shame! What the Government is doing is depriving not only young people but all people of the opportunity to own their own homes. I conclude now - I realise that I have been given an opportunity - by simply stating that those who thought that this nation’s nineteenth Prime Minister was an evil centralist have the opportunity now to stand-
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member debate the clauses of the Bill. He is making a speech which has very little relevance to the Bill.
– I am speaking in the context of the importance of the 30 per cent home ownership provision and of the way in which the Government is imposing this on the States; that is, that they can have the money if they spend it the government’s way. I will bear your comments in mind, Mr Chairman. Those who thought that our nineteenth Prime Minister was an evil centralist now have the opportunity to stand side by side with those who did not think so and witness the emergence and proliferation of a brand of centralism which leaves even the mildest federalist stunned and bewildered. This is exactly what is happening in this country. The government is fooling nobody by imposing these restrictions and saying to the States: ‘You can have the money, but you must spend it our way’. People throughout the nation are starting to awaken to the fact that the Government, after winning one election in only one place, is trying to run the whole country as the central government. This is not good enough. I am not one who advocates that people who are unable to get their own homes because of unfortunate circumstances should be precluded from obtaining homes, and I realise that there must be some homes for rental only. But what I do say to the Minister is that the State Governments face elections every 3 years, just as the Federal Government does, and if they are not correctly assessing and providing homes for these people surely there will be a backlash against them as State governments. Why do we in Canberra have to set out with all our tremendous wisdom and say to them: ‘You will get this money on the condition that you do it in the way we impose upon you’? I ask. you, Mr Minister - you are only a new Minister - to reflect seriously on this and if you are not going to accept changes on this occasion, please avoid similar legislation in the future. I should not be warning you because it will be to our advantage. It will lead to your downfall and the downfall of the new Government.
– Time will not permit me to speak at great length because honourable members have commitments outside the House. I acknowledge the contribution made by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and our other colleagues in the House in respect of this very important legislation which will affect the well being of low income earning people so far as State housing authority homes are concerned for the next 5 years. Of course, that depends on whether or not the States acquiesce in this arrangement. The purpose of this Bill is to facilitate Commonwealth approval. At this stage, the House is dealing with an amendment moved by the Opposition to increase the incidence of sales of government houses permitted by the authority itself from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
It is true that this matter has been the subject of considerable discussion. In fact, discussions have been going on for several months. My first statement about the agreement was made on 16 January and we had our first meeting with the first State involved, New South Wales, on 8 February. From there, each State was met separately and after that, of course, there were 2 conferences of State and Commonwealth Ministers, one on 23 March and one on 5 April. Through the course of these conferences, this question of the incidence of sales was discussed at considerable length. I might say that there were State housing officers who during the course of these conferences contended that there was very great need to build up the stock of rental homes. The Commonwealth is certainly not in isolation in this contention.
It might interest the House to know, although I must not spend much time on this, that there are distinguished members of the Opposition who share the Government’s view on this matter. I am not sure whether the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald
Cameron) is aware that one of his colleagues recently said a number of things in this connection which bear very effectively on the subject matter before the Committee. For example, he said:
One of the obvious shortages in the housing field in Australia is housing for rental. We have probably reached the stage where home ownership has been relatively overdone.
This is a statement by a distinguished member of the Opposition. He continued:
We now have an increasingly mobile population which needs to shift from place to place and’ not to undertake long term commitments like buying a house. These people need to rent houses and to be able to move quickly from one place to another.
He made many similar statements:
Unfortunately, housing for rental has declined for a number of reasons, one of which is the construction activities of State housing commissions. These vary from State to State.
He went on:
The advice which the commissioners give to their Ministers is to obtain as much money from the Commonwealth as possible and then to sell as many homes as they can so that they, get the money back and fill up their coffers. Then they can turn over their investment and build still more houses and sell them. . . . This diversion of housing commission resources into building for sale has absorbed altogether too much of their total resources.
Another comment that this distinguished gentleman made was:
I believe that public moneys for housing have been in some degrees misapplied. For instance, many houses sold by the State housing commissions have worked out as nice little capital gains for their purchasers.
He went on to say:
I believe that the Minister -
He was referring to me - is right in tilting the housing commission operations much more towards the provision of rental accommodation, whichis what Australia badly needs overall.
These were strong contentions. Who would honourable members think made that statement?
– Tell us.
– It was none other than a former Liberal Commonwealth Treasurer and Minister for Housing, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury). These remarks were made on 1 May. So all the pillorying that is being directed at me is obviously being directed about the former Treasurer and Minister for Housing who, regrettably, has not had the support of his colleagues in bygone days in giving effect to the very strong views that he has in respectof what he described as ‘misdirection of funds’.
So, people who look at these matters very seriously and who do not just drop in for a hit and run kind of operation come to recognise that there are highly deleterious effects from selling off government houses to the extent that has been going on. The houses built between 1947-48 and 1971-72 which have been sold, number 104,000; there are 160,000 left. The number of people applying for houses is increasing day by day. It is the firm belief of the Commonwealth that we should be building up the stock of rental homes because many people who pass through the. system do not go into a housing commission home to stay there forever. It is our obligation, and indeed this Government’s commitment, to do everything it can to provide shelter for people. We would love to make it elaborate but at least we ought to make it adequate. This will probably result in modest shelter being made available. Many people going into State housing authority homes will find that they are inadequate as their affluence develops. These homes will not have a double garage or a rumpus room and so the people will go on to the building societies and the banks to acquire new homes. We have to make certain that there are adequate homes to give people shelter and, as has been said, we have been selling them off at too fast a rate. There is a need for some degree of moratorium as the honourable member for Wentworth has said.
I have mentioned only a few of the fervent things the honourable member for Wentworth said in this regard. 1 have other statements here but time will not permit me to talk about them at length. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) just the other day made contentions in this House to the effect that people should not be permitted to stay in rental homes. If honourable members want the quotation, I will read it to them.
Government supporters - No.
– The statement was made on 12 April; I leave it to honourable members to read it for themselves. The honourable member for Bennelong made the point that as the affluence of people developed they should not be allowed to stay in rental homes. How can we reconcile this statement with the Opposition’s contention that affluence can develop and we should allow them to buy homes and stay in them? We are not going as far as the honourable member for Bennelong. We believe that people should be able to purchase State housing authority homes and we are proposing under this legislation that 30 per cent of the funds advanced to the State housing authorities be diverted through the Home Builders Account to the terminating societies. These are societies which meet the need of an identifiable category of people - people on low incomes - so that they have the opportunity of purchasing a home. We are proposing that 30 per cent of the funds be used for that purpose.
Additionally, we are proposing that the State housing authorities be permitted to sell 30 per cent of the homes which they construct in a year. We have had regard to the particular situation in Tasmania, with the approval of all the Ministers, so. that in Tasmania for the first year the authority can sell 50 per cent of its homes, in the second year 40 per cent, and in the third year all the States will be in line. Maybe the time will come, with the large amounts of money which we hope to make available, when we will overcome this great waiting backlog of 93,000 people. That is our first obligation - to give people shelter. After that, we can start to embellish these homes, provide people with nicer homes and give them a chance to buy these homes, financed at a concessional rate by the Australian taxpayer. But we want to make certain that we build up our stock of rental homes because the replacement cost is extremely high. In New South Wales, for example, if the remaining government houses were sold - houses to the value of $127m - it would, according to the State housing authority, cost $500m to replace them. We do not propose to be irresponsible about this. Priority is what guides this Government in all areas and certainly this is the case in regard to housing.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the very considerable co-operation which has been extended to me by the State Housing Ministers. Despite the excessive controversy which has been waged in a public way through the Press, all of us together have compromised a great deal and 1 believe that we have formulated an agreement which will be a milestone in Australian housing and which will give many many people the opportunity to enjoy decent housing conditions in the future.
– Like the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) I believe it is an honour to get the opportunity to speak in this place. I have assured the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) that in view of the time I will not take long to make my remarks. I want to draw to the attention of the Minister the important amendment which seeks to omit the word ‘thirty’ and substitute the word fifty’. For people outside this place who do not understand what is meant by this wording, it means of course that50 per cent of the Commonwealth funds to be made available could be used for houses which may be purchased. There is no doubt at all in the minds of many people in Australia that there is a big demand for low-rental homes, or for that matter even rental homes.
I believe that we should congratulate the Victorian Minister for Housing who negotiated this issue and was able to achieve an increase from nil homes to be available for purchase to at least 30 per cent of the homes to be built for purchase. The only thing I regret is that the Federal Minister cannot see his way clear to permit a further increase to 50 per cent because I believe that in the long term that is what we want. At the beginning of my speech I said that I would not delay the House for long. I wish I had more time to speak on this matter because there are many points which I would have liked to raise.
Question resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in theaffirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 May (vide page 2223), on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
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.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 May (vide page 2224), on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m. until Tuesday next at 11 a.m., or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker takes the chair.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
Councillors so that they can move more freely around the Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Travelling Allowance from $16.50 per day for overnight absence to attend meetings of the Legislative Council or a select committee to $22 per day for overnight absence on Council business. (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) See reply to (1).
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Medical practitioners in non-clinical areas, whilst not rostered are expected to remain on duty until completion of their daily work, even if this extends through hours beyond the recognised 36).
With the exception of Quarantine Officers, overtime payment or other recompense is not payable for this in m> Department
Medical officers rostered for quarantine duties are eligible for limited extra duty payment to cover time worked outside recognised hours for boarding and inspecting ships.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730525_reps_28_hor84/>.