29th 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. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Whitlam, Dr Edwards and Dr Klugman.
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:
That marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1 974 be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Stewart, Mr Sinclair, Mr Connolly, Dr Edwards, Mr Fairbairn, Dr Forbes, Dr Gun, Mr Hodges, Mr Howard, Mr Kerin, Mr Jarman, Mr Kelly, Mr Mulder and Mr Nicholls.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years as follows:
Your petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable break-down, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:
Your petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Britain in 1973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable break-down, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. by Mr Drury and Mr Martin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Clayton, Dr Edwards, Dr Forbes and Mr Garrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth: - 1. That the ‘Family Law Bill 1974’ fails to give the family the protection presumed to be guaranteed it under Section 43, for rather than preserving the lifelong union of married couples to the exclusion of all others, the Bill deals mainly with the legalising of its destruction through easy and unjust divorce, together with the legalising of the evasion of responsibility on the part of parents. (Secs. 43, 48, 49,50)
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will do everything possible to promote and preserve the permanency of the married state, and not admit into the law of this land any provision for such easy divorce that threatens the stability of family life-for although the present divorce system has weaknesses these will not be righted by an even weaker and more unjust ‘Family Law Bill ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
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:
That there is great urgency to preserve the family as the basic unit in society and therefore the stability of family life requires the urgent attention of Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year’s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
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:
That the increased price of the Hansard subscription will place it beyond the financial reach of most people;
That it is basic in a Parliamentary democracy that electors have easy access to records of the debates in their Parliament;
That making Hansard available only to an elite who can afford it is at odds with the concept of open government.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce the cost of the Hansard subscription so that it is still available at a moderate price to any interested citizen.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury.
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:
That we strongly support the Family Law Bill, 1974, which has been passed in the Senate.
We believe that its immediate passage through the House of Representatives and subsequent proclamation by the Governor-General are essential to the relief of the sufferings of many married couples and their families throughout Australia.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House will proceed with the Family Law Bill. by Dr Gun.
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:
That the National Compensation Bill 1974 and the proposals for a new Superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees discriminate in the payment of reversionary benefits against the members of families which:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the National Compensation Bill 1974 and the new superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees be amended to provide for the payment of reversionary benefits to dependents of all families, however constituted.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
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 immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lamb.
Public Libraries in Australia
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:
We the undersigned do humbly request that the Australian Government commission an enquiry into the provision and funding of State and Municipal Public Libraries throughout Australia. Public Libraries are an essential part of the nation’s facilities for education and information, and the cultural life of the people. Organisation and financing methods to date have manifestly failed to develop Public Libraries to the standard that Australia needs, therefore it is imperative that a thorough national enquiry be conducted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will press for the long awaited Enquiry into Public Libraries throughout Australia with the utmost pf urgency, and your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Oldmeadow.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister advocated a recovery of profits? Does he therefore advocate that prices should rise at a higher rate than wages to permit this process?
– I have made a submission to the Prices Justification Tribunal which I gather the right honourable gentleman wishes to destroy or dismantle or scrap, according to the various accounts of his statements. I informed the House of my submission some months ago. I have nothing to add to it.
-Can the Minister for Social Security say whether there are any circumstances in which Australians could be denied the great benefits of Medibank? Is he aware of any proposals for a re-imposition of punitive health insurance contributions following the introduction of Medibank from 1 July?
-It is hard to be certain exactly what the Opposition will do or proposes to do on Medibank. It is quite clear that the Opposition is not certain itself. One can take any range of possibilities according to the selection of spokesmenall official spokesmen for the Oppositionwhom one cares to choose. For instance, the honourable member for Hotham, the Opposition spokesman on social security matters, has suggested that Medibank would be totally dismantled. On the other hand, I noticed in a report in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ that the Leader of the Opposition has commenced on the issue of Medibank the greatest retreat since Napoleon started walking back from Moscow. He is now accepting that Medibank will come into operation, that it will be popular-
- Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. What the Minister is saying is false. It should be known that it is false.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
- Mr Speaker, on the point of order, I quote from the Australian Broadcasting Commission-
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I suppose that the point taken by the Leader of the Opposition is a bit of woofwoofle. On Monday on the Australian Broadcasting Commission-
– I take a point of order. The Standing Orders clearly say that a Minister may answer a question in relation to his own Department. What in the name of fortune have the Opposition policies got to do with the administration of the Minister’s Department? Day after day, Ministers come into this place and stand up at question time purely to make political capital. No questions are ever answered. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to give honourable members protection.
-Order! The Chair is not responsible for the way in which a Minister answers a question.
– It is a curious situation when its bad form to bring politics into this establishment.
- Mr Speaker, did you rule on that point of order?
-It has always been the practice of Speakers that a Minister may give an answer provided it is relevant to the question that has been asked. The Minister will answer the question.
-On Monday the Leader of the Opposition said he would pull down the proposed Medibank scheme. He said his Party would have nothing to do with the national compensation and superannuation scheme. This morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ reports that this question was put to him: ‘Would you abolish the Medibank scheme?’ The answer is reported as: ‘It. would depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public. ‘ It is clear from the Leader of the Opposition’s comments that he has changed his mind again.
– Rubbish. These are lies, Mr Speaker; do not permit it.
-Order! I have informed the Leader of the Opposition before that if he claims to have been misrepresented I will give him ample opportunity if he approaches the Chair to explain his position after question time.
– On a point of order: The granting of an opportunity to a member to make a personal explanation does not avoid a circumstance where a Minister can totally misrepresent the attitudes and statements by members of the Opposition.
-Order! The Chair is not in a position to know whether every answer that is given is accurate, but if any honourable member claims he has been misrepresented- this has been the practice of all Speakers, as the honourable member would be aware- the Speaker will, provided the Chair has been approached, give a member an opportunity after question time to state in what way he has been misrepresented. The Minister will answer the question.
-As the Leader of the Opposition once said, wherever he goes people know something is wrong. We would be the least to try to undertake the massive task of holding him to any position from day to day, but if Monday’s position were to prevail, if the attitude of the honourable member for Hotham were to applythat the Liberal-Country Party Government would dismantle Medibank -
– I raise a point of order. I draw attention once again to standing order 1 52 which says:
A question without notice may be put to the Speaker-
Or to a Minister- relating to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
The Minister is not responsible for the policies of the Opposition.
– Thank goodness!
-This has always been the practice in the past where Ministers in answering question -
– No, it has not.
-Order! Ministers have always been able to quote in answer to questions what other people have said. I have been here long enough to realise that. The Minister will answer the question.
– I rise to take a point of order. My point of order is that it has been the practice of Speakers in the past and it has been accepted that when an honourable member claims to be misrepresented in an answer to a question the Speaker has drawn to the attention of the Minister concerned when answering that question that he should not transgress by referring to the matter of misrepresentation to which attention has been drawn. I wish you would follow the same course.
-Standing order 64 is specifically put in the Standing Orders for that purpose. I have informed the Leader of the Opposition that, if he approaches the Chair and asks to make a personal explanation, I shall certainly give that opportunity to him. He will have a full opportunity to quote where he has been misrepresented. The Minister will answer the question.
– I was saying that, if the Opposition as a government were to dismantle Medibank, a severe tax would be imposed on Australians. With the advent of Medibank, medical insurance will no longer involve contributions. It will be free- free of contributions.
– Of course it will!
– It will be free of contributions.
-Tell the truth.
-Order! The House will come to order. I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible in his answer. There are other people waiting. The Minister will answer the question. I ask him to be brief.
– It is the Minister’s worst performance. You have never been worse.
-Order! The Minister will answer the question. Interjections will cease.
– As I was saying, with the advent of Medibank, people will not have to make contributions -
– That is nonsense.
– … to have medical insurance cover.
-Medical cover will be free for all Australians. .
-Tell the truth.
– All Australians will be covered -
-The House will come to order.
-Ho, he will tell the truth!
– In the case of hospital insurance, for those people in States which enter into agreements with us, there will be no need to make contributions for public ward treatment and no need to -
– There will be tax.
-Cover for public ward treatment will be free. There will be no contributions in those States, there will be no charges for that treatment, and there will be no means test to exclude people in those agreement States.
– Who will pay for it? Who is going to pay for it?
– In agreement States -
– That is completely untrue.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will remain silent.
– Are you going to print some money?
-Order! The Minister will answer the question.
– Insofar as non-public ward treatment is concerned- that is, intermediate ward or private ward or private hospital treatmentin agreement States, there will be a substantial reduction in contribution rates. Instead of providing $2 a bed-day subsidy for insured people, as is the case now, the bed-day subsidy rate will be $ 1 8 a day. Let us quickly have a look at the effects of this in terms of the sort of -
– What about treatment for gout?
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will remain silent. I call the Minister.
– Let us have a look at what this will mean in terms of additional charges imposed on the public in the various States. Let us assume an agreement situation with N.S. W. -
– I rise to take a point of order. There is a practice that Ministers can make statements after question time. The matter that the Minister is now raising would normally be a matter for a policy statement. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that the Minister has gone on far too long in answering this question and that the matter would be far better treated by making a statement after question time.
– As I usually do, I ask the Minister to make his answer as brief as possible. As I have mentioned to the House on numerous occasions, if the Standing Orders are altered to give me the power to reduce the time allowed to Ministers to answer questions I will take that action, as no doubt my predecessors would have done. Until such time as I am given that power I have no jurisdiction. The Minister will answer the question.
- Mr Speaker, over and over again I have approached you about your implementing standing order 145 which demands relevance. I have referred it to you and you have replied to me in a letter. You have had ample opportunity to implement that standing order and you can call honourable members of both sides of the House together to support you, as I believe they would. The matter rests in your hands, Sir. You should protect the dignity, the authority and the responsibility of this Parliament. And, sir, stop these people from destroying democracy.
-I appreciate the point taken by the right honourable member for Lowe. I know I am good, but I am not good enough to know what is relevant to every question that is asked in this House.
– You are pretty good lately, Sir.
-The Minister will answer the question.
-The problem is that interjections and interruptions are taking 4 times as long as the answer. Let us assume a situation in which there is agreement with the State of New South Wales- according to the morning newspapers in recent weeks, a very real possibility now. With the dismantling of Medibank, as promised on Monday but not today by the Leader of the Opposition and asserted before his trip overseas by the honourable member for Hotham, speaking for the Opposition, there would be the introduction of substantial additional charges on the people of that State for services they would get free or at considerably reduced rates under Medibank. For instance, medical and public ward cover for a person in that State would involve an additional outlay of $157 a year. Medical and private ward cover -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the Minister be not further heard.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
-There is a motion before the chair. The motion as moved by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party takes precedence.
That the Minister be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Opposition members- Not free.
Opposition to have this table incorporated in Hansard; otherwise I will have to read it.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I present the agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to South Australia for urban and regional development for the financial year ending 30 June 1975.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explantion
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I was misrepresented by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in that he alleged that I had not been consistent in the report which appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ about Medibank. What I was asked was: ‘Would you abolish the Medibank scheme?’ My reply was:
It will depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public. The freedom to reverse the scheme in its entirety is in practice confined.
We would, therefore, establish the manner by which we would restore the fundamentals. For example, freedom of choice of doctor and hospital and tight supervision of the expenditure of funds so that the alleged ‘free’ scheme does not send the community bankrupt.
When returned to office, we may be confronted with an irreversible situation. This was the experience many years ago of the British Conservative Party when they took office.
I do not accept the arguments which have been produced by the Government. My great concern for the Medibank scheme is that it would cause a massive increase in taxes for everybody. It will be much more expensive for the patient. He will pay more for health cover even though the sum will not be labelled ‘ health insurance ‘.
The percentage of gross domestic product going to health is estimated by the Prime Minister to grow to 12 per cent. No Government could finance that without a massive increase in taxes. The only alternative would be to savagely prune other government expenditure, for example, education, social welfare, defence or development
In present-day terms, this cost can be measured. The increase is from 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product, or about $3,200m, to 12 per cent of gross domestic product, or about $7,200m. Therefore, even to add all education spending ($l,535m) plus all defence spending ($ 1,500m) would not pay Labor’s health services bill.
Professor Downing last December, in speaking about the compensation scheme, the superannuation scheme and the health scheme said: ‘Each of them is admirable in itself. Add them together, however, and the total cost on prospect is sobering. The total cost to public revenue of these 3 major proposals is just on $4,900m, about 10 per cent of gross domestic product.’
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is going beyond a personal explanation. He is making a very broad statement which has no relevance at all to the personal explanation.
– If you uphold that point of order, Mr Speaker, the game is crook.
-Order! That is an uncalled for interjection. The honourable member should wait until I have made a decision.
– We expect a fair go.
-The honourable member for Hotham should know better than to make a stupid interjection like that.
– My point of order was that the Leader of the Opposition is making a broad statement not relevant to the personal explanation. It is going far wider than that issue.
– On the point of order: The allegation made against the Leader of the Opposition this morning was quite specific and the right honourable gentleman in his reply is referring in specific terms to the occasion.
– The old bush lawyer again.
– At least I have some claim to respect justice. I cannot say that for the honourable member. The Leader of the Opposition is referring in specific terms to the occasion from which the allegation has been made. I submit that the right honourable gentleman is impeccably in order.
-Everyone in the House would know that it is the duty of the Speaker to see that honourable members’ remarks are relevant to the matter in relation to which they have been misrepresented. I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his explanation along those lines.
-Mr Speaker, I was quoting the full statement that I made. I wish to complete it. I said:
Professor Downing last December, in speaking about the compensation scheme, the superannuation scheme and the health scheme said: ‘Each of them is admirable in itself. ‘
-i take a point of order. What have Professor Downing ‘s comments to do with the misrepresentation of the Leader of the Opposition? I am asking that this place come to order and that a fair go be given to both sides. The person on the other side is not in a privileged position.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I will give the rulings in this place, not the Minister. If he is dissatisfied he can move a dissent from my ruling. The point is that I will give the rulings here. It would be utterly impossible for any Speaker of this House to ascertain what is purely relevant to any statement that is made outside. Would honourable members expect any Speaker to be aware of every statement that is made throughout Australia appertaining to every Minister? It would be utterly impossible. The fact is I am not quite sure what was said on this occasion. I am asking the Leader of the Opposition, in all fairness, if he would keep to the point where he was personally misrepresented.
– I am about to conclude my personal explanation, Mr Speaker, I quote:
Each of them is admirable in itself. Add them together, however, and the total cost on prospect is sobering. The total cost to public revenue of these 3 major proposals is just on $4900m, about 10 per cent of gross domestic product. The additional burden will fall mainly on lower-income people . . .
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition I think is now getting on to the subject matter in regard to the total cost.
-Mr Speaker, I have only 3 lines to complete the quote which is:
The additional burden will fall mainly on lower-income people not now contributing to private schemes. This increased revenue will all have to be raised through direct or indirect taxes and will involve an increase of tax revenue from 22.3 per cent of the gross domestic product to 28 per cent- an increase of 25.5 per cent.
That was in then current terms. The final sentence of the statement was:
I know the Prime Minister and his Government would not disagree with Professor Downing on these estimates.
-Order! You are now debating the question.
-No, I specifically am not going to debate the question.
-What has this to do with your personal explanation?
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, how long are you going to allow this man to go on?
– I ask you, Mr Speaker, to make the Leader of the Opposition sit down.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition has no right to go further in his explanation other than to state where he has been misrepresented. He cannot debate the matter any further. I will ask him to resume his seat if he gets away from his personal explanation.
-You will be entitled to do so, Mr Speaker and I will do so. The misrepresentation was to the effect that there was some change in my attitude towards opposition to the Medibank scheme. Let it be totally clearly understood that I am completely and absolutely opposed to the Medibank scheme, have been and will continue to be. Both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party are totally opposed to the Medibank scheme. If the Minister says anything to the contrary he is misusing the truth.
-Order! That is a statement. That is not a personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explantion
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I do not dispute the quote that the Leader of the Opposition made this morning when he was questioned by the ‘Financial Review’:
Would you abolish the Medibank scheme?
It will depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public.
That is what I quoted.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member cannot take a point of order when I am making a personal explanation.
– A point of order.
– The Minister has indicated that he has been misrepresented. In which way does he claim to have been misrepresented?
-Order! I think the Chair is entitled to wait for two or three seconds to find out where the Minister has been misrepresented.
-The Leader of the Opposition said, when questioned about his proposal to abolish Medibank:
It will depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public.
That is a great retreat from his position only on Monday when he said-
-Order! The Minister is making a personal explanation and he must state where he has been misrepresented.
– Well, with respect to your position, Mr Speaker, I am pointing out how what I put forward this morning was consistent with the record available, and that to assert otherwise is a misrepresentation -
-Order! The Minister has to state where he has been misrepresented.
-This is what I am trying to put to you, Mr Speaker, if I could ask you for some restraint. On Monday morning, however, the Leader of the Opposition was unequivocal on this. He said in his own -
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order, the Minister is obviously debating the question and not pointing out where he has been misrepresented. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to bring him back to his own personal misrepresentation.
-Order! The Chair will hear the Minister to see where he has been misrepresented.
-The Leader of the Opposition said on Monday:
Almost everything the Labor Party has done we will undo’.
The ABC record then reports him as saying that he would pull down the proposed Medibank scheme. That is a very big retreat from what he is saying in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ this morning.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, this Minister is completely abusing the privileges of the House if you allow him to go on like that. You should take disciplinary action, Mr Speaker.
I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. After question time yesterday the Leader of the Opposition made a personal explanation on the ground that I had misrepresented him. He took 3 columns of Hansard to make his personal explanation. He directed attention to 2 sentences of mine the previous day. The first of the passages of mine to which he objected is:
The Leader of the Opposition says that he would destroy the Prices Justification Tribunal, Medibank, the national compensation scheme and the national superannuation scheme.
The other passage is:
We have this extraordinary situation that in the Senate at the moment the National Compensation Bill is being considered by a committee composed of equal numbers from both sides of the Senate. Now the Leader of the Opposition completely destroys its deliberations.
Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition said in relation to those passages:
It is the deliberate policy of the Prime Minister to take words and misuse them. It is time that the Prime Minister spoke correctly and did not misrepresent the position.
My comments derived from 2 passages reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On Monday morning, I think it was on the news, the right honourable gentleman’s own voice was broadcast using these words:
Almost everything the Labor Party has done we’ll undo.
Who said ‘hear, hear’?
– Have a look around you.
-Who said ‘hear, hear’?
– I wanted to see who the supporter was. Nobody is prepared to say he supported the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Speaker, on Monday night the right honourable gentleman addressed a public meeting in Melbourne. The ABC reported him in these terms:
The Federal Leader of the Opposition said he would pull down the proposed Medibank scheme.
– Hear, hear.
-Ah, the honourable member for Kooyong. The Leader of the Opposition is gathering support. He was saved last time with the lobbying of the honourable member for Kooyong, but that honourable gentleman has changed his mind for next time. The report continued:
He said his Party would have nothing to do with the national compensation and superannuation scheme. The Prices Justification Tribunal would be abolished . . .
Mr Speaker, speaking at the first question time after those ABC reports I used practically the precise words in those reports. I believe in those circumstances the Leader of the Opposition was not entitled to use about me the terms that he did.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes, by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). The Minister made special reference to me by name and stated unequivocally before the House that my position on Medibank was different from that of my
Leader. That is the point upon which I have been personally misrepresented, deliberately and mischievously, by the Minister. About 8 weeks ago I made an announcement on behalf of the joint Opposition after having had it discussed in the Party room and having the unanimous support of everyone behind me that we would dismande Medibank and the Health Insurance Commission. I issued a statement on that. Immediately after that I was asked to appear on radio and television. I was then asked the question: ‘Do you mean you would dismantle Medibank at any time?’ I said that it would be an absurd proposition to answer that question unequivocally because if we were unfortunate enough not to resume power after, say, 3 years, the Medibank scheme would be woven fabric of Australian society as it was in the United Kingdom. At that time, 6 weeks ago, I made that statement. It is on the record. It is in public speeches and it is identical with the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. Yet the Minister knowing this will come in here and try to make this sort of mischief. It is contemptible.
-Order! The honourable member can only explain in what way he has been misrepresented. I know that at the finish of personal explanations there is always a sting in the tail from everybody who makes them. It is very difficult for the Chair to prevent it. I know that every personal explanation that is ever made in the House always has a sting in the tail. I am aware of that.
– What is being said is that once a public statement -
-Order! The Minister does not have the call.
-Yesterday afternoon the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to an article which appeared in the ‘Sydney Sun’ by a journalist named Neil O’Reilly relating to additional staff assistance for members of Parliament which had been mentioned in a statement by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). The honourable member for Blaxland asked me to consider whether the article constituted a prima facie case which might be referred to the Committee of Privileges. Much as I deprecate the statements made and the implications contained therein which I believe to be dishonest and unworthy of a decent standard of journalism, the article, in my opinion, does not constitute a prima facie case of breach of privilege.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Sections of the media have suggested this morning that the discussion raised yesterday by the Opposition on the Stonehouse matter was the only way that the Opposition or the public would have been able to discover -
-That is right.
-You say that is right
– Of course it is.
-They suggested that it was the only way that the Opposition could have learned what had happened or what my decision was.
– You backdated the file.
-We stopped that practice as soon as we took over from you. At my direction my personal secretary last week requested or approached the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) and offered to allow him to go through the whole of the Stonehouse file. He declined the invitation.
-I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I certainly do, Mr. Speaker. I would like the Minister for Labor and Immigration to substantiate that statement. I had no approach from his private secretary; there is nothing in writing. What he said is simply incorrect.
– On a point of order Is the Minister entitled under the privilege of Parliament to tell a monstrous lie? He is always doing this.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat There is no point of order involved and the honourable member knows it.
-Mr Speaker, I ask that that be withdrawn.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker used the words ‘monstrous lie’. The honourable member will withdraw that unparliamentary phrase ‘ monstrous lie ‘.
– I will withdraw it and substitute the words ‘a monstrous untruth ‘.
-Mr Speaker, I ask for an unconditional withdrawal.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will withdraw it.
- Mr Speaker, is the expression monstrous untruth’ unparliamentary? I ask for your ruling.
-I am asking the honourable member to make an unqualified withdrawal. If it is an untruth, say it is an untruth, without the adjective.
– I withdraw it and substitute ‘an untruth’.
- Mr Speaker, I -
– Look, I don’t give a damn what you say. I -
Opposition members- Name him! Name him!
-Order! I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. Order! Is the Minister going to apologise?
-I name the Minister for Labor and Immigration.
– I move:
That the honourable gentleman be suspended from the services of this House.
– The Leader of the House should move that motion.
– It is his job.
– Yes, it is his job.
That the Minister for Labor and Immigration be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Opposition members- Hear, hear!
Opposition members- Shame!
-Gentlemen, I hereby tender my resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Opposition members- Shame!
-Order! I intend to do it by writing to the Governor-General.
- Mr Speaker, that is a courageous act.
-I ask the Deputy Speaker to take the chair. (Mr Speaker having left the chair) -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! Will honourable members please resume their seats.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving that the House censure the Prime Minister for his disgraceful conduct in abusing the Speaker and attempting by intimidation to have the Speaker favour the Government and his Ministers, and by his actions lead directly -
– I move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister may not move that motion until such time as the Leader of the Opposition has moved his motion.
-We have just witnessed a matter the like of which has never occurred in the lifetime of this Parliament. I would think that it has never occurred in the lifetime of any other Westminster parliamentary system.
– I move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
-The question is that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no.
Opposition members- Disgraceful.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I ask the House to come to order. I am in a somewhat difficult situation.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, under the Standing Orders, in regard to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders the practice and procedures of this Parliament are that the honourable member who moves that motion should be heard without interruption until the completion of his contribution. In a matter of this order it is not open for the Minister to move the motion he has just submitted to this House. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition should be heard without interruption to the conclusion of his motion.
– I shall rule on the point of order. When I ruled before that the motion of the Leader of the House was not acceptable it was because the motion of the Leader of the Opposition had not been presented to the House. Under the Standing Orders of the House, no motion that the question be now put can be put until it has been moved and seconded and the question proposed from the Chair. But a motion that an honourable member be not further heard can be moved at any time while that honourable member is speaking. That is the question before the Chair which I have put and I have declared for the ayes. So if the members of the Opposition wish a division they should call for it now.
– On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, the motion has not yet -
-Order! The motionis that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard, which is a proper motion in accordance with Standing Orders and can be moved at any time.
- Mr D.eputy Speaker, the motion -
-Order! I cannot rule on that again. The motion is that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
-The motion has not been seconded.
-Order! That does not make any difference. The motion is that the
Leader of the Opposition be not further heard. The seconder can rise afterwards. I have declared for the ayes.
Opposition members- The noes have it.
-Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
– The House will divide. Ring the bells.
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, we are witnessing the demise of democracy in this country.
-Is the right honourable member seconding the motion?
– I am seconding the motion.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the Leader of the Country Party be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
-On the point of order, there is no former Speaker. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is Mr James Cope.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak against the motion -
– I call the Leader of the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-The question before the House is that the motion be agreed to. The Leader of the Opposition cannot speak to the motion.
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker -
-A motion has already been carried that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I want -
-The honourable gentleman cannot speak to the motion. He rose and started to speak. I ask him to resume his seat. If he wishes to take a point of order, he may, but he rose to speak.
-The honourable member rose and started speaking. I ask him to resume his seat. If he wishes to take a point of order I will call him. I call the Leader of the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to oppose the motion -
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to take a point of order?
– I ask you to call me and then I will tell you what I want to -
-You will not get the call unless you tell me that you want to take a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-I cannot call a member when another member is on his feet if he does not give me a reason. I call the Leader of the House.
-Let us not be put aside by this nonsense, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I call the Leader of the House. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak in opposition -
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
-I do not think it will be a problem.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, is it in order for the Minister for Labor and Immigration to say: ‘I will come out against you with something’? Is that right that there should be threats in this House by a Minister who has now become totally discredited?
-It would be completely impossible for the Chair to hear onetenth of what is happening in this chamber at the moment.
– I cannot hear you, I am sorry.
-I cannot hear anything in the chamber.
– Well, you obviously heard me.
– I listened very intently to a man of such wisdom.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The time for the debate on this question expired.
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s for the suspension of standing orders) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That grievances be noted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
-I will continue to act as Deputy Speaker in the same way as I have always acted as Deputy Speaker.
– But circumstances have changed. The Prime Minister has grossly intimidated the Speaker.
-That is a matter between the Prime Minister and the Speaker.
– We need to know how you would react under the same circumstances.
– We want to know that you are not being intimidated by the Minister for Services and Property.
-It would be improper for me to give the answer that I should give to that question.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, when there is an election for a new Speaker will the Prime Minister seek a commitment from you that you will accept his instructions?
-At this stage I know of no new election for Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.-
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This House is entitled to be informed of the nature of the threat made by the Prime Minister to the Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman is fully aware that this has nothing to do with me or the House.
– It transpired during the sitting of the House and we are entitled to be told of the nature of the threat.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is aware -
– I therefore ask you to ascertain it from the Speaker and advise us.
-That point of order was taken up with the Speaker while he was in the Chair. He refused to answer it. I do not see that I can deal with a matter between 2 individuals.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege. The matter of privilege is the intimidation of the then Speaker by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It is not open to us to know whether he is still the Speaker or not.
-He certainly is.
-I assume that he has not yet resigned in writing in accordance with the Standing Orders. It was apparent to everybody in this chamber -
– I rise on a point of order. The matter which the honourable gentleman raises on a matter, of privilege assumes and alleges intimidation about which I believe the Speaker did not complain to the House. There are no grounds for the matter being raised and no reason why you, Mr Deputy Speaker, should hear it.
-Order! An honourable member is entitled to rise on a matter of privilege at the first opportunity. It is then the responsibility of the Speaker to determine whether a prima facie case exists for the matter to be referred to the Committee of Priveleges
– It was apparent to everbody in this Chamber that in the circumstances as they arose the Speaker, Mr Cope, was subjected to intimidation by the honourable member for Werriwa, the Prime Minister. It is necessary to recapitulate -
– I rise on a point of order. The straight-out statement of the Leader of the Opposition that it was apparent to everybody that the Speaker was threatened is an allegation that is unfounded. I submit that it is not in accordance with the facts and he has no right to state it as a fact.
-The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to say what he considers the breach is in relation to a matter of privilege.
– It is necessary to recapitulate briefly what happened. I will not go into the matters of personal explanations. I will deal with what commenced this procedure. The Speaker, Mr Cope, named the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). It is well established practice that when that occurs the Leader of the House stands to support the Speaker’s ruling by moving- no matter who the member is or on what side of the House- that the House dispense with the services of the honourable member so named. It is perfectly clear that the duty of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) was so to move. It was apparent to every honourable member who was looking that the Prime Minister, the honourable member for Werriwa, indicated to the Leader of the House that he was not to move that motion.
-He said ‘No’.
-He indicated to the Leader of the House that he was not to move that motion. Honourable members on this side of the House heard the honourable member for Werriwa say to the Leader of the House ‘No’, indicating that he was not to move the motion. In accordance with that direction from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House did not move the motion. It was then left to the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Sinclair, who acts as Leader of the House for the Opposition, to spring into the breach and move the motion that the Minister for Labor and Immigration be suspended from the services of the House. Had the Deputy Leader of the Country Party not done that the ruling of the Speaker, the dignity of the House, the authority of the Chair and the whole wellbeing of the Parliament would have collapsed. It required the Deputy Leader of the Country Party to move that motion. It has been the practice in the 1 9 years that I have been here and it has been the practice for the 30 years that the Leader of the House has been here, and every member of Parliament understands the procedure, that the Government must uphold the authority of the Speaker. If the Government does not uphold the authority of the Speaker this Parliament will be reduced to a rabble that cannot legislate in the interests of the nation.
Against that clear background the Deputy Leader of the Country Party moved that the Minister for Labor and Immigration be suspended from the services of the House. It should have been then a matter for the Government to support that motion. Instead it decided to vote against the motion. During the course of the calling of the division the Prime Minister, the honourable member for Werriwa, was seen to get up from the table, walk up to the Speaker’s canopy, approach the Speaker, lean upon the arm rest and- with a very angry, florid outraged face- apparently utter words to the Speaker.
– Did he say woof woof?
– If he was talking to the honourable member for Franklin he would say gaa gaa
– As it is obvious the Leader of the Opposition is making a propaganda speech, I move:
-I take it that the Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion. I take it that when he rose he did so to move a motion on a matter of privilege.
-Yes. I raised the matter of privilege. I am prepared to move a motion. My understanding is that Speaker Cope ruled that first a matter of privilege should be raised with the Speaker and then the Speaker would ascertain whether there was a prima facie case. If so, the motion could be moved. I am quite prepared to move a motion now.
-I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that Mr Speaker Cope also, at that stage, refused the honourable member the right to speak until he had dealt with the matter unless a motion was moved. If the Leader of the Opposition moves a motion he may continue.
– I shall. I move:
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (on the matter of privilege) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That Notice No. 1, alteration of the day of next meeting and precedence to Family Law Bill, be postponed until a later hour this day.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Firstly, the motion is out of order. Under the Standing Orders of this House, only a Minister can move for the adjournment of the House. Secondly, it is inappropriate to suggest that any ballot be held for the election of a Speaker because the Speaker of the House of Representatives is Mr James Cope. He has not to my knowledge taken any action to change that situation.
Opposition members- What is happening?
– I wish to move that so much of the Standing Orders-
-If I may answer the interjections and as I think we ought to clear this matter up, the House has no authority nor does it have any role in the continuance of the position of Speaker of the House. It is a matter between the Speaker and the Governor-General or the Administrator of the Commonwealth. Therefore, the matter is not resolved by any announcements in this House.
– I rise on a point of order. The terms of the motion you have ruled out of order. But let me be clear also in repeating the terms to you so that you can understand that the motion was couched in exactly the way that you see the matter, that is:
That the House do now adjourn until such time as the Speaker’s resignation has been accepted by the GovernorGeneral which, under the Standing Orders, is necessary, and the Clerk is ready to conduct a ballot to determine his successor.
-The motion is out of order on both grounds. It seeks to adjourn the House. Such a motion can only be moved by a Minister. The other ground is that it pre-empts a situation that the House has no right to anticipate.
– I move:
– I move:
– Jackboots again!
-Order! The honourable gentleman cannot move that motion until such time as the House has before it the terms of the original motion. Will the Leader of the Opposition set out his motion? (Mr Snedden proceeding to write out his motion)-
-If the Leader of the Opposition does not rise, I will call the Leader of the House.
– I move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
-The motion is out of order. I call the Leader of the Opposition. I do not want the motion in writing.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving that the House do now adjourn until such time as the Speaker’s resignation has been accepted by the Governor-General and the Clerk is ready to conduct a ballot to determine his successor.
-I think I would also have to rule that out of order. Even though it deals with Standing Orders, it still seeks to preempt a situation which the House is not entitled to deal with. It seeks to adjourn the House until such time as an event, which may or may not occur, occurs, I do not believe that the Standing Orders of the House can be extended whether in suspension or in operation to cover a situation which might occur. The motion could in fact adjourn the House in perpetuity if carried. I have to rule the motion out of order.
– Well, then, Mr Deputy Speaker -
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat. He cannot persist with that type of motion.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– On a point of order -
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– On a point of order -
-I call the Deputy Leader of the Country Party on a point of order.
– This House has within its capacity an ability to change any of its Standing Orders providing it is prepared to pass a resolution to suspend them. The only matters on which it cannot so rule are matters that are within the Constitution. For that reason, I would submit to you that the motion just moved by the Leader of the Opposition is perfectly in order. It is a motion which seeks to suspend the Standing Orders of this Parliament, in order that the whole of the proceedings of this House can again be regularised. It is entirely within the capacity of this Parliament to determine whether or not the Standing Orders should be so suspended, so that a matter of this kind can be debated.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. It is within the powers of this House for the House to suspend its own Standing Orders and to conduct any business that lies within the powers of this House. It is not within the powers of this House to pre-empt a situation which may or may not occur. I refer to the part of the motion which suggests that the House would adjourn until such time as a ballot is conducted for a new Speaker. I do not believe that this House has any entitlement to presume that such a ballot will take place. On those grounds, I do not consider that the motion to suspend the Standing Orders should stand.
– Very well. I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspendedMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! I call the Special Minister of State. I call the other side.
-I present the Australian Bureau of Statistics Bill 1 97 5 .
-The honourable gentlemen will resume his seat. The Bill has not been called on.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! At the moment the matter before the House is ‘Government Business’. I think that I have given the House a fair go. I intend to call on the Clerk to call on Government Business.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving that the House do now adjourn.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition has not the call. He will not move anything. He will resume his seat. I call the Clerk.
Mr Snedden- Now, come on. You cannot do that. Come on. (Honourable members interjecting)-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. A member can move a motion in this chamber only when he has the call. I have given the Leader of the Opposition the call on two or three occasions.
I have called on Government Business. Under that call, there is no provision for me to call the Leader of the Opposition to move any sort of motion. I call the Clerk.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 moved:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended -
-Order! That cannot be done on a point of order. The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, rising to a point of order -
– All right, on a point of order.
– I moved- past tense- this motion:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving that the House do now adjourn until-
And I went with some other words. You ruled that out of order. But you have ruled in order that I could move to suspend so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent me moving that the House do now adjourn. It was in the pursuance -
-That is out of order also.
– It was in pursuance -
-I am sorry. No. All right; go on.
– It was in pursuance of that point that we were making a point of order and the ruling, so that I still had the call. If you were to call somebody else and I was not called, with the greatest of respect, it would appear as though you were deliberately not wanting to hear me but to hear the other side.
-I rule on your point of order. When a member is ruled out of order, he does not continue to have the call, irrespective of the grounds on which a motion has been ruled out of order. I called the Special Minister of State understanding that he was rising under Government Business, The order of the day had not been called on. If I may point out to the House, I recall when Mr Acting Speaker Lucock took exactly the same action after the rather time consuming event of a guillotine on a previous occasion when the right honourable gentleman was Leader of the House. I call on Government Business.
– The next business is Order of the Day No. 2, Australian Bureau of Statistics Bill 1975.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to bring about a number of fundamental changes in the organisation of our statistical services in order to increase their effectiveness and relevance for modern conditions and to strengthen further the guarantees of objectivity and impartiality of the Statistician. Clearly, the national statistical service is vitally important to the whole Parliament and the nation at large. There is no need for me to argue the virtues of statistical information in providing a generally informed society; in providing a firm base for decision making in Govenment, business and the rest of the community; in providing a basis for the development of programs and a means of measuring their progress over time.
The main provisions of this Bill, which I shall comment on more fully a little later, are to establish the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a statutory body to fulfil the functions of a central statistical authority; to establish a statutory position of Australian Statistician and to establish an Australian Statistics Advisory Council as a statutory body. By way of background I refer to the great growth in statistics since the Second World War. Particularly in government, but also in most other sectors of the community, there has been a great awakening to the value of all kinds of statistics and statistical services. Prior to the War, statistical activity was directed towards the provision of basic statistics such as population, births and deaths, employment, manufacturing and agricultural production, overseas trade, and so on. After the War, the emphasis turned to the provision of a wider range of more frequent and up-to-date economic statistics and indicators such as retail sales, capital expenditure, oversea investment, building stastistics, monthly production, balance of payments, considerable development in national accounts, labour force and unemployment, and many others. Monthly and quarterly statistics supplemented the established annual censuses.
In recent years, development in statistics has been marked by greater sophistication and complexity and by a growing need for special purpose economic and social surveys. Aided by the introduction of computers and the development of sampling and other techniques, notable developments have taken place in the fields of seasonal adjustment, constant price series, social surveys for a wide variety of purposes, inputoutput tables and the development of econometric model building and forecasting. Economic censuses and surveys, which were originally developed as independent projects, are being progressively integrated within common conceptual frameworks on the basis of common units, definitions and classifications. In the future I see major developments in the integration and coordination of data systems, in the establishment of readily accessible statistical data bases, and in the responsiveness of the statistical system to changing needs in a rapidly changing world. Economic statistics and indicators will continue to be of basic importance but social and manpower statistics and data for urban and regional planning must continue to develop.
As a result of all these changes over the years the Bureau of Statistics has grown to become one of the larger bodies in the Australian Public Service. Concurrently with these developments there has been a growth in the statistical activities of other governmental authorities, particularly in the area of analysis and interpretation of statistics but also in the production of stastistics from administrative records and even in direct collection from business and the general public. It is now considered that the large size of the Bureau and the objectivity and impartiality which it must exercise in its operations require that it be established as an administratively independent authority with a status reflecting its important role. It is also necessary that it be accorded the functions of a central statistical authority to ensure that all statistical operations in government departments are integrated within a common framework in accordance with common standards. This will result in considerable economies through the avoidance of duplication of effort. It will lessen the burden on the reporting public and will provide a common data base for use by government and the community as a whole.
It is further desirable that the Statistician be relieved of the necessity to determine priorities for the multitude of statistical demands being made upon the Bureau. Despite the great increase in statistics now produced by the Bureau, there are many other needs yet to be satisfied. It has to be recognised that the demand for statistics and statistical services is insatiable and that only the most important requirements can be serviced. Clearly, the decision as to which of the multitude of demands should be met should lie with the government of the day. For this reason, an Australian Statistics Advisory Council with a membership widely representative of government and community interests will be established to advise the Minister and the Statistician on all matters pertaining to the statistical service including its annual and longer term priorities and work programs.
I understand that the development of new statistics legislation which would have achieved the same objectives by the implementation of virtually the same measures was already proceeding under several previous governments. The House will be aware that in December 1973 my Government appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Crisp to advise on the general principles and administrative arrangements which would enable the Government to integrate the various departmental data systems servicing related areas of its social and economic policies. The report of the Committee has been widely circulated. Among other things it recommends the measures covered by this Bill.
The present Bill is in respect of an Act which shall be read in conjunction with all existing Acts including the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1973 and the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956-1958. All this legislation is at present under review with the object of preparing comprehensive legislation to bring the relevant provisions together in one Act and to provide for certain more detailed recommendations in the Crisp Report. The provisions covered by the Bill are being sought at this stage to avoid unnecessary delay in making the major administrative changes necessary to achieve the important improvements mentioned earlier.
I come now to the main provisions of the Bill. Part I contains the usual definitions and provides that the Australian Statistician shall have all the powers, functions and duties vested by other Acts in the Commonwealth Statistician. The present statutory office of Commonwealth Statistician shall cease to exist with the proclamation of the new Act. Elimination of the word ‘census’ from the title of the Bureau merely reflects the fact that this word is now widely used in many statistical contexts other than that of the national census of population and housing to which it originally referred almost exclusively, lt further emphasises that the national census of population and housing is a collection for statistical purposes.
Part II provides for the establishment of a statutory position of Australian Statistician and for the establishment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a statutory body with the functions of a central statistical authority. In addition to existing functions relating to the collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination of statistics, this section provides also for the co-ordination of the statistical activities of other official bodies in the interests of avoiding duplication, attaining compatibility in statistical activities, achieving economies through the use of all available sources of data, achieving adherence to common standards in statistical work, providing statistical assistance and providing liaison with other countries and international organisations on statistical matters. While these functions are largely in the hands of the Bureau at present, this legislation will formally recognise them as the proper functions of the Bureau.
This Part also provides for collaboration between the Bureau and non-official bodies for the same purposes. The terms and conditions for the appointment and removal from office of the Statistician or a person acting as Statistician are stated. These are similar to those applying to the Commissioner of Taxation and thereby ensure the security of tenure appropriate to an office which must operate without fear or favour. In relation to the Bureau, the Statistician is vested with all the powers of, or exercisable by, a permanent head under the Public Service Act 1922-1974, as befits his status. The continued staffing of the Bureau under the Public Service Act is also provided for.
Part III relates to the establishment, functions and composition of the proposed Australian Statistics Advisory Council. The Council has wide functions to advise the Minister and the Statistician on any matter relating to statistical services, including the extension and coordination of those services and annual and longer term priorities and work programs. The composition of the Council of up to 24 members provides adequate scope for it to be widely representative of community interests. It is the Government’s intention to ensure this wide representation of the membership. Part IV of the Bill provides for annual reports to the Parliament by the Statistician and the Council. This provision will make a further contribution towards ensuring the Bureau’s objectivity and independence while at the same time making the Statistician and the Council publicly accountable. I am sure that the constructive nature of these proposed changes in the statistics legislation will have wide support and I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 February on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill seeks to appropriate an amount of $25m for the establishment of an Australian Housing Corporation which subsequently will be financed by an unknown and so far undisclosed, appropriation from general revenue. The legislation was introduced initially into the Senate in the dying moments of the last sitting by Senator Cavanagh, who was representing the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson). For some reason, known only to the Government, the Bill was withdrawn from the Senate and introduced into this House last week. It was interesting to note that the second reading speech of Senator Cavanagh bore absolutely no resemblance to the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing and Construction. Yet the Bill is completely unchanged. One of the reasons obviously is that the speech by the Minister for Housing and Construction in this House last week was one of his typical public relations exercises. It was designed to conceal the true purpose of the legislation in a sea of words and pious hopes, all aimed at securing headlines in the media. The Government is saying one thing when it means another and, consistent with its behaviour in the past, it purports to demonstrate concern for the individual when in fact it has no interest in the rights of the individual at all. All this Government seeks is total power for the Government
The Opposition has studied the Bill very carefully for the purpose of suggesting amendments to improve it, but there is little in the Bill which could be considered to be in the national interest and a full range of amendments would emasculate the Bill entirely. We therefore oppose it outright. In the first place we believe there is no need for a Canberra-run housing corporation which, in fact, would be a Canberra-run housing commission competing with each of the commissions in each of the States. If the Government has surplus funds for this purpose we believe that the money should be channelled directly through the existing structures already established in the field.
The Government claims it has the constitutional powers to do this and the Opposition makes no comment on this aspect of the constitutional powers with respect to the Bill. Even if it were established that the powers asserted by the Government are constitutional, we reject the Bill because we believe that it is a retrograde piece of legislation. There is no need for it and it is a gross waste of resources. At a time when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is claiming that the Government will cut back public spending, the Government is actually expanding public spending in this unnecessary and wasteful manner. We believe that it is an extravagance that Australia can well do without.
– What, money on housing?
-What does the Minister think? Is he prepared to say where the Government would cut back on expenditure?
– But you are saying it is extravagant to spend money on housing.
– The Government has said it is going to cut back on expenditure. I think it was last week that it announced an expenditure of $17m and this week an expenditure of $25m to set up what is an unnecessary corporation. I say that is a waste of money. We believe this legislation is an exercise in empire building by the Minister for Housing and Construction in competition with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). It is consistent with the Government’s philosophy to seek total control over all aspects of our lives- Big Brother style socialism. The Minister for Housing and Construction has not told us how much money is to be advanced from taxpayers’ funds, nor does he tell us at what rate of interest the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) will be advancing moneys to the proposed corporation. I would have thought this to be a significant question.
– A key question.
– Yes, it is very important. To obtain a proper assessment of the Government’s intentions it is necessary to study everything except what the Government is now saying. It is especially revealing to study the Minister ’s earlier well-placed leaks to the Press. On 2 1 September 1974 there was such a leak and I quote from the Press report:
According to a spokesman -
Apparently in this case it was not the Minister but a spokesman for the Minister - the new Australian Housing Corporation is being given powers to buy land, build housing estates, and provide mortgages for people earning up to $8,000 a year.
That is not spelled out anywhere in this Bill. I quote again from the same Press report:
The Corporation will provide the focal point for the Government’s plan to have trade unions, and possibly the ACTU operate terminating building societies.
This is not mentioned in the Bill, nor has there ever been any indication from the Minister whether the financial allocation for the ACTU ‘s proposed housing schemes would come from the States or from the Commonwealth. The Bill does mention assistance for ‘classes of persons’. It seems that the Government has in mind selective assistance according to certain income levels which will be decided solely by regulation. In my view, to govern by regulation is a very slippery way to govern. It is on the track to totalitarianism. There is no right of appeal in this Bill. This is not explained in the Bill; we have to guess at what the regulations are and accept them. In the same Press release in September the Minister said:
With new methods and cheap land now held in stock by the defence service homes scheme the Corporation will hope to offer lower priced homes than are now available.
– There is some chance of that happening.
– The Government has not explained this in the Bill at all. All it has mentioned is that the defence service homes loan funds are to be transferred to the Corporation. These funds amounted to $986.6m at 30 June last, with total receipts last year standing at $ 1 .5m. It seems that it is the Government’s intention to use this money ultimately for persons other than ex-Service personnel. Once again, the Bill does not state this clearly but it was referred to in an earlier Press release of the Minister when he used the expression ‘rotating the funds’. The Minister is laughing; I do not know whether in agreement or not. On 10 December 1974 somebody leaked a similar story to the Press following a Cabinet discussion on the proposed housing corporation. Apparently the Minister had said:
At first the Corporation will concentrate on lending directly and indirectly to servicemen, ex-servicemen, and low and middle income families.
I ask the Parliament and the people: What right has the Government to use ex-servicemen’s housing funds for persons other than exservicemen? Equally, what right has the Government to use land already purchased for defence forces homes for other purposes? We believe the answer is: No right at all. The Minister’s Press release on 12 February 1975 was no more helpful than his second reading speech. He talked about ‘considering low repayment second mortgage loans ‘. I do not know whether it is possible to underline words in Hansard reports, but if it is I would like to underline the word ‘considering’. The Government is always considering. The Press release further stated:
The Government could provide second mortgages . . . these special second mortgages could have very low repayments in the earlier years.
The Minister asserted that the scheme would assist one in five Australian homebuyers, which is all great material for a Johnson Press release, but pure waffle when the positives are examined. The only positive statement by the Minister about this proposed corporation which is clearly honest is:
Specific schemes are not yet finalised.
With magnificent rhetoric he asks:
Why should the home renter be neglected?
We believe this is a fair question and ask the Government the same question because once the Government abandons the home savings grants scheme there will be absolutely no legislation to assist renters to become home owners. I dc not believe that this Government is sincere when it claims to support the principle of home ownership, and nothing in this Bill or any other Bill introduced in the last 2 years will do anything except assist those classes of persons favoured by the Government. Nowhere in this legislation is there an indication that the desirable social objective of home ownership is to be pursued.
– Government supporters do not believe in it.
-They say they do but in fact this Bill demonstrates that they do not. The Liberal and Country Parties do support the principle of home ownership for those who wish it and we believe it is the right of all Australians to be able to strive for, achieve and choose their own design and location in housing. The Government claims that this Bill will assist the lower income earner to purchase a modest home or other dwelling unit or to obtain adequate rented accommodation in cases where home ownership is not reasonably attainable or, in certain circumstances, not desirable’. What these words mean is that the Labor Government, like Big Brother, will tell the lower income earner, who is as yet undefined, that lie has no hope of obtaining a home, or that he is unsuitable to be housed in a home or that he is suitable to be housed only in rented premises. He will be put in the appropriate accommodation according to where the Government believes he or she should live.
Apparently the Government envisages the lower income group as- to quote from the Billthat large section of the community who are at present not catered for by the existing public housing authorities. The Bill does not explain just who comprise this section of the community, but under clause 6 of the Bill it would appear reasonable to regard that large section of the community as very nearly one-quarter of the Australian people. I ask the House: What can be more divisive, more damaging to the Australian people, than a centralist socialist bureaucracy dictating its own terms by the device of regulationdividing the community into various groups who may receive a housing loan at subsidised interest rates and other groups who may not?
– You would not help anyone.
-We will see about that. Our own record in the past gives the lie to that. The Government should bring down interest rates for everyone- that is the simple answer. It should give every Australian home-seeker a chance to service his debt. All that this Bill will do is to assist one section of the community at the expense of the other. The Government has done nothing to lower interest rates. With the longterm bond rate remaining at 9lh per cent Australia now has the highest interest rate on record. Labor promised low interest rates, lower priced houses and a socialist Utopia for city dwellers. Like so many other Labor election promises, these have been broken. The interest rate structure is cockeyed and unfair, and every measure that the Government takes only exacerbates the position- including this Bill.
Some Australians who can bridge the deposit gap can expect to be paying 5% per cent for their housing money; others up to 12 per cent- 14 per cent on first mortgage, and some over 20 per cent on a second mortgage. Every measure that the Government has adopted has further distorted the interest rate structure in this country and, given a continuance of its gross mismanagement of the economy, it seems likely to us that interest rates may creep even higher before the year is out. Is not that a reasonable suggestion?
An examination of the Bill itself shows that it seeks additional powers for the Commonwealth but does not indicate how these powers will assist the building industry or home seekers, except once again, those favoured by the Labor socialist Government. The Government has blamed the private housing sector for inflation and the current recession in the industry. This is clearly untrue. It is simply this Government’s mismanagement of the economy which has created inflation, unemployment, and the highest interest rates on record. This Bill will not reduce inflation, unemployment or interest rates overall.
The cost of building a modest home is escalating more rapidly than the average Australian’s wage. Last week figures issued by the Bureau of Statistics showed that the cost of building materials had increased more than 22 per cent for the period December 1973 to December 1974.’ In the past when this has happened the Minister has invariably issued an optimistic Press release which has conveniently overlooked this inexorable cost escalation, and has usually referred in cheerful terms to the slackening of the increase compared with the previous month. On this occasion the increase for the month of December was actually less than for the month of November, but the Minister has remained unusually silent. As long as this rate of costinflation in the building industry continues, combined with high interest rates, fewer Australians will be able to afford even a modest home, no matter what the Labor socialist Government says it will do.
The private sector builds more than 90 per cent of the houses in Australia. It does not matter how many building corporations the Government sets up, they can never take the place of the private building industry. The purpose of the Corporation is obscured under the guise of consolidating existing but incidental Commonwealth powers into one corporate identity. These authorities are extended far more widely to embrace housing for any purpose of Australia or authority of Australia, and in this respect the Bill seeks to assume, I submit the role of the private housing sector.
In Australia last year there was a shortfall of 38 000 houses which will certainly be repeated this year, and this, combined with the cessation of private investment in flats, will mean that it will take many years before most young Australians will be able to achieve home ownership- if ever. Implementation of this legislation will do nothing to alleviate unemployment in the building industry, as claimed by the Minister. At the end of January there were more than 14 000 on-site building workers registered as unemployed. For every on-site worker there are four in the building supply trades, which means that at the end of January 70 000 of the 31 1 000 unemployed in Australia were directly or indirectly connected with the building trade. It seems likely that these figures could increase to 100 000 when the February statistics are released shortly.
As further evidence of the Government’s intention to become a constructing authority, the Bill envisages that the Corporation will use existing resources of the Department of Housing and Construction; or, by arrangement, those of State government authorities, and the private sector. The words ‘existing’ and ‘arrangement’ in this context seem to signal that it is the Government ‘s intention to engage day labour which, as we have seen in South Australia, becomes grossly inefficient and wasteful of public funds. The Parliament House in South Australia is currently being repaired and renovated. The estimated cost was about $500,000. 1 believe that the cost has now risen to about $2m, as a result of the day labour process adopted by the South Australian Labor Government.
This legislation allows for a building and construction authority which can operate anywhere in Australia. Not only will it be competing with State housing authorities, it will also be competing with other development bodies, such as the Orange-Bathurst and Albury-Wodonga development authorities. Even within the Commonwealth, the Corporation will have the capacity to undertake building and construction work of its own volition provided it is not inconsistent with the National Capital Development Commission Act. We believe that this is contrary to all good planning principles, and is wasteful of resources. Even the Government’s own advisers on land tenure- the Else-Mitchell royal commissionstrongly recommended that the management and control of land use should be under the one authority. The establishment of this Corporation will only further fragment such controls.
Under section 29 of the Bill the Corporation can lend directly to a person for the building or purchase of a dwelling, or it can lend to an approved lender for lending to other persons. The Corporation would have the power to determine the terms, conditions, circumstances and classes of persons to whom such loans may be made. The Opposition believes that the use of this process may counter, to some extent, cyclical fluctuations in the supply of housing finance, but it hardly seems necessary to establish an entire new bureaucracy, which is a duplication of other housing authorities, when there is an existing financial structure established to distribute housing finance. We remind the Government that only just 3 or 4 months ago it injected $ 1 50m into the supply of housing finance via the savings banks. At that time we made the suggestion that at least some of that money should have gone through the permanent building societies, because very little of the money has helped the building industry.
Clause 53 of the Bill gives the Government virtual total power to make any regulations which are not inconsistent with this Act. In short, the Corporation using this power can lend to whom it wishes and on whatever terms it wishes, and can do all things except borrow money. Is that your interpretation of it, Mr Minister. I think it is. Clauses 49 and 10 are especially repugnant to the States which have been involved in the public housing business for many years. Under Clause 49 the Corporation is given power to compulsorily acquire any land for its own purpose, including land that is Crown land of a State. Under clause 10 the Corporation is only required to have regard to the responsibilities of other Commonwealth, State or local government or other interested bodies, and- this is the important part- to consult with them when appropriate. There is no requirement whatever upon the Corporation to act in agreement with those authorities.
The Opposition believes that there is no need for the establishment of yet another Draconian bureaucracy which, in spite of the Minister’s statements, can only be a competitor of the State housing commissions. It is an extravagant use of public funds which Australia simply cannot afford. Quite apart from the initial $25m and the Defence Service home loan funds, vast sums of public moneys will be required to finance the project around the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Just before the luncheon break I was making the point that the Opposition considers the setting up of the Australian Housing Corporation as a gross waste of public funds which the country cannot afford. Quite apart from the initial $25m and the defence services homes loan funds it will use, vast sums of public money will be required to finance the project around all the States and the Territories. The total funds employed by the combined housing commissions for the year ended 30 June were almost $2-5 billion. The housing commissions at that time employed staff of approximately 6 000 people altogether, and for the year ended 30 June 1973 they constructed approximately 12 500 dwelling units. That figure represents less than 10 per cent of housing completions in Australia. The proposed Corporation, which we are discussing today, could have only the same effect. The situation is unreal. The cost of building the 12 500 dwelling units a year or so ago was $135m. One wonders whether the money which will be advanced by the Treasury during the next 12 months will come from tax receipts to finance the Corporation. We make the point that this is not the way in which to cut back public spending. We wonder to what extent funds will be required for land acquisition. We make the point that a federal housing commission, which is really what the Corporation will be, could not achieve better results than the combined State housing commissions. If we lump them alltogether we find that the State housing commissions, and the Housing Trust in the case of South Australia, are currently using more than $2.5 billion in capital. We believe that that is an unreal situation. It is nonsense for the Government to claim that its Housing Corporation will complement the housing commissions. In our view, the Corporation will ultimately shrivel them out of existence.
I want to have recorded in Hansard a portion of the first page of the report of the Queensland Commissioner of Housing for the year ended 30 June 1974. It sets out the principal functions of the Commission and highlights this aspect of duplication. It is a document similar to the reports issued by all the other housing commissions and the South Australian Housing Trust. I have spoken to the Minister about having it incorporated in Hansard, and I seek leave to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The principal functions of the Commission subject to the Minister, are to-
The Commissioner attends the Housing and Building Societies Advisory Committee to maintain close contact with the Society movements and promote co-operation between the several means of housing assistance which come under the administration of the Minister for Works and Housing.
The Commissioner is a member of the Environmental Control Committee.
-The Opposition submits that there is nothing that the proposed Corporation can do more effectively or more cheaply than can the State instrumentalities, most of which operate in a manner similar to the Queensland Housing Commission. We find that we have the total support- including the implicit support of the Labor States- of the Housing Ministers in the States. I would like to quote briefly from some of the letters I have received from the State Ministers setting out their attitudes towards the proposed Corporation. By doing so I will not be breaching a confidence. I shall be quoting extracts from letters from which it is perfectly proper for me to quote. The Minister for Housing in New South Wales said:
Apart from the constitutional aspect. . . . there was no justification whatsoever for the proposed Corporation as there already existed in every State competent administrative structures, adequately controlled by State legislation to achieve everything that Mr Johnson had in mind for his new brainchild. The result could only be costly duplication of administration and confusion in the minds of home seekers. If Mr Johnson wants more flexibility in handling the housing problem then all he needs to do is remove some of the shackles he has already placed upon the States and meet our well documented claims for additional finance for low and moderate income earners. This in turn would also provide the necessary stimulus to a sorely tried building industry.
In his letter the Queensland Minister for Works and Housing said:
The Commonwealth Housing Corporation should be prevented by law from duplicating functions which are, or could be, provided through State housing authorities and should be bound in law to conform to laws and by-laws applicable to dwelling construction in a State.
The Queensland Treasurer had this to say about the proposed Australian Housing Corporation: . . it is another example of Commonwealth power grabbing to strengthen the control of the central Government over the everyday lives of the citizen. There could be no other logic for the Commonwealth’s intrusion into what was previously a field of State activity, which the States are operating quite efficiently with the moneys made available to them.
The Minister for Housing in the Western Australian Parliament had this to say about the Housing Corporation:
In my view it is clearly an attempt to usurp the responsibility previously vested in State Housing Authorities and, quite naturally, our State in particular is most concerned at the provisions for compulsory acquisition. You will be aware, of course, that the State Housing Act of Western Australia makes no provision for the compulsory acquisition of land for housing purposes.
The Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania had a great deal to say about the Corporation, but the time at my disposal will prevent me from quoting him extensively. He said:
It is felt that this Bill should be opposed because of the dangers it will pose to the States and home seekers if this Commonwealth Government is able to establish such a body.
The Minister for Housing in Victoria also had a great deal to say about it. In fact, I have quoted him in this place in the past. Portion of his letter to me dated 3 1 January, referrring to the Housing Corporation, states:
I can only say that I would condemn it out of hand. The establishment of an Australian Housing Corporation does mean that with this machinery they could become the major housing and constructing authority throughout Australia and most certainly freeze the States out completely.
So the Opposition has the almost universal support of the States in opposing this legislation. In the few moments left to me I would like to refer to a situation which could occur in South Australia. I have read the transcripts of the various meetings between the Commonwealth Minister and the State Ministers, and I do not think it is any secret that all of the States are concerned about this legislation, including the Labor States. I have heard no comment from the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, but I have heard a brief comment from the Housing Minister in that State expressing his support for the establishment of the Corporation, which is quite to be expected, I suppose, as it is socialist legislation.
I would like to pose to the Minister a situation which could come about, I believe, at Monarto in South Australia, which is a proposed growth development. I make the point that because of the clauses which provide for compulsory acquisition of land, even Crown land owned by the State, the effect they could have on the proposed Monarto development is most significant. The Labor Government controlled Corporation would have the power to acquire land anywhere in a State, including Monarto, and to build houses for sale or for rental as it pleases. In addition, it would have the power to determine the class of person’- the words consistently used in the Bill- to live in these houses. They could include, according to the Bill, ex-servicemen, migrants, Aborigines, Commonwealth public servants, contractors working for the Federal Government and persons in receipt of a Commonwealth pension; that is, aged persons, widows, deserted wives, supporting mothers, and so on. I believe that behind the facade of pious ideals the motives and the opportunity to exercise totalitarian-style powers by the Corporation is absolutely unlimited. Thousands of Australians, including South Australians, very few of whom want to go to Monarto, could be placed there, irrespective of their individual wishes.
– That is nonsense.
– The Minister interrupts and says: ‘That is nonsense’. I believe that it is a very likely result. It is another example of the gradual erosion by the Government of the individual liberties and freedoms of choice which we enjoy. The Liberal and Country parties are opposed to the legislation. Furthermore, we believe that no more money should be spent at Monarto which is a most unsuitable growth centre. It is one area in which the Government can easily cut back its expenditure. On behalf of the Opposition, I say that we will be opposing this legislation.
-We have heard another of those speeches from the Opposition’s spokesman on housing affairs, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), which are full of slogans and meaningless propaganda. He is an expert at the technique of putting forward matters of public importance about the plight of the housing industry, and as soon as the Government introduces a measure to assist the industry all he can do is oppose it. There was not a single constructive suggestion in the whole boring 30 minutes of his speech. He is so good at opposing that I hope he enjoys the very many more years that he will spend on that side of the House.
However, we are dealing with a Bill to set up the Australian Housing Corporation. Everybody accepts and recognises the fact that shelter is a fundamental need of mankind and that it is quite proper for governments to have a role and a responsibility in providing that shelter for people, particularly for those people on whom the provision of shelter imposes an excessive and unreasonable burden. The provision of this need by governments has been complicated in Australia by considerations of so-called free choice and socalled private ownership. These are the 2 issues which have continued to hold back government participation in this field and government attempts to solve the problems.
Because owning one’s own house has become fundamental to the realisation of every Australian’s dream, any rational debate has succumbed to the use of emotional slogans mainly by the vested interests who have for so long used the cry of home ownership as their plaything. Considerations of rational planning and innovative and cost cutting building techniques have always played second fiddle to the interests of the developers, the builders and local government authorities who in so many cases play an important role in the housing field. The whole question of the provision of shelter cannot be separated in these circumstances from the mechanics of the market place where the prospective customers are not only captive but also vulnerable. Because private enterprise plays such an important role in the provision of housing, the vagaries of the market place tend to influence the prospects of people who are seeking housing.
In saying this I do not want to give the impression that I am opposed to private home ownership. I think it is quite a legitimate and understandable ambition for people who live in this sort of competitive society which until recently has provided very inadequately for their security. It is very understandable that they should seek to own their own houses and to make sure that there is some security, at least of having a roof over their heads. However, we should avoidbeing blinded by this obsession with private ownership. We should not be blinded to the considerations of better housing in better environments. Quite clearly there are many situations in which the goal of private home ownership is inappropriate. For instance, for those people who need to move from place to place in order to maintain a job owning their own home is an imposition. What is needed for these sorts of people is some easy rental situation so that they can move easily from one place to another. (Quorum formed)
We have just seen another of the inane contributions of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) who called for a quorum. I noticed the Deputy Opposition Whip standing outside the door preventing Liberal and Country Party members from entering the House. I thank the Australian Labor Party members for coming in and providing an audience. I was saying that it is not appropriate in all situations for us to be obsessed with the ideas of private home ownership. The changing needs of people throughout their lives are not necessarily served by owning their homes. They start as a couple, have a family and then gradually withdraw to the position again of one or two people living in the house. It is not appropriate to have the same sized house with the same sort of facilities for the whole of their lifetime. When we consider that these days in order to obtain one’s own house one has to obtain finance over a very long period, it is particularly relevant that we should be considering other forms of housing besides simply home ownership. It seems to me that too many people are chained by long term commitments for housing which may or may not be appropriate to their changing needs.
One of the important factors influencing private ownership is the recognition that prices of housing and prices of land are increasing interminably. It is only sensible that if people are to buy houses and land it is better to do so now than later because less money is involved. However the increase in land prices particularly has Utile to do with this Government and is largely beyond its jurisdiction. So this Government cannot be blamed for the problems of increasing land prices. Similarly the increase in building costs is largely a problem of the private sector. It is a problem of excess demand outstripping the supply of building materials and building labour. This process is not influenced by this Government. It is much more influenced by the capital market in this country, over which this Government until recently has had very little control.
Even if one wants to emphasise private home ownership beyond all else, it is vitally important for those on small incomes to be assisted financially by governments in a more successful way than has been the case in the past. It is also important for governments to take a role in influencing the variables which determine the cost of housing. If one thinks that the attempts in the past have been satisfactory or successful one needs only to look at the long lists of people waiting for housing commission houses in the States, or at some of the more dismal attempts by those authorities to provide housing for these people, to realise that there is a great deal of room for improvement. Everybody knows that this Government has already done a lot to assist home ownership and housing in all fields. It recently introduced a scheme of tax deductibility for mortgage repayments. It has increased very largely the finance available through the home builders’ account and through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. As well it has tried to assist in the stabilisation of land prices by helping the States to establish Lands Commissions. Now it is proposed to go further with this legislation and provide machinery through which assistance, such as low interest rate loans and second mortgage loans, can be provided to bridge the deposit gap. This sort of assistance is required because of the inevitability that interest rates will always be too high to allow all people to build their own homes. Yet it is not in the best interests of the economy simply to gear interest rates to the needs of the housing industry. Governments must always adjust interest rates to cope with the circumstances of the economy as a whole. Inevitably this will, on occasions, mitigate against the best interests of home seekers.
The solution, therefore, is to provide flexible arrangements so that when high interest rates do disadvantage home purchasers assistance can be given to those most in need. It is only those who believe in the funny money theories who can possibly believe that a low interest rate structure can exist at a time of high inflation. Low interest rates at this time, in the absence of impossibly restrictive controls, would only fuel inflation and hence take the cost of homes further beyond the reach of the average Australian. What is needed is flexible assistance for those who need it. However, more significantly, what is needed is a new approach to the whole problem. One cannot expect governments continually to underwrite the building industry when that industry suffers so much from the vagaries of the free enterprise system. If we are going to have the aim of providing one house for every Australian family it has to be a public undertaking over which the Government has significant control. In such a situation the Government would have to have regard for a range of matters as well as home finance. It must have some role in the supply and demand management of the whole industry. It must have a role in land development. It must have a role in encouraging new building techniques and new building designs. It also must work towards new forms of tenure.
Of course, as soon as one mentions this sort of action we hear cries from the conservatives of rigid stultification and boring monotony in house designs. But clearly this does not have to be the case. Already there is a colossal sameness amongst the houses which are being built. This is clearly due to a lack of imagination outside fairly rigid constraints. Ironically, it is the existing system of home purchasing which has stifled adventure and imagination in the provision of new homes. It is very much more difficult to get finance for a non-standard design. It is very much more difficult to get building approval for a non-standard design of house. Even if one does manage to get the finance and the building approval, it is likely that the builder will load the price of the house simply because it is not standard and because he may not have experienced some of the problems involved in building it. One cannot pretend, as the Opposition always pretends, that free choice exists in any real sense for any but the most wealthy who can afford to take what many see as a risk in straying beyond the usual building conventions.
What is required is a mix between standard components and flexible design. Surely it is not beyond the wit of a highly advanced society such as ours to incorporate these 2 aspects. It is intended, indeed, that this Housing Corporation when it becomes a reality will encourage this. It will make finance available for those people who are interersted in exploring new designs and it will not put a bar on those people who want to build non-standard houses. Far from being a stultifying influence, it will be a new force for diversification and at the same time, efficiency.
I want briefly to turn to another question which is covered by this Bill and that is the question of student housing, particularly as it affects tertiary and technical students. The Bill provides for the Corporation to provide housing for students as one of those groups of people who fall within the responsibility of the Australian Government. I would hope that such assistance would be made available and could be used to solve a growing problem. Housing of students has, for a very long time, been considered a luxury and an adjunct to the educational process. This is largely a hangover from the days of those universities which had colleges and halls of residences as an extension of the educational process.
The situation has long since changed. Not only are more people from a wider cross-section of the community undertaking educational courses, inevitably involving people who are not able to afford the fees of colleges and halls of residence but there has also been an increasing specialisation in education which has required that people wanting to undertake courses have had to move to institutions away from their normal place of residence. Education is seen as a key to social mobility. This means that often the direction in which a student might be going might be quite different from the pattern and life style of his own home and his own family. This may mean in the interests of his education and development that he moves out of the family home and finds his own accommodation. As well as this, more people return to education later on in life and are, therefore, in need of the sort of student accommodation which previously has not had to be provided. Increasingly, it is inappropriate for student housing to be handled by those bodies which are essentially concerned with educational funding. As I have said, it has become much less an aspect of the educational process and much more a question of providing housing for a group of people which, from time to time, finds itself in need.
It may be argued on this basis that students are less needy or have a lower priority than many other people in the community such as the aged and the low income earners. However, it is worth noting in this context that the allowance which is paid to students is, at the maximum, about the same level as many social security benefits. Yet students are excluded from assistance from the State housing authorities. Whereas they have the same income as many social service beneficiaries, they do not have the parallel assistance available to them from housing authorities. It can be shown that in these days of free- or at least fee-less- education there are many people who are prevented from undertaking education simply because of the financial problems of trying to provide housing for themselves or in some cases their families. If that is the case, if there are still financial impositions on people entering education, then it is, indeed, a failure to meet one of the ambitions which we would all like to see achieved. I know that this is one matter the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has under consideration. I would urge him very strongly to take this matter very seriously in the hope that we can see a new deal for an increasing range of students who at present are disadvantaged.
-Under the guise of proposing some low rental housing and a system of easy, long term, low interest finance on a second mortgage basis, this Government has introduced a Bill which is a blueprintshould I perhaps say a redprint- for what is the ultimate plan to nationalise the building industry. The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) made a very interesting comment in his speech. He mentioned that there should not be any provision today in the current financial situation to introduce low interest rates on borrowings. Yet in his second reading speech the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) indicated that one of the aims of the Bill is to provide a stop-gap on second mortgages at low interest rates. Perhaps they did not read each other’s speech.
The building industry has always been one of the major pillars of industry in this country. In fact, it is one of the major pillars of industry throughout the world. It is quite obvious to me, after reading through various clauses in this Bill, that it has been designed to effect this basic plan, as I said earlier, of the nationalisation of the building industry. It is a plan to allow the Government to build houses, to purchase land, to buy and sell properties or to lease properties. The whole scheme is designed very nicely on the basis of a soft touch first but the hard crunch to come later on.
We will hear the protestations from the Minister later saying that this is not true. We will hear honourable members from the socialist side telling us that they do not do these things. We have had the experience during the last 2 years of seeing introduced into this House many Bills that have sugar coated clauses but when we look at them we find that underneath is the hard crunch for the long term socialisation of this country. It behoves this side of the House to take every possible step to stop this happening, and we will certainly try to do that. The Government surely is not going to deny its own philosophy and the basic concept of its platform in saying it is not planning to nationalise industry because its intentions are there for everyone to see.
The Bill really introduces nothing that cannot already be achieved under the existing statutes or under the existing provisions for building and 1 finance in this country. We have State government housing commissions; we have the private industry section, and we have various means of providing finance should it be necessary. The Bill suggests the provision of long term low interest loans to offset the second mortgage situation. It should not be necessary for a corporation to be formed to create an extra bureaucracy just to achieve this purpose. Surely the machinery is already there. The Government merely has to increase the amount of money to the States and to the various financial institutions and stipulate, as it is so willing to do in other areas, that this money is to be provided for a specific purpose. The machinery is already there.
– It has not worked so far.
– The Government has not provided the money so far. I thank the honourable member for his interjection. The Government has not provided the money for second mortgage finance at this stage. I believe that such funding can be achieved by the existing machinery.
Secondly, it is fundamentally wrong to put this extra noose around the necks of young people who want to buy a home by providing them with a second mortgage. Why not provide them with the facility through co-operative housing societies and permanent building societies and by increasing the amount allocated to State governments. Why does not the Government extend the repayment period to the co-operative housing societies and the housing commissions from 30 years to 40 years? Why does it not increase the amount of the loan? What difference will it make to a person whether he pays his home off over 30 years or 40 years? Home buyers will be advantaged by paying only one amount of money each week instead of worrying about the build-up of the interest rate. It is all right to say that there will be a low interest factor on the second mortgage, but the crunch really comes when one realises that it will be adjusted later and the differential on the low interest rate will no doubt be carried forward so that after about 10 years of solid paying on a home loan a person will find that he has not paid lc off off his second mortgage. In fact he will find that he will eventually have to pay a startling amount and this will be an added noose around his neck. The Government should take a serious look at this matter. Personally I would rather see an extension of the existing loan limits and an extension of the time that people are allowed to repay the loan.
The legislation provides for a second mortgage of up to $5,000. As I have mentioned, the State housing commissions and the permanent building societies are already in this field. A second mortgage really is of no help to young people. It will only be an added deterrent to their entering into a contract to purchase a home. Bearing in mind the Minister’s previous attitude which he disclosed early in his career, this might be exactly what he wants. He does not want home ownership; he wants home leasing. There is no doubt about that. I will clarify shortly what I have just said. The Government is trying to intrude a third body into the building arena. We already have the State government organisations and the private sector. Why is there any need to set up a further bureaucracy which will be an added cost on an already overloaded public service sector?
To cap it all the Minister and his Department in typical form and despite the fact that there are 300 000 people unemployed in this country, many of whom are highly qualified and looking for work, have advertised, in the United States of America for 2 experts to be employed by the Department of Housing and Construction at $2 1,000 a year. To me this is an utter scandal and a disgrace. It is typical of the actions of this Government. We are to import people to do work which could obviously and quite capably be carried out by people in our own country. It is more particularly a disgrace when we bear in mind our present unemployment level. The people unemployed are not all unqualified. Many are qualified people who have left universities and who cannot get jobs. I am sure that the people with qualifications could adequately measure up to the requirements or, if not, after a short period of training could easily take over the posts that were advertised. But no, we have to advertise overseas. This is the sort of thing that the Minister is capable of doing.
I repeat to the Minister a statement I made to him when I spoke on the subject of housing last year. On that occasion I said that he and many other people connected with the housing industry appeared to overlook the fact that houses will not be built by money alone. One can pour as much money as one likes into circulation, but one has to provide materials and labour. The labour situation at the moment is desperately in need of a long term plan for the training of apprentices. I know that the Minister will say that the Government has already taken action in this field. I acknowledge that. I believe this is an area in which the Government could expend some of its resources and abilities to generate home building rather than just push money out into the area. Certainly it should not try to start building homes.
Why does not the Government take action to provide interest at a lower rate? The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) says it is a funny money system to talk about providing low interest rates at the present time. The Minister is prepared to do it on a second mortgage. Why not provide home owners generally with the total amount required on the one loan term and give them the opportunity to really own their own homes? Secondly, why does he not take action to assist in providing building labour in this field? Most importantly, why does he not beseech his trade union backers to stop taking militant action against building contractors and against jobs, and to stop strikes and let people in the industry get on with the job so that houses can be built and the backlog can be reduced. If this were done houses could be built at minimum cost. This is something which is not being experienced at present. There is no doubt that the more strikes we have the higher will be the ultimate cost of houses.
The Government in clause 8 of the Bill sets out clearly its plans to become a national builder. The Bill states that the Corporation will have the power:
It then goes on to paragraph (j ) which states: to do anything incidental to any of its powers.
In clause 6 of the Bill the Government reiterates:
So the Minister is definitely inclined to want to start building houses. The actions of this Governmentthis is in conjunction with the Minister’s portfolio- are quite despicable in many ways, particularly in view of the hiring of overseas employment when we have plenty here. Further, the Department has produced a brochure entitled ‘Housing under Labor’. This brochure is nothing but a blatant use of public funds for promoting the Labor Party and deriding the Opposition. If the brochure had not set out to deride the Opposition it might have been of some benefit. But it does not delude anyone. The Government is using the media today, using so much of the taxpayers money, to publish its various advertisements and to promote its socialist objectives rather than to talk about the various areas in which it is supposed to be operating. I wonder whether there will be an advertisement on how to get rid of a Speaker because that would be one publication that the people would be delighted to see.
Clause 6 of the Bill which refers to the granting of money states in Sub-clause (2) (d): to provide, or ensure, the provision of, facilities and services for persons in dwellings with which the Corporation is concerned; and
Paragraph (e) states: such functions as are conferred on the Corporation by any Act.
The Master Builders Federation has had a look at this matter and has stated quite clearly in its report that in the absence of more precise definition the functions are without limit in regard to construction or development activities while there is a dragnet provision for catching any other legislation in operation or to be enacted. In other words, it is a complete set-up to take full advantage of nationalising the industry if and when the Government feels it has control of both Houses.
I remind the Minister that in 1973 as the new Minister for Housing he introduced 2 measures concerning State housing in which he tried to dictate to the State governments by saying that they would not be allowed to sell any of the new homes that were being built but that they could sell some of their old stock. He also tried to limit the amount that the States would be allowed to spend out of the federal grant to a very restricted amount on homes built for sale. His view was that all the money should have been used to build houses for rent. He came up with the nice argument that there was a big need for rental housing. He was also aware and I hope that he is more aware of the need to construct houses which the people of this country could buy because the people of this country prefer to own houses than to rent them if it is at all possible. The Minister showed his complete lack of knowledge of the building trade, and this was understandable because he was new to the field, when he offered $6m late in 1973 to build 1500 homes, but even in 1973 to suggest that a house could be built for $4,000 was stretching anybody’s imagination except perhaps that of the poor Minister for Housing. No doubt he has learned by reading advertisements in the newspapers and probably somebody has told him that in fact houses even at that time cost $10,000, $12,000 and $14,000, without the land. It is hoped that now when he starts talking about the cost of housing he has elevated his sights somewhat.
The Minister wants the people of Australia not to own their own homes but to lease them. It is all part of his long term plan. He backed off in 1973 under pressure from various State Ministers and from this House. He backed off from trying to set a pattern for total rental housing and he has now introduced this Bill which will set the basis for his long term plan. We on this side of the House will take every possible step to oppose any action by this Government which sets out to nationalise the industries of this country.
-From what we have heard from Opposition speakers so far in this debate it is not surprising to find that the Opposition still has no policy on housing. For almost a quarter of a century while the Opposition parties were in office they failed dismally to overcome the problems of housing in this nation. Never at any time did they reach a situation in which they were able to house Australian people at an economic purchase or rental price. This Government is to be complimented for the bold steps it has taken in the short time that it has been in office. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has done a fine job in moving ahead with the implementation of the Labor policy on housing. Surely it is very difficult for Opposition parties to be critical of policy in anything but a most illogical fashion when they themselves found over the long period of time in which they were in office that they could not solve the housing problems of this nation. We heard the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bouchier) talking today again, as honourable members opposite always do, about the fear and threat to the Australian people of nationalisation of the housing industry. What a ridiculous claim that is. Although the honourable member has been in this House for only a short time, had he been involved in political affairs in this nation for a long time he would know that that sort of thing cannot be accomplished in Australia. It could not be accomplished even if it were the wish of this Government to do so.
We heard the Opposition spokesman on housing, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), cite examples of how this legislation poses a threat for the various State housing authorities. The Minister made the position very clear in his second reading speech but it is not surprising that the honourable member did not bother to listen or even to read it before he got to his feet. The Minister said:
Elsewhere I have said that the new Corporation is intended not to duplicate or supplant, but to complement State housing authorities. Our Government sees the work of those authorities as of cardinal importance in the creation of good living conditions for the lowest income strata of the population.
It is a pity that something cannot be done about some of the State housing authorities. It is a pity, particularly as far as the housing authority that operates in my State of Queensland is concerned, that something cannot be done by this Government to set housing authorities on the path that they have failed to tread. In the whole of the time that the Queensland Housing Commission has operated under Liberal, Country Party, CountryNational Party or whatever governments held office in Queensland, it is my considered opinion that it has failed dismally to do the job that it should be doing in that State.
-Oh, be fair.
– An interjection from the honourable member for Darling Downs suggests that that is not so. Let him deny that as far as the people in Queensland who are seeking rental accommodation from the Housing Commission are concerned, their situation is absolutely hopeless. The lies that have to be told by people and the collusion that is forced on people before they are even considered, before they are even placed on the list of that Commission for consideration to receive low cost rental accommodation, has to be seen to be believed. The Queensland Housing Commission, might I say, is the most inept organisation that I know of operating under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It has failed dismally to provide attractive homes for rental or for sale to the people in that State. The most unimaginative architectural designs that I have ever seen throughout this country exist in Queensland. If through this legislation or by some other means the Minister for Housing and Construction can do something to smarten up the operations of the Queensland Housing Commission he will do a service not only to the people of Queensland but also to the people of the whole of Australia. I implore him to do whatever is possible to straighten out that Commission to show it the error of its ways and to prove to it that unless it starts to adopt a more modern approach than it has in the past it will never fulfil the role that is should be fulfilling under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. Whether it be the provision of rental accommodation, homes for low income families or pensioner units, whatever aspect of the implementation of that Agreement that one looks at, the most inept administration in the Queensland Housing Commission stands out clearly in my mind. Surely it is an organisation that could well do with a bit of an example being set by this Government towards overcoming the housing needs of the people of Queensland, but that is not what this legislation is intended to do.
I have heard again around some of the Returned Services League Clubs in Brisbane the story of the fear that is injected into the minds of people about how this legislation spells doom for the defence service homes organisation, suggesting to ex-servicemen that the Labor Government is not really interested in giving them homes under the favourable conditions which had been available in the past and that this, as has been described, is the thin end of the wedge as far as ex-servicemen are concerned; that before long defence service homes, as ex-servicemen know them today, will no longer exist. That, of course, cannot be further from the truth. The fact is that the defence service homes scheme has expanded under this Government. Provisions which have been incorporated in legislation since this Government has been in office have resulted in the taking of some bold steps that were never attempted by the last government.
– Changed the whole philosophy.
– We have changed the whole philosophy and righly so because we have enabled people who were previously discriminated against, men and women who have served their country well, to come within the provisions of the defence service homes scheme. We have lifted expenditure on defence service homes from about $70m when we came into office to approximately $ 1 30m at the present time. This is a clear example of where the interest of this Governmernt lies in providing facilities for retirement to those who have given service to their country whether overseas in a theatre of war or in this country.
Perhaps it is more appropriate for me at this stage, rather than to illustrate to the House just how much off the beam Opposition members are in their criticism of this legislation and how illogical that criticism of it is, to concentrate on and mention some aspects of the legislation through which worthwhile programs could be undertaken for the benefit of the people of Australia who for so long were neglected by the previous Governmernt when it was in office. In his second reading speech in introducing this Bill, the Minister for Housing and Construction referred to the fact that the Australian Housing Corporation would primarily be a lending institution. He also said that the Corporation would seek particularly to assist the low income earner and that its operations would not clash with those of the State housing authorities. I have already illustrated that point. But given these parameters, there is a number of areas where the Corporation could usefully become engaged.
Firstly, it could provide finance both directly and indirectly to those people who are not properly serviced by the present financial system. In particular, it could assist the group of people whose incomes are such that they do not qualify for a loan from terminating building societies financed from home builders account money but who also are unable to afford a loan from a savings bank or a permanent building society. The Australian Housing Corporation could channel funds into terminating building societies which in turn could lend to individuals above the present cut-off limit at rates of interest above those presently charged by the terminating societies. Such action would not duplicate Australian Government welfare housing assistance which is presently provided under the housing agreement with the States. However, it would be a quick efficient means of helping the group referred to.
Alternatively, the Australian Housing Corporation could lend directly to this group of people. It could process applications for finance, advance the money, and control the repayments. By lending directly, the problems of using a financial intermediary would vanish and assistance could be provided in those areas where the need is deemed to be greatest. Another area in which the Australian Housing Corporation could make its presence felt is the provision of second mortgage finance. Today, unfortunately, second mortgages, have become a fact of life. Few people embark upon the purchase of a home without finding the need to involve themselves in securing a second mortgage. It has been estimated that approximately one out of every 5 people who take a first mortgage today also require a second mortgage.
Finance companies have been the major providers of second mortgage finance. Many are now in the position where they will not make new loans for some months hence. Besides, the interest rates that they have been charging are prohibitive and most burdensome to the young people who are in need of them. Therefore, the lending of second mortgage finance to help overcome the deposit gap, or lending to assist in the purchase of land, is probably one of the most useful things that the Australian Housing Corporation will be able to accomplish.
The AHC could also be used to assist in hardship cases. I know that it will be. The direction of assistance towards people who on current incomes find that the sums that they are earning are insufficient to allow them to meet purchase instalments is well justified by the large amount of hardship which is now suffered by home buyers whose interest burden has been increased at a time when their incomes may have fallen, such as during the high level of unemployment that exists today.
The mortgage interest tax deductibility arrangements are relatively of little benefit in the very low income cases. It is as well to note at this stage- this has been brought to my attentionthat probably a great many people who could be taking advantage of this provision are not doing so. It is probably appropriate that rather than criticise the efforts which have been made by this Government- such criticisms have come from the honourable member for Bendigo who criticised the brochure which has been put out by the Department of Housing and Construction- it should be applauded for the efforts which have been made by this Government to let the people of Australia know what is being done for them by the important innovations which have been introduced by this Government to make a great deal less burdensome than it has been in the past the obtaining of a home and paying for it.
I understand that the forms by which the mortgage interest tax deductibility can be claimed are readily available at post offices. I would urge any young people who must meet the commitment of paying off a home today and who come within the income category specified for eligibility for that tax deductibility to obtain a form, fill it in, and make a claim to ensure that they take advantage of this real benefit that is available to them, as a result of the legislation that was passed earlier by this House.
The Australian Housing Corporation could also become involved in the provisions or rental housing for families. Let me refer briefly to the problem facing many people in Queensland today. Perhaps honourable members are not aware that in Queensland, under the guidelines laid down by the Queensland Housing Commission, it does not matter how high is the rent a person is paying for a home, it does not matter how inadequate the accommodation is, provided a person has a roof over his or her head the Queensland Housing Commission will not even consider that person’s need for State rental accommodation from Queensland Housing Commission sources.
It is necessary for people to arrange eviction orders, to arrange for their landlords to take them to court, and to go through all the traumas of a court appearance or hearing. People must wait out the time during the period when they find that they are unable to meet their rent commitments before the Housing Commission will consider them eligible for listing on its priority schedule. Of course, many people during this time find that it is impossible to meet their loan commitments. But woe betide them if they fail in one repayment as this gives the Queensland
Housing Commission the letout, that is. the opportunity to turn to such people and say: ‘Well, you have not been a good tenant. You have not been paying for the accommodation which you have at the moment. How could we consider you as the type of tenant that we would like to put into the rental accommodation for which you have applied from our sources?’ The fact of the matter is that the Queensland Housing Commission has failed to meet the needs of these people. I am very pleased to say that this is one avenue in which the Australian Government may possibly be able to assist through the Australian Housing Corporation.
There is an acute shortage of rental accommodation throughout almost every town and city in Australia. The responsibility of overcoming this shortage, through the resources of the Australian Government, is one that I know the Minister will be only too eager to assist in. The Australian Housing Corporation, in partnership with private enterprise, will do much to alleviate the problems that exist today in providing housing for Australian families. The Australian Housing Corporation could build dwellings for people in disadvantaged groups. I instance migrants in Australia.
It has become apparent in recent times through surveys which have been conducted by this Government that the migrants of Australia have been discriminated against by the providers of houses in most Australian States. Many migrant families find themselves unable to obtain accommodation within the price range that they can afford when they first come to this country. A great service could result from the provision of units for these groups of migrants and other disadvantaged groups within the Australian community. This could be done through the provisions of this legislation. Obviously its ability to perform in the areas that I have outlined will be dependent upon the appropriations that are made available to to it at Budget time. But it would be unrealistic to expect that it will overnight overcome all the problems that present themselves. Certainly in the initial stages it will make serious inroads into the problems that exist and have existed for many years- long before this Government came into office.
I compliment the Minister on introducing this important, forthright and forward-thinking legislation. I am confident that the good officers who are currently operating in various sections of the Department of Housing and Construction- I know some of them associated with the defence service homes in Queensland- will be involved in the implementation of many of these important policy aspects under the new Corporation once this legislation is passed. I have the utmost confidence in the ability of these officers to start to do something to really overcome the problems confronting people today in the provision of housing in Australia. The examples that I have cited demonstrate, I am sure, quite adequately the role that the Corporation will play- a very vital role- in solving the problem of housing the Australian population. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
– I support the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) in his opposition to the principles contained in this Bill. In a spirit of generosity one can say that the legislation we are now considering is one of the very few Budget proposals that have not been emasculated. One must, therefore, be somewhat congratulatory to the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) for not being the ‘flotsam and jetsam’ of the interwing faction fights of his party. There has been wave after wave of change in the Budget proposals. There has been constant shifting of direction. Policies have been duffed. But this one has remained a cleanskin
Housing is a most important aspect of living in the modern era. There is no accurate way of measuring the socio-economic and psychological effects that inadequate housing has on people and families. Too often in the past emphasis has been given to ‘house’ people rather than to ‘create a home environment’. One must condemn, and condemn in the strongest possible terms, the concrete jungles that are proliferated in certain of our cities. They are blueprints for social degradation and this type of housing cannot, and must not, be tolerated. Too often the easy way has been taken and these mortal mistakes must not be repeated.
One must express some amazement at the second reading speech of the Minister in this House and of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) in another place. The comparison is rather notable and it is quite clear that there is a different emphasis as between the two. The Senator’s speech goes to some length to make it clear that there is no intention to duplicate or take over the responsibilities of the various State housing authorities. But the Minister for Housing and Construction in his speech just made a fleeting comment on this matter and the general thread running through his speech was one of cutting criticism that Federal power in this field is fragmented and that he wants control. It is a spurious argument, therefore, to advance the case that the new statutory authority will not interfere with but will complement existing State authorities because the whole impulse of Australian Labor Party thinking since December 1972 has been control and aboslute control. We will not be fooled by underhand sleight of hand tricks.
The argument that the whole proposal is unconstitutional can be advanced. But that is a matter for the courts and we need not tarry on this detail. I want to sound a note of caution on the implications of clause 6 (3) (c). A government dedicated to avowed centralism could argue that housing could be provided to anyone as a form of family allowances and the result of this interpretation of section 51 (xxiiiA.) of the Constitution could shatter the very base of the States’ rights. It is to be hoped that what is really meant is that the operation is limited to some cash benefit associated with, and part of, family life.
Similarly, from sub-clause (d) of the same clause it would seem that any Commonwealth employee would be entitled by virtue of his employment to be granted money for the purpose of housing. Post Office officials could expect the Commonwealth to enlarge its activities in this field and take over some of the capacity of State housing authorities. The words of the Minister, therefore, come under some scrutiny when he says there will be no decrease in the activities of the State housing authorities. It would appear to be the natural corollary if this Bill becomes law that Commonwealth activity would increase and State activity decrease. We are not happy about this and are firmly opposed to it.
It is accepted that the Commonwealth has power to provide finance pursuant to or incidental to any matter which has been bestowed upon it by the Constitution. The Commonwealth in the area of housing has to rely upon the provision of housing being incidental to its power to make laws with respect to: Family allowances; the Aboriginal people of Australia; immigrants, and Commonwealth employment. It has no power under the Constitution to make specific laws dealing with housing. This, of course, presumes we have left aside Territories and defence aspects. The only way finance can be made available is under section 96 of the Constitution, which allows money to be made available to the States to be applied on such conditions as the Commonwealth attaches to the grant.
Our natural instincts would lead us to believe that a statutory body- the baby of the Minister for Housing and Construction- would impinge on the areas of responsibilities of the State authorities and when the showdown came the Commonwealth could be expected to favour its own creation. The States have made great progress in satisfying the housing needs of the Australian people. But more needs to be done. There is no need for this self-perpetuating octopus of centralised control to be launched when there is a machine adequately handling the position. The States can, and have, efFectively and efficiently administered their responsibilities under the housing Acts. I submit that exactly the same objective could be achieved by making grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution, as is the practice now in relation to the provision of housing generally.
Clause 10 of the Bill cannot be accepted with outward calm and without questioning. The Corporation shall only have to consult other bodies. With the established practice of Commonwealth precedence where there is conflict, it is abundantly clear that the statutory authority will exercise an iron clad fist of direction when its standards of construction, safety precautions, etc., differ from those of State laws and local authority by-laws even though its standards may be inferior to the latter two.
It is with no Mecca of suspicion that we approach this debate but there is a compelling thought that the scheme is one for swallowing the small by the large. There will be, if the principle of this Bill is agreed to, a progressive enfeeblement of States’ administration. The Minister may have a tinge of surprise that we are placing this interpretation on his Bill but if the members of the Government had proved over the last 2 years that they were both consistent and honest in their activities- we saw in this House this morning how consistent and honest they are- we would take them at their word and would not adopt such an intransigent attitude. But it is up to them by example to remove their own stigma; otherwise they will retireignominously into a dismal little word of Opposition. In this debate the Opposition is pouring in constructive material to ensure home ownership for as many Australians as possible. We dislike that aspect of the Bill about which, in his second reading speech, the Minister said:
Honourable members will not find in the Bill a great amount of detail. The functions to be performed by the Corporation will be effected by regulations embodying new schemes as and when they are required.
In our opinion this is a preposterous suggestion. We are not prepared to give the Government an open cheque. Although the Corporation is given power to do all things necessary or convenient for the performance of its functions by clause 7, and has power to do a wide range of actions specifically listed in clause 8, its powers for lending money, granting money and selling, leasing or building dwellings are all limited by the provisions of Part V. Loans may not be granted, except for investing the capital of the Corporation, unless regulations have been made prescribing the persons who are eligible and the type of dwelling for which loans may be given. A maximum amount has to be prescribed. This situation is covered by clause 29. According to clause 30 grants may be made only under similar conditions. Clauses 3 1 and 32 relate to sales and leases by the Corporation. Dwellings may be sold or leased only where regulations have been made setting out the people to whom dwellings may be sold or leased, the type of dwellings that may be sold or leased and the terms and conditions of the contract of sale or lease. Clause 33 provides that the Corporation may build dwellings for sale or lease but where the dwelling is built for a person on his own land, regulations must have been made describing the persons for whom dwellings may be built, the types of dwellings that may be built and the conditions on which dwellings may be built.
– Say that again.
– The honourable member should read the Bill. He spoke to the Bill but from what he said it was apparent that he had not read it. I have read the Bill and am detailing the clauses. Because none of the detailed provisions relating to loans, grants, sales or leases or the construction activities of the Corporation has been set out in the Bill, it is difficult to comment on the specified areas in relation to which the Corporation may perform its functions. In his second reading speech the Minister referred to housing for students. But does the absence of this provision from the list specified in clause 6 make it impossible for regulations to be made for this vital, important and needy sector which falls within some other head of legislative power?
Government by regulation is bad, and this Bill is riddled with it. Of course regulations can be disallowed by the Parliament. They also are capable of challenge in the courts if they exceed constitutional power. It is the constitutional power itself and not the provision in sub-clause (3) of clause 6 to which a court will look in determining whether any regulations actually made are valid. If this legislation becomes law and the Corporation, under clause 49, is given power to acquire land for the purpose of the Corporation, it is to be hoped that the Corporation and the State authorities can co-ordinate development by ensuring that the Corporation is controlled by the land commission of the State so that the Corporation acquires land only in areas that the State land commission considers should be developed. The land should be acquired on just terms.
The Liberal and Country Parties stand for home ownership. We realise that certain people who have to migrate from area to area, and others because of financial problems, require rental housing. We are not blind to this need. On the other hand, the Australian Labor Party believes in home rental with some home ownership. The emphasis on home ownership or rental policy is therefore mainly the result of the social and political philosophy of the respective parties when they are in government. Unlike its Budget policy which changes on the hour every hour, the Government’s rationale for housing has not changed over the years. I remind honourable members that the late Honourable J. J. Dedman, formerly Minister for Postwar Reconstruction in the Chifley Government, said that home ownership would turn the workers into little capitalists. On the other hand the Opposition believes that home ownership fulfils man’s innermost desires and gives him a stake in the country and a sense of belonging.
There is no necessity for this new bureaucratic authority. Why does it have to be a statutory authority? If we must have thrust upon us this insatiable monster, which will devour the State housing commissions, would it not be better for it to be under the auspices of the Department? Is the Minister completely incapable of looking after it? Or are there still spoils for the victors? Perhaps Egerton is looking for another job on top of the long list he already has.
– Perhaps it is Norm Gallagher.
– My honourable friend suggests that someone else might beat him to the job. I am glad that he shares my opinion that Egerton is a good bloke provided he is drinking grog at the trots on a Saturday night. What is wanted is an updating of the present StateFederal arrangements with more finance for the States and less control from the Federal sphere. That is the answer to the problem. There is a problem due primarily to lack of finance, high interest rates and increased costs since December 1972. 1 seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table detailing increases in building materials used in house building, and showing the percentage change in the 12 months December 1973 to December 1974.
-Has the document been seen by the Minister?
– It will represent some substance in the honourable member’s speech so I approve its incorporation.
-There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. The blame for the present situation can be shot home to the Federal Government’s financial directives and lack of ability as a business manager. Updating can be done within the established framework. I believe it would be a suitable manoeuvre to alter the present arrangements by removing the restriction that only 30 per cent of total State funds be available for home ownership, and that 85 per cent of the money made available for home rental conform to a means test basis. At present only 15 per cent of money made available for rental homes need not conform to a means test basis. There is a real sore in the present arrangements concerning rental housing. A couple initially may not be in a position to purchase a home, but they treat the home they rent as their own. They create a garden with loving fingers of tender care, and they lay concrete paths and do other work. When the man tries to purchase that home he is told he cannot do so since he does not meet the conditions relating to purchase. Through inflation and progress in his work, he has put himself outside the means test provisions. One cannot dismiss this situation- it relates to hundreds of people- in a cavalier fashion and tell him to pull up his roots, get out and secure a loan to purchase another home.
That is most unjust and the change advocated would overcome much personal hardship.
One could congratulate the Minister if he were positive and if, instead of bringing in this type of legislation, he copied the successful workers dwelling scheme which has been operated in Queensland since 1909 by successive governments of both political creeds. This scheme is financed by State money. It has nothing to do with the housing agreement. It is a mortgagee scheme and loans thereunder bear interest at the rate of 5V4 per cent. It is available to people who have their own land and want a house erected on it through housing commission funds. In his second reading speech the Minister said, and I agree with him, that it is undesirable to have row upon row of the same type of housing in a specified area. Obviously the workers dwelling scheme overcomes this problem in that it is for people who have their own land in areas where they want to live. They have the choice; they are free. The Minister could give help by means of second mortgages and finance to meet the deposit gap to help in the purchase of land. Under the Queensland scheme loans of up to $18,000 can be obtained. Architectural services on an individual basis are available. If the borrower is under age 40 years, his taxable income does not exceed $3,600 per annum and he is a good medical risk, he is covered for a free State Government Insurance Office policy for $5,000. He would get nothing free from the Labor Government in Canberra. When the dwelling is completed it is inspected by officers of the State department and its insistence on good work has protected purchasers since 1909. This type of concern is what is desired.
Another disconcerting problem is associated with the injustice which can occur under the means test proposals as between States and as between employees in different industries. Within the concept of average weekly wages one industry might get a higher increase in wages than another. Average weekly wages are the principal factor in determining whether a person can obtain home rental- 85 per cent of average weekly earnings, and home ownership, 95 per cent. The means test varies every quarter with rises in average weekly wages. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the variations about which I have spoken.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– If a house does not turn up at the right time in the right period a person can miss out. The scheme is not flexible enough. The process of form filling, returning of same and frustration does not build one extra home, and that is what government activity in housing is all about. It would be much more beneficial to return to the pre- 1973 agreement days when the States obtained money at an interest rate of 4 per cent and lent it at an interest rate of 5Vi per cent over 53 years, ensuring that the money was spent on low and moderate income earners. The Bill is not specific enough. It is true that there are some good ideas in it, but we want to know how they will be implemented. We oppose the methods of dealing with the problem. There is no need for a body to be born simply for prestige. It is bad enough if prestige is the shadow of power, but the Minister wants it to be the substance of power. We of the Liberal Party and Country Party want more homes built, and we submit that the States can do this if they are given the money. Housing is a right, not dice in the card game of centralised bureaucracy.
In the few moments left to me I will refer to some of the propaganda that was put forward by previous Government speakers in this debate. I suggest to the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) that if he wants to smarten up the housing activities in Queensland he should -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) in opening the debate on this Bill on behalf of the Opposition, attacked the provisions of the Bill, as he and his Party have consistently attacked every move that this Labor Government has made in providing assistance for the low income groups. They have even made attacks on Medibank. Honourable members opposite all seem to have misread the Bill. It is useless for them to insist that the powers already exist for the State housing authorities to do what this Bill will do. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) was also under the impression that the States could take over the role of the proposed Australian Housing Corporation. Honourable members opposite show a touching faith in the State housing authorities, one in which I would not join them. The truth of this matter is that the States cannot bridge the gap that exists for so many people between the deposit required to purchase a house and the price of a house. The State housing authorities do not have the authority under the State Acts to provide this money. All too many home buyers are forced to take second mortgages which they cannot afford. The Housing Corporation could help out with a second mortgage at a price that the home buyer could afford. If honourable members opposite have so much faith in the State housing authorities they might try to get the States to use the powers that they already have to control the price of land within their borders. This would be a far greater help to home buyers than consistently opposing the ideas that this Government comes up with to help home buyers. The State housing authorities have done better out of this Government than out of any preceding Liberal-Country Party government. Despite all the talk that we hear from the Liberal and Country Party members, this Government has treated the State housing authorities with a generosity that our predecessors were never interested in showing.
The Australian Government has wide powers in the housing field. For instance, it can directly house migrants, students, Aborigines, persons engaged in work for the Australian Government and residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Similarly, by the use of the family allowance provisions in the Australian Constitution, the Australian Government can provide financial assistance to families. While the Australian Government has these powers, previous governments have made no attempt to harness and direct those powers to the benefit of the Australian people. That is a fact; it is not an opinion. Certainly the Australian Government has always been active in providing financial assistance for housing to certain groups in the community, including the poor, the aged, migrants, Aborigines and suitably qualified past and present members of the armed Services.
In addition, the Australian Government also provides relief from high interest rates to mortgage holders through the tax deductibility of mortgage interest scheme. It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has never passed an opinion on whether he will or will not continue this tax deductibility of mortgage interest scheme in the unlikely event that he ever leads a government. The Australian Government provides a cash grant to eligible young people obtaining their first home, though this is being phased out in favour of other forms of assistance. But this is where the involvement ends. To say that we are attempting to take over control of the State housing authorities is an extraordinary argument to use in this debate. Why would we give them so much more money each year if we intend to phase them out? If we want to get rid of them, why do not we decrease the amount of money that we are making available? It is a very odd procedure that we have adopted to phase out the State housing authorities.
We have already entered into a 5-year agreement with the State housing authorites in which we have more than doubled the allocations for both State housing homes and homes built under the Home Builders Account, since the allocation was made in 1972-73. There is no intention to supplant or ease out the State housing authorities, or indeed the building societies. There is no intention in this Bill to supplant or usurp the role of private enterprise in the building industry.
Indeed, the provisions of this Bill will take up the slack in housing where private enterprise does not or cannot function. They will take up the slack concerning the deposit gap and rented homes. We all are aware of the desperate shortage of homes available for rent at a moderate price. Indeed, in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ recently Peter Fitzgerald published a very frank series of articles on the hardship caused to many families who suffer through savage rentals. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) referred to Mr Dedman and to a remark that he made about ‘little capitalists’. That is typical of what I would expect to hear from a member of the Country Party. The honourable member is referring to something that happened 30 years ago and is applying it to today. Time moves and opinions, climates and society and community attitudes change.
It should be noted by this House that not only hardship and misery are caused by high rents, but also the door is left wide open for exploitation of the very people most in need. This Australian Labor Party Government is intent on ensuring that people are housed. In some States the Landlord and Tenant Acts give no protection at all to tenants. They are at the mercy of the landlord’s integrity. Rented homes are in great shortage. Once a shortage exists, rent rackets emerge. When voting on this Bill honourable members should remember that there is no other single problem in life today which threatens the family as much as inadequate housing. There is no other single issue which causes more heartache and misery than insecurity in housing. To pay onethird of the take-home pay in rent is a real killer. The Australian Housing Corporation will allow the Government to move further into the Housing field. Its advent, however, will not mean the end of our present schemes, but it will allow much of the Australian Government expenditure on housing to be put under one roof. It is not the intention to use the Corporation to supplant the role of the State housing authorities, a point which I have already made.
A main objective of the Australian Housing Corporation is to use the powers available to the Australian Government to complement the private financial institutions to assist persons in acquiring their own home; not to stop them from doing so. The majority of housing transactions are financed by the private financial institutions, and their efforts are to be applauded. Even so, there are many persons who cannot obtain a loan suitable to their requirements because of their own financial position or because of the lending policies of these institutions. Furthermore, persons paying off their own loan or persons renting accommodation often find that, because of changed circumstances they are experiencing severe difficulty in meeting their commitments. Again, some persons are quite capable of meeting repayment commitments of a housing loan but are not able to obtain a loan because of a lack of sufficient savings history. It is in areas such as these that the Australian Government is keen to assist. These are not areas in which the State housing authorities can or will assist. The Australian Housing Corporation will be the vehicle for putting these desires into practice. Although it will be engaged in areas which traditionally had been the preserve of private enterprise, the Corporation will complement, not compete with, the private financial institutions which lend for housing.
The home building industry in Australia is one of conservatism. New techniques of construction take ages to filter through before they win popular accord. This is only to be expected, for a mistake in misjudging public acceptance can often send a builder bankrupt. But the Australian Housing Corporation, with all the research backing of the Department of Housing and Construction and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, can take a lead in new construction techniques. It will be in a position to be an innovator in housing construction both of a technical and social nature. It will give the Australian Government a powerful weapon in improving the housing standards of our population. In the past, the Government has had both hands tied behind its back in this regard.
Australia is a collection of regions. When figures are produced which tell us that housing activity, on the whole, has increased, decreased or stabilized, regional differences are skated over. These regions are economic cells in thenown right and have their own financial and industry systems and their economic wellbeing is influenced by different factors and to different degrees by Australian Government action. For instance, Cairns is affected differently from the western suburbs of Sydney. Home building activity may be thriving in one region and dead in another region. To provide a financial input into these ‘dead’ regions to promote housing activity will be within the scope of the Australian Housing Corporation and it will operate along these lines as the need and its budget allow.
Those then are some of the reasons for establishing the Australian Housing Corporation. A body along these lines is very long overdue. The Bill represents an honest expression of the Government’s intentions. It provides direct links with private enterprise. It retains the identity of the defence service homes scheme. It is true that the defence service homes scheme will move into the Australian Housing Corporation but it will not disappear as an identity. It will retain an identity of its own. The Australian Housing Corporation in fact will operate together with the defence service homes scheme. It will use the momentum and the experience of the defence service homes scheme, already extended and expanded under this Government, to cover returned personnel who were not covered previously. But the defence service homes scheme will be retained as a separate unit within the Corporation.
It is an innovating Bill with a flexibility that enables it to move into areas of need into which the Government has never before moved. The Corporation can, for example, make subsidies to charitable organisations, such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence, for the provision of housing for needy families. It can subsidise building, rents, land and relax repayments in times of unemployment or illness. I would like to hear anyone tell me that the State housing authorities can or will do that. It is a Bill of compassion and it is a Bill of vision. It will open up new concepts of welfare care with far less rigidity than we have seen previously. It will mop up areas of need which have never before fitted into any category, and there are many such areas. It is a timely Bill and it has a laudable philosophy. I am sure that it will be greeted by the community with quite a lot of joy
I have in my own electorate a number of areas where rented houses run at about $45 to $50 a week. They are about the only homes available, and there are people in my electorate who are forced into rented nouses. Much as we would all like to have our own house, put in our own gardens and our own concrete paths, the sheer facts of life are that we all cannot raise a deposit to buy a house. That has been the situation not just in the last 2 years since the Labor Government came to power; it has been the situation in the community for many years. We cannot all buy a house. This Bill gives a bit of vision to those people who have to rent a house as to what could be done.
I do not think that the honourable member for Darling Downs need look with such suspicion at the regulations which the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) will introduce. I do not think the Minister is plotting the takeover of every State housing authority in Australia. I congratulate the Minister and also his Department for the innovating thoughts behind this Bill. It has been long overdue. Australia lags very far behind comparable countries in looking for flexibility within the home building area. I hope that the Bill will be passed in both Houses and that the forces of reaction and conservatism will for once open their minds to a new idea and look at a new idea rather than being frightened of it. It is a vision designed to give help in areas in which previously no help has been available. State housing authorities do not fill the bill, good and all as some of the actions are that they take. I do give credit to the fact that Victoria is doing the best it can in extreme difficulties.
Before concluding my remarks, I point out that the preceding Liberal-Country Party Government was in power in the Federal sphere for 23 years and in that entire 23 years it produced no policy whatsoever for housing those people who cannot afford to buy their own homes. It produced no ideas and no policy on rented homes. The simple fact is that the Opposition does not care about people who cannot afford to buy a home.
-The honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) was towards the end of her speech rather mouthing a few political slogans, but the rest of her speech contained some interesting matters that deserve to be looked at. It is leaning into the wind a little, I think, to suggest that the present Government can claim virtue for its housing policy. The facts of life dispute that proposition, and dispute it very clearly and very cogently. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) in leading for the Opposition in the debate spent some few minutes, I understand, dealing with those propositions, and he stated the general position of the Opposition on those matters. I would not be one who would claim unadulterated virtue for past housing policy, but it was far more successful than has been the housing pOliCY administered over the last Vh years. Not a person in Australia could dispute that proposition.
I will just spend one or two moments dealing with the past. It is always useful to look at the past even if only to stand on its shoulders so as to look a little bit further into the future. I will deal with one or two policies that have been proposed by the present Government, both when in Opposition and as a government. In 197 1 the famous 2 per cent interest reduction policy was brought forward, and that 2 per cent interest reduction policy which was enunciated at Launceston and which was promoted by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) was found to be a mess and a giant failure. If there is one virtue that the Government can claim it is that before it came into Government it fled as quickly and as far as it could from that proposition. It was clearly a monstrosity.
The Government has also made promises in relation to interest rates. I will say something that has been said in the past and which has to be said again: In total, housing cannot be dealt with unless interest rates are satisfactory. There is a simple equation: Reasonable interest rates make a reasonable housing policy possible; high interest rates make any housing policy extremely difficult to administer. If there is one overriding thing which has been an umbrella over the whole of the Government’s housing policy it is what has happened in respect of interest rates. One illustration makes the point. For every 1 per cent rise in interest rates on a $10,000 mortgage over 25 years or 30 years, a person has to pay an extra couple of dollars a week for that period of time. That is how damning and how destructive interest rates can be. So low interest rates mean the possibility of a reasonable home ownership policy.
The third proposition which the Government put forward- it was referred to by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) in a moment of lucidity- was in relation to its policy concerning tax deductibility for interest paid on home mortgage payments. I was always interested that the Government never referred this proposal to its Priority Review Committee. It knows that it is a regressive policy. It knows, as the honourable member for Bowman says, that it is not designed to help, nor does it help, those in the low income groups. It helps those people very little who build modest homes compared with those who build castles, and that point has to be acknowledged.
– Does the Opposition officially oppose it, or are you one out on this matter?
-No, the Opposition does not officially oppose it. I am pointing out the regressive nature of the policy and that if a virtue is claimed by the Government in that it wants to help the battler in this world and those people in the low income groups, its policies deny thai fact. In an article in the ‘Courier Mail’ newspaper towards the end of 1 973 the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) came very close to admitting that fact.
What is involved in this Bill? Having said those things, I do not say that the Bill is all vice. I think that it is capable of doing some very worthy things. But there have to be doubts. The doubts concerning the Bill relate to the precise proposals which the Housing Corporation is designed to administer. I am attracted to the proposition that the family allowances power in the constitution will be utilised in order to help certain families and certain classes of families who presently are not eligilbe to obtain the finance that is available. For example, I am convinced that there is an area of need between those people who can negotiate a loan from a cooperative building society and those who can negotiate a loan from a savings bank. There is a very big interest rate gap there. Insufficient attention is paid to such people because of different social circumstances judged according to levels of disposable income, judged according to levels of dependants, judged according to the circumstances of the repayments, the- years of repayments and the age of the people who desire the loans. If the Government can administer those areas correctly I will give it full marks, but it is precisely here that the very great doubts concerning this Bill project themselves. It is as vague a proposition as I have seen. With three or four, perhaps five, amendments it could be fixed and could be made more precise.
– Did you put this to your Party meeting?
-I never discuss what happens at Party meetings, as the Minister would know. The new areas designed to be covered by this Bill are set out in clauses 29, 30, 31 and 32. Each of those clauses has the same type of opening sentence. They are dealing with proposed loans by the Corporation, grants by the Corporation, sales by the Corporation and leases by the Corporation. Clause 29 says that ‘the Corporation may, in accordance with regulations, lend money’. Clause 30 says that ‘the Corporation may, in accordance with regulations, grant money’. Clause 31 says that ‘the Corporation may sell a dwelling in accordance with regulations’. Clause 32 says that ‘the Corporation may grant a lease of a dwelling in accordance with regulations. I suggest to the Minister- I acknowledge his goodwill in this respect and I would not for one moment deny it- that it would be far more appropriate if each of these clauses had said that the Corporation may grant or lend in accordance with legislation- not regulations.
The new schemes are designed to help people to obtain second mortgages on land, by deferred payments on mortgages and so on. These imaginative new proposals could be beneficial to a lot of people. But what are the proposals? I do not think that schemes of this nature should be brought in by regulation. They should be brought in by legislation. That is a clear fact of life. It may be said that regulations are capable of being perused by this House, but regulations have not the capacity to be perused in the same way as legislation. When the Minister looks at these clauses I hope that he will consider those factors. The point I am making is that there is a need. The question uppermost in my mind is how that need will be satisfied.
The Bill is a general Bill. It may be an administrative one which would gather under its umbrella all the housing areas which are at present administered by the Commonwealth Government, such as housing for Aborigines, certain immigration procedures and defence service homes. The innovative measures, which are very vague, deserve to be spelt out with some precision. Regulations are unsatisfactory in that respect as a means of merely handing over power. I hope that in his reply the Minister will deal with these matters in some detail. They deserve to be dealt with in detail. If the Bill works it will work well. But one has to look at the present state of the industry to which this Bill is proposed to apply. I was fascinated to read some days ago that the Minister claimed great virtue for the fact that the level of housing activity in Australia and the level of housing approvals were rising. If one looks at the latest details, which apply up to December last year, one will find that there has been a gentle rise. But there is no virtue in claiming that a halfhearted resurrection has occurred when the Government has beaten the industry half to death. After all, that rise has developed from the steepest decline in the level of housing activities ever registered in this country. That is a significant statement to make.
I say to the Minister that whilst this Bill may contain some virtues and may be able to do a great deal, we want to know what it is proposed to do, to whom it will apply, how the bans will apply, how the grants will apply, how the second mortgage schemes will apply and to what classes of persons deferred payment mortgage schemes will apply. It just cannot be left there. Other clauses of this Bill need to be cleared up in order to give some source of confidence to the industry and to those people in Australia who are at present wanting homes.
Having dealt with some of the factors of this Bill in the few minutes available to me- I will advert to them later when the clauses are discussed at the Committee stage- I put a question to the Minister. It relates to the Bill which was presented to this House towards the end of last year. At that time the Government imaginatively proposed a Bill which was designed to distribute $150m to savings banks to boost the housing industry. The Minister will recall that on that occasion I made a plea that those States in which the availability of funds for housing had declined most should receive some compensating benefit. He will recall that on that occasion I pointed out that, due to the operation particularly of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, 2 States had been deprived of one of the most valuable sources of finance for housing- savings bank funds. Those 2 States were Queensland and New South Wales. I ask the Minister whether he can indicate the distribution to the States of the $150m for housing. I want to know how it has been distributed and whether on the understanding of the Treasurer at the time, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), almost in the midst of a handing over operation -
– Taking over.
– He was in the midst of a taking over operation. I want to know how those funds have been distributed and whether they have been distributed to make up for the drastic short fall that was occurring in various parts of Australia. I ask that because in any part of this country when savings bank funds are not available people are inevitably driven to much higher cost sources of finance. It is no mistake or accident, I believe, that in those areas where savings bank funds have not been available people have had to have recourse more than elsewhere to funds from the finance companies at a 3 per cent, 4 per cent, 5 per cent or 6 per cent hike in interest rates. Nobody could disagree with the aim of this Bill. It is supposed to be opposed to the private industry sector where it presently does not apply. We want to know the precise proposals to assist in this area. We want to be assured that it will not displace State housing commissions, nor is it intended to displace State housing commissions I do not believe it will. I do not believe it is capable of displacing State housing Commissions. Nevertheless that is not the principal reason the honourable member for Boothby, leading for the Opposition, indicated the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill. We stand behind him in that respect.
There are other unanswered questions. I put another proposition to the Minister. In clause 40 of this legislation there is a rate of return payable on account of the funds which are allocated to the new Corporation, and I would like to know what rate of return will be appropriate to the funds allocated to the Housing Corporation. Will the Minister make a distinction in the rate of funds which are returned according to whether they are defence service home funds or funds utilised for the other purposes for which the Corporation, under this Bill, when and if it becomes an Act, would become an administrative organisation. I think this almost strikes at the crux of the question concerning the whole operation of the proposed Australian Housing Corporation.
One other matter deserves to be mentioned. There has always been concern in Australia when the rate of housing activity has declined. That has applied in the past and it applies today. I would hope that those who look to the future level of activity in the housing industry peruse the Borrie report very closely. I hope that they have other plans for the housing industry in Australia because if the facts contained in the Borrie report are correct and if the appropriate priorities are applied to the projections made in that report, one can look forward to a steep decline in the total overall level of activity in the Australian housing and building industry from the late 1970s.
Unless people are going to be persuaded to build two homes instead of one and unless that is going to occur en masse, rather than spasmodically as it does at present, the total level of activity in the housing and building industry needs to be perused. I would hope that the Minister, with the committee that he has set up under an eminent academic, will make proposals in these areas having as first priority- not the second- the position of the Australian community. The Minister, I am sure, will take those suggestions to heart.
I revert to the principal problems that one sees in this legislation. The principal problems are the vagaries of the legislation. Regulations are designed to be the heart of it and to indicate what all future activity is about. We want to know what interest rates are proposed for the lending operations. We want to know why the class of Australians to whom this Bill will apply has been expanded so widely beyond the classes already served by the Commonwealth Government. I am excepting, in that respect, the use of the family allowances provision. I refer in that respect to clause 6 (3) (d) and clause 6 (3) (e). The latter clause is wide and makes the activities of this Corporation almost limitless. It states in part:
The Corporation may perform its functions … for any purpose of Australia or an authority of Australia.
I would like the Minister to explain the precise meaning of that phraseology and of that paragraph. I would wish the Bill well if it could be amended in great substance. I suspect that it will not be; I suspect that it cannot be. Above all, promises can roll off the tongue very easily. I would like some substances spelled into the vagueness of some of the promises made in the Minister’s second reading speech.
– As usual when the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) talks about housing matters, he speaks with a great deal of knowledge and, I believe, a great deal of restraint. It is a pity that some of his colleagues do not adopt a similar approach. As I pointed out when we were debating the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1974 last year, the honourable member for Lilley, although he denied it by interjection, seemed to disagree with the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and many other honourable members on his side of the House when it came to housing.
I hope to satisfy some of the disagreements which the honourable member for Lilley finds with the Bill. In contrast to the honourable member for Lilley, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) seemed to me to invoke all sorts of fears. He used the usual catchcries of nationalising the building industry, socialist governments and so on. This was also a feature of a previous debate on this matter. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) said that the Bill was a blueprint for social degradation. None of these statements can be substantiated. The honourable members who are taking this attitude are defending a situation that has been in existence for a long time. Name calling is no substitute. Why is there a need for a Bill like this? Why do we need this sort of legislation?
– That is exactly what we want to know.
– We need it to provide those things which are not presently provided by existing legislation either in the Australian Government area or in the area of the States. We are not- I stress it again and it has been mentioned by other honourable members- aiming to take over the role of the housing commissions in the States. Their role is properly in the field of welfare housing. This Bill provides money and organisation for all sorts of other things.
The honourable member for Lilley criticised the Bill as being vague when he referred to particular clauses. I take the point of view that those clauses are not vague, but flexible. In regard to his belief that action could be taken without the approval of Parliament, I point out to him that under this Bill, if passed, $25m which already has been provided for in the Budget will be allocated. Any further moneys to do any of these other things must be appropriated by Appropriation Bills which come before this House and are voted on by the Parliament.
– He is talking about the powers of regulation.
– Those regulations must be backed up by money and the money must be provided by the Parliament, by appropriations, and can be provided only by the Parliament. I see absolutely no foundation in that objection. The honourable member for Bendigo also mentioned an advertisement. It is my understanding that the positions were advertised very widely in Australia and it has been impossible to fill them. They have now been advertised overseas. There is absolutely no foundation in his accusation. It is a rather cheap political jibe.
The Liberal-Country Party coalition has no real viable policy on rental housing. In 23 years, former Liberal-Country Party Governments did little, and did it very slowly, to ease the situation. What has this meant? It has meant that people in difficult circumstances- the people we see appearing on television programs; the people whose plight is put before the people of this nation in the Press- are the people who have not been helped. For many years they have just existed. It is time this Parliament did something about it. This Bill will do something about it. It is not before time. The Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party have no policy and no compassion in this area and only a very mealymouthed recital of platitudes.
As the Minister said in his second reading speech, the Bill concentrates and mobilises the power which the Australian Government possesses in the housing field for the benefit of the people. This Bill is not an ad hoc approach to housing but will sustain a co-ordinated effort to improve housing in Australia. The Corporation will be an organisation which will be able to bring co-ordination to the housing area and to look at the problems as a whole. It will be a body with a viewpoint and a body with resolution. It will also be a counter-cyclical organisation. It will be able to do something about the downturns and the upturns in the building industry which occur far too often. For the first time we are invoking constitutional powers to provide a new and co-ordinated scheme for those people who are the responsibility of the Australian Government.
For the benefit of the House I think we ought to mention, as set out in clause 6, what the functions of the Corporation are. They are:
And that includes the War Service Homes Act.
Sub-clause (3) states:
The Corporation may perform its functions to the extent only that they relate to matters with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws and, in particular, may perform its functions-
That is, with regard to territories, defence Services, defence forces and other things. The particular powers of the Corporation are set out in clause 8. They are:
There are many other provisions in this clause which provide a far-going and far-seeing resolution of the problems which face us in the housing field in Australia today.
I can envisage the situation where, in conjunction with the Department of Urban and Regional Development, we can develop new areas for people in Australia at a reasonable cost to give them good living conditions, nothing like the sort of thing which the honourable member for Darling Downs implied in degradation of housing- nothing like that at all, but pleasant homes, pleasantly designed in parks away from the centres of our cities. This is the sort of thing I would like to see. I believe it is one of the things that is provided by this Bill which will enable us to achieve that very laudable objective. Modest housing has rapidly disappeared from the market. Nobody is building low rental housing. This type of housing was not built under the previous Government. This legislation will enable us to fill the gap. Some welfare housing has been built by the housing commission but there has not been this particular type of low rental housing that the legislation before us provides for. Private enterprise has been unable, for a variety of reasons, to provide sufficient rental housing at reasonable rates or to help those people who need assistance in bridging the deposit gap. Housing has tended over a considerable period of time to move out of the reach of a large number of potential home owners. This Bill will enable the Corporation to provide finance to assist those people who are not helped at present. It is not to replace the things that are happening at present but to provide the means by which the present gaps can be filled.
I could point out to the House that in places such as Canada and New York rental subsidies are paid. Often they are paid to entrepreneurs who put up buildings to enable this sort of rental accommodation to be provided. This legislation will enable private enterprise to provide houses and flats which can then be used for rental housing. This action will be applauded by the building industry, particularly the small builder, and those other industries associated with the building industry. At the moment the small builder, no matter what the conditions are, finds himself in an invidious position. He is either struggling for building materials in a time of building boom or is having difficulty with finance in a time of downturn in the industry. What we want to see, as I mentioned before, is some kind of countercyclical organisation. The Corporation set up by this Bill will provide it.
I would like to say something about a scheme which was mentioned in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, namely, the deferred payments scheme. Some people, because of particular circumstances, might have difficulty in the first 5 years in meeting payments. By money which can be provided in this legislation these people can have interest and capital repayments deferred in the early stages. It is not believed that a great number of people will take advantage of it but there are people in particular circumstances who may wish to take advantage of it. Young couples who have commenced their family very early in life and are finding it difficult to provide money immediately would get great benefit from such a scheme. We should not deny these people the opportunity to have decent housing. Why should we ask them to live with their relatives and put up with conditions that many have to put up with at the moment. I think that that is of particular relevance as this House is at present considering another Bill which deals with family matters. The Bill will allow such assistance to be granted. I point out to the House that the money can be provided for under the powers contained in section 51 (XXIIIA) of the Constitution which was the amendment to the Social Services Act of 1946. I will read the relevant section to the House because I think we need to remind ourselves of the powers that exist. It states:
The provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances:
It is under this family allowance part of section 5 1 of the Constitution that it is proposed to provide assistance to the people about whom I have been talking.
I have already pointed out that the Australian Housing Corporation will become responsible for those activities which are presently being carried out under the defence service homes scheme. This will require the Corporation to make about 10 000 loans annually to exservicemen and women, involving advances totalling in excess of $ 100m. The administrative and technical expertise in the field of direct lending which the Corporation will possess as a result of employing the staff who have operated the defence service homes scheme will make it easy for the Corporation to develop procedures for making loans to home-seekers for whom the Australian Government has constitutional responsibility. However, this group is so broad that it would be neither desirable nor feasible to suggest that the Australian Housing Corporation should try to meet the requirements for housing loans of everyone in the group. It is not the intention of the Government to duplicate the functions of established lending institutions such as the State housing authorities, the Government and private savings banks and the terminating and permanent building societies. I hope that members of the Opposition pay attention to that because it has been one of the main points of their argument. Nor is it the intention of the Government that the activities of the Australian Housing Corporation should conflict in any way with established policy on the provision of housing for particular groups, such as migrants, students or Aborigines. While in some cases the Government may decide to integrate existing housing programs into the broad framework of the Housing Corporation, the fundamental intention is that the activities of the Corporation will complement those of existing organisations.
Because of this, the individuals, beyond those eligible under the defence service homes scheme, to whom the Corporation could be empowered to make direct loans would necessarily be selected with great care. The Minister for Housing and Construction, in consultation with other interested Ministers, would draw up the regulations setting out the terms and conditions under which a loan could be made. While no decision can or should be made at this stage as to what is the appropriate lending policy to follow, it is of interest to discuss some of the possibilities. The Corporation could be directed to lend to families who did not meet the eligibility conditions set out in the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, but who could not meet the repayment burden imposed by the much higher interest rates charged by permanent building societies and banks. Under the 1973-74 Housing Agreement, advances are being made available to the States at the very low interest rate of 4 per cent per annum on advances allotted to the State housing authorities and 4’/2 per cent per annum on advances allotted to the States’ Home Builders’ Accounts. I think that members of the Opposition ought to take note of that. They have been going on a great deal about interest rates.
The Government has acted positively in this field and had provided a great deal more money than could normally have been expected, bearing in mind the situation of inflation in Australia. So there has been an advance in real terms. Under present arrangements to be eligible for a loan of Home Builders’ Account moneys, the average gross weekly income of the main breadwinner of the family, exclusive of overtime and child endowment payments, during the 6 months immediately prior to applying for a loan must not have exceeded 95 per cent of the Commonwealth Statistician’s estimate of average weekly earnings during the preceding December quarter. Each State may use the State or the Australian figure for the purpose of the income test. All the State Ministers have now indicated that they are in favour of quarterly adjustments of the needs test in order to preserve, to the maximum extent practicable, relativity between the needs test and the general level of wages throughout the year and, accordingly, the 1973-1974 Housing Agreement is to be varied to provide for this by using as the basis the seasonally adjusted series of quarterly average weekly earnings which the Commonwealth Statistician first published in September 1974. 1 note that in answer to a question I asked the other day in the House the Minister made this particularly clear. The State of New South Wales can be used as an example. Here, insofar as Home Builders’ Account applicants are concerned, this variation in the method of computing the needs tests will have the effect of raising the limit at the present time for a family with up to 2 children from $117.80 to $136.80. The maximum loan is $ 17,520; monthly loan repayments vary depending on the terms and conditions of the loan, but a figure of about $102 would be normal given the maximum interest rate of 5% per cent stipulated in the Agreement. This would give many borrowers some scope for taking up second mortgages. However, now consider the case of the person who has an income slightly above the income limit and is faced with an interest rate of at least 1014 per cent, and commonly 12 per cent, generally together with a shorter repayment period. A similar size loan at these interest rates would require repayments of $165 to $185 a month. This is far too much for a person on a weekly income of $137 to pay. Even if this much could be paid, a loan of $ 1 7,520 is not enough to purchase a dwelling in Sydney unless a very substantial deposit has been saved, and this is a most unlikely circumstance in many situations. This is the kind of person who needs Government assistance. The Australian Housing Corporation could lend to a family in this situation at a subsidised rate of interest. A loan of $20,000 over 30 years would require a monthly repayment of $ 140 if an interest rate of Vh per cent was used. However, consideration should be given to regular review of the terms and conditions of the loan so that a Government subsidy would not be provided when it was no longer required.
This is just one example of how this Bill would operate in practice. I am appalled at the attitude of the Opposition in opposing this legislation. It provides sufficient safeguards to ensure that this Parliament is not over-ruled. It enters into areas in which governments have not entered before in sufficient strength or with sufficient variety. It is my opinion, and I am sure it is the opinion of my colleagues, that this piece of legislation is particularly important because it will do something about what I consider to be the intolerable situation which has developed over the years. I ask honourable members on the other side of the House to search their conscience, to really look at the situation. Do they really believe that what has been done over the last quarter of a century is in the interests of those people who need assistance. If they look at the situation logically- it is not too late yet whatever they decide to do in this House- and they have a degree of compassion for those people who would be assisted by this legislation they should use their influence to ensure that the legislation goes through. I believe that one of the most important things that this Parliament can do is to provide housing which is one of the basic needs of the Australian community.
-This Bill is the last gasp of a morally bankrupt Government. We have heard from numerous speakers on the Government side this afternoon about how we the members of the Opposition must have compassion for those in the community who are unable to fund the purchase of their own homes. Yes, we have compassion for the 3 1 1 000 people who are registered as unemployed in this land, for those who have lost their jobs and some of whom have lost their homes, for others who cannot even consider buying homes and for those who cannot even afford to pay the rent.
– You keep them on the street.
-This Government put them on the street. It has taken their jobs from them. It has taken everything from them and now Government members come into this place and ask us to show compassion. Let us just look at the situation in an objective manner. When I made my maiden speech in this House on 1 August 1 974 1 had occasion to say the following: . . the present Government’s management of the economy, since it came into office in December 1972, has failed. Much has been said by Ministers about how they inherited a situation of excess liquidity in the economy. What they have never attempted to answer is that 12 months later the level of liquidity had expanded even further. Although it was obvious in 1973 that the economy was gravely overheated no meaningful policies were introduced and it was not until September 1973 that the Government decided to use monetary and interest policy, currency appreciation and tariff reductions, to control an already alarming inflationary trend. Those policies enabled the Government to end the 1973-74 financial year with a deficit of approximately $400 m less than budgeted for. This is hardly surprising as taxation receipts were $500m above the Budget estimate.
We are not talking in terms of $500m. We are now talking about a budgetary deficit of $2,500m- money which has to be manufactured on a printing press but ultimately paid for by every citizen in this land. I ask honourable members to consider that with the greatest of care.
Today in the afternoon Press we saw statistics put out by the Bureau of Statistics which show that the number of privately employed people in Australia dropped by 185 000 during the 6 months ended last December and that the total civilian work force was now 4 788 500. The point was also made that the number of people in government employment rose from 1 197 600 to 2 22 1 200. Here we are debating a piece of legislation which is not going to put one more cent into the pockets of people who need housing but is going to employ hundreds of public servants to ascertain whether State authorities are doing their bidding and whether the Commonwealth can interfere even more in the operations of the private sector of the community which has always worked on the assumption that where there is a demand for housing it shall be met provided interest rates are kept within the capacity of all our citizens to pay. I should not just suspect because it is a fact- that this piece of legislation is but another plank in the Labor Party’s policy to interfere in the workings of the economy The Labor platform as indicated on page 4 of the document ‘The Labor Way’ under the heading Economic Planning ‘ specifically states:
With the object of achieving Labor’s socialist objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly-
This is what we must note- in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing-
Note that one, housing- stevedoring, transport and in areas of anti-social private monopolies.
All of a sudden it is anti-social private monopoly. That 80-odd per cent of the houses of this land which have always been purchased by the people of Australia are built by the private sector which is allegedly of monopoly and therefore anti-social. There is only one piece of respectable phraseology in this entire Bill, and it is that which the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) stated in his second reading speech that he hopes- I emphasise the words ‘he hopes’- this Corporation will open the way for the resources and initiatives of private enterprise to enter a productive partnership with government. I think that is an admirable concept. I think it should be endorsed as it has been by the Opposition What we question and with very good reason is whether this piece of legislation as formulated and as presented to this House is going to be capable of doing that or is it in fact simply going to be another means of separating the ordinary man and his wife and family from their dream, which is to be able to live in a decent house and preferably to be able to purchase that house. I have never known yet how any administration especially when it is an extension to an existing administration established by banks, finance companies, State housing corporations and the like is ever going to build a house for anyone. I suggest that the cost of employing the staff alone will be equivalent to the cost of some thousands of houses over a period of years.
The problems which we see with this Bill are essentially twofold. Firstly, it is so broad and vague in its definition of the Corporation’s powers that it inevitably will lead to confusion and duplication of functions of the existing public and private institutions. I hope I have made that point clear. Secondly, the Corporation usurps the role of the States and increases the scope for direct Australian Government intervention and involvement in the development of shelter industries which it allegedly is supposed to be assisting.
The fundamental principle which the Liberal Party has enunciated in the field of housing is that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure that the housing industry, both private and public sectors, should have the necessary resources of land, labour, materials and finance available at all times to meet the social needs of the community. Having provided guidelines and the necessary framework, it leaves to the entrepreneurs and to the State governments the job of designing specific programs for the assistance of the private sector, and expects the private sector to carry out that responsibility. This point has not been emphasised by the Government in this Bill.
Accordingly, we do support initiatives which provide greater opportunities for the housing industry to produce more houses and to increase the quality and quantity of dwelling units, which is consistent with the particular local needs of the community. The Minister has stressed repeatedly the role of private industry. This is comforting. But the historical record of this Government quite clearly shows that it is unlikely that this Commission will be able to carry out a policy which will assist private industry to meet its very real responsibility in the field of housing. We believe the areas of finance are proper avenues for Australian Government intervention. But we question the proposed action suggested by this legislation. We regard the development areas as being no concern of the Government and as best left to the States and private enterprise. If the appropriate framework and incentives are provided, there is absolutely no need for further centralisation. I fail to see, in a country as large as Australia, how any form of centralisation will result in increased productivity.
The point has been made by numerous speakers that interest rates have been the greatest cross which the people have had to carry in relation to their demands for housing. The position has become worse. Not only have interest rates increased because of the specific policies of this Government but, worse than that, inflation has put for many housing well beyond the capacity of the average Australian to purchase. About 4 months ago, speaking in this House also on housing policy, I made the point that the average house cost about $25,000. On further examination, and bearing in mind that the cost of building has gone up by approximately 25 per cent, it is more realistic to talk about an average cost for a house, which is not by any means exessive as being around $30,000.
Let me quote these figures to illustrate the position. The minimum deposit required in Victoria on a house, the purchase price of which is $30,000, is $6,000 or 20 per cent of the total cost. A maximum first mortgage of $24,000 is available. That sum may be borrowed at 1014 per cent interest from the State Savings Bank of Victoria, at 10½ per cent interest from the Commonwealth Savings Bank and at 12% per cent interest from permanent building societies. The important point is this: Average weekly earnings today are still approximately $120. That gives a monthly earnings figure of between $476 and $480. The gross weekly salary required to service a loan of that size varies between $190 and $269, depending on the number of years required to repay the loan. The Minister, I am sure, appreciates that this figure is well above the one-quarter which is the basic requirement of most building societies and banking institutions. The mere allowance of $5,000 as proposed by this legislation will not go very far in helping to bridge the deposit gap about which we have heard so much.
We have been told also that this Corporation will be administering the deferred payments scheme. I would like the people of Australia and the members of this House, whether they wish to listen or not, to appreciate that the deferred payments scheme was first proposed by the Opposition on 13 January 1974. This is but another example of how our policies have been stolen by this Government and incorporated in its legislation. I appreciate that. It is splendid to see that the Government is prepared to understand that even we in the Opposition are capable of decent ideas. I emphasise a point which has been made by others: We are an Opposition of compassion; indeed, the Liberal Party has as a specific objective the uplifting of all Australian people. We are not interested in dividing this nation, the way in which the Government has done. We are not interested in making one section any better assisted than other sections. We want to see a Bill which is based on the precise presumption that it is the role of government to assist all people to better themselves and especially to help those at the bottom end of the financial ladder to be able to take themselves up.
This legislation, if amended, to some extent could do that. But, in doing so, we notice that in his second reading speech the Minister has made certain exceptions. For example public servants, though he does not say exactly what specific public servants he refers to, and others are going to be given special treatment.
– Where do I say that? You point it out.
-I think the Minister should explain precisely what he means by what is in his speech. On the basis of the salaries already being paid right throughout the Public Service, and the pace setting principles that have been enunciated by this Government, I would have thought that public servants on the whole are in a much better position to pay interest rates than a number of people in the private sector who, as a result of Labor’s policies, are in every sense of the words on their uppers’. If the Minister questions the point that I made, I refer him to his second reading speech at page 284 of Hansard of 13 February 1975, in which the Minister said:
These may include, if the Government so decides- any future government- persons living in the Australian Capital Territory-
As the Minister is aware, such persons are already assisted as they have always been by successive governments: and the Northern Territory-
Again, that is a specific case: migrants, students, Aborigines-
And this is the point I made: and persons engaged in work for the Australian Government.
Mr Minister, I think you must explain that point more fully. That is all I ask.
-This Bill represents a new approach to housing policy. As the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has stated in his second reading speech, certain defects in the provision of housing have been identified and the Australian Housing Corporation has been established to act directly to plug those defects. To provide housing for people, we need land, we need building workers together with building materials, finance and the entrepreneurs, either private builders or government housing instrumentalities.
As I see it, the Australian Housing Corporation will act in 2 of these areas- finance and entrepreneurship. Finance will be available to various categories of home buyers and to builders. Provision is made for the Corporation to act as joint entrepreneur with private enterprise, particularly in the provision of rental housing. It is in this area of rental accommodation that the Housing Corporation will have the greatest potential to do good. It is not intended that the Corporation will duplicate the functions of existing institutions, such as the savings banks or the State housing authorities. It is intended that the Corporation will compliment the activities of other bodies. That is not to say that there is not a need for a co-ordinated approach to housing policy. There is a very great need for this and, later on, I will say something about it.
The greatest problem that we have today is with rental accommodation, both houses and flats. This Bill will assist that problem but a very great deal of thinking and action will still be necessary not just to overcome the shortage but to prevent it from becoming worse. What is responsible for this shortage? There are a number of factors. Firstly, there is the fact that so many forms of Government assistance discriminate in favour of home purchasers. Although it is not intended that way, the actual redistributive effect is harmful to people paying rent. For example, the home owner may deduct council rates and land taxes from his taxable income, thus getting a reduction in his income tax. This is a benefit which discriminates against those who do not own their own home. The same may be said of the tax deductibility of the interest component of home mortgage repayments.
However, before any members of the Opposition criticise this proposal, it is worth reminding them that exactly the same criticism is valid of the similar proposal of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in his 1972 election policy speech and of the home savings grants scheme introduced by the Menzies Government in the 1960s. A further benefit to home owners is the exemption of the family home from death duties. This, of course, is of no benefit if one has no family home of one’s own. I believe that these forms of discrimination may well be a reason for the sluggishness of expansion of rental accommodation. A developer building houses for purchase also has the problem of high costs and interest rates, but he knows that the prospective buyer will have some relief in the form of tax deductions whereas the tenant paying rent does not. This could well be a factor in discouraging development of rental accommodation such as flats.
A second factor in the shortage of rental accommodation is the prejudice of State Liberal governments against rent payers. This attitude is apparently ideological. It is cruel and indefensible. It is all very well for the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to say that they want to encourage home ownership, but this does not justify their harsh, in fact punitive, attitude to those families who cannot, or for various reasons do not wish to, buy their own homes. This attitude was made quite plain by the Victorian Minister for Housing in the negotiations leading up to the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. But the greatest monument to the approach of the Victorian Government is revealed in some figures contained in a pamphlet published recently by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. It is noted that in the year 1973-74 the Victorian Housing Commission’s total stock of rental homes actually declined. The Commission built 894 houses and sold 1181. What an achievement that is.
The question arises of whether the Australian Housing Corporation can help to overcome this problem. I think it can. Of course many other things also need to be done, but the Corporation can make a contribution. One thing it can do, and must do, is to provide funds for rental accommodation at concessional rates of interest. This will help to redress the balance towards rent payers as a counter to the considerable concessions already available to home buyers. The role of the Corporation acting as a joint entrepreneur with private builders is also important. One of the problems at present is psychological. If the Government comes in actively in this area it should bolster the confidence of builders and get them into action again.
What is needed above all in the housing industry is guaranteed continuity of activity. The real demand for housing in Australia is almost limitless because Australians will always want houses. The fact that there is this guaranteed market should be exploited to the maximum to ensure that housing is a growth industry. It is not an industry which can be greatly affected by competition from imports and it can therefore be planned to expand irrespective of international economic trends.
The Industries Assistance Commission- the IAC- has mentioned in its annual report those industries which require little assistance against imports. First on its list, which is implicitly a list of industries in which growth should be encouraged, is service industries. I suggest that the first item in this section should be housing, that is, the building industry and the manufacture of building materials. In order to achieve a growth of this industry there must be planned continuity of activity, and that means of course planning. This Government and the Australian Labor Party are committed to a policy of economic planning. To achieve national economic planning will not be easy.
As the Treasurer (Dr. J. F. Cairns) pointed out on ‘Monday Conference’ on Australian Broadcasting Commission television this week, most economists in Australia have a macro-economic approach, that is, they are concerned mainly with overall demand management by budgetary or monetary means. The existing bureaucratic institutions are unable, and probably in some cases unwilling, to take a more vigorous approach. I strongly recommend to the Government that a start be made on economic planning by going to work on the housing industry. If we cannot embark on an overall 5-year economic plan, let us at least have a housing plan. If it is effective it could be a prototype of an overall economic plan.
At the present time there is no machinery at all for housing policy except in the area of public authority housing. In the private sector, which is responsible for housing most Australians, there is no policy. Housing is of course the traditional responsibility of State governments, but even State Housing Ministers are really directly concerned only with their public housing authorities. There is a completely laissez faire approach in the field of private housing. I believe this is a rebuttal to those Opposition spokesmen in this debate who asserted that this Bill usurps the role of the State housing authorities. In fact, the State housing authorities are concerned really only with public housing. On the question of private housing there is really no overall policy in any field. Even in the field of public housing there is no real on-going planning. There is the conference of Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers, but this does not really represent a joint planning approach. Rather, each Minister arrives at the conference with a prepared position and the result is usually some kind of compromise.
The overall level of housing activity in Australia has been governed by the very blunt instrument of monetary policy or so-called demand management. I said ‘so-called demand management’ because what has been called demand for housing is not really that at all. Demand for housing is a euphemism for the supply of money for housing. When the Reserve Bank reduces the demand for housing it is of course not reducing the desire of people to buy houses; it is making it harder to borrow for houses. The reliance on monetary policy has had serious effects on the industry. Because the level of building is so sensitive to monetary policy, the result of monetary management has been that the economy is regulated by turning the housing industry on and off or rather from hot to cold to hot. A new approach is required, not of demand management but of assessment of the real housing needs of Australians; not of demand management, but of supply management; not so much the supply of money, but the supply of real resources for the building industry.
The planning authority should be a commission, not an Australian Government commission, but a joint Commonwealth-State commission. Perhaps the nearest analogy already in existence would be the River Murray Commission, which has a commissioner from the Australian Government and one from each of 3 States. The Commission would not have only Government appointees, however. It is essential to include building unions. Builders should also be represented, perhaps through the Housing Industry Association, which represents builders and building materials manufacturers and which has a fairly good finger on the pulse of the industry.
It is pleasing to see in the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing and Construction a reference to the Housing Indicative Planning Council which has just been set up under the Minister’s auspices. I believe this is a most welcome development but I should like to see the Council develop into a statutory body with a permanent infrastructure for evaluating needs and planning for the future, and with adequate powers to ensure a stable but growing industry. For guaranteed growth of the industry continuity of activity is needed. This means continuity of supplies and continuity of workers. One of the problems which results from the fluctuations in the housing industry is the departure of people from the industry during a downturn, and some never return. If there is guaranteed continuity there will not only be fewer departures from the industry but also more people will enter it.
Having more people enter the building industry raises the perennial question of adult apprenticeships. Officially the trade union movement has adopted an accommodating approach to this question, but there must still be some reservations by building workers about what will happen to them if there is a sudden glut of newcomers into the industry and a downturn occurs. If building workers were to feel that way, who could blame them? The answer to this conundrum must surely be permanency for building workers. If job security is guaranteed for workers already in the industry an expansion of the work force would mean more employment, not less. To achieve permanency should not be an impossible task. It has been achieved in the stevedoring industry, in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Incidentally, the ASIA was established for what was believed to be a declining industry in terms of employment. Surely the same objective would be even easier to achieve in a growth industry, which the housing industry must be.
Many economic and social benefits would flow from planned continuity and growth in the building industry. With an expanding work force and with the industry insulated against fluctuations in the national and international economy, a guaranteed growth can be assured in the supporting industries; not only those making building materials but also in industries making the domestic appliances which go into most homes. This, of course, means that high employment levels can be sustained in the slumps which are intrinsic to the capitalist economic system.
It is also worth noting that the building and building materials industries are not unpleasant industries to work in, particularly in comparison with many other industries which Australian workers endure- industries, incidentally, which are very vulnerable to international economic pressures and which require heavy slabs of protection in times like the present. Another important function of such a planning body would be in assuring continuity of” supplies of materials. It seems anomalous to me that manufacturers of bricks, for example, should be laying workers off because of excessive stocks. If we return to a buoyant state in the building industry, which I believe we will soon do, the lay-offs now occurring, apart from the trauma to the workers concerned, could mean a future return to the shortages we experienced in the past. Rather than trying to re-employ these workers in the regional employment development scheme, which is a good scheme in its own right but which involves a heavy expense for each job provided, I would prefer to see some assistance given to manufacturers to continue production in spite of their large stockpiles. Perhaps the assistance could be in the form of servicing overdrafts on stocks. With the assurance of sustained activity in the industry we would then have the other essential ingredient of confidence. I have already mentioned labour and materials, but we also need confidence. Confidence is vital in an industry which is so dependent on the private sector. A planned approach would provide it.
Above all, planning means evaluation of supply and demand, not of money but of real resources. It is the thought that more money, or less money, will solve our housing problems which is quite fallacious. The Australian Housing Corporation Bill does, in fact, provide for the Corporation to act as a lending institution in respect of such things as bridging the deposit gap. This is a problem, not so much in the Bill but in a philosophical sense. Of course, everybody is in favour of helping people to close the deposit gap but what is really needed is more houses. In the short run some finance at relatively low interest rates to help bridge the deposit gap will help to get people to build houses. This is to be commended in this legislation, but there are limitations. Once we reach the stage of making full use of the resources available to the building industry the answer is not more money but to raise the capacity by manpower policies and planning. If the capacity cannot be raised more money will mean not more houses but dearer homes. Indeed, in these circumstances, further concessions to home buyers will only further disadvantage those who do not own houses. If concessions are given to home buyers, and houses are not available, the only effect will be rising prices. This is a further handicap to those who do not qualify for those concessions. I ask honourable members to remember that home owners have an inflation-proof asset as well as special privileges such as taxation advantages. It is time we gave rent payers a go because they have neither an inflation-proof asset nor tax advantages. I suggest that consideration might be given to providing direct subsidies to people who pay rent. I am not sure whether this Bill would enable this to be done.
– This Bill makes it possible.
– I thank the Minister for his comment. I think this is most important. A problem in areas where there are many people paying rent, such as in inner suburban areas and certainly in part of my own electorate, is that if the area becomes popular for redevelopment, the tendency is for council rates and other charges to increase heavily. The result is that many people will experience an increase in the unimproved values of their properties and if they are on low incomes they can be priced out of an area in which they might have lived for most of their lives. I should not like to see this happen nor do I think would any Government supporter. People should be encouraged to remain in the suburb of their choice. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, people of various income and social groups should be encouraged to live together in the one suburb rather than there being created what might be called ghettos. Provision could be made in this legislation for specific rental subsidies to enable people to remain in the suburbs of their choice. I am pleased that the Minister indicated that such provision is made in this legislation. It is an extremely progressive move. I support the Bill.
– It is a pleasure to be able to participate in this debate because I am very concerned about the state of housing in this country. I should like particularly to take up some of the comments of the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) who preceded me in this debate. He referred to the New South Wales and Victorian governments. Honourable members may recall that when he made his allegations that those governments discriminate against rent payers I asked him for evidence. I challenge any honourable member to produce facts instead of allegations to substantiate such a claim. I am ashamed that a South Australian should come into this chamber and say, with his limited experience, that there is discrimination in New South Wales without facts to substantiate his allegation. I recall well that the New South Wales and Victorian governments have expressed the desire to promote as far as possible home ownership within their States. What they did not want forced on them was a situation where rental accommodation was specified as being a fixed percentage of the amount of accommodation that they had to build and provide.
– New South Wales welcomed it.
-It may have welcomed it within the limits of its financial capacity to build this sort of accommodation having regard to the needs. The Minister’s interjection highlights my point that the New South Wales Government has not discriminated against rent payers in its philosophies and approaches. That was an allegation unsubstantiated by evidence but simply by innuendo. One of the problems of this House today, exemplified by the behaviour we have seen this morning, is that Government supporters are prepared to make these sorts of allegations often but if they suspect that there is even a slight whisper about themselves at any time they shout with indignation like pricked pigs. On this occasion we have seen unsubstantiated remarks without any evidence.
The honourable member for Kingston called for direct subsidies for rent payers. He looked at the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) and asked: ‘Mr Minister, have we some provision in this Bill for rent payers?’ I was not at all surprised that the Minister said, ‘Of course, of course’, because this Bill, as the Government sees it, has in it the panacea to solve all the problems it has created in the housing field. When his colleagues are looking for an excuse for their constituents the Minister is quite prepared to say that this Bill will cover anything his colleagues are worried about. In bis second reading speech the Minister was careful to excuse the Bill so that there would be no possible conflict with State authorities. I propose to take honourable members through that speech and to examine a number of his comments, then to take them through the Bill because quite clearly there is no reference in the Minister’s speech to the sort of powers this Bill assumes for him and the Government. It does assume powers for him because he has power to direct his Corporation as to how it is to behave. I am prepared to support, in principle, the comments of the honourable member for Kingston in calling for the Government to plan how it is to operate our economy and to make announcements so that people in private industry- home builders, developers, home buyers and even the people who want to rent homes- will know with certainty how they will be affected. The most important problem that we face at this time in our economy is that we do not know how the Government will act next.
I would support any commission or indicative planning committee that is able to bring forward positive suggestions as to how the Government will manage the economy responsibly in order to provide an economic climate in which homes can be provided for people who need them. But there is no certainty that this will emerge from this Bill. The Minister’s comments may well relate to the Housing Indicative Planning Council that he has set up, and I will believe that there will be results from it when I start to see them. Until the present time that Council has met only once or twice. The Minister made a speech to the Council to indicate what is expected of it, and the Chairman of the Council has made a little speech, but we know nothing of how it will function. Certainly the Council has not come forward with a report demanding that the Bill is needed to enable the Council to carry out the sort of planning that is necessary.
It is important that we should look at our economy and that we should realise that there are problems in it. I need not go through these problems in detail, but it may give weight to my views if I refer honourable members to the publication entitled Monthly Review of the Employment Situation January 1975 ‘. It shows that in the skilled building and construction area 14 068 male people were registered as unemployed at the end of January 1975, as against 4 331 in January 1974, 5 251 in January 1973 and 5 158 in January 1972. The Minister in his speech makes it quite clear that the Indicative Planning Council will not look at the wide ranging fields of housing commission development and public housing building development because he says that they are the responsibility of the States. But in Australia today there are 14068 building and construction workers unemployed- almost 3 times as many as there were in any of the preceding years to which I have referred, including the period in which the Opposition was in government. That is very relevant. Clearly by proper economic management a situation can arise in which people are not unemployed and in which homes are built for people who are demanding them. Experience demonstrates quite clearly that there is not an immediate demand for the type of corporation to be set up under this Bill.
Certainly in the need area, that of welfare housing, the Minister, in his speeches but certainly not in the Bill, is abdicating responsibility for providing that form of housing- except in the sense that the Commonwealth will make moneys available to the State housing authorities, and those funds are welcome. ‘Treasury Information Bulletin No. 77, January 1975’, make it clear that the number of dwelling commencements also has declined in the most recent quarter. The publication states:
Clearly there has been an increase in government housing. This is one of the things that worries me, because I personally am convinced that most people in Australia like to be able to plan themselves the home in which they will live, without having it forced upon them and without having the situation in which governments provide housing in the cheapest possible waywhich means uniformity of housing, lack of different designs and an unexciting environment in which to live. This is one of the real concerns that I have about this legislation.
Notwithstanding the delightful phrases that the Minister used in his second reading speech, this Bill certainly does not in any way indicate to me that the Government wants less involvement. It indicates that the Government wants greater involvement, and we all know the results that that produces. The ‘Treasury Information Bulletin’ indicates that during the December quarter of 1974 only 40,300 dwellings were completed, which was 3 per cent less than in the December quarter of 1973. These figures are important because what is happening is that fewer homes are being built and there is no suggestion that the Government, as a result of a Bill of the type that we are discussing, will be able to manage the economy any better in order to enable people to buy their own homes. I read the Minister’s Press statement on this matter in which it was suggested that the specific schemes which were not yet finalised covered a wide range of options and one of these was to make second mortgage loans to cover deposit gaps with graduated repayments. I could not object to that as an option but what I would like to see is a Bill which’ makes provision for that. Certainly there is nothing in this Bill which indicates, firstly, that money will be positively appropriated or, secondly, that the Commission will operate in such a way as to provide this benefit. If the Government has this as a policy what I want to see is a Bill brought into the Parliament to give effect to it.
One could go through each of the other positive proposals put but what I submit is that if these are the positive policies of the Government and they are not coming forward in legislative form this Bill is being used as an excuse to say: We have acted, we have provided you with these things which we believe are desirable,’ whereas in fact the Corporation might not be able to do these things at all or might not be directed to do these things and in fact has no responsibility for doing these things. We all know what weight there is in speeches made by honourable members, including Ministers, when it comes to interpreting Acts of Parliament.
– Nil; quite right. That is why I take honourable members to the Bill itself because it is important to look at clause 6 (2) which reads:
The Corporation also has, subject to and in accordance with this Act, the following functions:
to grant money for the building of dwellings, the purchase of dwellings and the purchase of land to be used for dwellings;
to build dwellings or take part in, or be associated with, the building of dwellings;
to sell and lease dwellings built, purchased or otherwise acquired by the Corporation;
to provide, or ensure the provision of, facilities and services for persons in dwellings with which the Corporation is concerned; and
such functions as are conferred on the Corporation by any Act.
These are the functions of a housing commission; these are the functions of an organisation that has the responsibility for providing and building estates of a uniform nature as we have seen built by the Housing Commission of New South Wales. Yet when we go to the Minister’s second reading speech what do we find? We find glib assurances that these are not the objectives at all. The Minister in his second reading speech said, and this is more important:
That is exactly what it is, a powerful new vehicle- capable if properly directed -
I do not know what he means by that- of fulfiling our national housing aspirations.
– He graduated in semantics, first class.
-I thank honourable members on this side for their co-operation in helping to interpret these comments. I would submit that these comments certainly indicate what is intended by this Bill and that is the creation of a powerful new vehicle. Those are the words that are used. Clause 6 continues:
The Corporation may perform its functions to the extent only that they relate to matters with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws and, in particular, may perform its functions-
My concern about this particular provision is that by the very matter of the Commonwealth’s taking unto itself the greatest possible power it can assume under the Constitution- and that is what the Minister is seeking by this powerful new vehicle- it is assuming responsibility for only some people within the Commonwealth of Australia. This is a vehicle that will enable this organisation to provide for some people selectively.
I am not suggesting that those people should not receive housing, but what I am saying is that, if a
Commonwealth vehicle is set up to deal with particular people and the remainder are left to fend for themselves or with the State authorities, that in my view is inadequate. It is a duplication and it is part of the problem of Government in Australia today.
I want to take this opportunity in this debate to mention some very strong feelings that I have and to voice one of my anguishes as a Federal parliamentarian. We are dicussing matters relating to housing. It is proposed to set up a powerful new housing vehicle. While we are all very concerned about housing, while we all want to see housing provided for people, while we all want to see an economy in which housing can be created instead of an economy which has destroyed the ability of our community to create housing, we as parliamentarians are spending our time dealing with this and with a multitude of other matters which remove from us our ability to participate in decision-making in areas for which we have paramount responsibility.
The Bill we are discussing is another example of the Government’s bringing to itself power to deal with certain people in the community- and that is what has happened- while we abrogate our responsibility to deal with foreign affairs, immigration, defence- all the matters for which we have specific responsibility, about which I feel very concerned and on which I rarely have an opportunity to speak. We have seen on the part of this Government a number of actions to which I object very much. I want to use this debate to highlight one of them. It concerns me that the particular clause to which I have referred enables the Government to be selective in the way in which it provides for people. We have seen the Government use funds in a way in which I do not believe any previous government would have used government funds. We have seen produced a document -
– Have you ever seen your Vietnam pamphlet?
– I have never seen in my time in this House a document produced, even by the Government of which the Minister is a member, that resembles in any way the document I have here. It is a document produced with government funds in bold blue and white. It is entitled: Housing Under Labor- Australian Government Achievements since 1972 by Les Johnson, Minister for Housing and Construction’. This document has been produced at the expense of the Australian people. It is not a document which lists the achievements of the Government; it is not a document which explains to people the benefits they may be able to derive from the policies of the Government. It is a document deliberately designed as a propaganda vehicle for the Government.
– For the Labor Party.
-It is quite clearly for the Labor Party, as the honourabl member says. It is irresponsible. It is another example following on what we have seen today. It clearly shows how the Government is prepared to hang on to office at any cost- even to the extent of raping democracy. This Parliament has been abused, and the Public Service is abused when public servants in the Minister’s Department are required to lend themselves to the production of a pure propaganda document. The Minister ought to be ashamed of himself, and I am ashamed for him.
The Bill has in it powers that enable the Commonwealth Government to assume and take over land of the States. Clause 49 gives the Commonwealth power to acquire land, even Crown land of a State. In his second reading speech the Minister indicated that it was not intended that State lands would be taken over. Yet the Bill contains a clause of the widest possible nature. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The Corporation would purchase land on its own account only to the extent that land required for its programs was not available from land commissions or their equivalents in the States.
Yet clause 49 reads: the Corporation may acquire by agreement or by compulsory process any land for the purposes of the Corporation, including, with the approval of the Minister-
That is not the State Minister - land that is Crown land of a State.
This is supposed to be a Bill in which the Government co-operates with State governments to meet the housing needs of the Australian people. There is no doubt in my mind, having read the clauses in the Bill which assume powerparticularly the clauses that enable the Commonwealth to take over State land- that their purpose can be most insidious, that the legislation can operate in wider ways than any of us imagine. There are no restrictions in this Bill which would limit its operations. I think honourable members ought to concern themselves with the provisions of the Bill and not with the wild allegations that we have heard from members opposite of what they will do or hope to do. The reasons that we oppose the Bill in its present form is because of the provisions contained in the Bill. If the Government has real policy proposals let it put them forward in a positive form.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am shocked, disappointed and dismayed at the attitude of the Opposition towards this far-reaching legislation. It is another example of the Opposition’s shabby and miserable role of obstruction. The Liberal-Country Party Opposition in this Parliament will go down as the people who exercised the methods of obstruction frustration, delay and deferment in its cynical campaign for power and in its cynical method of approach while it tries to settle itself down and to overcome its bitter internal fighting in order to present itself to the Australian people at a future election. Who is suffering? The people of Australia, the poor and the underprivileged are suffering whilst this campaign proceeds. I was absolutely disgusted by the contribution made in this debate by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). The honourable member for Bradfield had the audacity to accuse this Government of being morally bankrupt. What nerve for him, a representative of the Liberal Party, to make that outrageous proposition. Not content with that he and the honourable member for Parramatta set out on the favourite hobby horse of the Liberal and Country Parties to whip the Australian Public Service.
The Australian population is very fortunate to have an efficient and highly-skilled public service which has served this nation well since Federation without scandal or any suggestion of corruption. Many countries envy Australia. It illbehoves irresponsible members of this Parliament to make unjustified attacks on the benefits that go to Australian public servants. When honourable members opposite accuse this Government of setting the pace I would simply say that if they look at the conditions which apply in some of the State public services, particularly in New South Wales, they will find that even after 2 years of this Government the Australian Public Service is still lagging behind. I ask honourable members opposite to look not at what the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says about the proposed superannuation scheme for Australian public servants but at the benefits that are received in New South Wales. It is high time that at least this Government, after neglect by previous governments, did something to assist Australian public servants.
If anybody has been morally bankrupt in the building industry it is not the present Minister for
Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) because he and his colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) have done more in the last few months for the Australian building industry than the Opposition did in a quarter of a century. They have obtained the co-operation of Australian building unions to overcome the difficulties that were created by the sheer neglect of Liberal-Country Party governments in the past. For a generation too few skilled tradesmen have been trained in the building industry. For a generation building trade unions were telling Liberal-Country Party governments that a shortage of skilled tradesmen would occur because those governments were allowing a policy to develop whereby sufficient men were not being trained. It fell on deaf ears. Those governments ignored that advice in their cynical disregard for the needs of the Australian people. It has taken this Minister for Housing and Construction and the current Minister for Labor and Immigration to get the co-operation of those unions and the employers to train and retrain people in the industry.
It is no use for the Opposition to talk about the funds that it makes available. Funds being made available at the appropriate rate of interest by the Opposition’s rich and powerful friends outside this Parliament mean nothing if the skilled labour is not available to construct the houses and dwellings which are required. The honourable member for Bradfield criticised this Government for having the audacity to have a deficit budget. This is not the first deficit budget in Australia’s history.
– It is the biggest.
-It is not the biggest. It is not the biggest deficit budget in the world either. Let me remind my ignorant friends from Cocky Corner who could not find their way outside a cow paddock that a man named Franklin Roosevelt in the height of the depression had to put up with the idiotic nonsensical criticism that they are putting up today. The calamity that he caused the world was to overcome the depression and get people back to work. When Country Party members put forward this sort of rubbish on economics they should think back. History has proved that the policy of the present Government is sound. The only time that deficit financing causes inflation is when there is an over.utilisation of resources. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they buy a book about economics instead of a book on how to raise cows and they might be able to make some contribution to this sort of debate.
The honourable member for Parramatta challenged Government members to show how citizens of New South Wales, under a miserable Liberal-Country Party Government, had been discriminated against if they happened to be tenants. I shall be delighted to tell him. If his daddy will not tell him, I will. He ought to know or he should not be there. Let me tell the honourable member the facts of life. The Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales has left for dead the aged, the sick, the disadvantaged and the invalid who are forced to rent premises. They have no protection. People who have earned in recent years the fantastic sum of $80 a week are regarded by the New South Wales Government as wealthy tenants. They have no protection at all even though they may have lived in the same house for 30 years. These are the people who are being victimised. These are the people who cannot pay the rents that some of the honourable member’s friends want to charge. These are the people who cannot stand up to the miserable, contemptible tactics in which some of his friends engage in order to remove them from their houses.
If the honourable member denies it, I invite him to come with me and listen to the complaints that my friend, Mr Einfield, M.L.A., the member for Waverley, and I will be hearing from people at Bondi next Monday morning. There will be a queue of people who will complain. Tenants of private owned, rented housing are the forgotten people of this country. They have certainly been discriminated against in New South Wales. I note that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) is inclined to agree with me because I think he has a bit more soul than has the honourable member for Parramatta. I am glad to see that he has.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Far from agreeing with the honourable member for Phillip, I point out -
-I regret, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I accused the honourable member of having some compassion and of being concerned about people. I thought that he would, being the type of gentlemen he is, but now we see his real attitude. The people about whom I was speaking suffer real disadvantages. They are the people who are the least protected. Let me talk about the number of people involved. There are 930 000 rented dwellings in Australia. Of them 155 000 are owned by public housing authorities. This means that some 776 000 dwellings are privately owned and let for rent. Some 26 per cent of all dwellings are rented. More than 20 per cent of all dwellings are privately owned. The great bulk of them are subject to no protection at all. The landlord can charge what he likes. Those who seek to resist are subjected to harassment which would shock any reasonably minded member of this House, things like subjecting them to unwarranted noise and the tenants can do nothing about it; things like radios turned on at full blast in the next flat and left on all night; things like landlords making sure that no repairs are done. All types of harassment are engaged in and the New South Wales Government does, nothing about it. The honourable member for Parramatta has the colossal nerve to stand here and say that what the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) said is beyond proof. If the honourable member for Parramatta comes with me on Monday I will show him a score of places where this has occurred and where it is occurring at present. He will not come, because he does not want to see the error of his ways. He does not want to see the facts, because he may be forced to take a different line from the one that is dictated to him from outside this Parliament.
I do not wish to take all my time in simply answering what honourable members opposite have said, because this legislation has so many fine and positive features associated with it. There is in Australia a middle group whose housing needs have been sadly neglected for far too long. Members of that group are too wealthy to qualify for public housing and too poor to provide a house for themselves. Their predicament is substantial. They become easy prey for the unscrupulous and greedy to exploit their position. There are families in which there must, of necessity, be 2 wage earners. Sometimes this result is achieved by the principal breadwinner having 2 jobs. The means test for public housing in New South Wales is quite severe. The waiting list has grown very long and continues to grow. Young married couples have been severely hit and disadvantaged. Both have to obtain employment in order to rent a home. Their difficulty is that their combined earnings disqualify them from consideration for public housing, but the rent to be paid requires them both to work. These people are truly on a treadmill.
This Government has done more for public housing- more funds have been made available to State governments for public housing- than has any other government in Australia’s history. Funds for States for housing have more than doubled under this Government. In 1972-73, $169m was made available for this purpose; in 1974-75 that sum has risen to $375m. Housing is a basic or essential need of life. For far too long national governments have been little more than casual observers in the field of housing. Gimmicks and stunts utilised by previous LiberalCountry Party governments did little to assist the genuine home seeker. Rents are rising very rapidly in Sydney at present. The Government will need to take action through the banking system to ensure that builders and developers gain finance to engage in urgently needed building construction work. Finance from hire purchase companies is now not available to many of these developers.
Last year some 153 500 dwellings were built in Australia, which is a record for any Australian government since Federation. I think that this Government is entitled to take considerable credit from that achievement. This proposed Corporation could provide substantial assistance to the neglected, the under-privileged and those persons who are discriminated against and who are forced to pay rent at present. The Corporation could assist and encourage people to obtain essential independence and security by owning their own home. There are 2 main obstacles to the acquisition of a home by the ordinary person. The first is the capacity to repay the loan and the second is the inability to raise funds for a deposit. This second obstacle has been referred to by the Minister for Housing and Construction as the deposit gap.
A survey conducted in September 1973 for the Minister for Housing and Construction showed that some 20 per cent of all purchasers of housing in Australia required a second mortgage. Since then costs have continued to increase, and this has meant a substantial increase in the difficulty experienced by some people in obtaining their first home. The introduction of tax deductibility of interest payments on home loans lifts some of the burden of repayments on those loans. It is interesting to know that even this social reform will be opposed by the LiberalCountry Party Opposition and perhaps withdrawn by a future Liberal-Country Party government if the day ever arrives when there is one. Overcoming the deposit gap poses a most difficult problem for most Australian home seekers. High interest rates as a result of inflation and world wide monetary trends have made prospective home buyers more cautious in negotiating loans. The rates charged for some loans on second mortgages are unconscionable. When we look at that and we look at the Opposition opposing this Bill and see what is proposed in it, we start to see where the money comes from; we start to see why the Opposition is opposed to the disclosure of contributions to political parties. It is because the hire purchase companies- those secondary institutions, the illegitimate children of the banks- the merchant banks, and the overseas finance corporations are opposed to this type of scheme. They are the ones who pay the Liberals and that is why the Opposition is opposed to this sort of proposition.
Some young people are desperate for their first homes and have been fleeced by loan sharks. This proposal has a marked effect on interest rates charged on second mortgage loans. Other actions which have already been taken by the Government will also have some effect. The very significant increase in liquidity will overcome some of the difficulty in the availability of second mortgage finance and should result- and has already resulted- in some decrease in the rate of interest which can be obtained by lenders from borrowers.
The availability of funds for second mortgage loans under this scheme at reasonable rates of interest will have a secondary as well as a primary effect. It will mean that there is an alternative source of funds available in addition to that source by which borrowers are fleeced and outraged. It will also be possible to gear the repayment of the second mortgage to the financial ability and capacity of the borrower. In some cases it is highly desirable, if not essential, to be able to arrange a deferral of the repayment. There are cases when this will not be attractive to borrowers but, for some, it will make the difference between being able to obtain a home for the first time and being forced to rent premises for an indefinite period. Consider the person who seeks a loan now from a terminating building society in New South Wales. Under the new means test- the means test adopted by this Government as distinct from its predecessorpersons who earn up to $ 1 36.80 a week will now qualify for loans under terminating building societies.
– At 5% per cent.
-As the Minister says, at an interest rate of 5% per cent. If this Minister does nothing more in all the time that he will be Minister for Housing and Construction in this Parliament, he has done a great deal and has achieved a landmark in bringing these people into this area.
– He does not have much longer to go.
– I would like to have a little wager with my friend. The Minister has a long time to go indeed because he will not be replaced by people who advocate the sort of policies advocated by the honourable member for Parramatta. Irrespective of what he thinks the Australian people are not so dense that they cannot see through the nonsense he is advocating. A person who qualifies for a loan under a terminating building society will be able to borrow $17,250. Repayments under this scheme, even at such a favourable rate of interest, are about $102 a month. There is no way of buying a house in Sydney for that amount of money. In the foreseeable future, with the refusal of the New South Wales Government to participate in a land stabilisation scheme, it is unlikely that the price will fall. In fact the probability is, having regard to the policy of the Liberal-Country Party coalition government in New South Wales, that it will continue to escalate..
The problem is this: Having obtained that loan- it being insufficient to purchase a housethe borrower must find some other source of funds. If he saved $3000 he must borrow at least another $5000. This can impose a very heavy strain on the young married couple. The new method of payment- the deferred payment scheme- deserves immediate and serious consideration. There is provision for it in this Bill. Perhaps a new structuring of loan repayment is required.
I am happy to be advised by the Minister that the Government is giving very careful and serious consideration to the methods by which such schemes may be achieved. An alternative might be to direct second mortgage loans to appropriate lenders for on-lending, as it were, to approved borrowers. Perhaps the mortgagee can provide 75 per cent or 80 per cent of the funds and the Housing Corporation the balance.
I congratulate the Minister on his foresight in bringing this legislation into this House. I am sure this House will adopt it. I appeal to members of the Opposition to think again, to think about the poor, the underprivileged and the disadvantaged, before they coerce their colleagues in another place to vote against this very socially desirable measure. I ask them to think of the elderly people and to give the battler ago.
-The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) begins each of his speeches in the same way. He goes into a tirade against the speaker before him, condemning everything he has said out of hand, accusing him of not having any compassion for the poor, the sick or the needy. I would suggest to the honourable member that he desist from continuing that kind of tirade because it is ringing rather hollow in these chambers. Nobody really takes any notice of the honourable member when he speaks in that fashion. I would remind him, however, when he speaks of the standing of the Opposition in this Parliament, of the events which took place in this chamber this morning and of the most disgraceful conduct by any member of the House, I would think, in living memory and probably in the history of this Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman speak to the Bill.
-There is no doubt of the importance of home ownership to Australians and to Australia. It is something which is enshrined in the philosophy of the Liberal Party because we believe that for the great bulk of the community a home will be the most substantial single asset they will hold during their lifetime. For the great bulk of middle income people and those on more moderate incomes that statement is well founded. It is as well to remind ourselves when we speak on a subject such as housing that Australia has a remarkable record with regard to the distribution of wealth. We have an egalitarian distribution of wealth in Australia which has evolved over the last 50 to 60 years. A census taken in 1915 indicated that the top one per cent of families in Australia owned 39 per cent of the country’s wealth, a concentration that compares with the current United Kingdom and United States of America levels of 42 per cent and 32 per cent respectively. There could be many mechanisms involved in the process over the last half century which has led to the egalitarian distribution of wealth I have mentioned, and in particular by which today some 99 per cent of Australian families have increased their share of the nation’s private wealth from 61 per cent to 91 per cent- a very high proportion indeed.
It would appear from well founded studies that the dominant factor creating such egalitarian distribution of wealth arises from the degree of home ownership in Australia rather than that created by other mechanisms operating within the community, particularly savings. So we can point to so much of the wealth of individuals in the homes which they own. Within the philosophy of the Liberal Party we have always sought an underpinning of the widest distribution of wealth through an instrument of private ownership such as the family home.
It is remarkable against that background to hear a speech of the kind that we heard from the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) earlier this afternoon. In it he reluctantly- you could discern it in the tone of his voice as well as in the things that he said- acknowledged the importance of home ownership, although he referred to it in such ways as so-called free choice of a home and so-called private ownership. It is quite clear from the speech of the honourable member that he would much rather see State ownership of homes and all people who live in homes the tenants of the State. He is a gentleman coming from my own State of Western Australia and I am sure his views, if put forward to the people on public platforms as well as in this House, would soon be shown to be totally unacceptable to the community.
What the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) is proposing to do by this Bill is to create a Crown corporation. It is as well to notice the utilisation by this Government of the Crown corporation as an instrument to achieve its own political philisophy of socialisation and nationalisation. Those in the Australian Labor Party who would pursue those policies know that outright nationalisation is impossible to achieve within the terms of the Australian Constitution. Therefore they mustand I give them credit for this- seek other ways of achieving that objective. They believe that they have found one such way in the formulation of the Crown corporation. We have seen this repeated, for example, by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in the formation of the National Pipeline Authority and in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, both Crown corporations intended to concentrate ownership in the state which, coupled with the financial power of the Commonwealth, intrude into the activities of the community in a large measure. It is done, as is so often described, under the euphemism of public enterprise, and that is a completely misleading description of what this Government proposes to do by means of these Crown corporations.
When one has regard to the massive financial power available to the Commonwealth through the taxes that it raises from the people and when that massive financial power is diverted, not to private individuals or private corporations but to Crown or public corporations, it places those corporations in a tremendous position of advantage within the economy. I dare say that we will, or we would if this Government was allowed to continue, see a repetition on a grand scale of the formation of Crown corporations in all those fields of activity which are encompassed in the powers given to the Commonwealth by the Constitution.
I believe it is wrong for any community to allow the concentration of such power in the hands of public corporations of this kind. I firmly believe, in accordance with the Liberal philosophy, that much the better way in which to organise society is to allow the greatest economic freedom to individuals by seeing that the total income and the total wealth of the community are distributed on as wide a base as is possible down to the individuals. To the extent that financial power through income and wealth is diverted from individuals and placed into the hands of the state through Crown corporations such as this, individuals are denied economic freedom, and economic freedom is a fundamental of personal freedom.
This is why I take the opportunity now to endeavour to point out the differences between the philosophy of the Liberal and Country Parties who believe in individual economic freedom and private enterprise and the philosophy of public enterprise and nationalisation of the socialists who occupy the Government benches today. In that regard I would have expected that the Minister, if he were pursuing a program of greater economic freedom for individuals to acquire their own homes and to be able to afford to pay for those homes during their lifetime, would have looked to providing mechanisms or facilities through the private financial institutions of Australia for giving to the people the financial capacity to acquire their own homes. For example, I refer to a facility to allow for the discounting of all those home mortgages which have been insured by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation and the various other private insurers, thereby recycling the hundreds of millions of dollars also invested in housing mortgages. That would release a lot more credit for the use of individuals throughout the community for this noble purpose of acquiring their own homes. What we have instead is something which draws off from the community, through taxation, money which would otherwise be available to individuals, and distributes it back to the community according to the whims and wishes of the Government. I for my part would rather see individuals left with more money in their pockets to use as they want than to see more and more drawn out of their pockets and into the coffers of the Government.
A second such facility could be to extend to lending institutions in the home finance field facilities like lender of last resort, or some form of Reserve Bank support so that those private financial institutions may be more secure in the borrowing policies that they are able to follow. In that way the Government might be able to ensure a sufficient flow of money into this field of finance to enable fixed interest rate mortgages rather than the variable interest rate mortgages which are so commonplace in Australia today. If there was one thing more than another which was felt by home buyers in Australia during the financial squeeze put upon them by the high interest rate policies of the Government it was the increase in the rates of interest which private financial institutions like permanent building societies had to embark upon if they were to survive during that period. With those high interest rates the home buyer found that he was being priced out of his capacity to buy the home that he thought he would have no difficulty in buying when entering into the financial arrangements some years- indeed some months- before. I think it would be a worthy purpose for the Government to carry out a full scale investigation into ways and means of establishing within Australia as the commonplace system of finance a system whereby interest rates are fixed during the term of the mortgage or at least are variable only after a considerable length of time.
– Could you do that with building societies which borrow short and lend long?
- Mr Minister, you referred to that and that is why I have suggested that what you ought to be doing is looking at facilities which would enable lending institutions like permanent building societies to have that back-up financial support whereby they would not be subject to the vagaries of the interest rate policies of the government of the day and so could lend to people on long term fixed rates, or at rates reviewable only at fixed times during the term of the financial arrangement. I would have thought that that would be by far the better thing for this Government to do than to seek to establish this Australian Housing Corporation. It could still pursue all its objectives in the field of providing finance under the Defence Service Homes Act, for homes for pensioners, for homes for Aborigines and for public servants and others for whom the Government may legislate under its constitutional powers. It may do for all those classes of people all that it wants to do without creating this monster of an Australian Housing Corporation.
If there is one thing that is abundantly clear out of the recent experience of home buyers it is that the middle income earner is the one who is being hurt most by the high interest rate policies of the present Government. The low income earner has been protected by the provision of welfare housing and by schemes such as that instituted in my own State of Western Australia by the State Liberal-Country Party Government to provide support in hardship cases and of course there is limited financial capacity on the part of State governments to provide for all hardship cases. The low income earners, the people who need welfare housing- hardship cases- have been provided for in these hard times of high interest rate policy but it is the middle income earner who has been caught in the squeeze and there is nothing in this legislation that the Corporation can do to assist those middle income earners who are already buying their home and who are caught by the continuing high interest rate policies of this Government.
The Government, of course, might well turn to the scheme for the tax deductibility of mortgage interest payments but it is well known- I will not elaborate on this-that there are so many anomalies and inadequacies in that scheme that the middle income earner is not truly assisted in the increased payments that he must make due to the higher interest rate policies of this Government.
I also mention in answer to what is so often put forward in justification of the Government’s policies- the so-called inadequacies of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government. I mention these hallmarks of the. policies and activities of the Menzies Government which have supported that great egalitarian distribution of wealth through home ownership which we now find in Australia: Firstly, the homes savings grant scheme, secondly, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation; thirdly, the creation of savings banks primarily for the purpose of lending for home purchase- something which is so often forgotten is that savings banks were the creation of the Menzies Government- fourthly, the tremendous growth of the permanent building society movement throughout Australia in the 20 years of the Menzies and other Liberal governments; and fifthly, the growth of terminating building societies and under-pinning all of this activity a stable economy, which is something that all people in Australia would wish that we could look forward to in the future but there is no hope under the present Government. It may be, and we would expect that with the return of a Liberal-Country Party government we could again have stable economic conditions which would underpin the provision of finance for private ownership of homes. This Bill does nothing to add to that great record. The Opposition shadow Minister for Housing has already outlined many of the fundamental objections which the Opposition Parties have to this Bill. Other speakers on this side have also referred to certain parts of it but I would only be repeating many of the things that they have said if I went through each of these clauses in turn.
Clauses 28 to 33 are the important ones because they allow government by regulation. It has been recognised over many years in all parliaments that government by regulation is bad and one could not find a better example of bad government by regulation than in clauses 28 to 33. The Bill itself should state clearly what are the criteria upon which the Government may be a lender to approved lenders for housing, the criteria by which it may make grants- that is, give a subsidy to people- and by which it may make loans to individuals, and the terms upon which it could sell and lease to people. Under this legislation all of these things are to be done by regulation and not by the Bill. That is bad government, as I think anyone would recognise, but presumably the Government and particularly the Minister do not recognise that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I have to announce that the following message from His Excellency the Administrator has been received:
I desire to inform the House of Representatives that I have received a letter dated 27 February 1975 from the Honourable James Francis Cope M.P. tendering his resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives and that I have accepted his resignation. Accordingly I invite the House to elect a new Speaker.
– Honourable members, I have to announce that the next business is the election of a Speaker. Are there any nominations?
– I propose to the House for its Speaker Mr Scholes and move:
That the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.
– I second the nomination.
– Are there any further nominations?
– I propose the nomination of the honourable member for Angas, Mr Giles, as Speaker of the House. I believe Mr Giles is a fit and proper person to occupy this position and I thoroughly recommend his election. I move:
– I second the nomination.
-Are there any further nominations? There being no further nominations I ask the honourable member for Corio whether he accepts nomination.
– Does the honourable member for Angas accept nomination?
– The proposal is now open for debate.
– It is with a great deal of pleasure that I nominate my friend, the honourable member for Corio, Mr Scholes, for the position of Speaker of this House. I have no wish to refer to the unfortunate circumstances that brought about this election. If other honourable members of this House wish to do so that is their business. My function is to speak to this House on the virtues of Mr Scholes as the Speaker of the House; about his experience in the Chair which has been witnessed by all of us; about his ability while acting as Chairman of Committees which has also been witnessed by all of us; and about the dignity which Mr Scholes will bring to this office. Many honourable members have sat in this House longer than I. We know from experience the way in which Mr Scholes has performed his duties as Chairman of Committees in this House since the election of the Labor Government in 1972. Those honourable members who were here before then will know that Mr Scholes in his position as a Deputy Chairman of Committees brought to the Chair whenever he occupied it the dignity which is required for the highest office which this House can offer to any person.
I commend Mr Scholes to the House. I have no wish to make any comments about the honourable member for Angas, Mr Giles, a person for whom I have some personal affection. However, in these very serious circumstances personal affections are of little account when one must make a choice. I put it to my fellow members of this House that this choice is a serious one for the person who will occupy the Chair will continue in the traditions of those who preceded him.
Mr Clerk, having said that I would be most remiss if I did not take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the capacity and capability of the immediate past Speaker of this House the honourable member for Sydney, Mr James Cope. (Opposition members interjecting)-
-Mr Clerk, I hope that the exhibition which we have just witnessed ceases of now and that no longer will the dignity of this House be called into question by the undignified, behaviour of those who occupied office for some 23 years and cannot accept the proposition of sitting in Opposition where they appear as a disorganised rabble, and this is well known to the people of Australia.
Mr Clerk, the elevation of Mr Scholes to the most august position that this House can offer, as I have said already, will bring with it dignity. I am not suggesting that dignity has not been there in the past; of course it has been there. But it seems to me that what is required as of now- it is impossible to unscramble eggs- is somebody who will take to task those who seem bent upon destroying the dignity of this House and preventing the business of this House proceeding. (Opposition members interjecting)
-Those who sit opposite may raise their voices in opposition but they have not done so well in the past. Unless their manners improve, this House will not function in the way that it should. I strongly commend to the House the candidature of Mr Scholes for the office of Speaker.
-On this most extraordinary of parliamentary occasions we are deliberating tonight in circumstances which every one of the members on this side of the House feels need to be sheeted home in terms of the manner of the public political execution which was perpetrated by the man who is Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in order not to enhance the status of democracy, certainly not to improve the quality or the standing of this House, nor the members of it; rather to destroy a man who has been his parliamentary colleague, a man of whom the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) said, as recorded in Hansard on 9 July 1974.
Undoubtedly, he -
That is, Mr Cope- is one of the outstanding Speakers that the Parliament has produced.
The Prime Minister in his address to the Parliament on 5 December 1974 spent a considerable amount of time outlining the degree to which, under Speaker Cope, the legislative program, the sitting hours and the performance of the Parliament had reached what he asserted were the greatest number of sitting hours in a year for more than half a century. He asserted the success of the Government’s massive legislative program. Yet, Speaker Cope is the man whom the Prime Minister today decided to destroy.
This election of a successor to Speaker Cope then comes first to us as a tragedy in the manner of the destruction of a man who had the courage and ability to stand by those principles which we on this side of the Parliament hold dear. It is a tragedy that the men who are presently in Government are neither prepared to maintain the conventions nor to uphold democracy. Instead they, who are presently in Government, are prepared to see the destruction of Parliament and of the system whence government itself is elected. In those circumstances, we do not believe that any nominee from the Labor Party, irrespective of his record, and irrespective of the fact that he has performed on a number of occasions as Acting Speaker, as Deputy Speaker and as Chairman of Committees, is of sufficient integrity in the parliamentary sense to withstand the obvious influence that the Prime Minister seeks to assert on every member of his Party. When parliamentary members of the Labor Party accept the prescriptions of Caucus and when they accept the restraints that the Prime Minister today demonstrably placed upon the then Speaker and upon the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) but refused to place on the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), we do not believe that any member of that Party can be seen as being prepared to comply with the Standing Orders and to maintain the dignity of this Parliament. We believe that the honourable member for Angas, who is an upright member of this House, who has served with distinction as a deputy chairman of committees, and who is a former member of the Upper House of the Parliament of South Australia, is a man who can contribute a great deal to the restoration of a proper sense of perspective and balance and to the maintenance of those things that are right within this Parliament.
Mr Clerk, it is important that the members of the Labor Party, those who today must have been ashamed of the manner of the destruction of Mr Speaker Cope, think twice about the decision they are about to take. It is even more important that the members of the Australian community recognise that, because there was a conflicting parliamentary occasion in New South Wales, apparently the Prime Minister decided that today would be the appropriate time for this public political execution. It is important for the dignity and status of Parliament that the decisions of this place be seen to emanate with a distinction that can come only from a person who can uphold the Standing Orders and the dignity of this place. It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Angas has those capabilities in every respect. I commend his appointment to the members of the Government Party- for the time being in government- and I commend the circumstances of the destruction of Mr Speaker Cope to the consideration of the whole Australian community. I should like to say to former Mr Speaker Cope that he has the respect and admiration of every member on this side of the House for his integrity in his performance before this Parliament today.
- Mr Clerk, we have just heard Parliament’s own Brutus in action. Stab people in the back and then spend 10 minutes or so praising them. What manner of men are these? For 2 years we have watched them destroying this institution, making it impossible for the Speaker to handle question time and turning the place into a rabble. Who are the principal performers? One is none other than the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. In the 19 years that I have been in this Parliament I do not know of any behaviour that measures up to the hypocrisy, the vandalism and the plain parliamentary sabotage of which all Opposition members are guilty.
Tonight I have the opportunity to name the principal performers. I have named one. Another is none other than the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), the principal saboteur of parliamentary democracy in Australia, a man who will go to any lengths to prevent us from having decent parliamentary elections where all people’s votes count equally and a man who at every question time in this House will use his capacity and his special position to break up question time so that no longer can there continue one of the important traditions of this Parliament, namely, that Ministers stand here and answer in the public place and be heard publicly. So they made the life of Mr Cope a continual misery in his efforts to make this Parliament work in the way that it always had. The same criticism applies to the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. How is it that Australia is inflicted with 2 men like this at this time? How is it that we have these people leading the Country Party- I will not prostitute the English language by saying the once great Country Party’- that political rump that ruins Australian politics with all its antics and its claims?
We are here this evening to choose a successor to Mr Cope. Honourable members opposite used every way possible to humiliate and annihilate him as the Speaker of this House. There was no better example of it in the whole 2 years in which we have been in Government than today. Tonight we are nominating for the position, the highest honour that this Parliament can bestow upon one of its members, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). We have all known him well and liked him a lot since he entered this Parliament. He is one of our principal parliamentary activists. He is a man who knows the Standing Orders and he can look at rules. He can tell when a rule will not work. I give members of the Opposition some advice: Do not try to put some of your tactics and your trickery over the honourable member for Corio. He has had a long experience in public affairs in Geelong, which is his home town. He was prominent in the trade union movement in Victoria. He has the full respect of the Labor movement of Australia. This evening I have great pleasure in seconding the motion that he be elected to the position of Speaker of this House.
Before I sit down I shall say just one or two things about some of the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. He said that he wanted this House to operate on the principles that the Opposition holds dear. What principles? The Opposition is totally undemocratic in all its procedures. We watched members of the Opposition for years use this Parliament as their own private forum. They trampled upon every part of parliamentary tradition. They use their forces now in another place to make absolutely sure that we cannot conduct proper democratic elections in Australia. But even worse than that, for the last 20 years they have been the principal architects of McCarthyism in this country. They have smeared and assassinated the character of many thousands of people. In the last few weeks we have had character assassination continued even here. It is supported by silence from the people opposite. The principles they hold dearundemocratic practices, McCarthyism and character assassination- have no place in our Austraiian Parliament.
I respect the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). We will not hold it against him that he is one of the old boys of that redoubtable institution, the home of democracy and keen, rabid and radical spirits, the South Australian
Legislative Council. We will not hold it against him, but we have seen him here. We respect him. We admire him, and if it is all right to say so in this company, we like him. But ever since he came to this place he has been part of the machinery opposite.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
-Mr Clerk -
– Bring out the Junior Chamber of Commerce.
– I hope that all the members of the Junior Chamber have listened to the honourable member for a few moments. Parliament is in grave danger of becoming completely irrelevant when events of the type that we saw this morning are allowed to transpire in this chamber. The guilty man in this process sits on the front benches as the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Whitlam). I am reminded very much of the socalled Address to the Nation which this gentleman gave to the people of Australia on 16 February when he said:
I speak tonight about some disturbing developments in Australia’s parliamentary system which I am bound to say pose as serious a threat to its strength and stability as we ave ever encountered in our history. It is time to stop the rot.
If that time has now arrived- and surely it has, for both sides of this chamber- it is time for the Prime Minister of this country to stop the rot which has set into the parliamentary processes of Australia. The Prime Minister went on to say:
When violence is done to an important convention , a well established custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
– He was right.
– He might have been right in the statement, but if we apply that statement to what happened in the chamber this morning, violence has been done to the system and the guilty party in fact is the Prime Minister. I am finally reminded that in the same statement the Prime Minister said:
The real difficulties are great enough without deliberate sabotage.
If ever there was a case of deliberate sabotage of the knife being wielded on high- it was the sabotage that was perpetrated this morning, and that knife was plunged by the Prime Minister of this country into the back of a man with whom he had worked for a very long period of time. I am referring, of course, to the former Speaker. He now joins the ranks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). If there is any principle clear beyond contradiction in this House tonight it is simply that the honourable members on the other side of this
House- on the Government benches- know full well that they are led by a man who has broken his trust, who has flouted convention and whose word cannot be subject to reliance.
Mr Clerk, we need in this Parliament a man who is not subject to Prime Ministerial duress, and the honourable member for Angas is a man of that type. We need in this Parliament a Speaker who can stand aside from the personal abuse of a Prime Minister when he, the Prime Minister, believes that that gentleman in the Chair is not acting in a manner which is consonant with the party political stance of the government in power. I believe that the honourable member for Angas is a man of that type. I support wholeheartedly the nomination which has been made by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party.
The honourable member for Angas was first elected to this House in 1964, having previously served 5 years in the Parliament of South Australia. He has been re-elected at successive general elections since that time. He has toured on a number of parliamentary delegations. He is a former Deputy Opposition Whip. He carried out the requirements of that office in a most exemplary manner. Mr Clerk, I believe that the requirements of the office of Speaker- a position which has evolved over 600 years of parliamentary history- require integrity, judgment, common sense, and patience, tempered with the capacity to be able to deal effectively with what can be at times a difficult House. As I think of all those factors I have no doubt that they are manifestly evident in the qualifications of the candidate that the Opposition has put to the House tonight. I have very much pleasure in supporting in the strongest sense, on behalf of all members of the Liberal and Country Parties, the nomination of the honourable member for Angas as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
-Mr Clerk -
– I call the honourable member for Moreton.
- Mr Clerk, I move:
– I cannot accept the motion from the honourable member for Bonython. I call the honourable member for Moreton.
-Mr Clerk, the nomination of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) should be rejected.
Motion ( by Mr Daly) put by the Clerk:
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-I thank the House for the honour of electing me Speaker. In doing so, I would say that I will endeavour to perform the duties of Speaker in the best traditions of this House as impartially as I know how, and I will seek at all times to maintain the dignity of this chamber. (Mr Speaker having seated himself in the chair)
Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Government I have the greatest pleasure in congratulating you on being elected to the highest position to which the House can elect any of its members. It is less than 8 years since you were elected to the House. Many honourable members will remember the impression that you made in the campaign in which you were elected to the House. We who were associated with it remember very well how your experience in civil and industrial matters equipped you for representative duties and as Chairman of Committees. Two years ago, when I congratulated you on behalf of the Government on being elected Chairman of Committees, I said that all those who had served you in the Parliament knew what an avid student you are of parliamentary procedures and what a redoubtable proponent you are of parliamentary rights. In the 2 years that you have served as Chairman of Committees all honourable members would, I believe, confirm what I said at that time. I wish you, on behalf of the Government, a long and successful tenure as Speaker.
- Mr Speaker, you come to the Chair in unique circumstances. They have never previously occurred in this chamber. I know of” no precedent in any other Westminster Parliament. Today the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam), the Leader of the Government, the Leader on the ministerial side of the chamber, was seen by the chamber to intimidate your predecessor. He was seen to speak to the former Speaker in circumstances which made it abundantly clear that the words used were abusive. It was apparent to us all that the Prime Minister was intent not only on the destruction of a man but also he was totally reckless as to whether he also destroyed this institution- the Parliament. He not only intimidated the former Speaker, he also took unto himself the role of answering for the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). As the galley copies of Hansard show, your predecessor said:
Order! I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair. Order! Is the Minister going to apologise?
The Prime Minister said: ‘No’. He answered for the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Tonight I received a telegram. I accept it in good faith. It is addressed to me and it reads:
Telegram as follows sent Jim Cope with copy to Gough Whitlam: Congratulations on your courageous stand in tendering your resignation as Speaker of the House in view of the unprincipled action of the obviously incumbent member for Hindmarsh in his autocratic and demogoron actions. His attitude in Parliament is synonymous with the inactivity of giving proper realisation to the needs of the unemployed in various parts of Australia and particularly at Ingham in north Queensland. I repeat congratulations.
It is signed ‘Edgar Williams, President, Australian Workers Union’.
Not only did the Prime Minister abuse, intimidate, destroy and answer for the Minister for Labor and Immigration, but he also interfered in the duties of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). It is a well established practice of this Parliament and of all Westminster-style parliaments that when the Speaker names a member the Minister at the table- according to our practice, the Leader of the House- stands and moves that the member named be suspended from the service of the House. It was clear to us that the Leader of the House moved to do so in accordance with the tradition. It was equally clear that the Prime Minister interceded to prevent the Leader of the House from taking that course of action. Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House acted in a quite different way from your predecessor, Mr Speaker Cope, for Mr Speaker Cope acted courageously, according to principle, but the Leader of the House did not. He resumed his seat and offered no support whatever to your predecessor, Mr Speaker Cope.
Mr Speaker, I am sure you are well aware that the Speaker’s role is to protect the institution of parliament. Throughout history Speakers have come reluctantly to the chair- as you were, by tradition, dragged to the chair tonight. In the early days of parliament a Speaker ran the risk of death, and that was why he came so reluctantly. Mr Speaker, I wonder whether that was why you came so reluctantly tonight. Do you have the fear of death upon you if you act against the wishes of your Party? The role of the Speaker is to protect the parliament and the institution of parliament. In this Parliament, as in all Westminster-style parliaments, there is a government and an opposition side. All the standing orders, all the practice and the whole of the conventions of the Parliament are built around a government and an opposition side.
It is the duty of a Speaker to uphold the traditions of the parliament, to maintain a balance between the government and the opposition and to make sure that the opposition is not disadvantaged in any way, for to disadvantage the opposition is to cripple the democratic parliamentary system. Therefore, Mr Speaker, you have a heavy duty upon you. I ask you: Can any Speaker control only the Opposition? The answer is clearly no. For the Speaker to be a successful Speaker and to maintain the practice of the Parliament he must control, without fear and without favour, both the Opposition and the Government. When he ceases to control the Government he ceases to serve the interests of Parliament and will cease to have the support of every member of the Parliament as he should. Nothing will be served by his being kept in office only by members of his own Party wishing to support the Government.
From today’s performance it is clear that a Speaker under the present Prime Minister will need to have very great courage to stand for the principles which he is elected to uphold in this chamber. As the present incumbent in a long series of Speakers, not just in this Parliament but in the history and the tradition of Parliament, you, Mr Speaker, must have the courage of principle, as your predecessor disclosed today he did have. But, other members of this House disclosed today they did not have the courage and conviction of principle. Mr Speaker, you come to this office greatly disadvantaged. The reason you come greatly disadvantaged is that you cannot, on today’s performance, expect to have the support of the Government members in this House if you, in the discharge of your duty, believe it is necessary for you to discipline a member on the Government side. You are seriously disadvantaged. I say to you, Mr Speaker, that you should declare forthrightly and show by every action that you take that you do have the courage of the commitment and conviction to principle that this Parliament will function with full recognition of the rights of the Opposition and the Government and the obligations of the Opposition and of the Government.
Mr Speaker, in the course of the conduct of your duties I think you will have to make sure that the answers given by Ministers to questions are relevant to the question asked and are short. In that way there is no reason why this Parliament should not, in the 45 minutes of question time, average more than 20 questions. Mr Speaker, a very important duty for you to fulfil is to see that the Government is not allowed to have Ministers fed with a succession of Dorothy Dix questions so that they can make statements on policy at question time instead of making such statements by leave after question time, thereby giving the Opposition an opportunity to respond. This Parliament will not be able to work until the blow which was delivered to it today has been corrected.
- Mr Speaker, you have been elected to an extremely important position- the most important position of this Parliament- under very unfortunate circumstances. I congratulate you on being selected for that position. I took note today that you had the dignity to display your utter disgust and contempt for your own Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and for the performance of members of your Party to your Speaker by walking out of this chamber. I admire you for it. It is unfortunate that the conduct of Parliament was brought under challenge today. It is unfortunate that a man who has been liked and respected by all of us has been assassinated by the Prime Minister. I refer to the former Speaker of this House. Speaker Cope showed to this House, to Australia and to the whole British parliamentary institution around the world that he is a man of honour and dignity. Although at times he might have taken disciplinary action against me, I never held it against him because he was acting as he thought proper. But what happened today when he thought that the institution had to be defended and when his position had to be defended? He took the appropriate action, only to be deserted by his own Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the members of his own Party. It was a most deplorable performance.
I ask you, Mr Speaker, having been appointed to this position, to exercise the greatest fairness between members of both sides of this Parliament. On the performance of today one is now led to believe that a person in the Opposition can be named and thrown out of this House but nobody on the Government side can be named or thrown out, in other words, that this is going to become a dictatorship led by the Prime Minister, who wants to have complete control and reign over this House. You, Mr Speaker, will be carrying the responsibility to see that there is impartiality in this Parliament and, unless you do so, this whole institution will be placed at risk. I say to you: We want to see this impartiality from you. You have demonstrated that you are a competent person in the chair. You know the rules of this Parliament. Now it is up to you to apply them.
When the Parliament sees a Prime Minister bowing because he is not game to discipline one of his Ministers, a Minister who acts in the most undisciplined way in this Parliament, we wonder where we are going. He is prepared to let even his own Speaker be crucified. Where do we go now? Are you going to be the next, Mr Speaker? You have the awesome task of deciding whether you are going to be a man of honour who will see that there is fairness and equity in the rulings of this Parliament or whether you are going to be intimidated and dragooned by the Prime Minister and act just as a sycophant for him. I hope that your decision will be for the former. There has been a statement of some notoriety in recent days in these terms:
When violence is done to an important convention, a well established custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
I hope that you, Mr Speaker, take note of those remarks and do not display yourself as nothing more than a hypocritic demagogue, as some people have displayed themselves to this nation.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa-Prime Minister) I inform the House that it will be His Excellency the Administrator’s pleasure to receive the Speaker in the Library forthwith.
-I ask honourable members to accompany me to the Library to present myself to His Excellency, the Administrator, when honourable members may if they wish be introduced to His Excellency.
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I draw your attention to standing order 12 (p) which requires the presentation of members to His Excellency the Governor-General. My understanding of the Acts Interpretation Act is that it refers only to the Acts of the Parliament and there is no provision under the Standing Orders for this Parliament to resume until honourable members have been introduced to the Governor-General himself.
-To my knowledge the Administrator, acting for the Governor-General, exercises all of the powers that the GovernorGeneral exercises. (Mr Speaker and honourable members having proceeded to the Library and having returned).
-Order! I have to report that accompanied by honourable members I this day proceeded to the Library of the Parliament and presented myself to His Excellency the Administrator as the choice of the House and that His Excellency was kind enough to congratulate me on my election to the office of Speaker.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege. I draw your attention to page 148 of May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ which contains the comment:
Analogous to molestation of Members on account of their behaviour in Parliament are speeches and writings reflecting upon their conduct as Members.
Later, May states:
Reflections upon the character or actions of the Speaker may be punished as breaches of privilege.
I raise this matter now, this being the first time I have had the opportunity to do so today since there has been a Speaker in the Parliament. I have a proof copy of today’s Hansard proceedings which shows that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) stated:
Look, I do not give a damn what you say. I-
And then he was interrupted. The Speaker then said:
I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to apologise to the Chair.
The circumstances, Mr Speaker, of the intervention by the Minister for Labor and Immigration would seem to fit in its entirety with the interpretation of the statement that I quoted from May’s Parliamentary Practice. May refers to the degree to which the status of a Speaker is fundamental in the Australian system, or any Westminster democratic system. May gives illustrations of circumstances within which there shall be said to have been any type of reflection on the Chair and there is no doubt that the statement made by the Minister for Labor and Immigration was intended to be directed personally against the Speaker.
-I have to rule that this matter cannot be raised at this time as a matter of privilege. The matter was dealt with by the Chair at the time and by the House by way of a resolution of the House at the time.
-Speaking to the point of order, it was not dealt with as a matter -of privilege. This is the first occasion on which this matter has been raised before the Parliament as one of privilege.
-The matter was dealt with as a matter of order. I think that if this matter is dealt with as one of privilege, then any interjection or any statement in the House can be so dealt with. I believe the House properly dealt with the matter previously today when the Speaker named an honourable member and the House determined that the honourable member should not be suspended.
– Speaking to the point of order, my submisson to you is that when anything in the nature of a threat is made against a number of people, of whom the office of Speaker is one, that represents prima facie a breach of privilege. This morning the interjection of the Minister for Labor and Immigration was in my respectful opinion a threat in one form or another against the then Speaker of the House. I submit further that there was no adjudication by the then Speaker as to whether that was a matter of privilege. I submit further that there was no ruling by the then Speaker as to whether it was a display of disorder. This is the first appropriate occasion on which any person in the Opposition or any person in the House has had the opportunity of raising it.
-I have to rule against the point of order. As a result of the interjection the Speaker in fact named the honourable member concerned. Therefore, I believe that in naming the person concerned the Speaker did take action.
- Mr Speaker, on the point of order -
– On another point of order -
-Order! The honourable member for New England would be in order in moving a motion that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee but I do not consider that a prima facie case exists.
That the behaviour of the Minister for Labor and Immigration during today ‘s proceedings-
-The honourable gentleman will have to give notice of his intention. I do not consider that a prima facie case exists.
– Then I give notice of my intention to move:
That the behaviour of the Minister for Labor and Immigration during the course of today’s proceedings be referred to the Privileges Committee.
-Order! At this stage of the proceedings of the House the honourable gentleman would have to hand the notice in in the normal way and the time for giving notice is not with us at the moment. I call the Leader of the House.
I speak briefly on this matter to outline to honourable members that the purpose of this extra sitting day is to give those honourable members who are still to speak in the debate on the second reading of the Family Law Bill and the amendment moved thereto the time to do so. I gave some forewarning of the possible need for additional days for such matters as the Family Law Bill when the days and hours of sitting were debated earlier in this session and also when I made a brief statement on this matter last Thursday. The motion provides for the House to meet tomorrow at 9.30 a.m. and to deal solely with the Family Law Bill. I hope that all speakers on the list for the Bill can speak tomorrow and the House can be adjourned by approximately 4.30 p.m. I also indicate to the House that no vote on the Bill will be taken tomorrow and that the opportunity will be given later in the sittings on an ordinary sitting day for honourable members to make their decision even if the debate should finish tomorrow.
This Bill has created, as honourable members know, great public interest. The Bill contains a total of about 123 clauses. I think there are 40 to 50 amendments already circulated and proposed to be moved in the Committee stage. It is a Bill on which probably many more honourable members will want to express themselves. The practical situation is that it will be impossible to debate this measure as it should be debated in the ordinary business time of the Parliament. Not only will tomorrow be one of those extra sitting days that may be necessary but there may be others before the session finishes. I hope therefore to receive the co-operation of honourable members in this proposal as I feel this Bill is of such importance and has created such interest amongst the public that this Parliament should at the earliest opportunity express its views one way or the other. It is true that tomorrow there will not be any question time but in view of the way in which honourable members opposite used that time this morning I do not think they will miss it much. All those goody-goodies opposite who always obey the Speaker will not miss question time because they have on each occasion endeavoured to disrupt it. Come what may, I believe that tomorrow is a day that should be set aside exclusively for this Bill. I do not intend to delay the House.
– Why did you rat on your mate?
– I can only assume that the honourable member who interjected does not want to express his point of view on the Bill and does not want to debate it. In any case, I do not intend to hold up the business of the House on this matter. I have formally moved the motion and I hope that it will be carried unanimously.
-The Opposition does not agree with the motion that has just been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). It is a totally arrogant abuse of the procedures of this Parliament for the Leader of the House in his first action today with any positive meaning after his deplorable performance this morning to suggest that there be a special meeting of the Parliament to consider a measure which could quite adequately be considered within the normal proceedings of the House if he were prepared to act in accordance with the Standing Orders and were prepared to permit the normal proceedings of this place to continue as the Standing Orders and you, Mr Speaker, I would hope, would require. Question time this morning was a fair example of the degree to which the Leader of the House has denied a proper opportunity for members of the Opposition to raise matters which are of concern to the nation and to their electorates.
– No Grievance Day either.
– They killed Grievance Day.
– There was no Grievance Day as my colleagues remind me. We started today’s proceedings with a complete abuse of question time with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) spending 22 minutes answering one question. There is a requirement under standing order 144 that matters of policy should be canvassed not at question time but in statements made after question time. That standing order has not been complied with. Apparently tomorrow precedence is to be given to the Family Law Bill. There are many other matters of importance to this Parliament which are being rushed through. No question time is to be allowed tomorrow. In circumstances in which question time has been abused by Ministers, where the opportunity to ask questions has been halved compared with the average time permitted and the number of questions recorded during the days when the Liberal and Country Parties were in power, there is absolutely no reason for question time to be denied tomorrow to the Parliament. During the last week a series of Bills has been introduced in haste by the Government to create the circumstances within which a double dissolution might be called. Those double dissolution measures have been given priority above the Family Law Bill. Tomorrow might more properly be set aside as a day of prayer, I believe, within which we might consider whether the procedures and practices of the Parliament might be followed and whether they might not be implemented in a way which might even fit the wishes of the Leader of the House. Then there is a matter of convention. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his address to the nation on Sunday, 1 6 February, stated:
It’s time to stop the rot.
How right he was. He continued:
When violence is done to an important convention, a wellestablished custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
How quickly he forgot that lesson which he told us. was so necessary to observe. He stated:
The real difficulties are great enough without deliberate sabotage.
In circumstances where that deliberate sabotage has occurred in this Parliament today there is no reason for us to be called together for a special sitting of the House tomorrow. The special sitting is required only because the Leader of the House and the Government are unable to work within the normal restraints of the agreed sitting times and are unable to lay down a program simply because they cannot control their own members. The Prime Minister is unable to control the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). The Leader of the House refuses to accept the responsibilities of his office and instead accepts the dictates of the Prime Minister. As a result we have to have a special day of sitting to consider the Family Law Bill. Tomorrow is not even an ordinary day of sitting. We are to be denied the right of voting on the Bill; we are to be denied question time; we are to be denied the opportunity to consider any other legislation.
Members of the Opposition are concerned about the Family Law Bill. We believe it is necessary that there be a full and adequate debate on it. But we are equally concerned with every other piece of legislation which this Government seeks to bring before us. The instance of legislation which was raised in this Parliament and passed by this Parliament this week demonstrates the worth of undertakings given in the other place. There was an assurance that there would be no debate for some 3 months and that public submissions would be considered sometime during March. Even those assurances are being denied. We on this side of the House, while seeking an adequate debate on the Family Law Bill, equally seek an adequate opportunity to debate all other matters of major legislation. I believe that today the Leader of the House totally rejected the responsibilities of his office in accepting the direction of his Prime Minister. We see no reason why we should be required to come back just to meet the whims of that man and of the Government.
We believe it is necessary that there be an adequate opportunity for us to debate all measures. We do not believe that a special debate tomorrow is necessary, the more so because of today’s happenings. For those reasons we on this side of the House put to the Government that the suggestion it made earlier in the week no longer has relevance. Indeed, this morning the man who is Leader of the House sought deferral of this notice until a later hour this day. He sought the deferral because he was not sure whether he wanted to have tomorrow’s sitting. It is being held simply because he feels he now has his own house in order and because he feels he now might be able to divert the attention of the public from the very dramatic circumstances of today. I wonder how those honourable members who absented themselves from the vote feel about being called back tomorrow, not to vote but to be here to talk on this piece of legislation.
Parliament is more than just a debating chamber. It is a chamber within which Bills are submitted, where first, second and third reading and committee stages are deliberated upon and a vote is taken. Tomorrow is not a normal sitting of the Parliament. Tomorrow there is to be talk but there is to be no vote. Tomorrow our Standing Orders are to be varied to ensure that only one piece of legislation will come before this Parliament. I repeat that there has been virtually no question time today. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) had 22 minutes answering one question. Tomorrow, if the House is to sit, there should be a question time. If there is to be a sitting of the Parliament tomorrow, we would be quite happy that it be a normal sitting of Parliament. But, if there is to be no normal sitting of Parliament tomorrow, there is no reason for this House to sit and talk, and talk alone.
If this Parliament should meet, it should meet in the normal and proper course. We would be happy that there be a question time and that there be the normal presentation of ministerial statements on matters on which ministerial statements are required to be made in accordance with the provisions of standing order 144. We believe that then, and only then, can the debate on the Family Law Bill continue. In circumstances where that procedure is to be denied us, the Opposition is not prepared to accept the motion moved by the Leader of the House.
- Mr Speaker, the outrageous behaviour of the Government -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will wait until he gets the call. I call the honourable member for Bonython.
– Well, why look at him and not at me?
-The call is to that side of the House, as you are well aware.
Motion (byMrNicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-In view of my election as Speaker a vacancy now exists for the position of Chairman of Committees of this House. The next business is the appointment of Chairman of Committees.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle-Minister for
Education)- I move:
That Mr Joseph Berinson, the honourable member for Perth, be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I second the motion.
-Is there any further motion?
That Mr Lucock, the honourable member for Lyne, be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I second the motion.
-Is there any further nomination?
– In support of my nomination of the honourable member for Perth, Mr Joe Berinson, as Chairman of Committees I point out that I have known him for over 20 years and that in that time I have seen him operate on many occasions in this House as Deputy Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker and outside of this House as a chairman of organisations. On all those occasions he has been completely impartial, extremely competent technically in the rulings that he has given and thoroughly well versed in the Standing Orders. He is a man who can impart dignity to the office of Chairman of Committees. Not only, of course, will he be called to the office of Chairman of Committees if my nomination is successful but also he will be the person in this House who will most often act as the Speaker in the absence of yourself, Mr Speaker. I believe that the honourable member for Perth, Mr Berinson, is the most competent member of this Parliament to fulfil that position. It is an honour to nominate him for it.
– It has been a very great pleasure to me to nominate Mr Lucock for the position of Chairman of Committees of this House. I think that the House would do well to remember Mr Lucock ‘s seniority and his great experience. If I might comment on that, I would like to say that for 12 years he acted as the Deputy Speaker to 3 Speakers of this House. He is unquestionably well equipped to handle the job on the occasions when you have to be away, Mr Speaker, as, to use the words of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), he is the man who is most used to the position. I make the point that Mr Lucock is the most experienced and the most qualified member of Parliament for the position of Chairman of Committees.
There are other reasons why I think Mr Lucock ‘s nomination should be successful. Firstly, I think that his surname has become a byword throughout the length and breadth of this land since the advent of the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. People throughout the length and breadth of Australia know the name ‘Lucock’ and know that it represents honour and decency. Indeed he is a man of very great personal principle. I suspect that nobody would disagree with that observation. His knowledge of the Standing Orders is unquestionable. I believe him to be a man who holds the respect of all members of this House and a man who can and will, when needs be, withstand those pressures that many of us have noticed placed upon the shoulders of both the
Speaker and the Chairman of Committees in recent times. I believe that Mr Lucock has the courage, the knowledge, the sincerity and the love of this institution to do the job of Chairman of Committees very proud indeed.
Mr Speaker, this is the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity to acknowledge publicly your election as Speaker and I do so I hope with generosity. I acknowledge your great dedication to the task in the past and I acknowledge your capacity to work and your understanding of the Standing Orders of this House. But we are posed with another difficulty today in relation to the jobs of both the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. I would like to remind the House of the very grave and difficult position that the Chairman of Committees or the Speaker hold in relation to the conducting of the business of this place. He has very great responsibilities indeed. The action taken today by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), following a scurrilous remark by one of his senior Ministers, has brought this institution into a certain degree of disarray and I regret that that has been so. But there is a lot more to it than that because the whole principle of parliamentary democracy has been placed at risk. No more can any Speaker or Chairman of Committees of this House feel confident that when he makes a decision which may or may not suit the side in power he will not be stabbed in the back or let down. One side of this Parliament has traditionally abided by the principle of the continuity of the Chair, without which no Speaker can derive long term authority in order to control this House. The Government side has not, as proven by the performance of today. The Opposition parties, when in power and not, have shown that they will continue the principle of continuity of the Chair and will not let the Chair down. Because of our adherence to that principle I recommend Mr Lucock for the position of Deputy Speaker. Never again while the Government remains in power will the Opposition have complete confidence that power is not being exerted over the Chair. I trust that soon, when we are in government, that situation will not obtain. It never obtained during the 23 years of LiberalCountry Party governments to my knowledge.
The Prime Minister has placed in jeopardy the whole question of the impartiality of the Chair by the means I have described and made your job for the future, Mr Speaker, most difficult. Whenever you rise, justly or not, to castigate the Opposition there will always be a degree of suspicion about whether you are being truly and utterly impartial. It is for all these reasons that I suggest to the House that Mr Lucock be elected to the position of Chairman of Committees.
– It is my great pleasure to second the nomination of Mr Berinson, the honourable member for Perth, as Chairman of Committees in this House. I would have hoped that by the time we reached the filling of this position the Opposition would have given away its self-righteous histrionics, but its members continue to rant and rave. It is humbug. Indeed, it is their behaviour which has led to the falling of standards within this chamber. During the short period that I have been a member of this House they have taken advantage of the very fair go they have been given not only by this side of the House but also by your predecessor, Mr Speaker.
It will be known that Mr Berinson was elected to this House in 1969. It was my privilege to be associated with him during his campaign preceding his election. Since then he has earned the respect of the people of Perth. He has, has always had and will continue to have the full confidence of the Labor movement in Western Australia. Since my election last May I have often turned to Joe Berinson for assistance in matters relating to my parliamentary duties and he has always given me the greatest assistance very cheerfully. I know that he is extremely highly regarded by honourable members from both sides of this House. For that reason, if for no other, he is well equipped to occupy any position in the Chair in this chamber. On those occasions when he has occupied the Chair it has been clear that he has done so with great distinction. Mr Speaker, during your term as Chairman of Committees you set a very high standard and I have no doubt that Mr Berinson will follow that high standard extremely well.
-I second the nomination of Mr Lucock, the honourable member for Lyne, for the position of Chairman of Committees. His attributes are so well known to honourable members and his record in the past has been so dominant that I am sure he will receive strong support from the House for appointment to this position. Mr Speaker, it has been emphasised this evening that the -reasons for the vacancies which are required to be filled are an unfortunate chain of events. The actions of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) bring disgrace on him in a very personal sense but, more importantly, because he is Prime Minister his actions seriously compromise the parliamentary institution whose importance cannot be overstated, even though in the British speaking world we accept it as an everyday thing. Any action which undermines the institution must be dangerous- most dangerous. It is for this reason that I suggest to the House that the calibre, background and experience of the honourable member for Lyne must be taken seriously into account when honourable members vote for the election of the Deputy Speaker.
The Prime Minister has shown himself to be completely contemptuous of the institution of Parliament. Therefore it is necessary that we should have occupying the office of Deputy Speaker persons who have a strength and a capacity to withstand this challenge. It is not the first time that we have seen the Prime Minister act in an offhand way and in a manner which disregards the Parliament and its conventions. I am sure that his ignoring of the conventions today is typical of his attitude not only to the Parliament but also to the nation as a whole. Of course this arrogance creates a very serious and rather disturbing situation.
I am sure that the honourable member for Lyne would take every possible action to see that there was impartiality shown not only by those who occupy the chair of this House but also by those who occupy the treasury benches, and this is a necessary thing in the light of what we have experienced today. The effect of the decision of the Prime Minister today is a catastrophe for the parliamentary institution. It now means that the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, no matter who he is, cannot have confidence in the Prime Minister who, of course, is backed by the sheer weight of numbers, which was evidenced in a vote taken earlier today. Therefore, I believe that the task of the Deputy Speaker, together with that of the Speaker, is under challenge. We want to ensure that this House has someone of competence and capacity occupying the chair at all times. Therefore, the office of Chairman of Committees becomes one of great importance at this moment.
Mr Speaker, I believe that tonight a great responsibility has been thrust upon you, and an equally great responsibility is to be carried by the person who is elected as your deputy. I am very concerned, as I know other honourable members are about this matter. Therefore, I ask the House to give its fullest support to the candidature of the honourable member for Lyne for the office of Chairman of Committees.
-There being no further speakers in accordance with the Standing Orders the bells will be rung for 2 minutes and a ballot taken. (The bells having been rung)-
-Order! Ballot papers will now be distributed. In marking their ballot paper honourable members will write down the name of the candidate for whom they wish to vote. The candidates are: Mr Berinson and Mr Lucock. (A ballot having been taken)-
-Order! The result of the ballot is: Mr Berinson 62 votes, Mr Lucock 56 votes. Mr Berinson is therefore declared elected.
- Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Government I have the greatest pleasure in congratulating the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) on being elected Chairman of Committees. He has for the last 2 years served as a Deputy Chairman of Committees and he has been in the Chair on very many occasions during those 2 years which have seen so much legislation brought before the Parliament. He has been in the Parliament for only 5 years. He came here with the reputation of being a most formidable debater. He has proved to all of us in his 5 years here that he is one of the most brilliant debaters in public life. In his first year he showed himself to be an assiduous parliamentarian. Nevertheless, he was able to add the profession of law to his existing profession of pharmacy. He completed his law course at the University of Western Australia with first-class honours and the University Medal. He is one of the ornaments of the Parliament. As the parliamentary leader of the Australian Labor Party, I am proud of the contribution he has made in so short a time as a parliamentarian both in the Parliament and beyond. I have no doubt that the proceedings of this Parliament will be effective and decorous on those occasions when he is in the chair.
– I have pleasure in welcoming Mr Berinson to the office of Chairman of Committees. I have known him since he was elected to the Parliament. I knew him by reputation in Perth long before that. I must say that all I know about Mr Berinson leads me to believe that he is a man of integrity and certainly a man of capacity. I think that he will perform his duties in a most creditable way. I look forward to cooperation with him, as do all the members of both Opposition Parties.
– I commend Mr Berinson on being elected as Chairman of Committees. I am sure that he is a man of great capacity and of outstanding quality. He can be assured of cooperation provided he shows impartiality from the Chair.
-Mr Speaker, I would like to offer my congratulations first of all to you on your appointment to the high office of Speaker and, secondly, to Mr Berinson who has been appointed Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I regret the circumstances that created the situation for the appointment and, 1 am sure that you do also. However, I give you both my warmest congratulations. You may rest assured that the experience I have had the privilege of gaining in this House will be at your disposal at any time you like to call upon it.
– I thank the House for electing me to the position of Chairman of Committees. I also thank the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) for their acceptance of that appointment. Needless to say, I will do my best in the interests of this House and in your support.
-Pursuant to standing order 18, 1 lay on the table my warrant nominating the following honourable members to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees:
Mr Armitage, Mr Drury, Mr Giles, Mr Luchetti, Mr Lucock and Mr Martin.
-Mr Speaker, may I be the first in a normal debate to congratulate you on your elevation to your present position. It has been easy to serve under you in your position of Chairman of Committees. I know from that we can expect to experience only the best of your ability in your new position.
I had hoped to speak for longer than the time available to me. I believe that the debate has not been adequate and two matters have certainly been ignored in their more important parts by the Opposition. I refer to the role of a national government in the field of housing and how comparative overseas governments have tackled their national responsibility. The second point is the need for flexible government assistance in hardship cases brought about perhaps by a drop in income experienced by home purchasers, by an unemployment situation which brings about hardship in meeting payments due to a depleted income and finally by a sudden call-up for people to meet all the finance they have undertaken to purchase their own homes, perhaps on vendor’s terms or on an interest rate only payment arrangement.
I rise also to rebut some of the more fallacious arguments put up by the Opposition. As a Government, we cannot claim originality for the concept of the Australian Housing Corporation. Similar bodies operate overseas. What we can claim is that we have studied similar overseas schemes and have adapted them to a uniquely Australian corporation that fits in with the Australian constitutional system, the Australian housing practice as we know it and Australian housing needs as we perceive and anticipate them. We have brought to Australia for the first time at national level- accepting a national responsibility- a national policy that complements, not competes with, State housing commissions and what we have benefited from in the private sector. But time does not really enable me to bring to the attention of the House a close examination of those overseas corporations.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) believes that the Australian Housing Corporation Bill will be a threat to State rights, an intrusion into State affairs and a monster body which will sweep aside State housing bodies. What is proposed in this legislation complements rather than competes with the State bodies which, I point out, really arose from the Commonwealth and State housing agreement of the Chifley Government in 1945. That agreement has led, I believe, to the construction of about 280 000 homes, mainly for those in the area of welfare housing. Nothing could be further from the truth than that contribution, that accusation, that charge by the honourable member for Boothby whose argument was so finally dispelled by, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). The correct and proper responsibility for the States is in that area of welfare housing.
The Australian Government does not have full constitutional power to perform all housing functions, but the full powers - available to the Government for housing have never really been fully taken up. That is what the Government proposes to do. It proposes to explore the other avenues of assistance by a national government to home ownership in this country. The national responsibility for housing would never have been taken up if the Chifley Labor Government had not started the ball rolling. As I said, 280 000 homes have been constructed under the scheme which the Chifley Government introduced. The previous Government could not dismantle these arrangements but it could and did avoid developing a national housing policy. The previous Government- the Liberal-Country Party coalition- did not develop a national housing policy as such. It was content to use the arguments of the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) to rely hopefully on stable interest rates. What a narrow viewpoint, divorced from the real economic situation. It ignores the need for the national government to construct policies which are compatible with flexible economic policies.
The previous Government could not have coped with the dilemma that faced this country when the McMahon Government allowed a rapidly inflating money supply to precipitate the worst inflationary period since the Menzies Government in 1952-53. Let us examine what the Liberal-Country Parties would have done. Either they would have let excess demand ripwith inflation rife in the building industry- so that interest rates remained relatively stable or they would have let interest rates rip and, by their own admission in this debate, destroyed their own simple housing policy based, hopefully, on stable interest rates. They have never developed a policy to cope with a change in interest rates or a change in economic circumstances. The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) stated quite accurately that the building sector has dominated and has been used for economic management. How often have we heard complaints from the private builders, the private sector of the housing industry, that they are the first sector to be hit, that they are the ones to suffer economic collapse. For 23 years they have experienced this situation. Until we are in a position to bring in new initiatives in national policy they will continue to suffer. But now, due to the enterprise of the Minister for Housing and Construction and due to the content of this Bill, we can look forward to better fortunes in the private building sector.
The Opposition would have continued its homes savings grant scheme. Let us examine what was achieved with that scheme. It has been justly criticised because it really only helped those under 36 years of age. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who is interjecting, would not have qualified. He is about double that age. The scheme has been criticised because it helped people to buy only their first home. If they had to move assistance from the national government was not available. It only helped those on incomes and with responsibilities which would enable some savings to be made. It ignored those who were never in a position to be able to save in the first place. The grant did not close the deposit gap to any great extent. What it did- as the honourable member for Bendigo will realise, having operated and worked in the building industrywas to add to the price of the land-house unit. In other words, like most subsidies which were brought in by the previous Government, these subsidies end up in the pocket of the seller and support an inflationary market for the particular commodity.
Let us examine what the Housing Corporation can do to assist hardship cases. This Government has tried to shelter low income people from high interest rates. I recall that many honourable members who have spoken in this debate have said that this Government has protected low income people by increasing Housing Agreement advances to the States; by promoting increased lending by savings banks- $ 130m on loans in the last increase; by providing in the tax deductibility of interest paid on housing loans a benefit which, for people on low incomes, is as good and as effective as a reduction in interest rates of up to 3 per cent.
I would like to recount a situation that is not uncommon in outer suburban or inner suburban areas. It is a situation where couples wishing to purchase their own homes are attracted- indeed lured- by attractive advertisements and billboards announcing that unlimited finance is available on low deposit, with vendor’s terms, only $ 1 ,200 to $ 1 ,500 needed and 5 years paying interest only. This is not a new situation. It is one that has existed for many years. ‘The family negotiates and no solicitor is required’, is the usual spiel. These arrangements say that the vendor makes all the contractual arrangements. The vendor kindly shares his solicitor with the purchaser. What happens? After 5 years the buyer has no increased equity in the house. If he cannot pay out the loan he must refinance it. His equity is too low to arrange alternative finance through a bank or a building society. I take the case of one constituent of mine, a purchaser of a landhouse unit in an estate in Croydon. His case is typical of 20 others in the same street and hundreds on this estate and similar estates.
– They were taken down.
– These people were taken down, as the honourable member for Diamond Valley says in summarising the situation. These people purchased through an agent, Kappel, who was the subject of another speech in this House by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow), from a developer, Evington Holdings, which built and operated during the housing boom, the product of the previous Government in late 1 972 and 1973. As this company has now found itself under-financed it has been forced to call up money owed on the houses. To save their homes these people are now forced to refinance their loans not 5 years after purchase, which they expected to do in the normal course, but 12 to 1 8 months after purchase. My constituent informs me that in the private housing finance sector he cannot get a loan to cover the purchase price or a first mortgage loan at interest rates of less than 12 per cent. He has to turn to a second mortgage. If he is lucky to get one he will have to bear a rate of interest of 1 6 per cent to 1 8 per cent. He needs reasonable finance to protect his family shelter.
As I said, this is not new. Cases similar to this have been going on for 20 years. The previous Government did nothing about the situation. We intend to do something. Means which might be used depend upon the development of the powers and the functions of the Corporation. One way in which the Corporation might act would be to take over the loan by purchasing the property and paying off the lending institution to which the payments are due. Having done this the Corporation would allow the borrower to remain in possession of the property on the basis of a loan by the Corporation on terms that the borrower could afford. These terms would have regard to the family circumstances as well as the income of the borrower. When the hardship is of a temporary nature, such as in the case of unemployment, it would be possible for the terms of the loan by the Corporation to be changed to reduce the concession so that assistance is not provided to people who do not need it.
This is an area which produces 2 problemstemporary finance and an emergency situation. For the first time under a new Minister we have a national policy that will cope with such situations. It is an indictment of the previous Government that no national policy such as this was introduced earlier, but now those income groups above a welfare level but not in a high enough income bracket to be able to fend easily for themselves are offered a new opportunity to protect their homes. For these people the goalthe dream- of their own home is not threatened by some exploiter in the private finance sector but is protected. I commend the Bill to the House and I urge the Opposition to rethink its position, not to reject this Bill but to pass it through this House.
– in replyThe calibre of this debate has been extremely impressive.
-Order! It being half past 10 o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1 974, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to speak tonight on a matter which has caused me considerable concern and which I believe requires prompt action, investigation and clarification. The matter concerns 2 private students from Malaysia who entered Methodist Ladies’ College at Kew in Melbourne with student visas from the Department of Immigration at the commencement of 1973 with the aim of obtaining their Higher School Certificates in 1 974 and subsequently pursuing a medical course. The 1974 handbook and guide for students for entrance into the medical faculty at Monash on page 42 stated:
That no more than 10 per cent of the quota of 160 students shall come from overseas to study in Australia under the student visa student of the Department of Immigration.
This would have meant, of course, that 16 vacancies would have been available for overseas students in the medical faculty at Monash, and these 2 girls would naturally expect that they would at least stand a chance of entering the medical faculty under the then existing quota system, provided they registered a good score in the Higher School Certificate examination, which in actual fact they did. However, the Victorian Universities Admissions Committee guide for prospective students for the following yearthat is, for 1975- which schools received only towards the end of last year, at page 83 states that for overseas students in the medical faculty the quota had been suddenly and radically changed. The students ‘guide for 1975 states:
At Monash the faculty of medicine has agreed to set aside up to 8 places-
Which is exactly half of the number under the previous situation- in first year for students from overseas who have been awarded scholarships by their home governments. Such students are not accepted unless their qualifications are equivalent to those of local students to gain admission. An application made by a student from overseas who holds no scholarship, however, is most unlikely to be successful.
The two girls to whom I refer both gained results last year which lie inside the cut-off point for a student to be accepted by the Faculty of Medicine at Monash. A letter from the principal of Methodist Ladies’ College to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Monash on 10 February 1975 and also a letter to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on the same date point out that clearly these 2 girls who scored well in the Higher School Certificate examination are being penalised and disadvantaged by a sudden change in the regulations. They are being penalised because they are private overseas students. So far no answer has been forthcoming from either Monash or the Minister.
My own office just recently contacted the Minister for Education by telephone concerning the matter and was told that universities were autonomous institutions and that the Australian Government cannot intervene. I do not refute the right of universities to be autonomous institutions, and as a Liberal I do not approve of undue interference or direction from Canberra, but there are 2 points which I feel should be made. Firstly, the Government adviser, that is, the High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, allowed these girls to come to Australia for the express purpose of preparing for and eventually undertaking a medical course, which under the then existing regulations they would clearly have been able to do. In fact, one of the girls has 2 sisters who have been accepted by the Monash Faculty of Medicine under similar circumstances. The second point I make is that no one, not even the school concerned, was notified about any change in Government policy until the Victorian Universities Admission Committee handbook was sent to the school late last year.
Until now it has always been the policy of the Victorian Universities School Examination Board to insist on 2 years notice for any change in the regulations. Is it fair, therefore, that these 2 girls should be so penalised by this sudden cut in the quota of overseas students? I believe some investigation and some explanation should be forthcoming. I am glad to see that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) is at the table because the university year is about to commence and I think immediate action is required.
Also I have received a letter from the principal of the Methodist Ladies College, Kew, advising me that 5 more Asian girls, one from Indonesia and four from Malaysia- I have their names here if either the Minister for Education or the Minister for Labor and Immigration would like to have them- were interviewed by the Australian
High Commission in the countries concerned in June 1974, and they not only expressed a desire to prepare for a medical course but were advised to complete the required application form No. Ml 130 which signifies this clearly. This they duly did.
They were not told of the sudden and dramatic change in the regulations which was obviously unknown to the High Commission at that time. The first notification of any change did not come until October when the 1975 handbook was issued. The 5 girls concerned are now all enrolled at the Methodist Ladies College, Kew, this year- four in the Higher School Certificate year and one in the fifth form- having come to Australia at considerable expense with the express purpose of completing a medical degree. They are now confronted by a new university regulation which makes it almost impossible for private overseas students to enter the Faculty of Medicine either at Monash University or the University of Melbourne. To stop them coming here on a wild goose chase surely the High Commission and the school concerned should have been informed about the embargo which is now placed on Asian students.
An approach was made by the Student Counsellor at the Methodist Ladies College to a Mr Bert Miles, who is concerned with overseas students at the Department of Education, and Mr Miles has stated that he was powerless to help in any way. It is my opinion that this matter clearly has now become a political question which can only be resolved at ministerial level. It is unfair that these students should be treated in this way. In the case of the first 2 girls I mentioned, they both came to Australia at considerable expense to follow medicine as their career, believing that they would be able to do so. They completed their leaving Certificate and Higher School Certificate with the Methodist Ladies College, Kew. Does the Minister for Education feel it is fair- I am sure he would agree that it is not- that these 2 girls, and no doubt many others from other schools, who have been permitted to come to this country to study medicine should then suddenly be confronted with this impenetrable barrier to their studies?
As I have said, up to this moment neither the representations to the Minister for Education nor to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine have brought any reply. I believe the situation is grossly unfair and I for one protest strongly. I feel that this Goverment should act promptly to investigate and clarify the situation. In my maiden speech to the Parliament over 8 years ago I expressed the hope that Australia would become the university of Asia, a training ground where students from other countries could come, graduate and return to their countries to better the living standards of their people. Australia has gained a great deal of goodwill in this regard, far more goodwill than probably any overseas trip by Australian politicians or Australian Prime Ministers. All the goodwill that has been built up over the years will be destroyed if administrative decisions are allowed to undo all the good which has been done in this regard in the past.
-Over some period of time, and in particular during the past day or so, the attention of the House has been drawn to vicious articles appearing in the national Press discriminating against individuals, attempting to superimpose the viewpoint of the owners of the media on the people of this country, and applying that fundamental policy of not messing up a vile headline or a defamatory story by having any regard for the truth or the facts. The latest example of this breach of privilege is in line with a grave misrepresentation of an individual by one of the barons of the Press- an individual who, because he does not own his own television station or have extensive newspaper holdings, is deprived of the right of reply.
The individual who has suffered this gross misrepresentation is a well known television actor whose character and integrity could never be called into question- Mr Gerard Kennedy. The perpetrator of the attack is that well-known baron of the media, an individual not worthy of wiping Gerard Kennedy’s boots- Mr Kerry Packer. I draw the attention of the House to an article which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 7 February. It was written by Mr Kerry Packer and is titled ‘The End of Division 4’. In that article Mr Packer set out to destroy Gerard Kennedy’s standing as a spokesman for the Australian television industry. Honourable members will be aware that Mr Kennedy has long been a fighter for Australian content on our television screens. He also has been one of the many individuals and organisations associated with that industry to welcome the Australian Labor Party’s policy of 75 per cent Australian content, as announced at the Terrigal conference. Mr Kennedy also has been associated for some time with one of Australia’s top-rating shows, ‘Division 4’.
Mr Packer’s Channel 9 network announced recently its intention of axing the ‘Division 4’ series despite its popularity. This decision provoked Gerard Kennedy to condemn the Channel 9 network for its contemptuous attitude to the Australian television industry. What has been Mr Packer’s response to what would seem to be an eminently justifiable criticism? Firstly, he dismissed Gerard Kennedy’s criticism as near libellous and demonstrably haywire’. On what basis did Mr Packer make this assertion? As is his usual custom he established it on the basis of a barefaced lie. Kerry Packer claimed that the reason ‘Division 4’ had been axed was Gerard Kennedy’s decision to leave the series. This assertion is untrue and Packer well knows it. He publicly libelled an individual who lacks Mr Packer’s easy access to the media and therefore lacks the opportunity to reply.
I draw the attention of the House to another article which, like Mr Packer’s, was submitted to the ‘Australian’ but, unlike Mr Packer’s, this piece was not published. This is a letter which directly refutes Packer’s lies about Kennedy’s role in the decision to axe ‘Division 4’. Since the letter has not been published I would like to quote from it. It states:
I wish to join issue with Mr Kerry Packer’s comments published in your issue of Friday, February 7 1973, under the heading ‘End of Division 4’ where he says ‘Mr Kennedy knows very well that he was told clearly by me, as was Mr Crawford, that if he, Kennedy, left, the series would be terminated.
In other words, he would be the architect of Division 4’s destruction’.
This statement is incorrect. The position, as Mr Packer was fully aware, was that the question of Gerard Kennedy’s participation in the show was thrashed out and agreement was reached between Mr Packer and his network, Crawford Productions Pty Ltd, and Gerard Kennedy that Gerard Kennedy would appear in 13 episodes of Division 4’ in 1975. The network also was advised that his place would be taken by John Stanton. These agreements having been reached, I understand that an agreement was then concluded in writing between Mr Packer’s Channel 9 network and Crawford Productions for the production in 1975, commencing on 20 January 1975, of 47 episodes of the program ‘Division 4’. That letter was submitted by Mr Vic Arnold, the State Secretary of Actors ‘ Equity.
Simultaneously with the conclusion of the agreement a side letter forming part of the agreement was given by Mr Packer’s General Television Corporation to Mr Hector Crawford which confirms the position of the 2 actors, Gerard Kennedy and John Stanton. I will quote the letter that was sent to Crawford Productions. It states:
The company is aware that Mr Gerard Kennedy will not be available for his sustaining role beyond episode 13 and that his place will be taken by Mr John Stanton.
That letter was signed by L. A. Mauger, Managing Director of the Channel 9 network, yet it was never published. Packer’s lying hypocrisy is left free to damage Gerard Kennedy’s reputation, lies that he is not given the opportunity to refute. But it is Mr Kerry Packer who goes on to bleat about freedom of choice. This whole affair does raise serious questions of freedom of choice; questions of the freedom of the media. What right has Mr Packer by the happy accident of his birth to dictate what Australians shall or shall not watch? This is not the first time that the Packer organisation has been found misusing its power and control over the media. In November 1973, another prominent media identity, suggested that Mr Kerry Packer’s father, Sir Frank Packer, was misusing his responsibility in the running of the Nine network. It was suggested that Packer should not attempt to run a television channel like a newspaper because the air waves were publicly owned; that the television channels had a responsibility not to ram their own viewpoint down the public’s throat. Who made these criticisms? None other than Kerry Packer’s brother, Clyde Packer. The remarks were made after Sir Frank Packer had decreed that on no account was Bob Hawke to appear on Channel 9, Bob Hawke who, in his capacity as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and of the Australian Labor Party, represents two of the largest groups of people in this country. The reason Packer gave for the ban was that Hawke was too good for Channel Nine ‘s interviewers.
I find it incredible that the elected representative of the two largest organisations in Australia should be denied any chance to put his views to the public simply because the owner of a station licence is opposed to those views. Is this the kind of freedom of choice Mr Kerry Packer is so concerned to protect, the freedom of the Packer dynasty to mould public opinion to its own purposes? What right does Kerry Packer have to appear on his own television station to, in the words of the interviewer, Gerald Stone, ‘tell us specifically what is going to be wrong with this 75 per cent’? To tell us what is going to be wrong mark you. That is the dictate of the people who control the media. There was no suggestion of discussing the issue or of presenting a balanced view of the controversy since no one had been invited on the program to present the Australian Labor Party’s policy but to tell us what is wrong. The issue will be completely ignored. Is this the freedom of the Press? I suggest that Kerry Packer has shown himself to be an unsuitable person to possess a television licence. I suggest that there be an immediate inquiry into the use of the media by private individuals to force their particular views and opinions on the public. In a democracy it is vital that we should have a diversity of sources of information and opinion. In a democracy it is vital that the media should not be in the hands of a small number of rich and powerful men. We need an inquiry to determine how we can ensure the freedom of the media, free from the arbitrary control of the few to distort and slant information to their own purposes. Those honourable members who feel I am overstating the case are invited to observe the treatment this speech receives at the hands of the media.
– As far as the matter raised by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) is concerned, namely, the policy change of the admission body of Monash University, if he desires me to express an opinion entirely as an outsider as he himself is on this matter, I should say that the policy change of the admission body should have been notified in time to influence student decisions. Having said that, I just draw attention to one or two things. There are 4 000 tertiary Asian students in this country. There are 1 1 000 Asian students altogether in this country. The only decisions that have been made by myself in relation to those students, especially the tertiary ones, are in relation to our power to grant benefits to students. We have made universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges free for those students precisely in the same way as they are free for Australian students. One distinguished headmaster of an A category school in an attack on me over this decision pointed out that over the three or four years of a course this probably cost the Australian taxpayer $50m and that there is no other country either among the Asian countries themselves or any European country which extends a similar benefit to Asian students.
I just draw attention to this matter. I certainly will inquire of Monash University about a change and a fixed percentage of Asian students going into the medical faculty. It would be entirely defensible if the University took the view that it simply admitted people into the medical faculty according to their results in admission tests. This might let in all the Asian students who apply, or it might let in none of them. Presumably the University has made some kind of a policy decision that there is a service to be rendered to Asian countries by admitting Asian students to the medical faculty. If the honourable member for Deakin is correct, the university concerned has decided to reduce the number of Asian students entering. I will inquire why, but not as a person having any authority.
I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman to the constitutional position. Only one university has been created by an Act of the Crown through the Commonwealth, and that is the Australian National University. This Parliament has never taken power- in my view it should not take power- to control the Australian National University. Monash University and the University of Melbourne, which are the universities to which the honourable member referred, were created by Acts of the Crown through the State. The State Parliament of Victoria has never taken power to control the actions of the universities. They are entirely autonomous. Insofar as an Australian High Commissioner is involved, I have no doubt that he gave the advice on the existing regulations of the universities to which these people might ultimately apply for entry. If he gave them the impression that if they passed at the secondary level they would automatically be able to get into Monash University, he would be giving them incompetent advice. I find it very hard to believe that he would say that. The students would understand that they would have to pass and that if they passed well enough competitively they might enter the medical faculty. Of course the medical faculty is not only most competitive for Asian students; it is just about the most competitive faculty to get into for any student. The enrolment usually is limited by the amount of space in hospitals for the clinical training which is associated with the degree course.
I do not want to suggest to the headmistress of the Methodist Ladies College or to the Asian students that in making any inquiries about this matter I do so with authority or with the power to direct the university. I do not seek that power. I certainly believe that universities should not suddenly change their admission regulations without due notification to the students. In view of the fact that people make decisions a year or two beforehand, the notice should be adequate. But that is only an opinion. It is not a statement of authority. I shall have inquiries made and I shall inform the honourable member.
– It appears that today is not my day. I was cut out of the grievance debate and it looks as though most of my time has gone again. However, I shall do my best. The matter on which I wish to speak tonight is one of concern to 9 members of the Commonwealth Police in Bendigo and, of course, their families. The concern arises from the apparent bungling of the Government in deciding to reallocate these men by sending them to Melbourne. These members of the Commonwealth Police are situated in Bendigo to look after security at the Bendigo ordnance factory , which these days might not need such high level security, and also at the Longlea magazine in Bendigo, which does need a deal of high security. The Commonwealth Police comes under the Attorney-General’s Department. They have been advised by the Department that they should expect to be transferred to Melbourne to work as security guards at the airport and other areas in the western sector of Melbourne. Their positions in Bendigo are to be taken over by civilian gatekeepers. I think that is the correct and official term.
These men to whom I refer have been employed in the Commonwealth Police service for many years. In fact, most of them joined while living in Bendigo. They have been there most of their lives. These men have raised their families in Bendigo. The roots of their lives are in Bendigo. Most of them have no wish to transfer to Melbourne but they accept that sometimes the demands of government and a prevailing situation may warrant that they should be transferred. The present situation clearly does not warrant such a transfer.
Three clear-cut alternatives are left to these people. First, they may accept the transfer to the Department in Melbourne. This would enable them to keep their status in the Commonwealth Police. The second is to take a position as a civilian gatekeeper in Bendigo. The third is a simple one: Get out. Let us examine what these alternatives mean. If they travel to Melbourne, the costs involved, I understand, will be subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Despite that help, nothing would offset the tremendous cost difference between homes in Bendigo and homes in Melbourne and all the other changes resulting from such a movement. I am assured that more than 50 per cent of these people would not be the slightest bit interested in shifting to Melbourne.
I turn to the second possibility. They can become civilian employees and work at the same job as they were carrying out before as Commonwealth Police officers. Several areas of concern arise in this respect. Not the least is that by reverting from positions as official police officers to civilian personnel doing the same job will mean a sudden loss in respect received formerly from employees at the. factory. The other concern is the fact that they will each drop $1,200 a year in wages. That may not be much to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). He probably could do that without turning a hair, but unfortunately to these people $1,200 out of a salary of $7,000 is a considerable amount of money. It means that they will suffer a great loss in actual return for performing the same work. What will be the situation that they face as civilian gatekeepers with respect to the ordnance factory and the magazine area? The magazine area covers 1400 acres and is surrounded by high metal fences 7 miles long. Some 135 magazines are to be protected by these civilian gatekeepers who would not be allowed to be armed in order to protect themselves. They would not have the official authority to arrest people. They would have no power of arrest. They would just be gatekeepers. These factors alone- no power of arrest and no arms for protectionwould detract from the benefit of having any security service operating at these places.
Apparently the reason given by the Minister or his Department why the change is required is that the Department cannot recruit the required personnel in Melbourne. It is absolutely unbelievable that the Department cannot recruit people to jobs paying between $6,000 a year and $7,000 a year in a city in which would be fair proportion of the more than 300 000 people unemployed in Australia.
– That is ridiculous.
-It is absolutely true that the Department claims that it cannot get nine or ten people from the great number unemployed in Melbourne. As the honourable member for Boothby indicates, this is absoulute nonsense; it is totally ridiculous. The people concerned in Bendigo are terribly upset that this situation has been thrust upon them with very little choice of making a decision whether to remain or to shift to Melbourne. Perhaps the Minister is hoping to create a saving in Public Service expenditure. After all, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has told his Ministers to cut expenditure. So these fellows are to lose $ 1 ,200 a year which will mean a total annual saving of $10,000, which is a great saving for the national Budget. If such action was proposed by private enterprise, the trade unions involved would retaliate very quickly. The whole matter clearly reflects the pressure of bureaucracy and amounts almost to blackmail tactics to force these people to make a change. We can only hope that the Minister will take urgent steps to protect the 9 families who are concerned in Bendigo and also will take necessary action to ensure proper protection and security for the 2 undertakings concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
Can he say what countries have the optional preferential system of voting.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So far as can be ascertained, Eire, Malta and Papua-New Guinea are the only countries which currently use optional preferential marking of ballot-papers.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The remaining 16 positions are concerned with administrative servicing and support.
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
What was the increase in the average wage in the (a) private sector and (b) public sector of the Australian economy during 1973.
– The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There are no official statistics that would answer the Honourable Member’s question. However, figures compiled from the Statistician’s survey of weekly earnings and hours conducted each October give an indication of the increase in average weekly earnings in the private and government sectors between October 1972 and 1973 for employees other than managerial, etc staff.
As shown in the following table the increase was 1 7.0 per cent in the private sector and 1 7.4 per cent in the government sector.
Care must be taken when comparing these figures, as survey data were collected from a sample of private firms, while there was complete coverage of the government sector with the exception of Local Government Authorities, which were sampled. Accordingly the resultant estimates for the private sector are subject to sampling variability, that is, variations which might occur by chance because only a sample of employees was surveyed.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Is it intended to withdraw departmental fire fighting services from any aerodromes, and replace them with municipal services: if so, what aerodromes will be affected.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In accordance with the Government’s cost recovery policy the Department of Transport is currently reviewing all facilities and services provided to the aviation industry. Until such time as the review is completed and I have received the recommendations of the Department I am not able to say what effect the review will have on departmental fire fighting services or comment on the possibility of them being replaced at some aerodromes by municipal services.
It may be of interest to the honourable member that the following fire services have been withdrawn over past years:
Commonwealth Railways (Question No. ISIS)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply provided by my colleague the Special Minister of State in answer to Question 1862 (Hansard, 5 December 1974, pages 4841-4847).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Apart from the charter cost of the Boeing 707, what were the additional costs and charges met by the taxpayer in relation to individual members of the party on the last overseas tour.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1975-76 will show, against the Department of the Special Minister of State, expenditure in the preceding financial year for overseas travel by Ministers and their personal staff. Expenditure on behalf of other persons will be shown in the Bill against the appropriate departments. This is the normal practice, followed under this and previous Governments. Detailed costs have not yet been finalised, but would include such items as travelling allowances, accommodation, reciprocal hospitality, gifts, fares and excess baggage, car hire and miscellaneous expenses, which are normal for overseas missions.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750227_REPS_29_HoR93b/>.